Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stephen Bradley President of Waste Management Toxic Landfill Emelle, Alabama

Stephen "Steve" E. Bradley of Bradley & Associates

Thanks to a fellow environmental warrior for contributing some of this information on the story of Emelle, Alabama and what happened to the community when Waste Management's Chemical Waste toxic dump came to Sumter County, Alabama.
*Editors note-- some stories are presented in their entirety due to their archive status, which requires a fee to access. 

What happened to the largely minority community of Emelle, Alabama because of Chemical Waste's reprehensible actions from the 1970's to the 1990's was an environmental crime of historic proportions-- those effects are still reverberating through the area today. 

The incident did not occur in a vacuum. It was fostered by the surreptitious motives of the Department of Energy through Martin Marietta, ADEM and a cadre of willing accomplices who saw profit before prudence. and willfully set out to take advantage of a lax state regulatory system and the lack of sophistication of a poor community.

It is a story of greed and corruption by big business and government that continues to play out in similar communities even today.

It's a story that should never be forgotten, nor should the individuals who were complicit in this crime against humanity. Especially one individual in particular: Stephen E. Bradley.

Document #1
Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) files on the Emelle illegal radioactive waste receiving and dumping:
If there's an"environmental vampire" moniker that's well deserved Mr. Bradley fits that to a tee.

Generally speaking, we are judged by the company we keep. The same holds true for businesses who are judged by their corporate philosophies, and their employee's behavior as representatives of the company in management positions and in public relations.

White Rock Quarries (WRQ) a controversial company itself, has employed Mr. Bradley as their PR agent in Vincent, Alabama (pop. 2000) for a proposed 1000 acre limestone quarry. He's been their representative long enough for WRQ to know what type of individual they have chosen to align themselves with. Therefore, they too should be judged by the company they are keeping, in addition to their past history in south Florida.

Mr. Bradley's own past is of his activities at Chemical Waste was written about extensively in the press at the time of the Emelle incident. What he did there is inexcusable, but it's only one incident in a long documented list of his toxic activities. Controversy follows him as closely as his own shadow.

Document #2
1978 when Bradley was at Alabama Power (APCO):
The charges did not stick on a "technicality" (not on a legal ruling of "not guilty"), but  years later when BARD was formed Walter Johnsey was named their Chairman of the Board. Alabama Power and Drummond are both BARD members. Joe Fine is one half of the powerful lobbying firm Fine and Geddie. After Johnsey's "early retirement" Bradley stepped into his position at APCO.
2009 when Synagro was finally ousted from Colbert County whose residents were outraged at having NY City human excrement spread over their county:
Senate Bills 462 and 463 would amend the Alabama Constitution to severely regulate or prohibit the application of treated human waste or biosolids on farm fields as fertilizer or soil supplement if the public votes against its use.
"What we're trying to do is get rid of the New York waste that's being spread on the cropland of Alabama," Senator Roger Bedford said.
Steve Bradley, a spokesman for Synagro in Alabama, did not address the legislation specifically, but said the company is strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and also falls under the oversight of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Synagro also has developed management guidelines for its product with assistance from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.
"We recognize that this issue has drawn a lot of attention," Bradley said. "We know it's an emotional issue; we understand that."
He said the company has a history of cooperating with any organization scrutinizing its practices and has been responsive to community concerns.
"It's a fact of life that this material is produced," he said. "You can either incinerate it, landfill it or you can make productive use out of it through the production of biosolids."
More on this story:
Synagro South LLC, Biological Processors of Alabama and Dyneon LLC also are defendants in the county lawsuits.
From 1996 until November, DU contracted with Synagro to spread the biosolids on area farms as fertilizer. The practice ended in November because the EPA discovered alarming accumulations of the chemicals it calls “unregulated contaminants” in the soil of farms that received the biosolids. 
The Case of Emelle, Alabama
The following articles from the Birmingham News seem to suggest Mr. Bradley "mourning" the loss of more toxic waste to be dumped on the community where the landfill is located.

While Bradley is not responsible for establishing Emelle (in the 1970's), it was a well-known fact that Emelle was intentionally located in a high minority poor community, a practice known as environmental discrimination (i.e, impose pollution, environmental harm on low-income, and mostly black, communities because they lack the funds to defend themselves.)

The citizens were told that it was going to be a "brick plant" and kept entirely in the dark about the real purpose of the project until "everything was in place." They were also promised that the company would bring in "good paying jobs" and help the community "grow and prosper."

The promised "prosperity" resulted in the decimation of the town with only 26 residents still living in Emelle. Cancer rates soared in the community and wiped out almost the entire population. Some sources Emelle "died" because Chemical Waste was shut down and revenue stopped, but the company did so much damage to the community that few companies wanted to locate there after the contamination.

How could a person of conscience accept a management position at a company that he knew maintained a toxic landfill filled with illegally received radioactive wastes, PCBs, etc.? Maybe because that was what was attractive to Mr. Bradley-- it was profitable and nefarious-- two elements he's built his reputation on.

Chemical Waste was actively engaged in fraud for years until 1992, when royalty payments withheld for that year, to the owners of the land, triggered an investigation in 1996 resulting in a $91,000,000 million dollar judgment, accompanied by a scathing rebuke of "deliberate and willful wrongdoing and intentional fraud" from the Judge in his final opinion.

Is a waste facility good for the local economy? 
Kaye Kiker from Emelle, AL, explains that, in 1978 before Waste Management, Inc., came to town, the county's unemployment was 5.8%; in 1986, unemployment had climbed to 21.1%.

"Our water is polluted here,"
she explains "and it's just not the kind of place where you want to raise your family. We'll never site industry here again. I believe we've lost it. This is a dying county," she says. 
From Dr. Robert Bullard of the Center for Environmental Justice:
The largest landfill, hazardous waste dump, the Cadillac of dumps, is located in Alabama.
It's located in Emelle, Alabama, Sumter County. Seventy-five percent black county, 95% black community of Emelle.
A lot of the waste that's cleaned up all over the country is shipped, brought in to Emelle, Alabama. How did Emelle become a dump? George Wallace's son-in-law got the land, smoothed through with Waste Management, and they built this dump in the middle of this black belt community.
Right now, it's the largest employer in the county. The county is dependent upon Waste Management for revenue. And any industry that used to be there, a lot of it left. And you can't attract anything else. 
Who wants to be the neighbor of a toxic waste dump? This is the landfill itself.
For you geologists, this is called a Selma chalk formation. Selma chalk is supposed to be impermeable. When they did the statement and the report, they said this Selma chalk formation is impermeable, it will last 1,000 years. It leaked in TEN.
From the bio on Stephen Bradley & Associates website: 
Mr. Bradley also served as the first president of the Alabama Power Foundation, Inc. from 1989-1990. He was named president of Waste Management, Inc. of Alabama in 1990, where he was responsible for public relations, strategic planning and public affairs coordination for the family of Waste Management companies in Alabama until late 1993.

Birmingham News (AL)
June 15, 1993
MONTGOMERY - Burying toxic waste isn't a growth industry near Emelle any more
And that's making some environmentalists smile even as some state lawmakers worry about falling tax collections. Chemical Waste Management Inc.'s landfill near Emelle, which covers five square miles of north Sumter County, once took in more poisonous, flammable, cancer causing and other hazardous waste than any other commercial landfill in America.
But burials at the landfill _which more than doubled in volume between 1985 and 1989 - have slipped to their lowest levels in years.
ChemWaste officials blame the state's 1990 increase in its fee for dumping toxic waste. A state environment official, however, blames the weak economy, greater efforts by companies to reduce pollutants and a slowdown in federal cleanup of so-called Superfund sites.
Kaye Kiker, an environmental activist in York who has kept an eye on Emelle for years, said the drop in waste burials pleased her.
"That's great. We want it to continue to decrease so that place will shut down and Alabama won't be the dumping ground any more," Mrs. Kiker said.
"As long as there are places like this, this country is not going to address the real question and the real solutions of dealing with hazardous wastes such as recycling." she said.
Alabama lawmakers raised state and local fees from $22 per ton of waste buried at Emelle to $40 per ton of waste from Alabama and $112 per ton of waste from everywhere else. Emelle gets about 85 percent of its toxic waste from out-of-state.
Burials at Emelle tumbled from a peak of 790,716 tons in 1989 to 290,194 tons in 1991 and 285,242 tons in 1992.
The fees for most waste fell on Oct. 1, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Alabama couldn't charge higher fees on hazardous waste just because it came from other states.
Alabama lawmakers could have obeyed the ruling by setting the fee at $112 per ton for both in-state and out-of-state waste.
But hundreds of factories in Alabama have buried waste at Emelle, including Schlumberger in Tallassee, which makes water meters, National Standard in Columbiana, which makes steel wire, and Sanders Lead in Troy, which recycles lead from batteries.
The Business Council of Alabama joined ChemWaste last fall to lobby for a fee of $51 per ton on most waste buried at Emelle, whether from Alabama or elsewhere. Fees would be higher for some extremely toxic waste and lower for non-toxic garbage.
Most lawmakers and then-Gov. Guy Hunt went along, and the lower fee for most hazardous waste took effect Oct. 1.
Hazardous-waste burials at Emelle haven't jumped back with the lower fee, however.
From January through April, the last month for which the state has records, Emelle buried 88,038 tons of waste, almost 10,000 tons less than in those four months last year.
Most of the money from toxic waste fees goes to the state General Fund, which pays the salaries of many state employees.
Net toxic-waste tax collections for the fund peaked at $35 million in the 1990-91 budget year that ended September 1991, and dropped to $21 million in 1991-92, which ended Sept. 30, state records show.
If toxic-waste burials stay at current rates even with the lower fee, the General Fund this year will collect about $16 million.
(**state profits from this practice)
"The revenue's not coming in," said state Rep. Taylor Harper-D, Grand Bay.
Steve Bradley, president of Waste Management Inc. of Alabama, blamed high fees for much of the drop in burials at Emelle

Bradley said many out-of-state factories shipped their toxic waste elsewhere after Alabama raised fees to $112 per ton in July 1990.
"It drove away a considerable amount of our business," he said. "When that happens, it's very difficult to get that business back."

He said Alabama's $51-per-ton fee on most hazardous waste is higher than the fee in any other state, including Louisiana and California, which also lowered their fees recently.
Sue Robertson, chief of the land division that oversees Emelle for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, said toxic waste burials have dropped nationwide, not just at Emelle
A slow-growth economy has slowed production of both goods and toxic byproducts from America's factories, she said.
Mrs. Robertson also said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in recent years has supervised fewer cleanups of Superfund sites polluted by toxic wastes.
And at the sites it does clean up, EPA more and more is incinerating or chemically treating polluted soil and burying it at the clean-up sites instead of digging up the dirt and shipping it to Emelle or other landfills, she said.
America's factories also are recycling chemicals more, using fewer poisonous materials to make products and treating toxic byproducts at their factory sites, she said.
Mrs. Robertson said she doubts Emelle will ever again bury as much waste in one year as it did in 1989, unless the EPA boosts the number of old-style Superfund cleanups that ship contaminated dirt to landfills.
Mrs. Robertson said the Emelle landfill, which sits atop 700 feet of chalk, "is one of the most environmentally sound places" to bury toxic waste.
(**See Robert Bullard above; "It leaked in ten years")
But she applauded the shift by factories away from toxic-waste burials and toward incineration, chemical treatment, recycling and the use of fewer toxic materials in manufacturing.
"I think less is best," said Mrs. Robertson. "You don't want to continue putting large volumes of waste in a hole in the ground if there are other alternatives."
Document #3
This case was argued before the US Supreme Court, Chem Waste won the case, but the dissent of Chief Justice Rehnquist (which appears at the end of the case description) is compelling:
"The Court errs in substantial measure because it refuses to acknowledge that a safe and attractive environment is the commodity really at issue in cases such as this. 
See Fort Gratiot, post, at 369, n. (REHNQUIST, C.J., dissenting).
"The result is that the Court today gets it exactly backward when it suggests that Alabama is attempting to "isolate itself from a problem common to the several States." Ante, at 339. "To the contrary, it is the 34 States that have no hazardous waste facility whatsoever, not to mention the remaining 15 States with facilities all smaller than Emelle, that have isolated themselves"

Enter Balch and Bingham:
(Mr. Fowler, another WRQ representative and lobbyist, was not with the firm at this time, but the story shows that this law firm seems to contribute to the heavy-handed, anti-environmental culture inherent in certain Alabama firms legal practices) 
Birmingham News (AL)
May 13, 1993
MONTGOMERY - A company that has shipped radioactive wastes to Alabama from other states has asked a federal court to block Attorney General Jimmy Evans from prosecuting its officials on criminal charges.
Martin Marietta Energy Systems Inc. of Maryland, which manages the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and other nuclear waste generating facilities, said Evans for more than a year has led a grand jury investigation into the company's waste shipments to a toxic-waste landfill in Emelle.
A state prosecutor has alleged the company may have illegally shipped radioactive waste, which Emelle is not permitted to accept, and may have tried to conceal the content of the shipments.
By threatening to prosecute company officials, Evans has violated the company's rights, lawyers for the company told the federal court.
Any nuclear wastes shipped by Martin Marietta to Emelle had only trace amounts of radioactive material and were "absolutely no hazard to any person or to the environment,'' they said.
Any worker receiving maximum exposure to the radioactive wastes would have received no more than a tiny fraction of the radiation a person would get from the natural background radiation in the United States, the lawyers said.
Martin Marietta Energy Systems Inc. is seeking an injunction blocking Evans from taking action against the company.
"They're blowing smoke,'' Deputy Attorney General Robert E. Morrow said Wednesday.
"They haven't been charged with exposing workers or damaging the environment,'' Morrow said. ""They have falsified records they are required to file with the state saying the materials they shipped to Emelle are not radioactive.''
He called the federal suit "the newest defense tactic for the criminal defense.''
The law firm that filed the suit for Martin Marietta, Balch and Bingham, last year asked the federal court to block Evans from prosecuting an ethics case against former Gov. Guy Hunt. The court refused to halt that prosecution.
Morrow wrote Martin Marietta officials last Dec. 4 that the grand jury were checking whether the company concealed through "subterfuge'' the content of its shipments.
Company lawyers said the U.S. Department of Transportation permits interstate shipment of radioactive wastes but does not require it to be labeled as ""radioactive'' if it contains less than 2,000 picocuries of radiation per gram.
Martin Marietta's waste shipments had an average of 6.7 picocuries per gram, while "radioactivity at the level of 3.2 picocuries per gram is completely harmless,'' they said.
In a March 15 letter to company lawyer Jay A. Brozost, Morrow claimed the company violated three provisions of state law:
The company falsely told the Alabama Department of Environmental Management that its shipments contained no radioactive material.
The company violated an ADEM regulation requiring a detailed description and approval of wastes to be disposed of.
The company shipped radioactive waste to Emelle, which is not permitted to accept it.
More on Emelle and the next threat to Alabama; Landfills: 
"Alabama receives 19 million tons per year from outside of the state; 5 times more than is generated in the state annually."
Various groups fighting landfills in other Southern states say waste companies are taking advantage of dire economic circumstances in poor, sparsely populated rural counties. Landfill fees are lower in the South than anywhere else in the country, according to a national survey by Waste Age magazine. And Alabama landfills charge less than any other Southern state, according to a 2005 analysis by the state of Georgia.
"We're starting to see a trend with these mega-landfills," said Adam Snyder, with Conservation Alabama. "We're supplying space for garbage from the rest of the country."
Snyder said Alabama's permitting process is part of the attraction. ADEM leaves most of the decisions about whether to allow a landfill to local governments, and the siren song of a quick and steady income source has proven attractive to county commissions and city councils statewide. Alabama is home to nine landfills that accept garbage from more than one state.
Document #4
(1992 Federal investigation into Martin Marietta Energy disposing of radioactive waste at Emelle)

Associated Press
Florence Times Daily April 8, 1992
Montgomery--A shipment of radioactive dirt from a nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee has attracted the scrutiny of Alabama’s Chief prosecutor.
A Grand Jury is trying to determine whether manifests on the shipments from Martin Marietta Energy Systems Inc. to the Chemical Waste’s Management landfill in West Alabama complied with state law.
Environmental officials have said shipping documents did not indicate the dirt contained uranium before it was disposed at the Emelle landfill.
"There have been public allegations both in the United Sates Congress and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, that Martin Marietta transported nuclear waste to Alabama at the Chem Waste facility in Sumter County.” Attorney General Jimmy Evans said.
The President of Martin Marietta told a U. S. House committee in February that his company shipped 13 million pounds of wastes to disposal facilities that were not licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to handle radioactive material.  
The company said the wastes only contained dirt and debris contaminated with uranium at one-tenth the level considered dangerous under NRC regulations.
The NRC, however, requires radioactive waste of any kind to be sent to a licensed facility.
Chem Waste spokesman Steve Bradley said the soil was tested for radioactivity for arrival at Emelle because it came from a Department of Energy facility that normally handles radioactive materials.
None of the tests by Chem Waste and Alabama Department of Environmental Management found radioactivity levels above that normally would be found in soil in Sumter County he said.
“I don’t know anything about Martin Marietta” Bradley said. All I can tell you is that Chemical Waste Management acted properly in every respect with regard to all federal and state regulations and that the company absolutely, unequivocally violated no laws or regulations in accepting that waste.”
The NRC rules are clear: radioactive wastes can only be sent to an approved facility, no exceptions. It appears the arbitrary decision was made to accept this radioactive waste based on Mr. Bradley's "decision" of what an "acceptable level" is by his quoted position from the news story. Furthermore, since Bradley knew the waste was radioactive, why didn't he and/or Chem Waste alert the NRC that the Martin Marietta shipment manifests were wrong when they reflected zero for radioactive waste?

Maybe because that would have cut into the company's bottom line, held Martin-Marietta and the US Department of Energy accountable, and helped to protect the citizens and environment of Emelle. No one was interested in doing the right thing when there was huge profits to gleaned from bad behavior.

Regulatory agencies are in place for a reason: companies screw up and make bad decisions in pursuit of higher profits and they don't always follow the rules. Environmental adherence and worker safety are not profitable margins for most companies, and they'll choose the wrong thing over the right way if they believe they can get away with it.

The case of Emelle is a prime example of why there should be regulations, but it also illustrates how things can horribly go wrong when it is left up to some businesses to 'police themselves.' (Mr. Bradley went on to a future reward for 'covering' for Martin Marietta at Emelle and became their lobbyist years later.)

After the first discovery of illegal radioactive waste disposal occured, a second incident occured between 1992-1994 involving hundreds of containers of improperly disposed of PCB waste happened again at Emelle.

Document #5
The Demographics of Emelle, Alabama 2008: 
93% black
The median income for a household in the town was $5,833, and the median income for a family was $5,000.
Males had a median income of $36,250 versus $23,333 for females.
The per capita income for the town was $10,738.
There were 66.7% of families and 61.9% of the population living below the poverty line, including 100.0% of under eighteens and none of those over 64.

This illustrates the ongoing question with environmental justice debates-- should the health and quality of life be sacrificed for jobs and economic security?

Which begs the question: should Mr. Bradley be judged by his past business dealings, long-standing controversial decisions, economic relationships and what he has chosen to surround himself with for decades?

The answer, we believe, is unequivocally YES.

*Update-- From a confidential, upper level Alabama Power source on Bradley's tenure at APCO: "We wish he had never been here."


  1. No Quarry in VincentJune 23, 2010 at 7:53 AM

    Thanks for such thorough and exhaustive research regarding the historical record on Stephen Bradley. It simply can not be ignored, and it explains why he would cheerlead a quarry that would ruin a community such as Vincent, Alabama. Mr. Bradley seems to have sold his soul for the almighty dollar--at the expense of humanity.

  2. Excellent reporting on an issue that continues to affect Alabama.
    In South Alabama, this is a recent and ongoing fight in 2010, and is prompting greater scrutiny and public awareness when landfills are proposed in communities. 9 times out of 10 they are located in heavily minority areas for the reasons you have pointed out; they are unable to "fight back" and lack the sophistication to fully understand what is happening in the beginning stages of these projects.
    It is is Alabama's next frontier of environmental war and deserves as much attention as can be brought to this issue.
    Rural Alabama is under attack on both fronts; mining where the mineral deposits exist and landfills where they do not.
    In either scenario, the state (including ADEM and the EMC) and local political bodies "grow fat" from the revenue and their citizens suffer.

    What is Vincent thinking getting involved with this kind of person????
    Do they know about him????

  4. I'm done with this.
    Count me out WR my hat and shirt just went up in flames along with the rest of the garbage.


    Please send us an email we would like to communicate with you, in confidence of course.


  6. No Quarry in VincentJune 23, 2010 at 1:37 PM


    You need to let Vincent officials know how you now feel about White Rock. Do it in writing and do it ASAP

  7. good work MAX I live in Vincent and not far from the quarry site.We have got to stop these people and there QUARRY

  8. put all them in jail

  9. the truth allways comes out in the end

  10. All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them (Gailio)

  11. I agree whole heartedly, I was for WR and loved my new shirt, but I am out now!

  12. white rock u are going down !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. i to was for w r but not now they are dirty dirty dirty my bunch say no to WR

  14. How long before Vincent's water is contaminated with Benzene too?


    Aren't they putting the quarry right on top of the black folks?


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