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Tropical wasteland: A fort Lauderdale community’s battle for justice

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  1. Introduction
  2. The possible link between the dump and cancer
  3. Studies that indicated no connection between the high cancer rates and the incinerator emissions
  4. The governments attempts to limit its liability
  5. Conclusions
  6. Sources

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). [...]

[...] As a response to the charter school proposal, the Center for Health, Environment & Justice decided to launch it FACE Justice tour in Wingate where they met on March with residents to discuss the charter school situation and how residents are coping with health problems. CBS 4 conducted a special report on the situation, T.V. investigator Michelle Glenn pressured officials from the MG3 Developer Group and Imagine Charter Schools for answers as to why they would choose to locate a charter school next to a Superfund site. [...]

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