Northampton doesn’t need to become a dumping ground

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, February 28, 2017

To the Editor:

Northampton County is experiencing a bit of déjà vu with VistaGreen seeking to site a coal ash dump in the county.

In the early nineties we fought for three years against the State of North Carolina and a multinational corporation named Thermalkem to site a huge, hazardous-waste incinerator in Northampton County. The selling points were the same: a state-of-the-art facility, jobs, increased tax base.

There were a few things about Thermalkem choosing Northampton County that just didn’t make sense to the people of Northampton. The site chosen by Thermalkem violated the scientific guidelines set up by the state. The site was: 30 miles from an interstate highway with only two lane roads; on the edge of a swamp, violating rules that the incinerator not be near wetlands; 40 miles from the nearest hospital in a county with, at that time, no paid rescue or fight fighters. The list goes on and on.

So why Northampton? We were soon to learn that environmental racism was very real in our country and we matched other communities chosen to site hazardous wastes and poisonous substances.

In his book “Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality”, Dr. Robert D. Bullard, Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, documents how the south has become a dumping grounds for the nation. The book, in its third edition, argues that African-American and minorities are being denied and stripped of a safe and healthy environment. Americans in certain areas, particularly low-income and minority families, are bearing the brunt of hazardous wastes and poisonous substances.

I suggest that as editor of a newspaper read by the people in Northampton County, you might want to read Dr. Bullard’s book. If you stay around long enough, this will probably not be the last time that its lessons will prove helpful.

One other important thing that we learned is very simple. If a good company is looking to locate its facility, every surrounding county and state will recruit it by offering incentives. If a company like VistaGreen is offering to pay Northampton County for every cubic yard of coal ash it brings to the county, you can rest assured it is trying to buy its way in. No good company has to do that.

Jean Colston