Except for a handful of people, our community was
almost blindsided by quiet maneuvers that almost
railroaded our community and its environment into a
dangerous spot, almost before we had a chance to react.
Listen. Over the whispering wind through the pines of Wayne County, I hear something. The sound is soft—this far from Arizona. But in my mind, the noise of clinking cocktail glasses is distinct. Bosses at Republic Services, the Phoenix-based national waste giant, have to be toasting themselves for being slick enough to slip into our community and snare a sweetheart deal—almost unnoticed.
Private landfill companies are notorious for targeting rural communities, hoping local decision-makers will accept “easy money” for dumping privileges. Waste-management companies have a history of preying on cash-starved, minority-dominant communities such as Uniontown, Ala. Unless we fight, Wayne County’s contaminated fate could be similar to Uniontown. Republic almost got away with the same tactic here.
“Almost” is a key word. Except for a handful of people, our community was almost blindsided by quiet maneuvers that almost railroaded our community and its environment into a dangerous spot, almost before we had a chance to react. Finger-pointing is an act of futility in this conspiracy-like predicament. Snookered or not, we must focus on stopping toxic coal-ash trains headed our way.
Now that public outcry has reached deafening decibels, the rumor mill has cranked up. Listen to what the fear-mongers are hurling at us:
- If Wayne County rejects the coal ash, Republic will take the waste and its millions down the road to Brantley County. Our environment will still be affected, but our next-door neighbor will get the money. In Chicken Little fashion, they are telling us that property taxes will rise if we don’t have Republic’s money. Wayne County lived without Republic money before. We can live without it again. Boo, that shouldn’t scare us.
- If the Wayne County commissioners oppose Republic’s railyard plan, the company will contend the county breached its much-amended contract. If Republic wins that argument, Wayne County will be without a place to dump its trash or the money Republic pays the county to dump whatever it wants in the Broadhurst Environmental Landfill. Boo, that shouldn’t scare us.
- Some officials and lawyers are contending, “There’s nothing we can do. We’re handcuffed, and we can’t stop Republic’s rail-spur application.” Boo, that shouldn’t scare us. Republic has not been forthright with us, and there are legal chinks in this Goliath’s armor.
|FROM THE FEBRUARY 17, 2016 |
EDITON OF THE PRESS-SENTINEL,
These rumor-propelled myths cause concern, but I am not intimidated. I think of a story about the late Erk Russell, legendary football coach. When the bald-headed defensive genius, architect of the Bulldogs’ Junkyard Dog swagger, moved from Athens to Statesboro, he huddled his Georgia Southern Eagles in a circle.
As the story goes, Erk piled a mound of white powder on a table in the middle. In his signature gruff voice, he said, “This, men, is cocaine. Drugs are dangerous. Stay away from drugs.” Curious, his team crowded in for a closer look. Then, Erk plopped a rattlesnake on the table. Horrified Eagles flew backwards. “That’s right, men,” he barked. “Cocaine will kill you, just like this rattlesnake. Stay away from both!”
Coal ash, like cocaine, in a little pile doesn’t look threatening. But if we allow Republic to dump mountains of it into our community—by the toxic trainloads, courtesy of CSX—coal ash will sink its poisonous fangs into our health forever.
If we don’t stand up to protect our people and our environment, Wayne County’s budget is destined to be addicted to coal-ash money. We’re in jeopardy of selling our souls—like the now tormented people of Uniontown—to an environmental devil—coal ash. Heaven help us if we don’t say, “NO!” But if we give up, boo!
Now, that does scare me.