Turkey Creek and the local Black communities that surround it are at risk again due to a proposed industrial military development that would increase flooding, risk toxic exposure from a contaminated groundwater site, and store dangerous and potentially explosive military equipment near a residential community.
Today, on behalf of EEECHO and other community groups, Earthjustice and the ACLU of Mississippi filed a reply brief in their appeal regarding failures by the Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board to examine how the storage of ammunition and other military equipment within close proximity of North Gulfport residents would impact them. They argue, in part, that the Mississippi Port Authority at Gulfport’s (the “Port Authority”) proposed project to martial military equipment, including ammunition, on the contaminated groundwater site known as the North Port Property violated state law in multiple ways. And while the matter will ultimately work its way through the Courts, EEECHO released a new GIS map to educate all of Gulfport regarding the placement of toxic sites, where those sites are located, and how they impact communities — even those communities beyond North Gulfport.
Distribution of Environmental Hazards & Racial Demographics in Gulfport, MS. (US. Decennial Census 2020; EPA Facility Registry Service 2023)
“Regardless of our court case,” Founder and leader of EEECHO Ms. Ruth Story stated, “this map demonstrates that our community must come together to ensure that toxic sites are not lumped into only certain areas, and that our public health, our waters, our ability to thrive in our community is protected.”
The filing today comes nearly 4 years after the Permit Board initially certified that any proposed project by the Port Authority for the site would not impact water quality through flooding or otherwise. Yet, the Mississippi Permit Board never investigated whether or how explosives would be stored near the community, nor what types of safety measures or possible contamination could result from such a unique use.
“In 2023, the Department of Defense has a responsibility and a duty to ensure their facilities eliminate or minimize risks to communities–including flooding, toxic exposure, and environmental injustice,” said John Johnson with EEECHO. “For DOD to promote this type of storage in a historic community like ours, is so short sighted, especially when other locations owned by the Port could eliminate this risk on our community.”
The Port Authority’s strategic plan continues to aim for development directly north of its current location, putting North Gulfport in harm’s way. From an attempt to dump rancid chicken coolers in residential areas after Hurricane Katrina, to unfulfilled promises for good-paying jobs and ethical economic development, to the latest attempt to install a military site near residential housing on land deemed too toxic to develop — the people of North Gulfport have resisted industrial uses in their historic residential community for over a decade. The map released today is another step forward as they work to engage with elected local and state leaders to protect their homes.
“As a church leader, a homeowner, and a resident, we can’t move our buildings, but the Port can expand away from where people live, play, and pray.” said Bishop Jonathan Tate, Sr. “We only hope this recent filing and map will help them believe that protecting our community from dangerous development like the storage of ammunition is the right thing to do.”