3. Sacrifice Zones
A 29-acre site in the middle of Louisville’s predominantly Black Park Hill Community was the home of several companies over the past century. One of them was the Black Leaf pesticide company. When problems with toxic soil at the site surfaced in the 1980s, the residents were told nothing. During a 2009 site visit, inspectors with the Kentucky Division of Waste Management found drums containing hazardous waste. Some were leaking.
According to NPR, the human health risks posed by area facilities like the Black Leaf Plant and others are more than 10,000 times higher than the industry average, according to EPA data.
As of this article, the site remains contaminated while the city drags its feet on cleanup efforts.
The practice of clustering landfills, hazardous waste dumps, and heavy industrial polluters in poverty stricken Black neighborhoods is not limited to Kentucky. Sacrifice zones – areas that have been permanently impaired by environmental damage or economic disinvestment – are found near Black communities across the United States.
To illustrate, a 1979 class action discrimination lawsuit against a Houston area solid waste company revealed that African American communities hosted six of the city’s eight solid waste landfills, even though African Americans only comprised 28 percent of the city’s population at the time.
Remember that the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment described above is considered a gross violation of human rights. By failing to notify Black residents of life-threatening conditions, forcing them to saddle the burden of their medical care, and creating lax regulatory environments for perpetrators against vulnerable Black communities, sacrifice zones present yet another strong argument for Black reparations.
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