Valdosta NAACP Claims Environmental Racism

Brad Lofton says “all of a sudden we haven’t heard anymore about environmental racism.” I guess he hasn’t looked at the local NAACP’s front page on the web.

Valdosta NAACP Claims Environmental Racism

The Valdosta-Lowndes branch of the NAACP unanimously passed a resolution of Environmental Racism concerning the siting of Sterling Planet’s Wiregrass Power, LLC, Biomass Incinerator, slated for construction in Valdosta, Georgia, next to the Mud Creek wastewater treatment plant. This incinerator is sited in a predominantly black community: within 2 miles of the incinerator are 2 predominantly black elementary schools, J.L. Lomax with 607 students and Southeast with 304 students, and one predominantly white elementary school, Moulton-Branch with over 500 students. The “Little Blue School” Head Start program serves over 165 children ages 3-5. There are 7 large black churches including Valdosta’s largest African-American church, New Life Ministries, pastored by Dr. Angela Manning, who has organized one Town Hall against the Biomass incinerator. Other churches include the Church at Pine Hill, Morning Star Baptist, Evangel Temple, Church of God of Prophecy, and others, with congregations numbering hundreds. In the area is Sands-Horizon assisted living facility which serves over 60 families, 2 large apartment complexes, Brittany Woods and Park Chase, as well as Valdosta’s largest and most affuent black residential community.

Executive Director of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority, Brad Lofton, rejects the claim of environmental racism, and at the September 27, 2010, Valdosta Board of Education meeting called Valdosta NAACP President Touchton “irresponsible” for making the public claim. He says there are seven times more white people who live around the proposed plant. He did not address the fact that school children and church members do not show up on census forms.

The incinerator will emit 87-89 tons per year of tiny particulate

matter smaller than 10 microns in size, the most dangerous particulate pollution because it lodges permanently in people’s lungs. According to the American Cancer Society, the community can expect a rise of 4% in all-cause cancer for every 10 microgram per cubic meter rise in this pollutant. According to the American Cancer Society,cardiopulmonary disease will increase by 6% or more, and lung cancer will increase by 8% or more. The people most likely to be affected are the people who live, work, worship, go to school nearest the plant.

VLCIA Executive Director Brad Lofton claims the incinerator will bring 25 jobs and tax revenue to our local schools.

More than 50 semi-trucks per day will travel to and from the incinerator. The American Lung Association has documented the rise in asthma, missed school days, hospital emergency room visits for school children exposed to diesel fumes if they attend schools near highways. The diesel truck traffic will increase by a 50 trucks per day, 365 days per year, which will exacerbate the exposure of these children to diesel fumes.

VLCIA Executive Director Brad Lofton claims the incinerator will bring 25 jobs and tax revenue to our local schools.

The incinerator will burn more than 640,000 tons of wood every year. According to the American Lung Association, “Burning biomass could lead to significant increases in emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide and have severe impacts on the health of children, older adults, and people with lung disease.” According to the ALA, there is NO SAFE LIMIT for particulate matter below 10 microns in size, death can result on one day of exposure to this type of particulate matter.

VLCIA Executive Director Brad Lofton says this incinerator will bring 25 jobs and provide tax revenue to the local schools.

The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians reports that “Biomass burning ..of wood waste creates emissions of particulate matter that…increase the risk of..asthma, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease.” Other pollutants include nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds which increase smog and ozone, which are known to increase lung disease and mortality; as well as sulfur dioxides which contribute to respiratory disease.

VLCIA Executive Director Brad Lofton says this incinerator will bring 25 jobs and provide tax revenue to the local schools.

The smokestack from this facility will reach 150 feet skyward. According to Allan Ricketts of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority, the community was slated to get a smokestack 175 feet high but since they aren’t going to pollute quite as much as they previously estimated the EPD allowed them to lower it to a “mere” 150 feet and the smokestack will be aesthetically landscaped by pine trees, which reach about 75 feet high. They showed the Valdosta Board of Education an artist’s rendition of a smokestack painted royal blue and white towering over the local skyline and described how well it would fit into its surroundings. Local Valdosta State University professor Dr. Gretchen Bielmyer reports that mercury from the burning of wood and sewage sludge from the so-called aesthetic smokestack will travel 50 kilometers as a result. Mercury accumulates in the food chain, it is toxic in low levels and can cause brain damage, especially for unborn babies, infants, and children. Pregnant and nursing mothers pass it on to their babies.

VLCIA Executive Director Brad Lofton says the incinerator will provide 25 jobs and tax revenue to the local schools. VLCIA employee Allan Ricketts says it will be nicely landscaped.

More than 45 of these kinds of incinerators have been built and SHUT DOWN around the country. More than 50 are currently proposed and almost unanimously have engendered strong local opposition from Florida to Indiana to Massachusetts to Vermont to Texas. More than 10 have been proposed in Georgia, and some have been swiftly opposed and run out of town, most recently in Hartwell, Georgia. In Massachusetts, more than 120,000 citizens petitioned to have a voter referendum on the ballot this November to permanently ban them. As a result of the signatures and citizen opposition, the Massachusetts legislature took away biomass incinerator tax credits, effectively eliminating them as commercial enterprises, permanently. When the companies are run out of one town or state, they move to places like Georgia, where environmental regulations are lax and businesses are given huge tax incentives to build these kinds of incinerators, and investors count on the local population being uninformed and apathetic.

In Georgia, asthma deaths among African American males are three times greater than among Caucasian males (4.3% to 1.4%), and deaths among African American females are 2.2 times greater (4% to 1.8%) than in Caucasian females. African American children are five times more likely to die from asthma than white children.

Tallahassee NAACP Legal Redress Chair sent this letter. Tallahassee Biomass incinerator owners subsequently left town.

Please contact Sterling Planet Energy and tell them what you think about this: