Gloster, Mississippi is a predominantly (80%) Black community. Biomass company Drax Amite is polluting this community’s air 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. With no relief. My community of Adel, Georgia is facing similar environmental injustices from two proposed wood pellet facilities (and several other polluting industries, unfortunately). So on my first visit, I found myself empathizing with the people of Gloster in a visceral way.
The wood pellet biomass industry clearcuts nearby forests, grinds them up into wood pellets, and then ships them overseas to be burned for energy. The communities near these pellet facilities suffer the health, economic, and climate consequences of this dirty industry.
In Gloster, the negative impact of the wood storage and pellet production was obvious.
The air was thick. Wood dust was visibly floating in the air. The stench of the factory filled the air. It looked like it was snowing wood particles with the sawdust landing on our shirts and cars. It got into my eyes. The stink from the Drax facility burned my nose through the mask I was wearing. In the midst of all this, children were playing outside their homes. Only a chain link fence separated these kids from the Drax pellet plant.
This is not okay. This is poisoning in plain sight.
Drax was fined a record-breaking $2.5 million for air quality violations. This is the largest fine a wood pellet company has ever been slapped with, so you know the violations must be extreme.
Residents talked to me about respiratory problems and about people who’d recently passed away. A resident noted that a long-time employee of Drax had passed away. One resident said,
“We are losing people left and right in Gloster.”
Citizens shared stories of family, friends, and neighbors who were experiencing respiratory issues because of the Drax toxins. I saw that the people were suffering in silence.
The facts are:
- Gloster is exposed to more particulate matter (PM2.5) than 80% of the US population.
- Gloster is in the 80th percentile for cancer risk due to exposure to air toxics.
- Gloster is experiencing more asthma than 80% of the country and more heart disease than 95% of the country.
Why are the people of Gloster under assault by the wood pellet industry?
Gloster is the ideal location for a wood pellet plant because it’s a designated environmental justice community. The wood pellet industry sites at least 50% of its facilities in environmental justice communities. The whole idea is for residents to not have the power, funds, and health to fight back. However, organizers are taking to the streets to get their neighbors involved.
Clean air is a human right and a civil right. What are you willing to do in order to lift up the voices of Gloster residents?