Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Monday, October 25, 2010

Walker County, Alabama & ADEM Wars With Tires, Child's Toys and Old Mattresses-- Not Concerned With Coal Mine Contamination

In a state that has so many significant environmental problems it's comforting to know that under new director, Lance LeFleur, ADEM has its priorities straight regarding "serious threats" to the environment. Walker County serves as a skewed example of the misplaced concern over what it is really important to crack down on (i.e. coal mining) for community health and the environment of its citizens and what's not as big of a threat in ADEMs view--like arsenic and mercury in the groundwater and tributaries of the Black Warrior River from coal mine discharges.
Old tire dumping "could be a felony."
Child's toy and old mattress "threatens" environment in Cordova Walker County, Alabama
These recent statements from various Walker County personnel and one Jasper physician about the illegal dump sites found in the area, and the "threats" they pose, makes us wonder why we haven't seen this type of saber rattling and condemnation before about the effects of coal mining on the local environment in Walker County. Well, no not really, we know why, one word: Drummond.

Trent McCluskey, administrator for the Walker County Jail:
"This is a serious issue that is destroying parts of our county. ....this behavior is endangering the inhabitants of our county."
Walker County Sheriff John Mark Tirey:
"This is a serious problem...In some instances this would be a felony."
Jerome Hand ADEM Public relations:
"Across the state this is a major concern. We will help in cost recovery for the cleanups of these areas..."
"State agency is willing to do it's part to help local officials rid Walker County of illegal tire dump sites."
Sumiton Mayor Petey Ellis (who just happens to own a business near one of the dump sites):
"This is a good thing and they are doing a good job taking care of this problem. This is making our city and entire county look better and it is making a safer place for citizens."
Jasper physician Dr. Casey Vague:
"Health problems are a major concern around dumps of any size."
(It's interesting that his opinion is important for this specific issue, but anytime ADEM wants to issue a new landfill permit anywhere in the state it's not a problem.)
McCluskey's parting thoughts end the article with this:
"Walker County is home to a lot of good people. Walker County is not a mere waste receptacle for the thoughtless. Report illegal dumping. Help to protect the environment."

We'll agree that illegal dumping of any kind is not to be taken lightly but when you have "state and local agencies rallying" to save the county from these potentially "felonious transgressions" and ignoring many of the real ones it can all be summed up in another image.
ADEM & ASMC on Alabama's environment
Recently, the Alabama Surface Mining Commission (ASMC) approved a permit for the Sheperd's Bend/Poplar Springs Mine despite strong resistance from the Birmingham Water Works Board, physicians, lawyers, engineers, environmentalists and others who warned this proposed coal mine would have devastating effects on Jefferson County's drinking water, in addition to the groundwater in the surrounding area. The mine will be discharging into the nearby tributary waters of the Black Warrior River.

Cordova Mayor Jack Scott, who was himself a coal miner for twenty-two years, presides over the community where the mine will be placed and shows that he is a Mayor of vision with the following remarks;
"We support it. This is Walker County. We are famous for strip mining coal," Scott said. "It'll have no effect but positive for Cordova."
He can't summon any sympathy for pollution concerns of the Birmingham Water Works, which has a water intake just across the river from the proposed mine site. For Scott, the Water Works tap is a raid on a local resource.
"I couldn't care less about Birmingham," he said. "They are going to suck the river dry." 
The Shepherd Bend site is five miles from downtown, and Scott does not believe it would thwart redevelopment. Nor is Scott concerned about mining's impact on the river.
"Things happen, but it is highly regulated. It's not like it is going to ruin the river," Scott said. "The land is not as pretty after it is stripped but coal is a necessity. This country was built on coal. If everybody blocked coal companies from stripping, we'd be back in the 1600s." 
Between this jughead's lunacy and Alabama Representative Sanders recent claims of blacks would return to the "days of Jim Crow and cotton fields" if republicans are elected November 2 is it any wonder we are the laughing stock of the nation?

Closer examination of the linked story from the Daily Mountain Eagle reveals that it may really be about the Mayor and city anticipating a big cash windfall that will allow them to have their hands directly in the funds. Now why does that sound familiar....? Oh yeah, that's right---the City of Vincent and why they approved a controversial quarry (from Shelby County's and Governor Riley's behind-the-scenes persuading) located in one of the riskiest places you could choose to put a such massive excavation.

Home grown corruption in Alabama's counties and small communities is why we have so many "ethically challenged" politicians in the state house--they learn it on local levels first and carry it with them to Montgomery and Washington.

In yet another really bonehead move by ADEM and the ASMC they permitted this recently approved Walker County mine with the following justification:
Randall Johnson, director of the Surface Mining Commission, said the permit issued today is 4,200 feet upstream from the water intake. *The company will be required to monitor water quality and make corrections if the discharges from the mine violate water quality standards.
* (Yep, the fox will be required to watch the hen house as usual)
"We wanted to make sure we are not going to get any metals or sediment that would compromise the quality of water going into the Birmingham water works intake," Johnson said. "We do not anticipate any problems. If we issue a permit we issue one that is environmentally sound and I think that is what we have here."
We're not even going to bother to go into the long list of how many times ADEM and ASMC decisions are anything but environmentally sound because there's not enough room in three sites to cover them. In fact, we have not been able to find a single one that is environmentally sound or one that's sound on any level for that matter.
ASMC Commissioners (note Dorman Grace the former Ag 2010 candidate. Mining and Ag are as far away from each other as you can get because one seeks to preserve lands while the other intends to destroy them.)

The conclusion of this fight is hinging on the University of Alabama's next move since it owns all the contiguous land to be leased to the mine which will add much more acreage to the 34 acres that are permitted now. The mine is counting on that UA land which is why they have pushed so hard to get a permit on the 34 acres. This has got to be uncomfortable for the Roll Tide big house because many of its alumni and trustees (Drummond among them) have deep ties to big coal and big business.
The proposed mine still has a ways to go before it is fully approved. Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Southern Environmental Law Center are challenging the pollution discharge permit granted by ADEM. Also, the ASMC still has to decide on whether to approve a mining permit for the Drummond Company subsidiary.
For a university dedicated to improving the state of Alabama, leasing the land for a strip mine would be an aberrant decision. This proposed mine, more than an hour away from campus, does not visibly damage the university itself, but it has the potential to harm two communities and the reputation of the self-proclaimed flagship university of the state.
The University of Alabama should decide not to lease its land, even if the mine passes all regulatory tests. A university’s purpose is to prepare its students for the future so that they can improve their communities. This university needs to prove that it practices what it preaches.
It will be interesting to see what the next moves are by UA. If you are a former student of UA and care about this issue, take a moment to let the university know what your take is on it. The last thing UA wants is a black eye (literally) of any kind and their public perception is paramount to them as any resident of Alabama knows.
UA President Dr. Robert E. Witt
(205) 348-5103

In the meantime, citizens of Alabama stand warned--in the eyes of ADEM if you dump a tire, a broken child's toy or an old mattress somewhere other than your residential waste receptacles and local landfills you could be a felon, and may be vigorously prosecuted from your "thoughtless" actions if you dare soil Alabama's pristine environment and endanger the health of an entire community with your "toxic" Playskool, Serta and Goodyear castoffs.

Notice--this does not apply to any members, friends and business associates of the Drummond and Walter families-- State of Alabama
Janice Barrett of Wild South sums it up nicely in a Letter to the Editor from the September 25th edition of the Birmingham News. Judging from the reader's comments, with the exception of one, most people get it--this mine is a really bad idea any way you look at it.

“In 1819, when Alabama entered the Union, its leaders designed a great seal that featured the state’s waterways. In adopting this symbol they affirmed their belief that the future of Alabama lay with its rivers.
It did, and still does.”
Harvey Jackson III
Rivers of History

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  1. Among many this part caught my attention:
    Earlier this decade, residents of Cordova, with the help of the Regional Planning Commission and the Auburn Center for Architecture and Urban Studies, drew up a comprehensive revitalization plan anticipating the impact being connected to Birmingham by the new Interstate 22.

    The plan pictures a revitalized historic downtown and new neighborhoods connecting the city to the river -- a bedroom community offering riverfront greenways and a marina.

    The community viewed the plan as a chance to reverse a 40-year decline. In 1962, the town lost its dominant large employer, the Arrowhead Textile Mill. About the same time, the once plentiful jobs in underground mining began giving way to more sporadic, smaller-scale employment in strip mining.

    "We built our plan on our two interstate interchanges," Palmer said. "This kind of opportunity comes along once every 100 years. Now, it's at our two interchanges they are fixing to strip mine."

    "We didn't put a strip pit in our long-range plan," he said.

    There may be some legal ramification in that, as well there should be. This is short-sighted thinking to negate those previous plans for a select few that will or will stand to profit in conjunction with placing the mine at the site of the planned interchange.

    Mayor Scott is brain-dead wit his illogical thinking that a strip mine would outweigh the benefits of connecting a small community to a larger one.

    Somebody has been paid off I suspect.

  2. ASMC has a lot of "friends" in Jasper, note their mailing address. What Drummond wants, Drummond gets. That is one evil sob.

  3. Since this has the potential to affect a much wider area than Cordova and their Jackass of a Mayor (I couldn't care about Birmingham) who the hell gave the ASMC and ADEM the power to move forward with this? Governor Riley appoints these numb-skulls where is he on this issue? Out of the country again? This is right across the river (what was it 4500 ft or yds.?) from the water intake for Jefferson County's drinking water supply??? This is INSANE!!!
    I have a little message for you you small minded, pin-headed power monger in Cordova GO JUMP!!!!

  4. This indeed will be a HUGE black eye if the university goes along with this. So what is it now a battle of who really runs things with UA, Drummond or Witt?

  5. Walker County has many secrets and most of them all bad and centered around coal.

  6. congrats! keep up the good work/this is a great presentation.

    Tires Miami


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