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The Daily Tar Heel

Class Shares Findings on Environmental Racism

More than 40 students gathered Monday night to present research and talk trash about the controversy of the Eubanks Road landfill in Chapel Hill and the accompanying issue of environmental racism.

Valerie Kaalund, professor of African-American studies at UNC, headed up the research and involved students from her class, "Bioethics in the African Diaspora," which examined the 28-year fight against unclean water, unacceptable living conditions and dumping of domestic waste in the Eubanks Road neighborhood.

Kaalund said local government is ignoring the concerns of the Eubanks residents. "This is a community of primarily African-American, primarily elderly (people) living on well water and accepting the waste of three municipalities."

All 48 students in the class contributed to the research, including historical context, video interviews with residents, legal issues and technical assessments of the current landfill. These students shared their findings with the UNC community Monday night in Hamilton Hall.

Jeannine Mauney, a senior biology major who was involved with the historical research, said the landfill is polluting the area. "The first phase of the landfill, started in 1972, was not designed with a liner system," Mauney said. She said this act has led to contamination of the ground and water wells.

The student presentation also expressed concern about water pollution in the area by showing video footage of interviews with Eubanks Road residents.

All five residents interviewed by the students said cancer was prevalent in the area, and the water was unsuitable for cooking, bathing or drinking.

The presentation also focused on the racial issues surfacing from the landfill debate. "The biggest thing we focused on was environmental racism," said Scott Washington, a senior political science major. He said this racism is defined as a deliberate targeting of minority groups and unequal enforcement of environmental regulations.

Other students focused on the effects of noise pollution and insect and rodent infestation in the neighborhoods surrounding the landfill. "One resident said it is not too rare to see roofs of houses in the area covered with vultures," said junior Cecil Outlaw.

Outlaw said he was appalled by such living conditions. "I feel as though everybody's voice in the county is not being heard. It is very saddening and discouraging to me to hear about all the cancer and contamination in the area."

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