According Racism is “racial discrimination in the development and

to Oxford Living Dictionaries, the definition of Environmental Racism is
“racial discrimination in the development and implementation of environment
policy, especially as manifested in the concentration of hazardous waste
disposal sites in or near areas with a relatively large ethnic minority
population. Based on that definition the world should be against environmental
racism because it is a terrible problem that affects many people in the United
States, which can be seen through the local examples of the Flint Michigan
water crisis, the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, and Cancer Alley in

            From the beginning of time when the
Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and the line “all men
are created equal” was created, we have subconsciously, most of the time consciously
made it harder for minority groups, and colored groups to live in “the land of
the free”. The Founding Fathers themselves owned slaves and even the line
itself, “all men are created equal”, is referring to all white men. The term “environmental
racism” entered widespread use after the reverend Benjamin Chavis used it to
discuss the results of Toxic Wastes and
Race in the United States, a national study of hazardous waste siting
(Zimring,1). Race is just a construction made by a society in order to tear
certain groups of people down, more specifically any group who is not white. In
addition, because of that construction race is used to tear minority or colored
groups down but to also use race as a way of serving and determining inequalities
for those said groups. Environmental racism is based in addition on one major
point; white privilege. White privilege has been around since the beginning of
time also. For those that do not know what white privilege itself is, it is the
privileges and benefits that white people receive based solely on their
whiteness and nothing else. One benefit is choosing what hazardous materials
may or may not be placed into their surrounding areas.

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            Flint is a town in Michigan whose
water has become undrinkable for some time now. It all started in June of 2012
to around April of 2013 where Flint officials explore other water options in
order to save the city money. They were in talks of switching from the current
provider at the time, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to
building its own pipeline and connecting it to Karegnondi Water Authority
(KWA). On April 16, Ed Kurtz; Flint Emergency Manager tells the state treasurer
that the city is going to join he KWA, which DWSD said they would terminate its
service a year later , in April of 2014. April 25, 2014 is when Flint’s pipeline
connecting to KWA finally becomes operational. Due to the switch as well the
city needed an interim source of water and to fix that issue turned to the
Flint River. After the switch to the river residents still had concern with the
quality of the water and to put their minds at ease some officials had a press
a release. Here is an excerpt:

with a proven track record of providing perfectly good water for Flint, there
still remains lingering uncertainty about the quality of the water. In an
effort to dispel myths and promote the truth about the Flint River and its
viability as a residential water resource, there have been numerous studies and
tests conducted on its water by several different independent organizations.
(Lorenz, 2)

even after assuring the residents of Flint of the quality of the water from
Flint River officials still did not immediately treat the water to ensure it
did not cause corrosion in the pipes – instead, they took a “wait-and-see”
approach. The new water they started using as well was 70% harder than the
water they were previously using and as early as May of 2014 some residents
were already complaining about the odor and look of the new water.

            By August of 2014 E. coli and total
coliform bacteria had been detected in the Flint River water source, which
prompted many authorities to give warnings to residents to start boiling their
water before drinking or using it. In an informational document from Michigan’s
Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Stephen Busch said the addressed
this issue by increasing chlorine levels in the water “The city is boosting
chlorine disinfectant at locations in the distribution system as needed”
(Busch, 4). The chlorine helps the water to become drinkable but ended up
causing problems for others because in October of 2014 General Motors said it
would stop using Flint River’s water, fearing it would cause bad corrosion in
its machines. In January of 2015 Flint was found to be in violation of the Safe
Drinking Water Act due to the level of total trihalomethanes in the water.
Trihalomethanes are disinfection byproducts that occur when chlorine interacts
with organic matter in the water and some types can be possible carcinogens for
humans. In response to this the state starts buying bottles water for its
employees at government offices and even continues to do so after the levels
return to normal compliant levels. As early as February of 2015 is when high
lead levels started to be detected in certain homes. In April  Lee Anne Walters says her child was diagnosed
with lead poisoning, after that an independent test done by Virginia Tech
researchers found lead levels of 13,200 ppb, water is considered hazardous
waste at 5,00 ppb.

In October Governor Snyder released an action plan
that states the city and state will provide free filters and water testing for
Flint residents. Later in October Flint switches back to the Detroit water
supply but by then the pipes had become so corroded switching water supplies
back did nothing to fix the issue. By December of 2015 Mayor Karen Weaver
declares a state of emergency over the elevated lead levels in the city’s water
and by January of 2016 President of the time Barack Obama declares state of emergency
in Flint as well. By April of 2016 Flint’s water is till unsafe and 3 officials
were criminally charged. Stephen Busch, Michael Prysby, and Michael Glasgow all
face felony charges of misconduct, neglect of duty and conspiracy to tamper
with evidence, and have also been charged with violating Michigan’s Safe
Drinking Water Act. A lawsuit was also filed against corporations “Veolia” and
“Lockwood, Andrews, & Newman” for being hired to do a job and failing
miserably at it. In addition it is predicted that the Flint water crisis will
remain to be an issue throughout the 2018 Governors election.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,172-mile underground
pipeline extending from Bakken/Three Forks production area in North Dakota to
Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline will be used to transport domestically produced
crude oil. The point of the pipeline is to basically transport oil in a more
direct, cost effective, safer and more environmentally responsible way compared
to other modes of transportation. What makes the Dakota Access Pipeline so
prevalent and such a controversial subject is because of certain land the
pipeline goes through. One Missouri River crossing is just north of the
Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota and has become the pivotal point
of a fight over how the pipeline’s route was permitted and analyzed. Members of
the tribe argued that they were not adequately consulted about the route since
the pipeline runs under Lake Oahe and would jeopardize their primary water
source for the reservation, and that even construction of the pipeline would
cause damage to sacred sites near the lake, violating tribal treaty rights.

all started in December of 2015 to about January of 2016 when the U.S Army
Corps of Engineers for the Omaha District published a draft of its plan to
approve the pipeline route and also opened the plan up for public comments. By
August of 2-16 the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sues the U.S Army Corps of
Engineers for failing to consult tribe members and violating the National Historic
Preservation Act. Dakota Access LLC, who is a subsidiary of the pipeline
company Energy Transfer Parters, countersues the tribe leaders, alleging that
protesters near the pipeline site have halted construction. In September of
2016 Standing Rock issued an announcement saying that Energy Transfer Partners
wrecked an area that contained significant Native artifacts and sacred sites
when the crews bulldozed a two-mile-long area. But also in September U.S
District Judge James Boasberg temporarily stops construction due to the earlier
lawsuit against the Army Corps. However not long after he stops it Boasberg
still denies Standing Rock’s request to stop construction all together. While
all of this was going on things between demonstrators and law enforcement/construction
members slowly started to increase in violence and by October of 2016 around 27
of the demonstrators had been arrested at the site.

What makes people so angry about this as well is that
the current route being used is also a re-route itself. The first route was
originally supposed to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North
Dakota, but was changed because of the cities residents’ rejection of it in
order to protect its communities and water. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and
all of their supporters are just trying to seek the same considerations as
those citizens and are wondering why none of their concerns are being heard and
why their requests are being dismissed. In addition according to most this
would be an example of ‘environmental racism’. Another controversial aspect of
this is the way law enforcement has been dealing with the protestors and
demonstrators. All of the protestors have been unharmed and yet law enforcement
deals with them by using tear gas, flash grenades, and spraying high volume
water at them in below temperatures as well. But all of their fears came true
because on November 16, 2017 there was a massive oil leak in the pipeline which
spilled a total of 210,000 gallons of oil. So even after all the reassurance of
it being the safest it still leaks and their reasons for protesting are

            Cancer Alley is an 85 mile stretch
between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, in Louisiana. One parish in particular,
Ascension which is a rapidly growing town of over 100,000 residents is home to
14 major manufacturing companies which are involved in the production of
chemicals, plastics, fertilizers, etc. Ascension’s parish seat Donaldsonville
is a town of 7,605 residents and is 30 miles from Baton Rouge. Today it is
surrounded by sugar cane fields and chemical manufacturing plants which are
both the main sources of employment/income but also potential causes of
environment health risks to the local residents. The town population is 70%
African American, 73% of the residents have no more than a high school diploma,
the median household income is under $25,000, and about 32% of the towns
families live below the poverty line. Which relates to Oxfords definition of
‘Environmental Racism’ where they again say “development of hazardous waste disposal sites in or near areas
with a relatively large ethnic minority population.” In 2002, Ascension Parish
was ranked among the worst 10% of all counties in the United States in terms of
total toxin environmental releases, air and water releases, air release of
recognized carcinogens, air release of developmental toxicants, and air release
of recognized reproductive toxicants. The Louisiana Hazardous Substances
Emergency Events Surveillance System, is a program that collects information on
serious releases hazardous substances throughout Louisiana, and they reported
that between 2001 and 2008 there were over 1,000 toxic industrial chemicals
released into Ascension Parish air, water, and soil.

CF Industries, an Illinois based corporation that reported
sales of 6.2 billion in 2009 has a nitrogenous fertilizer production plant in
Donaldsonville which annually manufactures approximately 5 million tons of
nitrogen products. Going off on this, in 2009, the EPA cited the CF chemical
plan as the 4th largest polluter in Louisiana. The EPA reported in
2008 that CF released 6,492,686 pounds of chemicals into the air over
Donaldsonville, and another 1,112,286 pounds into local water systems. Four
years previously to that report, the Environmental Defense Fund criticized CF
industries for failing to disclose sufficient hazard information about several
of the chemicals it produces. Just another example of a big corporation using
its money and stature to minority groups because the richer ones have the money
to fight the power.

Now to the reason they call it “Cancer Alley”.
Louisiana is ranked as having the 4th worst health among the 50
states. A case control mortality study conducted in 20 parishes of Southern
Louisiana by Marise Gottlieb found that cancer rates in Louisiana were highest
in or downstream from Cancer Alley. And in another study she found that
residents in southern Louisiana who live within one mile of a chemical plant
have 4.5 times greater odds of developing lung cancer when compared with those
who live further away. Elevated rates of cancer, skin inflammation, respiratory
problems, and a range of other health threats have been described among people
living in Cancer Alley.

            In conclusion, we can see through
these three examples on how environmental racism is in America and how it
affects people living in the areas most affected. We saw in Flint how water for
a city is utterly undrinkable and yet 4 years after the problem had arisen it
still is not yet fixed and will not be fixed for quite some time. In South
Dakota where the oil pipeline became revised from a majority white community
who said it was unsafe to instead go through Native American ground where the
pipeline has leaked into their water supply twice already. Finally, in
Louisiana we see a majority African American and minority parishes being
targeted by big chemical corporations. Where they build giant chemical factories
in or very near to these communities, adults, and mostly children are then
stricken with a variety of illnesses they would not have gotten if they were
anywhere else. Environmental racism is a plague among this once great country
and that it know it is a problem and lets it continue is appalling. Hopefully
one day the country can come together to eradicate this problem once and for


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