Posted on May 1, 2019

Proposed Birmingham Concrete Plant Stirs Environmental Justice, Racism Concerns

Anna Beahm, AL.com, April 30, 2019

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and other leaders are asking Sherman Industries to hold a town hall meeting so concerned residents can ask questions about a concrete mixing plant the company wants in Five Points West.

Woodfin met with community leaders on Tuesday and toured the area proposed as the site of the plant, if air permit is approved.

“They have some legitimate and fair concerns as it regards to an existing company that’s located in the city of Birmingham that would like to relocate to this area,” Woodfin said Tuesday. “I think these residents have a right to be concerned. There has been a lot of environmental injustice and a lot of environmental racism across the city limits of Birmingham since it was founded in 1871. In 2019, that just can’t happen.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Jefferson County Department of Health announced it would hold a public hearing on the air permit application and concrete facility.

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The health department also extended the public comment period for this permit application until June 6. Residents can submit comments by email to [email protected].

The Birmingham City Council also approved a resolution opposing the relocation of the concrete plant to the Five Points West area during Tuesday night’s meeting.

On Monday, residents and community leaders signed and sent letters to the Jefferson County Department of Public Health requesting a public hearing on the air permit, which would allow the plant to operate at 3240 Fayette Ave. That area is already an industrial area, with Alabama Metal Industries Corporation (AMICO) across the street.

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“We do not want to be considered not even a second thought. How do you make a decision that you can redevelop one portion of town on the backs of the most underserved portion of town?” said resident April Myers Washington.

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“I feel like a company like Sherman concrete, you should notify people in a timely manner to show people that you care. We’re trying to make sure we’re taken care of because nobody is going to take care of our community but us,” said Central Park Neighborhood President Vickie Moore.

As a community, Moore said many are concerned about the disease and health risk associated with air pollution such as lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

“You come up with diseases like cancer, lung and throat cancer and you don’t know where it’s coming from until years later. Then when it come years later, you come back to the source. Could it be that the chemicals floating around in our air created this? By that time, it’s a class action suit and everything else going on. You have to be conscious about what’s being released in our air,” she said.

Dora Sims, the president of the Five Points West community, which includes six neighborhoods, said instead of another industry, the site could serve as a sort of park or other entertainment area that’s safe for children to play.

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In a statement emailed to AL.com Tuesday afternoon, Sherman Industries officials said the property on Fayette Avenue was previously used for concrete pipe manufacturing and has been owned by the company since the 1930s. The planned plant on will replace the existing facility on Second Avenue South, which has been in operation since the 1950s.

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Sieg noted the plant is not a cement plant, but a concrete batch plant. Cement is an ingredient of concrete. “A cement plant is much larger and highly complex manufacturing facility that requires significantly more equipment and space to operate,” he said.

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