Poverty tour stops at contaminated soil site - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Poverty tour stops at contaminated soil site

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Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II led the tour that gathered in Navassa. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II led the tour that gathered in Navassa.

NAVASSA, NC (WECT) - Folks in Navassa and Supply shared their stories about racism they've experienced by big businesses in their communities Saturday.

Members of several organizations traveled around southeastern North Carolina Saturday for the Truth and Hope Tour on Poverty in North Carolina.

Several groups participated in the tour, including the North Carolina NAACP, the North Carolina Justice Center, the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at North Carolina Central University and the AARP of North Carolina.

When the tour stopped in Navassa, rain was coming down hard, and people huddled together under umbrellas to stay dry. "In Africa, when it rains, it is a symbol of blessing. It is a blessed thing today that this truth is being told," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who led the gathering.

But Navassa's Mayor Eulis Willis said even the rain couldn't help the land upon which they stood.

Willis says the soil on the site the group stopped at today and five other sites in town is contaminated from when fertilizer and creosote companies left town years ago. He added that those sites took up 624 acres.

"This is the only one of the other five I could bring you to," Willis said. "There are others that I can't even bring you to."

One of those sites has been designated as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency.

That 300-acre site is where the Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation was located until the 1980s.

 According to the EPA, the plant stored creosote and some of that made its way into wastewater.

"This is tragic," said Barber. "This land could be developed but somebody made the decision to contaminate it and leave the people with the contamination and the sickness."

Since one of the sites has been designated as a Superfund site, the EPA can begin to try to clean the area up.

But Barber said something like this would not have happened in a middle class community.

"It's because it's a poor community, it's a rural community," he said. "It's a community where, normally, the media doesn't come, but our role is to tell this story and put a face on this poverty and perhaps then North Carolina and this nation will do right."

He said he hopes the tour will show injustices and persuade lawmakers and attorneys to stop companies from knowingly contaminating soil and water in poor communities.

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