Published 8:49 am Tuesday, September 4, 2007
State needs better health protection
The Allied Waste Timberlands landfill on Alabama Highway 41 North had high levels of mercury in the groundwater over a four-year period - and county officials never knew.
But guess what? Neither Allied Waste nor the Alabama Department of Environmental Management apparently broke any laws by not telling county commissioners about the contamination. High levels of mercury can cause health problems, including neurological disorders.
ADEM says that the high levels of mercury - which the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County says met or exceeded the EPA standard for safe drinking water - were not a health hazard.
Ironically, in the same week that the coalition released its findings to county commissioners, the Environmental Protection Agency chided ADEM for not being aggressive enough in going after corporate polluters - and for not adequately inspecting companies dealing with hazardous waste.
The coalition's findings, coupled with the news earlier this year that Timberlands Landfill accepted mercury-laced materials from a company in Macintosh, raises serious questions about the notification process ADEM requires of Alabama corporations.
ADEM is the state's environmental agency. We should expect more from a state agency - funded by taxpayer dollars - that is supposed to help protect the health of Alabama citizens, not protect the interests of Alabama companies.
With the prospect of a huge landfill just north of us in Conecuh County still looming, we have serious problems ahead.
Alabama needs a serious review of its environmental legislation, but it will take all of us, led by grassroots groups like the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, to push lawmakers to make changes.
We deserve a healthier community, and so do our children.