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Clean Air Ambassador: Barbara Evans

I am coming to Washington, D.C. to try to save my family and friends in rural Alabama. Because we're worth it.

I never thought that air pollution would be an issue for me, as I live in the rural Black Belt of Alabama. Over the years, though, we have witnessed some chemical plants springing up in rural areas. But it wasn't until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brought coal ash (also known as fly ash) to a landfill in Perry County, Alabama, that I realized how important this issue really is.

I began doing some organizing work in Perry County about 5 years ago, trying to stop a household waste landfill from being built right across a county road from an African-American neighborhood. We failed to stop that landfill, and I knew it was just a matter of time before there were problems. What I did not expect was that all that coal ash from the TVA spill in Tennessee would be allowed in a household waste landfill.

But of course, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, (which gets $1 per ton) found a way to approve it, calling the coal ash "special waste." When I drove to Perry, which is one county over from me, I was floored by the smell of the coal ash. It's a horribly acrid smell. Worse, the coal ash was blowing around covering cars in the neighborhood surrounding the dump. Because the people of Perry were so frightened by the possible health effects of the hazardous substance, I got deeply involved.

Coal ash is affecting people I love, and may be affecting me in the future. The byproducts from coal burning power plants are my number one concern. I am extremely concerned too about byproducts from the plastic plants such as SABIC (formerly GE Plastics in Burkville, AL) and the fact that we who live nearby are not informed about releases of dangerous chemicals. In Alabama, it's like “anything goes” out in the country.

I want bold action from the EPA, our members of Congress and President Obama. I want them to stand up to the coal companies, oil companies and dirty industry and regulate air pollution. I want that coal ash classified as what it is, and what scientists agree that it is: a toxic, hazardous material. It should be stored in a hazardous waste facility, not a household garbage dump.

In Selma, Alabama, we fought for people's civil rights … isn't breathing clean air a civil right? We gave up a lot so that people could have a bit of equality and justice, and we deserve better protection than what we are getting from our government.

I am coming to Washington, D.C. to try to save my family and friends in rural Alabama. Because we're worth it.

2013 Clean Air Ambassador

Barbara was also a Clean Air Ambassador during the second
50 States United for Healthy Air event, held in May 2013.
Barbara's 2013 Ambassador Page »

Ambassador Group Affiliation: 
Wildlaw
Ambassador Profession: 
Organizing Coordinator