Local News

New Budget Will Provide for Warren Co. Landfill Cleanup

Posted May 3, 1998

— Governor Hunt's newly proposed budget provides money for the state to make good on a 16-year-old promise. Residents in Warren County have complained since 1982 about a toxic waste dump in their backyards, and this budget would provide money to finally clean up the mess.

Underneath an innocuous-looking mound of grass lies 40,000 cubic yards of PCB-laced soil. But for the barriers and warning sounds around it, no one would ever know the danger that lies below the surface.

Many are very happy that Governor Hunt has pledged to finally clean it up, but the bitter fight to get to this point has some saying they won't believe it until they see it.

Massenberg Kearney has lived his entire life in the same place in Warren County. For the past 16 years, that place has bordered on the PCB landfill. Kearney says he gets sick if he drinks a couple of glasses of water.

"If I drink two glasses of this water my stomach will get upset right away," says Kearney.

Kearney says in addition to the water, there are fumes in the air that have damaged his skin. But the most painful thing, the farmer says, is the reason he believes no one has ever delivered on the clean up promise.

"Because we're poor and black," says Kearney. "That's the number one reason."

Kearney and his neighbors put up a fight that made national headlines in the early 1980's. People opposed to the PCB landfill tried the block the hazardous shipments with their bodies. That fight remains a bitter memory for some such as Earl Limer who, despite the governor's new pledge of $15 million for clean up, still doubts whether state government will really help.

"[Governor Hunt] has done part of his part," Limer said. "Let's see what them monkeys up yonder in legislature do."

Kearney says the government owes him more than just cleaning the landfill, but he'd be satisfied just to see that done.

If lawmakers approve Hunt's proposal, a three-year process to clean up the site will begin.

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