(The following is excerpted from "Chemical Weapons Disposal and
Environmental Justice" written by Suzanne Marshall PhD. and published by
the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, November, 1996, with funding from the
Educational Foundation of America.)
"The people are dying. Even the houses are dying."
--80 year old African-American resident of Anniston
while observng the bulldozing of houses in his neighborhood
as a result of PCB contamination caused by a Monsanto factory
Anniston, Calhoun County, Alabama lies in the southern Appalachians in the east central
portion of the state approximately 60 miles east of Birmingham and 90 miles west of
Atlanta, Georgia. The city was founded as an iron and pipe company town. It still exhibits
many of the characteristics of southern cities born during the Jim Crow years of strict racial
segregation. Clear demarcation lines separate the races in residential areas, social relations
and political participation.
The African-American population of the state is 25%. Anniston has a population of
26,623, 44% of which is African-American. Anniston's percentage of African Americans
is 267% higher than the national average of 12%. Calhoun County has a population of
116,034--19% African-American. Many Anniston citizens--24%--live below the poverty
level, almost twice as high as the national average of 13.2% (Bureau of the Census, 1990).
The Anniston Army Depot (ANAD), the site of a proposed incinerator, is situated 3.7 miles
west of the city, close to the African-American west side. One small African-American
town, Hobson City, is near the depot. Pockets of poor whites and working class people,
many employed by ANAD, also live very near the depot in Bynum, Eastaboga and other
small communities. Fifteen miles south of ANAD is Talladega whose population is 41%
African-American. Residents of that area have not participated in the incinerator
discussions to any extent (Bradbury, et. al. 1994, Appendix B).
Anniston and the surrounding area first encountered the military in 1917 when Camp
McClellan was built north of the town. During World War II, the camp was upgraded to
fort status, grew to dominate the region and created an economically dependent
relationship. A second facility, ANAD, was established in 1941 as an ammunition storage
facility. After the war it expanded, adding new military tasks such as tank rebuilding and
contract industrial work. In 1963, the Army began to maintain a store of chemical
weapons--VX, GB and mustard gas. Although the Army decided to incinerate on-site in
1988, the sky-rocketing costs of the current incineration program are resurrecting the issue
of transportation to regional sites. The most likely eastern regional site would be Anniston
or Pine Bluff, Arkansas (Pace, 1995).
In Anniston, local officials promoted the Army's incineration decision to the public,
claiming patriotic duty and economic need. However, they did not fully inform the
residents of the hazards of working or living near an incineration facility. Jobs were
promised without disclosing that many high tech jobs would go to outsiders. The right to
safe and clean jobs was not addressed. Any challenge to the Army or their local supporters
elicited cries of unpatriotic sentiment.
The people living in the region have been significantly and disproportionately impacted
by pollution from local industries and the military. For example, preliminary information
from the Toxics Release Inventory National Report released by the Department of Defense
(DOD), shows ANAD as second in the nation (after number one--Pine Bluff Arsenal in
Arkansas) for toxic releases--548,073 pounds in 1994. Reported chemicals included zinc
compounds, hexachoroethane, 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, chlorine and others (DOD, 1996).
In addition, communities such as Cobbtown and Sweet Valley, two local African-American
neighborhoods, have been contaminated by PCBs. One resident of the area whose blood
was tested for PCBs found that she had an extremely elevated level of 240.0 mcg/l.
Expected average levels should be less than 3 mcg/l to 20.0 mcg/l (Alabama Dept. of Public
Currently, Monsanto Company, which has been in Anniston since 1939, is trying to buy
out the surrounding toxic land on which Cobbtown and Sweet Valley are located. Citizens
from these communities have initiated a lawsuit against Monsanto for life-long health
monitoring and damages. Pollution by the old iron foundries, other industries and ANAD
combine to create multiple and cumulative exposures that already threaten and harm human
Furthermore, in Anniston the Citizens Advisory Commission (CAC), appointed by the
state's governor, does not serve as the conduit for community concerns. For example, in
January 1995, the local opposition group, SAFE (Serving Alabama's Future Environment)
hosted Steve Jones, the Tooele, Utah safety inspection officer, who blew the whistle on the
Tooele plant for safety and operational violations. The Anniston CAC agreed to feature
Jones at their January meeting. However, the acting chair unilaterally decided to cancel
Jones' appearance despite citizens' demands that he be allowed to speak. The Anniston
CAC is establishing a pattern of denying incinerator opponents a chance to make their
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