Environmental Justice

 

 

Is This A Case Of

Environmental Justice or Just Us

You Decide....


This edition’s story is about two very different towns in Mississippi called Wiggins and Columbus.

Wiggins, a small town in Mississippi with a population of 4,390 is 64% white and 33.4% Black, and Columbus, MS, with a population of 23,640 which is 59.8% Black and 36.9% White.

They are two different cities that are in many ways almost exact opposites, but have one very big, very dangerous problem in common: Hazardous Environmental Contamination.
 
How can two cities with a similar problem experience two very different outcomes?
 
Tennie White, with the Coalition of Communities for Environmental Justice,
Walks Us Through the facts...

 

Here in Mississippi we usually rank dead last in economics, social equality, education and health. These statistics can be misleading and often distract our elected officials from the smaller more personal issues of our state. Today’s story is about two very different towns in Mississippi called Wiggins and Columbus.
Wiggins, a small town in Mississippi with a population of 4,390 is 64% white and 33.4% Black. Based on the current Health Statistics for this town no infants died in 2010.  

Columbus, MS on the other hand with a population of 23,640 which is 59.8% Black and 36.9% White had 3 infants died in 2010 they were all black. That may not appear to be a large number but as the Mississippi State Legislature and MS Governor Bryant have passed a law essentially outlawing abortion in Mississippi and according to them even one abortion is too many then 3 dead black babies should also be too many. 

Please remember we are talking about lives and 3 dead black babies is the tip of the iceberg, in 2010:
  • Our 15-24 year olds died at the rate of 2 whites for every 4 blacks in Columbus.
  • Our 15-24 year olds are not dying in Wiggins.
  • Our 34-44 year olds died at the rate of 0 whites for every 5 blacks in Columbus.
  • Our 34-44 year olds died at the rate of 2 whites with no (zero) blacks dying in Wiggins.
  • Our 45-54 year olds died at the rate of 4 whites for every 14 blacks in Columbus.
  • Our 45-54 year olds are not dying in Wiggins.
  • Our 55-64 year olds died at the rate of 12 whites for every 28 blacks in Columbus.
  • Our 55-64 year olds died at the rate of 9 whites for every 4 black in Wiggins.
  • Our 65-74 year olds died at the rate of 18 whites for every 26 blacks in Columbus.
  • Our 64-74 year olds died at the rate of 10 whites for every 3 blacks in Wiggins.

Environmental contamination is the linking factor and the number of white deaths should at least have our regulatory agencies taking a second look at these communities.

Image of the Wiggins Site to be Cleaned-Up : 
Note the Pools in the Back yard of large homes
behind the forest of pine trees.
 

 

In Wiggins, MS a company named Southern Pine Wood Preserving began creosote operations in 1960 and ceased in 1984 contaminating 5.5 acres at 1418 College Avenue, Wiggins, and MS. Please note that no residential property was contaminated. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) referred the site to EPA Region 4 in November of 2008. MDEQ and EPA Region 4 agreed the site posed a threat to public health and the environment despite the majority of the site being heavily vegetated with pine trees. This site has a history with MDEQ. MDEQ approved a closure plan in December 1984; the creosote pond was clean-closed in February 1987 and no longer subject to the hazardous waste regulations. In March 1987, EPA questioned the clean closure and issued a Complaint Order in November 1989. The Case went to Court and EPA Region 4 lost on appeal because the Company testified that MDEQ had provided the company with a Clean Closure Designation. Finally, in August 2007, MDEQ returned to the site, collected soil/sediment samples declared the site an emergency and referred the site to EPA's Emergency Response Branch in November, 2008.  
 
 
Images of Wiggins Site:
Image 1 & 2 Show How Site Looked Prior to Clean-up. Image 3 Shows Site After Clean-Up
 
 
The Budget for the emergency response was $3,372,000. The Emergency project started 9/14/2009 and the cleanup was completed 3/28/2010. Wiggins does not have a Superfund Designation and we can readily see that large homes with pools in the back yard must be protected before poor black communities with actual residential contamination such as that in Columbus, MS.

Image of Columbus Clean-Up:
Note the Proximity of the Homes to the Contamination
 
In Columbus, the Kerr- McGee Chemical Site operational from 1928 to 2003 consists of approximately 90 acres located at 2300 North 14th Avenue. Soil, sediment and ground water are contaminated with creosote. Drainage ditches and residential yards in the community are contaminated. The Maranatha Faith Center located on Waterworks Road during construction activities in 1999 encountered Creosote.  In response to complaints by Steve Jamison Pastor of Maranatha Faith Center, MDEQ visited Maranatha May 27, 1999. MDEQ documented the contamination and nothing happened with the Contamination for the next 11 years. No Referral by MDEQ to EPA Emergency Response. After 12 years and Infant Mortality Rates of 22, Kerr McGee, AKA Tronox Columbus Site is on the Superfund List and Pastor Steve Jamison still cannot borrow money to improve his Church Property. Tronox has declared bankruptcy. The funding set aside is inadequate to completely address the site and offsite contamination. The Columbus, Kerr-McGee Chemical site is not cleaned up because the people are poor and black. 
 
Images of Columbus Site:
Images 1 - 3 Show the Proximity of Families Homes to the Never Completed Clean-Up
 
 
 
 
 

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