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Toxic Communities – Lesson 2

Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility Lesson 2

Chapter 1 “Toxic Exposure”: Landmark Cases in the South and the Rise of Environmental Justice Activism

Hello and welcome to Southern Fried Socialist and Lesson 2 of Toxic Communities by Dorceta E. Taylor. I am using New York University Press guide to teaching Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility. Toxic Communities draws on a number of historical case studies, zoning laws, court cases, and racially-motivated decisions that have led to minority and low-income communities being placed in unsafe areas with little to no way out.

Professor Taylor graduated from Yale University with doctorates in Sociology, Forestry, and Environmental Studies. She is Professor in the school of natural resources and environment at the University of Michigan. Professor Taylor also serves as Field of Studies Coordinator for the Environmental Justice Program.

Big Idea:

Chapter 1 examines several landmark environmental justice cases occurring in black communities in the south that led to activism around environmental issues. By exploring these cases you begin to connect the dots between the mechanisms in which communities of color are found in close proximity to hazardous facilities.

  • Triana
  • Warren County
  • Cancer Alley

Essential Questions:

  1. Why were residents in Triana, Alabama not notified about DDT contamination, according to former mayor Clyde Foster?
  2. What were the significant outcomes of the Warren County landfill case for EJ activists?


  • “Closed Plant” –  Facility that did not allow its product (DDT) or byproducts to escape into the environment.
  • Contaminant – A polluting or poisonous substance that makes something impure.
  • DDE – Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene, is a chemical compound formed by the loss of hydrogen chloride (dehydrohalogenation) from DDT, one of the more common breakdown products.
  • DDT – Dichlorodiphenyltrichlororthane , is a colorless, tasteless, and almost odorless crystalline organochlorine known for its insecticidal properties and environmental impacts.
  • Effluents – Liquid waste or sewage discharged into a river or the sea.
  • Environmental Justice – The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. 
  • Environmental Racism – Intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities or the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies. It is the racial discrimination in the enactment or enforcement of any policy, practice, or regulation that negatively affects the environment of low-income and/or racially homogeneous communities at a disparate rate than affluent communities.
  • ng/ml – Nanograms per Milliliter
  • Organochlorine – An organic compound containing at least one covalently bonded atom of chlorine that has an effect on the chemical behavior of the molecule.
  • PCBs – Polychlorinated biphenyls, once used as dielectric, coolant fluids in electrical apparatus, carbonless copy paper, and in heat transfer fluids. Manufacture has declined drastically since the 1960s, due to PCBs’ environmental toxicity and classification as a persistent organic pollutant.
  • PittanceA small portion, amount, or allowance; also :a meager wage or remuneration.
  • PPm – Parts Per Million
  • SharecroppersA tenant farmer especially in the southern U.S. who is provided with credit for seed, tools, living quarters, and food, who works the land, and who receives an agreed share of the value of the crop minus charges.
  • Solvent – Able to dissolve other substances.
  • Superfund Site – A United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants.
  • Toxic – Poisonous.
  • Tributaries – A river or stream flowing into a larger river or lake.
  • TVA – Tennessee Valley Authority, has jurisdiction over the Tennessee River watershed.

Summary & Warm Up Questions


1) Triana – DDT Contamination and Toxic Fish Consumption

Guided Reading :

Explore Further : Video; American Experience Rachel Carson

“Rachel Carson is an intimate portrait of the woman whose groundbreaking books revolutionized our relationship to the natural world. When Silent Spring was published in September 1962 it became an instant bestseller and would go on to spark dramatic changes in the way the government regulated pesticides. ”

2) Warren County – PCB Landfill

Guided Reading :

Explore Further: Video; Mini Documentary on Warren County NC.

“Warren County PCB Landfill was a PCB landfill located in Warren County, North Carolina. The landfill was created in 1982 by the State of North Carolina as a place to dump contaminated soil as result of an illegal PCB dumping incident. The site, which is about 150 acres (0.61 km2), was extremely controversial and led to years of lawsuits. Warren County was one of the first cases of environmental justice in the United States and set a legal precedent for other environmental justice cases.”

3) Cancer Alley

Guided Reading :

Explore Further: Article; The Washington Post – “Jobs and Illness in the Petrochemical Corridor

“In Chalmette, Elda Trapini would like to know why the street she lives on, Jacobs Drive, became known as “Cancer Alley,” with 15 cancer victims in two blocks, and why, a half-mile away on Decomine Street, her sister and nephew were among seven cancer victims on one block.” –

Explore Further: Video; “The Norco Louisiana Shell Explosion of 1988

Interview with Norco Louisiana residents who lived through the Shell Oil refinery explosion of 1988.

As discussed in Toxic Communities, Diamond residents live in fear of explosions from factories that dominated the landscape all around them. The book notes “ shell workers were killed and another 48 workers and residents were injured in an early morning explosion that destroyed several homes in Diamond and released about 159,000,000 pounds of chemical waste into the air.” Interview with Norco Louisiana residents who lived through the Shell Oil refinery explosion of 1988.

Explore Further: Video; African-American Community In Louisiana Fights For Health And Life

“Cancer Alley is an area along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, in the River Parishes of Louisiana, which contains numerous industrial plants. Locations in this area with clusters of cancer patients have been covered by the news media, leading to the “Cancer Alley” moniker.”



Triana Endnotes:
Alabama v. Olin. 1979. No. CA79 G 5174NE (N.D. Ala. September 10).
Associated Press. 2002. “Study looks for links between DDT and Breast Cancer.” December 17.
Charest v. Olin. 1981. No. CV 81 434P (Ala. Cir. Ct. October 5)
Freeman v Olin. 1980. No. CV80 M 5057NE (N.D. Ala. March 14).
Haggerty, M. 1980. “Crisis at Indian Creek.” Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine, January 20. Pp. 14-25
Hollis, M. 1980. “The Persistence of a Poison: Effects of Chemical Plant Still Plague Alabama Town.” Washington Post, June 15. P. A2.
James v. Olin. 1979. No. CA79 PT 5128NE (N.D. Ala. July 9).
Knight. R.R., and J.R. Powell. 2001. Occurrence and Distribution of Organochlorine Pesticides, Polycholorinated Biphenyls, and Trace Elements in Fiah Tissue in the Lower Tennessee River Basin, 1980-98. U.S. Geological Survey.
Kreiss, K., M.M. Zack, R.D. Kimbrough, L.L. Needham, A.L. Smrek, and B.T. Jones. 1981.”Cross-Sectional Study of a Community with Exceptional Exposure to DDT.” Journal of the American Medical Association 245 (19):1926-1930
Maynard, Cooper, & Gale, P.C. 1995. “Fish-Monitoring Data for the Huntsville Spring Branch-Indian Creek System Released.” Environmental Compliance Update 3 (9, October).
McGovern, F.E. 1997. “The Defensive Use of Federal Class Actions In Mass Torts.” Arizona Law Review 39:595-614
McGovern, F.E. 1990. “The Alabama DDT Settlement Fund.” Law and Contemporary Problems 53 (4):61-78
National Institute for Health (NIH). 1997.”NCI and University of Alabama in Huntsville to Conduct Breast Cancer Study, Offer Screening Exam in Tirana, Alabama.” December 22.
Noland, T. 1979. “Triana Fish Story.” Southern Changes 1 (8):14-15
Olin vs Insurance Company.1992. 966 F.2d 718 (2d Cir. June 1).
Olin vs Insurance Company. 1991. 762 F. Supp. 548 (S.D.N.Y)
Oliver, M.L., and T. Shapiro. 1995. Black Wealth / White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality. Routledge.
Parcus v Olin. 1980. No. CV80 M 5098NE (N.D. Ala. March 17)
Press, R. M. 1981. ” ‘ Love Canal South’:Alabama DDT Residue Will Cost Millions to Clean Up,” Christian Science Monitor, June 12. P. 11.
Redstone Arsenal. 2002. “Redstone Arsenal Complex Chronology, part IIIB, 1989-1989.” Huntsville, AL.
Reich, A.R., J.L. Perkins, and G. Cutter. 1985. “DDT Contamination of a North Alabama Aquatic Exosystem.” Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 5 (8):725-736
Reynolds, B. 1980. “Tirana, Alabama: The Unhealthiest Town in America.” National Wildlife 18 (August): 33.
Roberts, D.R., L.L. Laughlin, P. Hsheih, and L.J. Legters. 1997.”DDT, Global Strategies, and a Malaria Control Crisis in South America.” Emerging infectious diseases 3 (3):295-302
Rusiecki, J.A., J. Cash, C. Raines, L. Brinton, S. Zahm, T. Mason, L. Needham, A. Blair, S.Sieber, and R. Hoover. 2006. “Serum Concentrations of Organochlorine Compounds and Mammography can Density in a Highly Exposed Population in Triana, Alabama.” Epidemiology 17 (6, November): S89.
United States vs. Olin Corp. 1989.CV 80-PT-5300-NE (N.D. Ala.).
U.S. Census Bureau. 1980. “Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 1980.” U.S. Department of Commerce.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2002. Land Cleanup and Wastes: Alabama NPL/NPL Caliber Cleanup Site Summaries.
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1986b. Report On the Remedial Action to Isolate DDT from People and the Environment in the Huntsville Spring Branch – Indian Creek System Wheeler Reservoir, Alabama. Region IV. July.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1983. “Olin Agrees to Clean Up DDT in Triana, Alabama Area.” April 21.
Warren County – PCB Landfill Endnotes:
CERCLA. 1980. Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation Liability Act of 1989. 42 U.S.C. ?? 9601-9657.
Exchange project. 2006. “Real People — Real Stories: Afton , NC ( Warren County).”  University of North Carolina, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. September.
LaBalme, J. 1988. “Dumping on Warren County.” In Environmental Politics: Lessons from the Grassroots. B. Hall, ed. Institute for Southern Studies. Pp. 25- 3o.
LaBalme, J. 1987. A Road to Walk: A Struggle for Environmental Justice. Regulator.
Leavenworth, S. 1993 ” State Planning to Drain Water from Toxic Landfill.” Raleigh News & Observer, May 15. P. A6.
NAACP v. Gorsuch. 1982. No. 82-768-CIV-5 (E.D.N.C. August 10).
New York Times. 1982a. “Carolinians Angry over PCB Landfill.” August 11. P. 17.
 New York Times. 1982b. “Carolinians See Governor in PCB Landfill Dispute.” October 10. P. 31.
 New York Times. 1982c. “Congressman and 120 Arrested at PCB Protest.” September 28.
Stocking, B. 1993. ” Old Landfill Fears Far From Buried: Warren County Residents Fear That Water Inside PCB Dump Poses Danger.” Raleigh News & Observer, July 11. P. A1.
Twitty v. State of North Carolina. 1987. 85 N.C. App. 42; 354 S.E.2d 296 (April 7).
Twitty v. State of North Carolina. 1981. 527 F. Supp. 778 ( E.D.N.C. November 25).
UCC (United Church of Christ). 1987. Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.
United States v. Burns. 1986. 793 F.2d 1294 (6th Cir. May 5)
United States v. Ward. 1985. 618 F. Supp. 884 (E.D.N.C. September 9 ).
United States v. Ward. 1984. 22 ERC (BNA) 1235; 14 ELR 2084 (E.D.N.C. May 11)
United States v. Ward. 1982a. 793 F.2d 551 (3rd Cir.).
United States v. Ward. 1982b. 676 F.2d 94 (4th Cir.).
United States v. Ward. 1982c. 459 US. 835; 103 S. Ct. 79; 74 L. Ed. 2d 76 (October 5).
U.S. General Accounting Office. 1983. Siting Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with the Racial and Socio-Economic Status of Surrounding  Communities. 
Warren County v. State of North Carolina. 1981. 528 F. Supp. 276 ( E.D.N.C. November 25).
Cancer Ally Endnotes:
Bazelon, E. 2003. “Bad Neighbors.” Legal Affairs, May- June. Available at http://legal
Bullard, R.D. 1990. Dumping in Dixie : Race Class and Environmental Quality. Westview.
Centers for Disease Control. 2002. “Cancer Prevention and Control. Cancer Burden Data Fact Sheets, Louisiana”
Chambers, Jay. 1998. ” The Supreme Court Has Agreed to Take Up an Issue That Has Stymied Regulators and Judges: Waste Disposal Facilities Planned for Construction in Minority Areas.” National Law Journal June 22. B6.
Conoco EDC Litigation. 2002. United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lake Charles Division. 123. F. Supp.2d 340. November 16.
CorpWatch. 2002. ” Concerned Citizens of Norco Reach Agreement with Shell Chemical.” June 20. Available at Http://
Coyle, M. 1997a. “EPA Move Makes Tulane the Victor.” National Law Journal, September 22. P. A13.
Coyle, M. 1997b. “Governor V. Students in $700M Plant Case.” National Law Journal, September 8. P. A1.
Coyle, M. 1992a. “Company Will Not Build Plant: Lawyers Hail Victory.” National Law Journal, October 19. P. 3.
Coyle, M. 1992b. “Saying ‘No’ to Cancer Alley: Community Profile, Wallace, Louisiana.”National Law Journal, September 21. P. S5.
Coyle, M. 1992c. “When Movements Coalesce: Empowerment, Civil Rights Meets Environmental Rights.” National Law Journal, September 21. P. S10.
Doyle, J. 2004. Riding the Dragon; Royal Dutch / Shell and the Fossil Fire“. Common courage.
Eheman, C., S.J. Henley, R. Ballard-Barbash, E.J. Jacobs, M.J. Schymura, A.M. Noone, L. Pan, R.N. Anderson, J.E. Fulton, B.A. Kohler, A. Jemal, E. Ward, M. Plescia, L.A.G. Ries, and B.K. Edwards. 2012. ” Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975 – 2008, Featuring Cancers Associated with Excess Weight and Lack of Sufficient Physical Activity. ” Cancer 118 (9): 2338-2366.
Hines, R. 2001. ” African-American Struggle for Environmental Justice and the Case of the Shintech Plant: Lessons Learned from a War Waged. ” Journal of black studies 31 (6): 777-789
Lerner, S. 2005. Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor. MIT press
Louisiana Bucket Brigade. 2012. “Norco:Profile.” Available at
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. 2009. Annual Report 09.
Louisiana Economic Development. 2012 “Industrial Tax Exemption.” Available at
Louisiana Environmental Action Network and Greenpeace USA. 1999. “Shintech environmental racism.” September 1.
Mississippi Development Authority. 2012. “Industrial Property Tax Exemption.” Available at Http://
Motavalli, J. 1998. ” Toxic Target Polluters That Dump on Communities of Color are Finally Being Brought to Justice – Environmental Racism.” E: The Environmental Magazine, July- August, 1-11
National Center for Health Statistics , Centers for Disease Control. 2002. Preventing and Controlling Cancer : Addressing the Nations Second Leading Cause of Death.
Ottinger, G.E. 2005. “Grounds for Action: Community and Science and Environmental Justice Controversy.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California – Berkeley.
Rolfes, A. 2000. “Shell Games: Divide and Conquer in Norco’s Diamond Community; The Case for a Fair and lust Relocation.” Corp Watch, November 1. Available at
Rollins Environmental Services v. the Parish of St. James. 1985. 775 F.2d 627 (5th Cir. November 1).
Schelly, D., and P. Stretesky. 2009. ” An Analysis of the ‘ Path of Least Resistance’ Argument in Three Environmental Justice Success.” Society and Natural Resources 22 (4):369-380.
Schwab, J. 1994. Deeper Shades of Green: The Rise of Blue-Collar and Minority Environmentalism. Sierra Club books.
Shell. 2012. “Narco Refinery”. Available at
Sternberg, M.A. [1996] 2001. Along River Road: Past and Present on Louisiana’s Historic Byway. Louisiana State University Press.
Tsai, S.P., K.M. Cardarelli, J.K. Wendt, and A.E. Fraser. 2004. “Mortality Patterns Among Residents in Louisiana’s Industrial Corridor, USA, 1970 – 1999.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine 61 (4):295-304
US Cancer Statistics Working Group. 2012. United States Cancer statistics: 1999-2008 Incident and Mortality Web Based Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and national Cancer institute. Available at
US Census Bureau. 2010. “Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010.” US Department of Commerce.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2011d. “Release Reports.” TRI Explorer. Available at
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2011e. “2011 State Fact Sheet: Louisiana.” TRI Explorer. Available at
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2010. 2010 Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis Overview.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2000a. “Response to Comments Documents Hazardous Waste Listings Determination for Chlorinated Aliphatlcs Production Wastes (Final Rule).” Pp.1-70-1-71.

Environmental Protection Agency. 2000b. “Toxic Release Inventory, Louisiana.”

Washington Post. 1978. “NJ Cancer Testing.” April 16. P. C7.
Wright, B. 2005. “Living and dying in Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley.’ In The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution.” R.D. Bullard, ed. Sierra Club Books. Pp.87–107.