Day 10: NC Dumping Grounds?

Our road was a river today with heavy rain carving more gullies where drainage ditches no longer existent.  My dear friend, Vicki Wesen, had arrived in Raleigh from her home state of Washington state to attend the funeral of her former boss, Bishop Robert Johnson of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. As we drove down the road, the water flowing on it, Vicki remarked how some things never change.

Vicki became my close friend while serving as a minister at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Warrenton while my children, Uri and Kyra, were growing up.  I was very involved with the church at this time in my life as a church educator and several times as a delegate to the annual Diocesan convention where I called on members of the convention to live up to their pledges as stewards of the environment and advocates of justice to pass resolutions asking Governor Jim Hunt to secure funding to detoxify the PCB landfill in Warren County.  At three separate conventions, I was able to convince all five-hundred delegates to pass the resolution.

My efforts to convince Episcopalians to support a cleanup of the PCB landfill were part of an ecumenical environmental coalition that Ken and I had formed in an effort to help churches to embrace environmental justice and pollution and prevention efforts as part of their churches’ environmental stewardship and justice issues.

At the time, which was during the 1990’s, North Carolina was targeted for nearly a dozen mega, commercial trash landfills that were to have imported volumes of out-of-state waste.  The federal government was instituting new, Sub-D regulations to govern solid waste landfills across the nation. Old landfills were being closed, and counties and municipalities were being coerced into joining commercial trash landfill plans that were described as regional yet would have been opened for interstate dumping.

We had help stop one such proposed mega trash landfill to have been located in the Lickskillet community of Warren County near the PCB landfill.  Ken and I and others such as Cliff Jackson, Jean Strickland, and Susan and Steve Bender, who owned a flower farm adjacent to the proposed landfill, had conducted a two-year education campaign informing citizens of the dangers of the landfill.  Under enormous public pressure from citizens, Warren County commissioners withdrew as “host” to the mega landfill, which I’ll talk about more in tomorrow’s blog.  Ken and I then began to speak out against mega, commercial landfills that were targeted  for a number of communities in the region and in North Carolina. Thus, we began nearly another decade of deliberate living as environmental educators and activists.