One hears frequently these days that eco-nomic needs trump eco-logical ones in the public mind – especially here in early 2010. But it is increasingly hard to see a difference between the two at all.
Tanya Ott’s recent coverage on WBHM reporting on the challenges the city of Anniston, Alabama has faced is instructive. A large military base, Fort McLellan, closed there in 1995. The city was largely dependent on the revenue this installation created. Then came wide-spread land devaluation as a result of PCB contamination in the surrounding waterways. Next there was national publicity over local resistance to the incineration of deadly nerve gases left over from the military installation.
That was not the last chapter in the story. Ms. Ott notes how arts and humanities-based activities are leading the way toward the revitalization of downtown Anniston. This process also includes uncovering a formerly paved-over creek that runs through downtown.
On the policy front, various campaign officials for local and federal offices insist that jobs matter more than the environment in the vox populi and voting booth. A recent article in the Demopolis Times on concerns over coal ash disposal indicates that wastewater from coal fired plants might not just be a NIMBY (not in my backyard) issue. Rather it may well indicate that yet another zone in the Black Belt is starting to question the long-term cost/benefit analysis of energy consumption that produces toxic water:
“While the Tennessee Valley Authority’s cleanup has removed much of the ash from the river, the arsenic- and mercury-laced muck or its watery discharge has been moving by rail and truck through three states to at least six different sites. Some of it may end up as far away as Louisiana.
At every stop along the route, new environmental concerns pop up. The coal-ash muck is laden with heavy metals linked to cancer, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering declaring coal ash hazardous.
“I’m really concerned about my health,” said retiree James Gibbs, 53, who lives near a west-central Alabama landfill that is taking the ash. “I want to plant a garden. I’m concerned about it getting in the soil.” Gibbs said that since last summer there has been a “bad odor, like a natural gas odor.”
After the spill, the TVA started sending as many as 17,000 rail carloads of ash almost 350 miles south to the landfill in Uniontown, Ala. At least 160 rail shipments have gone out from the cleanup site, said TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martocci.
Since the EPA approved that plan, unusually heavy rain – including about 25 inches from November through February – has forced the landfill to deal with up to 100,000 gallons a day of tainted water.
The landfill operators first sent it to wastewater treatment plants – a common way that landfills deal with excess liquid – in two nearby Alabama cities, Marion and Demopolis…”
Birmingham’s Green Building Focus, mentioned in last week’s blog for their Green Industrial Real Estate Project, has just announced their second Green Building Focus Conference and Expo to be held in Birmingham, Alabama this August 24-26. Such activity exemplifies economic opportunity emerging from ecologic planning.