Toxic Waste From Across the Country Dumped in Poor, Black, Rural Communities

A small group of people can make a lot of money when they find a poor rural community, take advantage those people and turn their farming land into a dumping ground. Politicians are poisoning and selling out the people to corporations so they can have somewhere cheap and far away to dump their toxic waste.

The extreme poverty of Alabama makes it a perfect location for unscrupulous dumping, with toxic waste from across the country brought in to the state and dumped for as little as $1 a ton. Alabama has a total of 173 operational landfills, more than three times as many as New York, a state with a population four times larger than Alabama. California has just a handful more landfills than Alabama even though the state is three times larger than Alabama and has eight times the population.

Alabama has a stark racial disparity in terms of exposure to pollution. A landfill near Emelle in Sumter county, a community that is about 75% black and 90% closest to the landfill, at one point accepted 40% of all of the hazardous waste disposed of in the US. The landfill is owned by Waste Management Inc. (WM), a company Bill Gates owns 33 million shares of. WM is the largest company in the hazardous waste industry. Among WM’s customers are major corporations and more than 150 military bases.

In Anniston, Alabama, where half the residents are black, residents won a settlement from Monsanto after the company dumped so much PCBs, chemicals linked to cancers and liver damage, that it turned a local creek red with the toxic waste. In order for residents to receive the settlement, so they could afford to leave their toxic neighborhood, they had to sign away any right to sue in the future for what so much toxic exposure could have done to them or their children.

Many homes near Stone’s Throw landfill have been abandoned. The landfill accepts as much as 1,500 tons of asbestos, sludge and other materials everyday. It is located in a community that is around three-quarters black and there is pressure placed on those residents to sell their devalued land to the expanding landfill.

Uniontown, is a place with ninety percent black residents and the median household income is $14,000 a year. Uniontown is also home to the Arrowhead landfill, twice the size of New York’s Central Park. It can accept up to 15,000 tons of waste a day, from 33 states. A group of residents have spent the past decade complaining about the site’s coal ash, causing an array of health problems, such as sore throats and nosebleeds.



Image adapted from: “Fall In Alabama” by Bud Ellison and “Dead Sea Zone” by Mark Rain are licensed under CC BY 2.0