Climate Solution #6
Cleanup environmental hazards comprehensively (e.g. Shingle Mountain, Lane Plating, brownfields, etc.) in an order that prioritizes environmental justice and fights environmental racism. Use existing EPA funding for site assessments to also pilot approaches for completing cleanups.
How it works
According to Poisoned by Zip Code, a spring 2020 report released by Paul Quinn College, there is “a 15 year life expectancy difference based on the zip code” in which Dallasites live. This can largely be attributed to environmental racism, or policies and practices that result in communities of color disproportionately being exposed to environmental hazards.
Unfortunately, Dallas has a long history of environmental hazards in communities of color, including recent examples like Shingle Mountain and Lane Plating. In just three short years, the illegal dumping of shingles in southeast Dallas created a toxic, towering mound weighing 100,000 tons right next to resident Marsha Jackson’s backyard, despite the area being zoned for agricultural use. Known as Shingle Mountain, it has garnered national attention as residents, most notably Marsha Jackson, lobbied for its removal due to the toxic air pollution conditions it created. It took years to clean up the illegal dumping site, and only three months after the last shingle was removed, another polluting facility has already moved in to the site.
A little over three miles away lies Lane Plating Works, a former electroplating facility that contaminated the site with dangerous levels of mercury and lead and is blocks away from Paul Quinn College. After extensive organizing from community members, the site was designated an EPA Superfund site due to the potential threat the mercury and lead pollution posed for the surrounding neighborhood.
This is precisely why we need City Hall to make addressing environmental racism a priority and proactively clean up environmental hazards and work with residents in affected areas, instead of putting the burden on residents to sometimes spend years protesting toxic conditions that threaten their families before anything is done about the pollution. In each of the above examples, the environmental hazards were only addressed after extensive organizing by local community members forced the city and other government bodies to act.
As noted by the Environmental Protection Agency, comprehensively cleaning up sites like these is a “complex and multi-phased” project. Luckily, existing federal funding can help. For example, Superfund site assessments as well as the Brownfields and Land Revitalization Program can help pilot approaches for completing cleanups. Sites should be cleaned up in an order that prioritizes environmental justice and seeks to undo the legacies of environmental racism.