On the surface, Sunny South Florida may seem like an ideal resort area with abundant affluence and beautiful scenery. Once one heads away from the beach and toward I-95, however, a different story emerges. Densely packed neighborhoods populated mostly by minority citizens are the norm, and it is in this area that a pattern of environmental racism has emerged. One particularly notorious site, the Wingate Road Municipal Incinerator and Landfill, was responsible for releasing toxics, including dioxin, into the predominately African American neighborhood that surrounded it from 1954-1978. The local community, spurred to action by the late Leola McCoy, continues to question the safety of this area.
In 1994, McCoy discovered a Florida Department of Health Report which said that there was a higher risk for 5 kinds of cancer in the one mile radius around the site. Her subsequent efforts were geared toward increasing public awareness of the health risks (one in three homes was supposedly affected) that were faced by local residents, despite later statements from public officials, who suggested that there was no link between the toxic emissions and cancer risk. Numerous activists have cited suspicious motivations behind the government denial of accusations of environmental racism at Wingate. Examining this case within a sociological framework may provide some insight into the issue of environmental racism and the role of activism and community mobilization in putting an end to such inequality.
[...] A sociological approach to environmental justice issues highlights how those already born with certain disadvantages (such as being a minority or living in poverty), face compounded disadvantages because they are disproportionately exposed to pollution. Following numerous other state studies reporting no connection between the high cancer rates and the incinerator emissions, the EPA proposed to remediate the Wingate site by “capping” it, meaning that the area is merely covered by layers of dirt and plastic. According to the Florida Department of Health, conclusive results to establish the link are not possible because there were no studies done while the incinerator was in operation, and thus the emissions from the incinerators were never directly tested. [...]
[...] The Broward Times reported that Fort Lauderdale commissioner Carlton Moore a $100,000 secret personal finance relationship” with one of the founders of major Wingate polluter Waste Management (Jones 2005:1). Elizabeth Buntrock-- formerly Elizabeth Huizenga—and her locally infamous cousin billionaire Wayne Huizenga merged their two trash collecting companies in 1968 to form Waste Management Incorporated. The Broward Times investigation revealed that Moore and others had received a “$100,000 unsecured personal loan” from Buntrock while he was serving in office. It was also reported that Moore had never mentioned a conflict of interest on the numerous occasions when he pushed for any measures that “would have the least amount of financial “impact on Waste Management” (Jones 2005:1). [...]
[...] The Center for Health, Environment & Justice notes that while Wingate was originally intended to be a regular municipal dump, the City of Fort Lauderdale was complicit in allowing industrial, toxic wastes from nearly 1,400 businesses (including the city itself!) to be deposited there; City maintained no controls of any sort on the materials accepted at Wingate. Companies sent their chemical waste there without disclosure of proprietary information about its toxic nature. Chemicals, medical waste, batteries and pesticides were all disposed on the site” (The Center). [...]
[...] area of Fort Lauderdale was the only place where blacks could purchase homes). For years, it spewed toxic ash into the neighboring community, comprised entirely of African Americans. In the 1950's, municipal waste increased and a new 61 acre incinerating site was located on Wingate Road/NW 31st Avenue (between 19th Street and Sunrise Blvd in 1954, also an African American neighborhood. The Lincoln Park facility became a wastewater treatment plant and the site of Lincoln Park Elementary School from the 1960's to 1980 when it was shut down due to contamination. [...]
[...] According to environmental lawyer Suzi Ruhl, developers interested in brownfields must, in theory, “correct old wrongs with projects that benefit residents That's environmental justice, and it's the benchmark of successful brownfields redevelopment.” In practice, this rhetoric has not panned out so far. Ruhl explains that “despite growing emphasis on new brownfields programs, redevelopment hasn't been about revitalizing downtrodden communities instead, its been about a land grab” (Sheridan 2002). Sources: Center for Health, Environment & Justice “Wingate Superfund Site and Lincoln Park Community Fort Lauderdale, Retrieved April (http://www.chej.org/documents/Wingate%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf) Chabot, Lucy Killing Fields.” New Times, December 25. Retrieved April (http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/content/printVersion/128143) Gillen, Michelle You Want to [...]
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