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Clean Air Ambassador: Charlotte Keys

Ambassador Photo Post: 
The dirt would sometimes just catch fire and blaze into the atmosphere, leaving terrible odors in the air. It destroyed our health.

In March 1977, an explosion at the Reichold Chemical Company plant in Columbia, MS wrecked the facility and poisoned the local air, water and land with cancer-causing agents and other dangerous compounds. After the explosion, Reichold abandoned the site and left toxic, deadly substances buried in 55 gallon drums in the earth in and around the nearby community and in local landfills.

Later, the toxic odors started oozing into the air and went into the water tables. The dirt would sometimes just catch fire and blaze into the atmosphere, leaving terrible odors in the air. It destroyed our health.

The Environmental Protection Agency finally realized there was a problem and placed the site on the National Priority Superfund Site list in the early 1980s. While working to clean up the abandoned site, the agency discovered how bad the toxic contamination was. The Reichold site has been delisted as a Superfund site, and is today considered a brownfield site. In addition to this polluted site, we also face pollution from pesticide spraying, oilfield operations, transportation, nuclear waste and incineration.

Air pollution has affected me personally with sinus problems, allergies, colds and flu-like symptoms, nosebleeds, headaches, skin rashes, eye irritation and other breathing problems. We discovered from looking into the matter that my family and the community had similar health symptoms. Our community has also suffered from acute and chronic breathing diseases, cancers, abnormal bleeding, swellings, asthma, bronchitis, cardiovascular diseases, and premature death.

We attribute most of the suffering to the fact that people live in close proximity to and on top of the dump sites—some people’s houses are literally on top of this contaminated land. This is why the struggle for environmental justice continues. We are seeking relocation, life-time environmental/primary health care for these impacted residents, disability compensation and a thorough health investigation because we do not know the extent of health damages incurred by the residents of Columbia, MS.

The President, the EPA and Congress must fight to keep the Clean Air Act in place with stricter policy to enforce the law. Also, they should institute some Clean Air, Clean Water and Clean Soil Task Force for enforcement of the laws on the books and close all the loopholes that allow industries to escape the law. The fines for industries polluting the environment should have a health tax included to provide life-time medical treatment for the communities that they poison, according to the health damage done. Finally, the EPA needs to move forward promptly to regulate coal ash.

Ambassador Group Affiliation: 
Jesus People Against Pollution
Ambassador Profession: 
Evangelist/Environmental Justice Advocate