Birmingham’s history is closely tied to its heavy industries. Companies such as US Steel, and Walter Coke helped to spur Birmingham’s rapid growth and give it the moniker of “The Magic City.” But that growth came with a future cost, a cost that is now coming due for the communities that once thrived because of the industries. Millions of pounds of pollutants were (and in some cases still are being) pumped into the air, into our lungs, and into our neighborhoods.
Residents in the North Birmingham community are now finding out how much of Birmingham’s past is contaminating their homes. The Environmental Protection Agency has sent hundreds of letters to homeowners containing the results of soil testing for contaminants. Earlier tests found high levels of arsenic and of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the soil in the area and the EPA blames Walter Coke for that contamination.
Once the extent of the contamination is known, the work to clean up the land around homes, businesses, daycares and schools can begin.
The Harriman Park, Collegeville, and Collegeville neighborhoods are within a declared Superfund area. That declaration gives federal environmental agencies the power to clean up contaminated areas and to hold the polluters responsible.
Scientists now want to test even more properties near the Walter Coke operations to see if those properties are contaminated as well, bringing the total to about 2,000. The EPA has taken soil samples from 600 properties for testing and has scheduled 250 for tests.
These are positive steps towards a reversal of the damage caused by decades of pollution from major factories and processing operations in our area. Gathings Law applauds the work of the EPA in North Birmingham to help the residents of that area reclaim the right to live in a healthy community. We are now working to help hundreds of residents in the Wylam community achieve the same right to a clean and healthy community.
If you live in the North Birmingham area and have questions about the testing process or to give your consent to have your home tested, come to a meeting hosted by the EPA on Tuesday, February 19, 2013. The meeting is at 6:00pm at the Hudson K-8 School (3300 Huntsville Road).
You can read more about the testing and the contamination on al.com.