Don’t Dump On Us – Brunswick County Landfill Sited in Historic Black Royal Oak Community

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On October 10, attorneys from the UNC Center for Civil Rights represented the Royal Oak community in Brunswick County in a quasi-judicial hearing in front of the county planning board over whether they will permit a new landfill in this historic black community. Royal Oak, one of only a few majority black communities in this 82% white county, is already burdened with the county's only open landfill, its waste transfer station, sewage treatment facility, animal shelter, and numerous sand mines (privately owned but permitted by the county). In addition, the county has denied water and sewer service to the community, even though they installed pipes within a few hundred feet of residents to serve the animal shelter and sewage treatment plant. The Center for Civil Rights, along with the NC Fair Housing Project and the law firm of K&L Gates, currently represents the community in a separate lawsuit alleging that the placement of environmental hazards and the denial of water and sewer service is illegal racial discrimination and violates the North Carolina Fair Housing Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the NC Constitution. The lawsuit also alleges the county violated zoning laws in rezoning the properties to allow the new landfill.

Despite the lawsuit, the county has proceeded to pursue the necessary permits to construct the new landfill. The Special Exception Permit hearing begun on October 10th is the last best chance to stop the placement of the new landfill in the community without litigation. The new landfill, estimated to remain open for 100 years, will not only continue the county's pattern and practice of locating environmental hazards in this black community, but will lower property values and burden the community with additional trucks, noise, odors, dust and vermin, increases the risk of fires and sinkholes, and may constitute a risk to aquifer and water supply. None of these concerns were adequately addressed by the county's Operations Services Department, the applicant for the permit, as was repeatedly brought out on October 10 by the lawyers for the community and their expert, Dr. Ben Marsh of Bucknell University.

The SEP hearing is only partially complete. The date for the continuation of the hearing has not been set, but at that time the Center will present expert witnesses and community members to testify about the health impacts of the landfill and the ongoing discrimination, the fire hazards of Construction and Demolition landfills, the effect on property values, and the risk to the water supply. Read the State Port Pilot's coverage of the hearing (PDF).

News update on continued January 9, 2011 Special Exception Permit Hearing:

Posted by Peter Hull Gilbert on Mon. November 7, 2011 1:45 PM
Categories: Brunswick County, Community Inclusion, Environmental Justice
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