Dickson, Tennessee: the poster child for environmental racism and toxic dumping, USA

<div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Description</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld"></td><td class="columns"><div class="less">Dickson, Tennessee, is commonly referred as the “poster child” for environmental racism and toxic dumping. The Holts, an African American family, suffered for decades the health impacts from drinking water from wells that were poisoned by the leak of hazardous wastes from a nearby landfill. </div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">Dickson is a county located about 35 miles west of Nashville where African Americans only comprised 4.5 percent of the total population in 2000. Most of Dickson’s African American population lives in Eno Road community, a neighborhood that has been used since 1946 as cluster of landfills for garbage and hazardous wastes. <br/><br/>During the past decades, barrels of toxic industrial waste solvents have been dumped at the landfill, affecting the groundwater supply of more than 1,400 people that live within four-mile radius of the landfill. <br/><br/>The history of Dickson’s landfill and water pollution is a history of discrimination and government inaction to protect the Holt family. <br/><br/>During decades, government testing, monitoring, notification, remediation and provision of alternative water supply of the Holt family’s wells differed from the treatment of white families whose spring and wells were contaminated. <br/><br/>While authorities recommended continuous monitoring and report of water quality after government records showed the existence of elevated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), a suspected carcinogen, in the Holt family’s wells in 1988, no re-samples of the water was made until August 2000, when it registered TCE levels 24 and 29 times higher than the Maximum Contaminant Level standards set by the federal EPA. Not until that point the Holt family was connected to the city’s water network. <br/><br/>By the time of the connection to the city network, it was too late for the health of the Holt family, who has been particularly harmed by the toxic materials dumped in his water supply for decades. In 2002 Harry Holt (father of the family) discovered he had prostate cancer. Not too late after that, his daughter (Sheila Holt Orsted) and wife (Beatrice Holt) were diagnosed with breast cancer and cervical polyps, respectively. After finding out that she had cancer, Sheila Holt Orsted started to investigate the source of the health problems affecting her family and neighbors. She found out how, during the years of no government testing in her family’s wells, water supply in other areas of the city inhabited by white families were tested, and that when contaminated levels were found those families were systematically warned and their water supplies were switched to city water.<br/><br/>Aware of the discriminatory treatment, and with the support of environmental justice advocates such as Robert Bullard from the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, as well as two non-profit law firms, the Holt family settled environmental and civil rights lawsuits against the City and County of Dickson in 2003. In the lawsuits, the Holt family claimed that their white neighbors received a preferred treatment. <br/><br/>After eight years of legal effort, in December 2011 a settlement was reached among the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Holt Family, and the County and City of Dickson. As part of the settlement, neighbors of the community were ensured permanent free access to the municipal water supply. Moreover, a monitoring and evaluation system and a $5 million remedy fund will be put in place to ensure TCE levels do not spread beyond current boundaries/levels. Between 2009 and 2012, the Holt family won more than $2 million through settlements with each of the defendants. And in 2013, the family settled with the State of Tennessee for an undisclosed amount bringing this legal chapter of the Holts' painful story of injustice to a close.<br/><br/>Harry Holt died in 2007.<br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Basic Data</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Name</td><td>Dickson, Tennessee: the poster child for environmental racism and toxic dumping, USA</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Country</td><td><a href="/country/united-states-of-america">United States of America </a></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Province</td><td>Tennessee</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Site</td><td>Dickson</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Accuracy of Location</td><td>HIGH local level</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Source of Conflict</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (1st level)</td><td>Waste Management</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (2nd level)</td><td>Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Specific Commodities</td><td><a href='/commodity/domestic-municipal-waste'>Domestic municipal waste</a><br /><a href='/commodity/industrial-waste'>Industrial waste</a></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Project Details and Actors</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Details</td><td class="columns"><div class="less">The area near the Holt family’s property has been the site of the Dickson “city dump” and subsequent city and county Class I sanitary landfills, Class III and IV construction and demolition landfills, balefills and processing centers. The site is currently used as a C&D landfill, garbage transfer station and recycling center. </div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">Soma data:<br/><br/>- The garbage transfer station alone handles approximately 35,000 tons annually<br/><br/>- 20-25 heavy-duty diesel trucks enter the sites each day<br/><br/>- Industrial waste solvents. <br/><br/>- In 1988 the Dickson County Landfill accepted 275 to 300 cubic yards of solid waste from the CSX White Bluff derailment clean-up. <br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Project Area (in hectares)</td><td>30</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Population</td><td>Semi-urban</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Potential Affected Population</td><td>1,400 people</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Start Date</td><td>1946</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Company Names or State Enterprises</td><td><a href='/company/city-of-dickson-landfill'>City of Dickson Landfill</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a><br /><a href='/company/scovill-schrader-automotive-inc'>Scovill-Schrader Automotive Inc.</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a><br /><a href='/company/ebbtide-corporation'>Ebbtide Corporation</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a> - <small>Company that dumped waste on site</small><br /><a href='/company/interstate-packaging'>Interstate Packaging</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a> - <small>Company that dumped waste on site</small><br /><a href='/company/alp-lighting-components'>ALP Lighting Components</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a> - <small>Company that dumped waste on site</small><br /><a href='/company/nemak'>Nemak</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a> - <small>Company dumped waste on site</small></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Relevant government actors</td><td>- Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) - City of Dickson - Dickson County - US EPA Region 4<br/><br/></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Environmental justice organisations and other supporters</td><td>- The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund<br/><br/>- Natural Resources Defense Council - Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University<br/><br/></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">The Conflict and the Mobilization</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)</td><td>LOW (some local organising)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">When did the mobilization begin</td><td>In REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Groups Mobilizing</td><td>Local ejos<br /> Neighbours/citizens/communities<br /> Ethnically/racially discriminated groups</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Forms of Mobilization</td><td>Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism<br /> Media based activism/alternative media<br /> Official complaint letters and petitions<br /> Public campaigns<br /> Street protest/marches<br /> Environmental Justice leaders submitting testimonies at the US Senate subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental health</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Impacts</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Environmental Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Air pollution, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Health Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Deaths, Other Health impacts</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other</td><td>TCE-related health effects include liver disease, hypertension, speech impediment, hearing impairment, stroke, anemia and other blood disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, urinary tract disorders and skin rashes.<br/><br/>The entire Holt family has suffered the consequences of drinking contaminated water. These include: different types of cancer (prostate, bone, breast), diabetes, hypertension, kidney failures, immune and gastrointestinal disorders</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Socio-economic Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Other socio-economic impacts</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other</td><td>Diminished transformative wealth and decrease in land and property values of the Holt family homestead.</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Outcome</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Status</td><td>In operation</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Pathways for conflict outcome / response</td><td>Compensation<br /> Deaths<br /> Court decision (victory for environmental justice)<br /> Application of existing regulations</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Development of Alternatives</td><td>Landfills are still in operation but a network of pollution monitoring and evaluation is in place. </td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Do you consider this as a success?</td><td>Not Sure</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Why? Explain briefly.</td><td>A “bittersweat” victory. Although this case has been widely featured in media, the Holt family has yet to receive adequate justice. The Holt family was able to reach out-of-court settlements with the company and the state of Tennessee. However, Dickson City and Dickson County ended up not having to pay the Holts any costs for the harm caused by their leaky landfill. On the other hand, the city and county together spent $5 million in tax dollars fighting the Holt family’s lawsuits. </td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Sources and Materials</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Legislations</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Holt Family v. City of Dickson/Dickson County - U.S. Court of Appeals<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-ca6-09-06327/pdf/USCOURTS-ca6-09-06327-0.pdf" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">References</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Bullard, Robert D., and Beverly Wright. "Disastrous Response to Natural and Man-Made Disasters: An Environmental Justice Analysis Twenty-Five Years After Warren County." UCLA J. Envtl. L. & Pol'y 26 (2008): 217.<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Johnson, Glenn S., Shirley A. Rainey, and Laila Scaife Johnson. "Dickson, Tennessee and Toxic Wells: An Environmental Racism Case Study." Race, Gender & Class (2008): 204-223.<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Bullard, Robert D. and Beverly Wright, The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities. New York: NYU Press, 2012<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Bullard, R. D., Mohai, P., Saha, R., & Wright, B. (2007). Toxic wastes and race at twenty: 1987–2007. United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries<br/></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Case: Holt v. Scovill / LDF<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.naacpldf.org/case/holt-v-scovill" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> NRDC: Tennessee Residents Protected from Toxic Chemical Exposure - PRESS RELEASE from Natural Resources Defense Council<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.nrdc.org/media/2011/111208.asp" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Environmental racism – Dickson, Tennessee / The Art of Service<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://clone2.theartofservice.com/environmental-racism-dickson-tennessee.html" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> "Poster Child" for Environmental Racism Finds Justice in Dickson, TN / Al Huang's Blog Posted December 8, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ahuang/if_there_is_no_struggle.html" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Poisoned on Eno Road / The New York Times, By BOB HERBERT. Published: October 2, 2006<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9903E6DE1430F931A35753C1A9609C8B63" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> A Well of Pain; Their Water Was Poisoned by Chemicals. Was Their Treatment Poisoned by Racism? / The Washington Post By Lynne Duke - Washington Post Staff Writer Date: Mar 20, 2007<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/19/AR2007031901559.html" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Media Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> The Holts Discuss Dickson, TN Litigation. Published on Mar 12, 2012<br />In December 2011, NRDC's Litigation and EJ Teams secured a landmark environmental justice victory in Dickson, TN. Following a four-year legal effort, a settlement was reached in a case NRDC brought on behalf of itself and two members (Sheila Holt-Orsted and Beatrice Holt) of an African-American family.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dmb9M_e82p0" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Contamination and a Crusade. Uploaded on Feb 14, 2008<br />Sheila Holt-Orsted says her family wasn't properly warned after toxic waste at a nearby landfill polluted their well water. She is now battling cancer, and the officials who refute her allegations of environmental racism. Credit: Pierre Kattar/WashingtonPost.com Story: Lynne Duke<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5kMftq42TM&feature=player_embedded" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Deposition of Beatrice Holt. Uploaded on Dec 8, 2011<br />Excerpt from the deposition of Beatrice Holt, a member of the Holt family, whose homestead is adjacent to a contaminated landfill in Dickson, TN. Her Tennessee community will be permanently protected from toxic well water and provided with safe municipal drinking water under a settlement reached today among the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), members of the Holt family and the County and City of Dickson, TN. The case has been called the "poster child" for the environmental justice movement in this country by prominent environmental justice advocates.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARIUaJFIxHw&feature=player_embedded" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> A Closer Look at a Toxic Dumping Case - NPR Radio Show<br />March 26, 2007 9:00 AM ET<br />Description:<br />Sheila Holt-Orsted believes she got cancer from drinking well water contaminated by a landfill near her Tennessee home — and that city, county, and state officials knew but did nothing because she is black. Holt-Orsted and her lawyer, Matthew Colangelo of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, speak with Cheryl Corley.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9135012" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Meta Information</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Contributor</td><td>Alejandro Colsa Perez, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment </td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Last update</td><td>04/12/2014</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div>