Environmental Injustice: Black children get new school next to Superfund sites

As usual, Lisa Sorg is right on top of the situation:

What a contrast it would be to the current Aberdeen Elementary and Primary schools. Built in the 1940s, when Aberdeen was formally segregated, the schools are cramped, dilapidated and threadbare. They remind teachers, staff and students – most of whom are from communities of color – of enduring inequality. But this land and this school would be different. Better yet, the property was cheap: $9,000 an acre. It was the first and only offer school district administrators considered.

The land was cheap for a reason. It is sandwiched between two Superfund sites where pesticides were dumped for 50 years. It is located next to an industrial area and within a mile of 10 air pollution sources.

The more infuriating part of this is the fact that everybody involved in this decision knew damn well this plot of land was bad news. You'd be hard-pressed to find so many hazardous sites gathered together so densely anywhere else, and if you'll take a glance at that image above, the school is going just above that big red-orange blurp that signifies groundwater tainted with (among other things) TCE. But when it comes to local politics, once the fix is in, it's damned near impossible to convince people to step back:

As part of a massive overhaul, in 2014 the school district hired the Operations and Research Education Laboratory at NC State University to suggest the best sites for several new schools. OREd, as it’s known, examined demographic and growth trends – not environmental factors. As illustrated by a series of large circles on a map, OREd recommended a site on NC-5, across from the old Pit Links Golf Course. “It was an optimal site location for a new school,” Birath said. “It was smack dab in the middle of the circle.”

Enter BVM Properties, which owns a lot of land in Moore County. BVM stands for Bernice V. Martin, widow of Robert Martin, a renowned eye surgeon in Pinehurst. Both have since died, and the property company is now managed by their son, also named Robert. BVM had been negotiating with a local residential developer, Birath said, “but the developer stepped away for a period of time.” During that hiatus, the broker for the property approached the school district. “We found that it was a very promising site,” Birath said.

The EPA siting guidelines, which are voluntary, are designed to protect students from pollution. The district, though, did not consult them, said Board of Education member Bruce Cunningham. He said he didn’t know about the guidelines until Policy Watch emailed him a copy. Nonetheless, Cunningham said that based on a consultant’s report, “I have complete confidence that our students will be environmentally protected.”

Of course that consultant didn't actually test the ground or water for contamination, but when you don't really care, pesky details like that are not important.

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