EPA dismisses civil rights complaints against Alabama Department of Environmental Management

Residents of Uniontown accused the department of violating Title VI and the Civil Rights Act after permitting the Arrowhead Landfill.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, has dismissed two civil rights complains filed against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) by Uniontown, Alabama, residents who claim that permitting the Arrowhead Landfill to operate near the city is a violation of Title VI and the Civil Rights Act, a report by AL.com says. Uniontown has a 90 percent African American population and an average per capita income of $9,000 per year.

Title VI and the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by entities that receive federal funding. The report says EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office announced in a letter dated March 1 there was insufficient evidence of discrimination by ADEM.

Conflict between the residents and landfill operators began when the landfill was permitted in 2005, the report says. In 2009, the conflicts became more intense after the landfill began accepting wet coal ash slurry from the Emory and Clinch Rivers in Tennessee after a coal ash spill and accepted more than 4 million tons of ash.

Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice was formed in 2005 to organize opposition to the landfill and the landfill owners sued the group for libel and slander in 2016, seeking $30 million in damages. The report says the lawsuit was withdrawn last year.

Uniontown residents also testified in 2016 before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the report says. The commission said the EPA’s Civil Rights Office has never made formal findings of discrimination.

In its letter, the EPA recommended that ADEM work with the community to promote understanding, the report says. “While not legally required, [EPA’s civil rights office] believes that ADEM could increase tis leadership role by bringing together the Arrowhead community, permittees, as well as other local government entities to share important information, ensure that its citizens and stakeholders understand roles, rights and responsibilities and address issues constructively,” the letter states.