Neighborhood finally moving away from
October 18, 1996
Web posted at: 6:15 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Brian Cabell
PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- A Pensacola
neighborhood has finally convinced the
government that bureaucrats left a
biological time bomb on the community's
doorstep five years ago. As a result, the
government has initiated the third largest
environmental relocation in U.S. history.
Residents of this working-class Pensacola
neighborhood blame many of their problems
on their next-door neighbor, which they've
dubbed "Mount Dioxin." The sprawling mound
of dirt, contaminated with dioxin, arsenic
and other chemicals, was started in 1991
when the Environmental Protection Agency
began excavating a wood treatment plant in
The EPA called the excavation an emergency
action, but then left the mountain of dirt
there for three years, assuring residents
it was harmless.
Five years later, the EPA has changed its
tune, but not without a cost. Today, more
than 40 tiny white crosses are scattered
throughout the neighborhood, each put up by
a resident who lost a family member in the
last five years. Almost all died from
cancer and respiratory disease.
"It's not old people. It is some of the
young people in their 40s and 30s, because
there's a young man died right there, he
was in his 30s," Pickett said, pointing at
one yard adorned with a cross.
Residents say they suffered not only deaths
but also chronic ailments. One resident
said her daughters refused to play outside
because the air would make them itch and
burn, and give them headaches.
And another said she does her gardening at
the risk of getting so dizzy she "falls up
against the walls."
The EPA has admitted its error in leaving
the mound of toxic dirt in the
neighborhood. As EPA Deputy Assistant
Administrator Tim Fields told CNN, "It is
clear that it was a major mistake to dig up
the material and leave it there in place
for this long a period of time. That is
not something that we would like to have
Having fully acknowledged the problem, the
EPA moved two weeks ago to rectify it. The
entire neighborhood -- 158 homes and 200
apartment units -- will be relocated for
Many in this majority African-American
community believe the problem has lingered
because a they say a racist EPA puts a low priority on
non-white communities. The agency denies
the charge of racism, claiming excavation
and analysis take time.
The Pensacola relocation, which will take a
year, will be the nation's third largest
environmental relocation. Only Love
Canal, New York in 1980 and Times Beach,
Missouri in 1982 were larger.
Once the residents leave, the neighborhood
will be destroyed, the homes removed, and
the contaminated soil hauled away.
Eventually, the area will be converted into
an industrial development.
But for now, the neighborhood still has to
live with the tall, forbidding fence
bordering the toxic site. The community
remains haunted by this poisoned patch of
land known as Mount Dioxin.
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