From SCSJ staff attorney Chris Brook, working with northeast Greensboro residents, warned the City of Greensboro on Tuesday that expanding the White Street Landfill would hurt communities of color — opening the city to legal challenges that could prevent it from getting landfill permits.
SCSJ staff attorney Chris Brook, working with northeast Greensboro residents, warned the City of Greensboro on Tuesday that expanding the White Street Landfill would hurt communities of color — opening the city to legal challenges that could prevent it from getting landfill permits.
By AMANDA LEHMERT
GREENSBORO — An attorney working for northeast Greensboro residents warned the city on Tuesday that expanding the White Street Landfill would hurt communities of color — opening the city to legal challenges that could prevent it from getting landfill permits.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a Durham-based nonprofit, is providing free assistance to Citizens for Environmental and Social Justice, a group of residents who oppose reopening the landfill to household trash. In 2006, the city stopped sending household trash to White Street, although it still is permitted to do so.
Residents could challenge current or future landfill permits under a law that allows the state to deny permits that have a disproportionate adverse impact on minority or low-income communities, Chris Brook, a staff attorney for the coalition, wrote to City Manager Rashad Young and City Council members.
Brook already has submitted a letter to the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, opposing the city’s request to renew its current permit to bury household and other trash at White Street for five years.
That permit is pending state approval.
Young said the city is reviewing the law mentioned by Brook to see how it might affect the city’s ability to get permits.
The City Council is considering three proposals that would expand the landfill. Brook said the council has not fully considered health, environmental or economic consequences.
“Reopening White Street to municipal solid waste and potentially expanding it would have negative public health and environmental consequences without addressing Greensboro’s need for a long-term, fiscally responsible waste management plan,” Brook wrote.
The northeast Greensboro citizens group approached the coalition earlier this year for help on the landfill.
In the letter, Brook said 7,550 residents live within a one-mile radius of White Street — and about 85 percent of those residents are African American or Hispanic, citing 2010 census figures.
Brook said that could be the basis for a civil rights complaint or a landfill permit challenge.
The solid waste law says the state “shall deny” a permit if it has a disproportionate impact on minority or low-income communities.
Brook’s letter also argued that a White Street expansion could “crowd out” business opportunities for the area.
That possible economic impact — an issue that other Greensboro residents have raised — is something Young said is difficult to calculate.
Brook also said cost savings from using the landfill would be short-term. The only way White Street could produce long-term savings is if the city expanded it beyond the current dumping space.
“The life of the landfill is short. This is not a good option,” said Goldie Wells, a former City Council member who has been leading the anti-White Street charge.
Brook accuses the City Council of plowing forward with plans to expand White Street before the health consequences are fully explored.
The state requires the city to test groundwater at the landfill, capture the gas that comes out of it and undergo regular inspections.
“We’re meeting the requirements that the state has put before us,” City Field Operations Director Dale Wyrick said. “I am not trying to minimize the concerns because there are community concerns, but we are doing our due diligence.”
Source: Greensboro News & Record