Waste Tracker Project: Coastal Communities Strategies to Monitor BP Wastes

The BP Oil Spill made news around the world. Most everyone knows something about the occurrence, the attempts to cap the well and clean up the spill as well as the billions of dollars BP has expended in payment for damages. However, few people know anything about where the oil spill wastes are being disposed or which communities were selected as the final resting places for the BP oil spill garbage. 

For decades, African American and Latino communities in the South were the dumping grounds for America’s garbage. Today, we are seeing a disturbing pattern re-emerge in the disposal of the BP oil spill wastes. According to BP’s Oil Spill Waste Summary, as of July 15, 2010, more than 39,448 tons of oil spill garbage had been disposed at nine approved landfills in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. More than half (five out of nine) of the landfills receiving BP oil spill wastes are located in communities where people of color comprise a majority of the population living within a one mile radius of the waste facilities. In addition, a significantly large share of the BP oil-spill waste, 24,071 tons out of 39,448 tons (61 percent), is dumped in people of color communities. This is not a small point since African Americans make up just 22 percent of the coastal counties in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana, while people of color comprise about 26 percent of the population in coastal counties. The largest amount of BP oil-spill solid waste (14,228 tons) was sent to a landfill in a Florida community where three-fourths of the nearby residents are people of color. Although African Americans make up about 32 percent of Louisiana’s population, three of the five approved landfills (60 percent) in the state that received BP oil-spill waste are located in mostly black communities. African American communities in Louisiana’s Gulf Coast were hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina and have experienced the toughest challenge to rebuild and recover after five years. Dumping more disaster waste on them is not a pathway to recovery and long-term sustainability. (R. Bullard, BP’s Waste Management Plan Raises Environmental Justice Concerns, Dissident Voice, July 29, 2010)

The Environmental Protection Agency approved nine landfills in the Gulf Coast to receive the waste products from the country’s largest oil spill. Five of those nine landfills are located in communities where a majority of residents are people of color. The sites are in Summerdale, Alabama (Magnolia Landfill), Mt. Vernon, AL (Chastang Landfill), Campbellton, Florida (Springhill Regional Landfill), Welsh, Louisiana (Jefferson Davis Parish Landfill), Avondale, LA (Jefferson Parish and River Birch Landfills), Venice, LA (Tidewater Landfill), Ascension Parish, LA (Colonial Landfill) and Harrison, Mississippi (Pecan Grove Landfill). The only place that has successfully halted dumping at their landfill is Harrison County, Mississippi, where 71 percent of residents are white. (D. Hernandez, Here’s Where BP is Dumping Its Oil Wastes, Colorlines, August 4, 2010) The target population of this project does not include the Mississippi community where dumping was halted.

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Dr. Beverly Wright

Dillard University

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New Orleans, LA  70122

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