10.21.20 – UNIONTOWN ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE
Uniontown is home to around 2,000 people, 88% of which are African American. The population also has high numbers of elderly, single, unemployed, and disabled individuals. The average annual household income is just over $30k, and 48% live below the poverty line. The city faces a multitude of environmental issues that affect the health and lives of its residents.
In 2009, the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash dike ruptured and released 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash into the Emory River in Tennessee. As part of the clean-up process the Arrowhead landfill in Uniontown received the spilled coal ash, taking on a total of 4,021,934.73 tons of coal ash between July 2009 to December 2010. Coal ash contains toxic materials including heavy metals such as arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, thallium, vanadium, and zinc. The landfill is located 4 to 5 miles from Uniontown, and the nearest residence is approximately 250 to 300 feet away from the site. Just outside of downtown a cheese plant adds rotten butter milk (whey) to the environment, with its effluent water is sprayed into surrounding ponds and its odor permeating the town. Uniontown sewage water is treated by spraying it onto fields to be absorbed by the soil. However, the soil in the area of the spray fields contains high amounts of clay and percolates water very slowly, resulting in stagnant sewage water that sits on the fields before flowing into Freetown Creek and on to the Alabama River at Gee’s Bend.*
- Uniontown - short documentary film directed by Fraser Jones, 15 min.
- Environmental Injustice in Uniontown, Alabama, Decades after the Civil Rights Act of 1964: It's Time For Action via americanbar.org
- Sewage problems still plague Uniontown after $4.8 million in repairs via al.com
*Quoted from Have They Been Forgotten?: A Look at Uniontown, Alabama, Azita Amiri, PhD, RN, Chair, Environmental Task Force and Assistant Professor, University of Alabama in Huntsville