The state of Alabama's Environmental Management Agency is now ranked 50th in the nation in terms of job performance. Because of this and some concerns brought up by constituents, Cong. Artur Davis launched an "Environmental Justice Initiative."
Davis toured at least three of the more than two-dozen disposal facilities, landfills and brownsfields in his 12 county district Tuesday.
One of his stops was in Sumter County, in the town of Emelle, where the nation's largest toxic waste facility is located.
"It is wrong to ask some people to bear burdens that others don't have to bear," said Cong. Artur Davis of Alabama's seventh district. "At the same time let me make it clear, we're not here with an anti-industry agenda. What we have to do is get beyond the promises we make to each other."
Environmentalists say they are not anti-industry, but instead pro-accountability.
"Well, we have a very high cancer rate in this county. In fact, a funeral home director said, of the bodies she prepares for funerals, 90 percent of them have some sort of cancer," said Kay Kiker of the Citizens Task Force of Sumter County.
"You see we have a lot of industries that dump right into the waterway, like the rivers and so forth," said Daisy Carter, director of project Awake. "And of course, we have been concerned about the leakage at Chemical Waste."
Opened in the late 1970s, Chemical Waste Management in Emelle employs 75 people and says it has put into place an extra layer in the ground for water protection, established treatment systems for rain water, and added more than 50 monitors for local water wells.
Company officials say, annually, it pays at least $4.2 million to Sumter
County in taxes.
"If we were spewing things in the air, contaminating the water, that financial benefit would be worthless, but we're not. We never have," said Rodger Henson of Chem Waste.
Later this summer, Cong. Davis said he will sponsor a symposium for industry and community leaders to come together and address their concerns. An exact date for the event has not been set.