Warrenton, N.C. — For years, a rural community in Warren County lived with cancer causing chemicals in their backyard. Saturday, they held a 30 year anniversary celebration to remember the protests and the birth of an environmental justice movement triggered by the past as they try to build a better future.
The history of the issue dates to 1978, when a manufacturer of electrical transformers illegally dumped polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, that were used in coolant along the sides of 240 miles of North Carolina highways. In the early 80's, the state needed a place to dump around 60 thousand tons of soil contaminated with PCB's. The chosen site was a new landfill in Warren County.
One particular rural road in Warren County is worn with years of foot traffic and controversy because of it. Marches and protests overtook the road. Arrests and injustices ensued.
Wayne Moseley was arrested twice. Dollie Burwell five times.
“This was morally wrong,” Moseley said.
“Without going to jail, we would not have created a movement,” Burwell said. “Out of that movement we built a coalition that eventually led to detoxifying and cleaning up the dump.”
The landfill is now surrounded by a locked chain link fence but a historical marker will soon be erected two miles from the landfill to remember the troubled days.
Saturday’s commemorative march stopped for a prayer on the edge of the landfill property -- prayer for reconciliation and awareness. Healing the pastor said begins with forgiveness.
“It's important for us to relive it,” said Almena Mayes who marched 30 years ago at the age of 16. “It's important for us to remember it. It's important for our kids to know about it.”