Alabama Battle Against Industrial Pollution: 2023 marks two decades since the Monsanto Chemical Company settled with Anniston, Alabama. Twenty thousand folks blamed illnesses on PCB exposure. Monsanto’s plant southeast of town produced these chemicals. This isn’t the only case of industrial chemicals harming Alabama residents. Birmingham faces another issue. Bluestone plant, making coke for steel, is now idled due to lawsuits for violating regulations. Despite closure, Fairmont residents still feel the effects.
Angela Smith insists, “You need to come back when that smoke is coming out of that chimney.” We joined her, chatting with neighbors on a hot summer afternoon. Living behind Bluestone, they describe the persistent smoke, a daily struggle. Even after cleaning, soot reappears, causing health issues, as shared by Wise.
Bluestone is shut down due to ongoing legal battles, but Birmingham residents are still waiting for relief. Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper for nearly two decades, fights pollution in waterways through West-Central Alabama. Bluestone Coke is high on the list. A recent storm in Birmingham reveals runoff into Five Mile Creek, not supposed to look like “chocolate, black mud coffee.”
Brooke emphasizes that environmental groups like Riverkeeper take on battles others avoid. He sees it as a massive ongoing environmental injustice, where communities were forced into living in industrial areas. Even the soil is contaminated, discovered by the EPA in 2011. In 2021, Bluestone Coke’s operating permit wasn’t renewed after Clean Air Act violations. A consent decree in 2022 ordered penalties, but reports suggest the plant stopped payments.
Residents in the shadow of Bluestone are still waiting for relief. Angela Smith, facing health issues, just wants a peaceful place to live. As legal issues persist, environmentalists stress that Bluestone Coke’s pollution is just one challenge. The impact on black communities must be addressed as an ongoing problem, not a thing of the past.