Date: Fri, 16 Aug 1996 06:34:05 -0500
From: "L-Soft list server at MIZZOU1 (1.8b)" <>
Subject: File: "DATABASE OUTPUT"

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>>> Item number 8017, dated 96/08/12 23:56:20 -- ALL
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 1996 23:56:20 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Rich Winkel <>
Organization: PACH
Subject: Environmental Racism and Economic Injustice in Atlanta

/** pn.alerts: 48.0 **/
** Topic: emergency alert **
** Written 3:28 PM Jul 30, 1996 by socejp in cdp:pn.alerts **

Environmental Racism and Economic Injustice in Olympic Atlanta

Press release, 30 July 1996

Atlanta, GA-Prior to the criminal and inhumane bombing at Centennial Park, there was one controversy after another in Olympic Atlanta. Alleged racial and economic injustices are at center stage of the controversy. Many charged that ACOG went out of its way to block Olympian visitors from local vendors and small entrepreneurs in Atlanta's African American community causing many to lose their entire investments. Yet, Atlanta's African American community paid the highest price for the Olympics to be held in Atlanta.

The most recent controversy has come with refusal by Fulton County Commissioners to allow a proposed site in Fulton County to be used as a treatment site for Olympian garbage. Fulton County Commissioners have opted to enforce Environmental Justice Provisions that fall under a Comprehensive Planning and Zoning Resolution.

The Provisions safeguard already disproportionately over-burdened environmentally stressed African American and low-income communities in South Fulton from additional environmental insults. The area in question already has multiple polluting sources including the Fulton County (Charlie Brown) Airport, Hartsfield International Airport, Utoy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and incinerators, 23 hazardous waste sites listed on EPA's CERCLIS list and several presently operating polluting industries.

Refusal to enforce these laws would have allowed Microlife, Inc., ACOG's contractors for Olympic waste, to operate a temporary waste processing facility. Atlanta is bursting with accusations of environmental racism and economic injustices. "Black Atlanta is fighting mad. ACOG gave others the profits and want to give us the garbage," said Art Geter, a South Fulton County resident and environmental justice activist.

District 5 Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell said, "The proposed facility to handle Olympic waste is located nearest neighborhoods which are predominantly African American, low-income or both." "These neighborhoods already suffer from the effects of unhealthy and unsustainable development, and it has resulted in high incidences of cancer, asthma, and other environmentally-linked diseases," continued Darnell.

The Fulton County Commissioner has been an out-spoken leaders of community-based efforts to educate Atlantans, prevent further environmental assaults and remedy existing problems. "A popular slogan emerged from the community during our efforts to fight environmental racism, it says - We want to die on time, not before time," stated the Commissioner." She added, "When we noticed high rates of sickness and deaths, we began to look for the cause of the problem.

Darnell said their investigation revealed alarming information, "We found that my district [District 5] has a cancer mortality rate 29 percent greater than the rest of Fulton County, with the asthma mortality rate at 4.1 per 100,000 population compared to a rate of 1.6 for the rest of the County.

Darnell said they also discovered across the country, "...a pattern of race and class-based siting and operation of polluting facilities." She said they also discovered, "...a fast growing Environmental Justice Movement which charges government and industry with discriminatory treatment of communities of color and low-income communities."

Clark Atlanta University sociology professor Robert D. Bullard has written extensively on the subject of land use, environmental degradation, and ethnic communities. In his books, Dumping in Dixie (1990), Confronting Environmental Racism (1993), and Unequal Protection (1994) he clearly demonstrates that African Americans and other people of color have been targeted for unwanted land uses. Bullard states, "Poor communities and people of color have more than their fair share of garbage dumps, landfills, incinerators, sewer treatment plants, and other polluting industries. These types of facilities are not randomly distributed across the urban landscape. On the other hand, these same communities are shortchanged when it comes to residential services and public amenities."

Bullard, who directs the Environmental Justice Resource Center, continues, "Environmental injustice exists in Atlanta and other cities from coast to coast. It is not an accident that Fulton County Commission Districts 5 and 7, both of which are populated largely by African Americans, contain the bulk of the county's landfills, incinerators, uncontrolled toxic waste sites, sewer treatment plants, and TRI [Toxic Release Inventory] reporting facilities."

Similar findings of disparate impact, unequal protection, and discriminatory siting practices have been reported in other studies, including the landmark Commission for Racial Justice "Toxic Wastes and Race," U.S. EPA ("Environmental Equity"), and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission ("Environmental Justice in Louisiana"). In 1992, the National Law Journal devoted a special issue to this problem. The authors discovered a racial divide in the way the nation's environmental laws are enforced in white and people of color communities.

"Those of us who live in Districts 5 and 7 have a zero tolerance level. We already have too much and we wont take any more," said Geter. "Just over a 3 year period we have had to battle five attempts to site or expand polluting facilities." Continued Geter. Connie Tucker, Executive Director of the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice, a South-wide racial, economic and environmental justice network said, "The irony of this situation is that ACOG has struck a deal with Microlife, Inc. to put the garbage in the black community, yet ACOG did all it could to lock the black community out of Olympic benefits and exposure." This is outright racism," she said.

Black Atlanta has raised a number of racial and economic justice questions since Atlanta was selected as the Olympic site. Criticism has been primarily directed at ACOG. ACOG's discriminatory allocation of funding for exhibits is a particularly sore spot with only a $5,000 grant to the historic African American APEX museum while awarding hundreds of thousands for exhibits to white institutions. Black Atlanta accuses ACOG of locking out the black community from Olympic benefits and exposure, with the Vendor controversy on Auburn Avenue taking center stage.

Tucker said, "ACOG designed Centennial Park and the traffic flow to keep Olympic visitors away from Auburn Avenue and other vendor locations. "We have also learned that ACOG and Marta employees warn Olympic visitors to steer clear of Auburn Avenue east of the King Center and other black areas. We were clear about ACOG's racism and blind greed, but we were shocked that they would go so far as to block access to historic Auburn Avenue," Tucker continued.

A number of specific issues and concerns have been documented in a recently released publication by Project South, a community-based membership institute that develops and conducts popular political and economic education and action research. The publication, "The Olympic Games and Our Struggles for Justice: A People's Story", examines the issues of race and sport and what the Olympics mean for many of Atlanta's communities - especially poor and working-class communities and communities of color. The publication maintains that thousands of people have been displaced, housing has been demolished, police state-type laws have been passed, and the jobs created have been mostly temporary.

Robert Bullard agrees. In his new book, Residential Apartheid, Bullard points out that racial discrimination, housing patterns and land use policies go hand in hand. Too often discriminatory practices create amenities for whites and affluent communities, while allowing residential disamentities to flow toward people of color and the poor.

Additional Press Contacts:

Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell (404)730-8223
Jerome Scott, Project South - (404)622-0602
People's Alert and Media Center (404) 635-0100