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Environmental Debate Over Landfill May Be Near Its End

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AFTON, N.C. — A 20-year battle over environmental racism is almost over. Back in the early 1980s, the state dumped soil laced with cancer-causing PCB's in a Warren County landfill. After all the protests and health concerns, the dirt may finally be put to rest.

The infamous Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) dump is more than just a mound of dirt now. It is a detoxification site with heavy equipment arriving daily. The digging and PCB removal will begin in July.

It all began when a transformer company sprayed PCB-laced oil along 210 miles of North Carolina roads. The state decided Warren County was the best place to store all the dirt. However, two decades later, the site is still a sore spot for some.

"I just felt like Warren County was just a scapegoat, and they had to put it somewhere. It was a political thing, I thought," said Charles Edmonds, who lives near the dumpsite.

Valerie Terry was among those who feared the PCBs would leak out.

"That's what we felt at the time, that we were being dumped on in this county because it was a poor county," she said.

Site manager Bill Gallagher said no trace of PCB escaping was ever found. He said the site was well designed in the early 1980s. Now his job is to dig it up and clean it up.

"We're going to excavate the whole landfill. The contaminated material will be treated and the PCB contaminant taken off the soil basically," he said.

"There's a certain percentage of people who've been pushing it all these years. I think they'll have some closure," Edmonds said.

For others, a 20-year grudge is hard to put to rest.

"Well, it makes us feel better, but at the same time, you still will be kind of skeptical. Will they really get it all?" Terry said.

The cleanup should take a year to complete. Vance-Granville Community College has offered training courses for people who will be part of the detoxification project.


Rick Armstrong, Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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