6/18/14 – EPA to Hold Public Meeting About Lead Contamination in Mt. Pleasant – SOCM members want answers and action on cleanup
Mt. Pleasant, Tenn. – Residents of Mt. Pleasant will finally have a long-overdue public meeting on Thursday, June 19th at 7pm about lead contamination on their properties, and what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has planned for an upcoming cleanup effort. The EPA and Taylor Environmental Co. will hold the meeting at the First United Methodist Church, 202 S. Main St., and all local residents are encouraged to attend.
Members of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) who live on affected properties say the EPA has dragged its feet and been too heavily influenced by the company responsible for the arsenic and lead contamination – Industrial Products Company (IPC). They plan to come out in full force on Thursday.
“We want to know why it took so long for this issue to come to light,” said Joycelene Johns, a SOCM member who lives in the affected area. “Why are we just now finding out about this? We don’t know what the health effects have been over such a long period. It is probably no accident that the company [IPC] is safely moved out of town now.”
In April 2013, Mt. Pleasant residents learned that the EPA was investigating lead and arsenic contamination in and around the old IPC site at 107 Boswell Street. IPC blew rock-wool insulation at their operation in the middle of town in the early 1970s. EPA officials began soil sampling and testing last spring in the neighborhoods around the old IPC site. The federal agency led a community meeting in April 2013 at City Hall in Mt. Pleasant, informing residents that a report on the investigation would be issued in June 2013 at a similar meeting. That second meeting and the issuance of the report never happened, with officials spending a year negotiating with IPC on payment for the cleanup.
Local residents have only been able to speculate what their families have been exposed to over the last 40 years and what will become of their affected properties. “Why is it taking so long to check the properties?” asked Rose Cannon, another SOCM member who lives in the affected area. “And if they find lead or arsenic, how long will it take to know the plans from there? We just keep waiting to hear something.”
EPA officials originally said the area designated for soil testing and analysis would be within a half-mile radius of the IPC site, but that area has been cut roughly in half now. SOCM members are calling for the area to be expanded to at least the original half-mile radius, as many live in the extended area and have concerns about their property and health.
The lead and arsenic contamination from IPC is a reminder of the environmental justice issues at play in Mt. Pleasant and near toxic sites across Tennessee, as this disaster happened on an overwhelmingly minority and low-income part of town. SOCM members are pleased that the EPA is investigating anything in Mt. Pleasant, however, and have been requesting the agency look into a variety of other environmental concerns that local and state officials have not addressed.
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SOCM – Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment – is a member-run organization that encourages civic involvement and collective action so that the people of Tennessee have a greater voice in determining their future. The mission of SOCM is to empower Tennesseans to protect, defend, and improve the quality of life in their communities across the state. SOCM is working for social, economic, and environmental justice for all. We are committed to the journey of becoming an anti-racist organization. Recognizing our interdependence, SOCM is committed to overcoming social and institutional racism and embracing our diverse cultures.