Environmental Protection Agency tours southern communities deemed at risk due to industrial pollutants

The Environmental Protection Agency took a five-day tour through several states in the south, where the agency alleges many communities face unsafe cancer risks as a result of industrial pollutants. 

EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who has headed the EPA since March, led the trip in November. During the trip, he saw affected communities from Mississippi to Texas, even visiting the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor, or “Cancer Alley”, which stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.

Communities in these areas are near “toxic sites,” which include refineries, landfills and chemical plants, which can lead to health issues including asthma, diabetes and hypertension. Many of the communities, the EPA noted, are largely made up of minorities. In its Toxic Release Inventory report, the EPA reported that 56% of people in these communities were part of minorities.

“I’m able to put faces and names with this term that we call environmental justice,” Regan said. “This is what we are talking about when we talk about ‘fence-line communities’ — those communities who have been disproportionately impacted by pollution and are having to live in these conditions.”

The new $1 trillion infrastructure bill could provide as much in $5 million worth of relief to many of these communities. This could include water and wastewater management, as well as cleanup in these areas. Regan noted that even with this type of relief, not all of these problems would be solved, as there are unethical practices and loose permitting requirements in these areas.




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