Community leaders across Mississippi are asking legislators to help rid their neighborhoods of toxic waste. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports how contamination from abandoned industrial sites have been blamed for a high increase in death rates in many of Mississippi's poorest communities.

" /> Many Mississippi Citizens are Sick Over Environmental Issues | News | Mississippi Public Broadcasting
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Many Mississippi Citizens are Sick Over Environmental Issues

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 31 Jan 2011 03:10pm | comments

Community leaders across Mississippi are asking legislators to help rid their neighborhoods of toxic waste. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports how contamination from abandoned industrial sites have been blamed for a high increase in death rates in many of Mississippi's poorest communities.

In the 1950's, 60's and 70's, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, says companies like Hercules manufacturing employed more people in the area than any other industry.

"They produced gun powder and turpentine and just a lot of other different products. They've since closed and we're working with EPA and MDEQ to come to some kind of closure to that property."

Since the closing, DuPree says there have been many complaints against Hercules and other companies about the health effects left on many of its employees, and citizens in the area.

"My father-in-law actually worked at Hercules for 35 years and he died of lung cancer. And that health issue was substantiated. And many of those people who worked in Hercules for a number of years are receiving compensation for that. Any other health issues have not been substantiated by anybody."

Even though progress is being made in Hattiesburg, Charlotte Keys, an environmental activist in Columbia says environmental issues still linger in her community 20 years after the fact.

"We had fish killed, cattle killed and human beings were being killed. You had workers that was working in the plant that was unaware of what they was handling and disposing of. And they've come to find out they had the ingredients for agent orange along with a hundred and more carcinogens; cancer causing agents."

While Columbia and Hattiesburg are only two examples, Keys says there are reports of similar contamination in all of the state’s 82 counties. Trudy Fisher, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality says much work is being done to eradicate these problems.

"Even though a site may not be completely cleaned up for several years the first thing we do is remove the emergency, the threat. Now doing the additional work does take longer than any of us would like but if you compare our cleanup record here in Mississippi with other states you'll see that we are clearly on average."

During a recent house environmental committee meeting representative Greg Holloway of Hazlehurst said lawmakers are considering an independent counsel to make sure all issues are being addressed. Lawayne Childrey MPB News.

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