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A Landfill Controversy with Statewide Implications

March 29, 2011

GREENSBORO, N.C. - The possible reopening of a landfill in Greensboro is generating a stink around the state, as groups express concern over its impact on the community and economy. The White Street Landfill in Greensboro was closed to municipal waste five years ago, but now the city may try to reopen the landfill to cut costs. The move challenges a 2007 state law that denies permits for solid waste facilities if they would have a disproportionate effect on African-American communities.

Community activist Goldie Wells is concerned the decision will stunt economic growth.

"We're quite concerned because we are an African-American community. The growth of Greensboro hinges on what happens with White Street Landfill."

Wells says that the eastern part of Greensboro, where the landfill is located, has the most potential for further growth, if the landfill remains closed to city garbage. If the city is able to move forward in spite of the statute, other municipalities around the state could follow suit, according to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. That organization is helping concerned citizens fight the White Street landfill. The city is expected to make a final decision in June.

Staff attorney Chris Brook with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice says this fight reaches far beyond the Greensboro city limits.

"It's a real opportunity legally to protect the communities that have traditionally been where these undesirable facilities end up being sited."

Even if it's found that the state statute doesn't apply to this situation, the community may find protection under Title VI (6) of the Federal Civil Rights Act.


Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC