As the map below shows, the Environmental Protection Agency has 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 Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi and are regular municipal landfills, not designed for hazardous waste, according to the Miami Herald. That’s because waste management officials claim the debris is not hazardous. So far, the landfills have received 40,000 tons of “oily solids” and waste from the clean up of the disaster, including soiled gloves.
The analysis of the landfill sites and racial data was done by Robert D. Bullard, a prominent figure in the environmental justice movement and director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center. Calls to the EPA were not returned.
The only place that has successfully halted dumping at their landfill is Harrison County, Mississippi, where 71 percent of residents are white.
In Florida, white residents were incredulous that their town of Spring Hill was picked for dumping oil waste — until they realized the EPA had printed a typo. The federal agency didn’t mean Spring Hill, where whites make up 94 percent of the town’s residents. They meant the Springhill Regional Landfill in Campbellton, a town of just 221 people, where 60 percent of residents are African American.
The waste is being hauled around the Gulf Coast by three giants in the business of waste management: Heritage Environmental Services in Louisiana; Waste Management Inc. on the Louisiana-Mississippi border and in Florida; and Republic Services in Florida.
As Bullard pointed out in his analysis, the decision about where to dump BP oil waste is no surprise. Black and Latino communities in the South have long been “sacrifice zones.”
An investigation by the Associated Press in June found that “the handling and disposal of oily materials was haphazard at best.” Reporters found a truck leaking tar balls, sand and water on a main beach road and also oily sand sitting in an uncovered waste container in a state park.