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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Open Letter to the Black Leaders Who Sold Out the Residents of North Birmingham and Tarrant

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on July 16, 2023

IMAGE: Cleanup of Hazardous Chemical Spill in East Palestine, Ohio.

Dear Public Officials, Community Leaders, and Paid Influencers,


Please ask your friends and surrogates to stop calling me about the articles I have published within the last week regarding your sellout of the residents in the North Birmingham neighborhoods of Collegeville, Fairmont, and Harriman Park, as well as the residents in the contaminated lands in the City of Tarrant.


I do not want to hear anymore lame excuses for why you failed to take strong, decisive action to protect the health, safety, welfare, and lives of more than 4,000 innocent men, women, and children in these neighborhoods against the six heavy industrial polluters that poisoned them.


Our men, women, and children in these neighborhoods are dying a long, slow, painful death from the contaminated air they breathe and the poisoned ground underneath their feet. Cesspools of contaminated water have developed in and around these neighborhoods. Their homes, schools, churches, and playgrounds are now toxic death pits.


This is what I expect you to do:


1. Demand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) find a way to force U.S. Pipe, Alagasco, KMAC, ABC Coke, and the Drummond Company to clean up these contaminated neighborhoods like the EPA forced Norfolk Southern to clean up the hazardous chemical spill from a freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio on February 3, 2023. Where there is a will, there is a way!


2. The estimated cost of the North Birmingham and Tarrant cleanup in 2013 was $900 million. Since 2013, only Walter Coke, Inc., which is now Bluestone Coke, has been forced to participate in the EPA cleanup effort. The cost of the cleanup in North Birmingham and Tarrant has mushroomed into a $1 billion project today. U.S. Pipe, Alagasco, KMAC, ABC Coke, and the Drummond Company escaped environmental justice because of your efforts. They must now pay at least $150 million for their fair share of the cleanup costs. The EPA can kick in the rest of the money. Remember, it took $500 million to clean up East Palestine, Ohio, and the contamination there was very mild when compared to the level of air, water, and ground pollution in North Birmingham and Tarrant.


3. The cleanup must be performed on an expedited basis. East Palestine was cleaned up in five months (February to July). With the deployment of adequate and proper resources, North Birmingham and Tarrant can be cleaned up in five months, as well.


4. The cleanup must include funding for the construction of a new schools in and around North Birmingham on safe sites. I am sick and tired of innocent school children, who are compelled by state law to attend public schools, going in and out of buildings that are located on or near the most toxic soil in America. This condition may not bother you, but it makes me angry.


5. The six companies that polluted North Birmingham and Tarrant must offer the adversely affected residents housing relocation assistance, which must include an offer to purchase their homes based upon the median square foot price for an American home of the same size. This assistance must also include the payment of professional moving costs. A payment model of fair market value for these contaminated homes does not work because homes located on heavily polluted property have no market value.


6. The six companies that polluted North Birmingham and Tarrant must establish and fully capitalize a healthcare fund for the residents of North Birmingham and Tarrant that provides free healthcare for life for each man, woman, and child living in the residence, as of January 1, 2013. These residents are suffering from all forms of cancer and a plethora of respiratory illnesses. You must make sure they have first class medical care on par with what the residents of Mountain Brook enjoy.


7. The six companies that polluted North Birmingham and Tarrant must establish and fully fund a social services fund for the residents of North Birmingham and Tarrant that provides a broad range of free social services for life for each man, woman, and child living in the residence, as of January 1, 2013.


8. Many residents of North Birmingham and Tarrant have already died because of their exposure to the air, water, and ground contamination caused by these six industrial polluters. Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr needs to get ready to commence criminal investigations and second-degree murder prosecutions for the needless deaths of the innocent men, women, and children who died from their exposure to these toxins. This is why we elected you.


The City Knew About the Toxic Poisons in 1933


The City of Birmingham has known since 1933 that these six polluters were poisoning the residents of North Birmingham and Tarrant. In May of 1933, City Engineer A.J. Hawkins released a city map that year that ranked city neighborhoods and communities as follows:

1. Best

2. Still Desirable

3. Definitely Declining

4. Hazardous

5. Negro Concentration

6. Commercial and Industrial

7. Undeveloped


North Birmingham is located in the "Negro Concentration" zone. Tarrant is adjacent to North Birmingham. Here is the 1933 zoning map and legend:



Black neighborhoods were ranked less desirable than those areas that were known to be contaminated with hazardous waste. In 1933, black Birmingham residents could do very little to improve the quality of their neighborhoods. The delivery of basic city services to “Negro Concentration” neighborhoods was pretty much an afterthought.


Today, you are in a position to change this tragic paradigm, but you can't do it if you are afraid of these polluters and their political allies.


The residents in North Birmingham and Tarrant want the industrial polluters who poisoned the air, ground, and water in their community to clean it up. They deserve this relief. It's long overdue.


Today, five of the polluters are in an unholy alliance with the Southern Company, Alabama Power Company, and seven other networking partners.


Epilogue

Any public official who lacks the courage to demand the environmental justice relief outlined above needs to resign, now. Public officials in East Palestine, Ohio showed you what environmental justice looks like, how much it costs, and what you must do to get it.


Do your job and secure the environmental justice that the residents of North Birmingham and Tarrant deserve.


Quit wasting your time trying to stop me from writing negative articles about you. I have a cache of corporate documents that the Southern Company, Alabama Power, and Balch & Bingham prepared and kept on you. These documents describe how they compromised, corrupted, and controlled you. These documents are disgusting and embarrassing. I am still in a state of shock by what I read in them.


I expect you to act with dispatch. This is a public health emergency. I expect you to be as aggressive in the pursuit of environmental justice as the public officials in East Palestine were.


I want for the residents of North Birmingham and Tarrant what I want for myself -- a safe, clean neighborhood where they can pursue life, liberty, and happiness.


Above all, I do not want another innocent child in North Birmingham and Tarrant to die because of your weakness, indifference to human life, and/or lack of courage.


Meanwhile, I will continue to write my articles about your neglect of duty and failures as leaders. If you want positive news coverage on my news media platforms, earn it.


Sincerely,


Donald V. Watkins


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