Environmental Racism?

MPC-Plating 66th Euclid Cleveland, Ohio

Mansfield Frazier

Cleveland has once again landed on a list all residents would prefer not to be on. The United Church of Christ recently released a report entitled “Breath to the People: Sacred Air and Toxic Pollution.” The report lists the 100 top super polluters in populated areas across the U.S. and MPC Plating, a company located at 1859 E. 63rd Street (near the corner of E. 55th and Hough Avenue) was ranked number 72 on the list of the country’s worst polluters.

According to the report, MPC Plating is a “fabricated metals manufacturing facility … releasing 6.4 million tons of toxicity-weighted air pollution in 2018, the majority of which (six million tons) was hexavalent chromium. The plant also reported releasing nickel, trichloroethylene, copper, and nitric acid.

Chromium, nitric acid, and copper were released through both leaks and stacks, while emissions of nickel and trichloroethylene, a carcinogenic solvent, were released through leaks. Over 7,000 people live within a mile of the plant. Ninety-one percent are people of color or Hispanic or Latino, 71 percent are low income, eight percent are children under five, and 14 percent are over age 64. These percentages are all higher than state averages, except for the percentage of people over age 64. The percentages of people of color and low-income individuals are some of the highest in the state.”

In clear, concise, and unambiguous language the report makes the moral case that, across the country, polluters are less likely to be held accountable if the surrounding communities in which it spews its toxins are of color. “There is a moral urgency to the present crisis of toxic air pollution. It is urgency familiar to parents, grandparents, and anyone in the position of protecting and caring for children in their lives. For it is children — with their small, vulnerable, developing bodies — who most suffer from breathing in toxic air pollutants. This report addresses this urgency by detailing the sheer number of children under age five who live near 100 super polluting facilities in our country. These super polluters are responsible for 39 percent of the toxic air emissions reported in 2018. Yet, this report also makes clear that there is a real and viable path of hope. The data shows how certain policies could effectively combat current threats to the health and future of our nation’s children.

“To understand the origins of this report, one must first travel back in time. In 1987, the Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ undertook an unusual step for an activist organization that came out of the civil rights movement. It issued an environmental report. That report became the first report to comprehensively demonstrate environmental racism in the United States in relationship to the dumping of toxic waste. In 2020, the United Church of Christ is again compelled to release a report, but of a somewhat different nature. Since the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency fifty years ago, our nation has not witnessed an assault of this scale on environmental protections by a presidential administration.

“The present administration has sought to roll back 95 protections. To make matters worse, the protections in place are losing their teeth as enforcement drops to levels not seen in decades. The overall picture is one of institutional dismantlement and destruction.”

The report is obviously a clarion call to action. I can predict that a committee comprised of elected and appointed government officials from all levels, plus a contingency of citizens, will form a task force to examine what effect MPC Plating is having on the community and its children. Rest assured I’m going to stay on top of this. The full report can be read at: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/unitedchurchofchrist/pages/24840/attachments/original/1582721312/FINAL_BreathToThePeople_2.26.2020.pdf?1582721312

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