6.06.2012

Another case of environmental injustice? Prairie View A&M students join in opposing proposed landfill



by Jesse Muhammad (FinalCall.com)


PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas - Opposition is growing against a proposed landfill many fear will be an environmental time bomb with toxic waste, polluted air and contaminated water.

“The students of Prairie View A&M University and the community are very upset by this landfill being proposed and it has become a major issue. Its proximity to Prairie View will not be good for the health of the students and the surrounding communities,” Frank Jackson, mayor of Prairie View, told The Final Call.

The Atlanta-based Green Group Holdings is at the helm of the proposed 434-acre Pintail landfill. It would be located on Highway 6, one mile from Hempstead, a 69 percent minority population city and four miles from Prairie View A&M University, a HBCU in a 94 percent Black community.
Hempstead Mayor Michael Wolfe told The Final Call, “We have to fight this and we intend to because this shows they do not care about our constituents. This is a dangerous move.”


“We don’t want the landfill. With the health issues it could cause for the student body it may sway parents from even wanting to send their children to Prairie View,” said Jarren Smalls. He served as president of the student government this past school year.


“We have spoken out about this and we’re doing more investigations to ensure the students are thoroughly educated on this issue,” said Mr. Smalls. “Prairie View has historically been an overlooked and boxed out population, even by those in the surrounding counties. Who can the student body trust? So we want to ensure we’re strategic in who we align ourselves with in fighting this issue.”


“We’re going to be very sensitive to their concerns. We’re setting in place the EPA standards to make sure nothing happens such as a liner leakage. There will be an odor at the site, but it won’t impact the air quality because we will not have sewage sludge,” Ernest Kaufmann, president and CEO of Green Group Holdings, told The Final Call.


“Without saying it, the clear message being given by this company is that the people of Prairie View and those surrounding areas are comparable to garbage. Minority communities are historically targeted by landfills,” Dr. Robert Bullard, an environmental justice expert, told The Final Call.


Dr. Bullard is a dean at Texas Southern University in Houston. “In my research we have found that we’re chosen as a dumping ground as if we’re an invisible community. That’s the nature of environmental racism,” he said.


“Was this dump site considered near College Station, the home of Texas A&M, Governor Rick Perry’s alma mater? The answer is no! Then why Prairie View? Is it because it is next to a HBCU and the population is Black and poor?” asked Robert Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s Southwest Region student minister and an urban planning expert.


Mr. Kaufmann says selecting the location for the landfill had nothing to do with targeting a specific race of people or those who are economically disadvantaged. “We have never permitted that. We do our own environmental justice research and there is not a single minority household within a mile of this site. No trucks will be going through any of the neighborhoods,” he said.


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