Superfund is the common name given to a trust fund that provides the budget for the EPA to evaluate and cleanup the most polluted sites in the country. In Northern Birmingham such a site exists, caused by decades of pollution from industrial facilities some who have been named the responsible parties, including Drummond Company.
Drummond didn’t want to pay for the cleanup, so they enlisted a who’s who of elected officials to send letters asking the EPA to back off. They also bribed a state legislator to help with their dirty deeds. They even convinced an Elementary school not to test for contamination.
Forget, for a moment, the three men on trial and the countless others who probably should be. This conspiracy paints a much larger picture and an ugly one at that. One that depicts Alabama as a dump, because the large polluters of our state often don’t have to take responsibility for their mess because they are lining politicians’ pockets with bribes and hefty campaign contributions.
If this trial has proven anything it’s that many of our elected officials and ADEM serve at the pleasure of the ‘Big Mules’ and not the citizens.
Raw sewage, unsafe water, uneatable fish, coal ash and superfund sites. It’s all becoming too common an occurrence here in a state that is home to some of the most unique river basins in the world.
Who is protecting us? Apparently not the politicians elected to do so. If it wasn’t for the hard working, underpaid, non-profits playing the role of consumer watchdogs we’d all be clueless and dying from cancer, instead of just the poor black citizens.
Last year, a visiting United Nations official who tours the globe investigating extreme poverty said that areas of Alabama’s Black Belt are suffering the most dire sewage disposal crisis of any place he has visited in a developed country.
In neighboring Lowndes County almost half the residents have been exposed to raw sewage and more than 34 percent tested positive for hookworm, a parasite so rare in the US that doctors no longer test for it. Sounds serious, but what’s being done about it?
Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities are tremendous assets for Alabama’s economy, but needs clean air, water and land to thrive. In Alabama outdoor recreation is an $8 billion industry and creates the need for 86,000 direct jobs.
Nowadays few waterways exist in Alabama where a fish can be caught for consumption and nearly every river has fish consumption advisories. To make matters worse, 85 percent of fishermen are unaware of the fish consumption advisories in the water they fish.
The Alabama Department of Public Health constantly issues updates where the fish are dangerous for people to eat. When excess levels of a contaminant are found in multiple fish species from a specific body of water, a ‘Do Not Eat Any’ advisory is issued, consumption of any fish may place the consumer at risk for harm from the contaminant.
Some Alabama waterways include high enough levels of mercury, PCBs, chlordane and DDTs it isn’t even safe to swim.
In the last decade a small, poor, black Alabama town has become a dumping ground for out-of-state coal ash, amounting to more than 4 million tons of the hazardous coal ash that contains toxins such as mercury and arsenic that can affect the nervous and reproductive systems and cause other health problems. According to the EPA, people living within a mile of unlined coal ash storage ponds have a one in 50 risk of developing cancer.
Nelson Brooke with Alabama’s Black Warrior Riverkeeper recently said that despite the recent release of groundwater monitoring data, which demonstrates that toxic pollutants in coal ash are contaminating groundwater at power plants throughout Alabama, recent regulations drafted by ADEM would significantly undermine rules currently providing some protection to the citizens of Alabama from coal ash pollution.
These are the reasons everyone should pay close attention to witness testimony in the federal trial currently taking place in a Birmingham courtroom.
After four weeks, testimony has painted a clear picture as to who is really is in charge of the state and how often elected officials turn a blind eye. We now know the regular fella has never stood a chance in the fight for the right to clean air and water.