‘Garbage juice’ bill ‘illogical and unethical’

From the NC Environmental Justice Network Staff:

Regarding “NC poised to test what critics call a ‘snowblower blowing garbage juice’ ” (Aug. 12): We at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) would like to applaud Gov. Roy Cooper on his veto of HB 576. Little is known of the potential effects of spraying leachate, or “garbage juice,” into the air. We do know, however, that leachate contains harmful bacteria, viruses and toxins that are calamitous to human populations. This is an illogical bill that would force the Department of Environmental Quality to allow the use of this mechanism at municipal landfills without study, research or permit.

We at NCEJN serve the interests of environmental justice communities in North Carolina, several of whom are located around landfills, toxic waste sites and coal ash dumps. Spraying this potentially harmful material that could drift over nearby homes, businesses, schools and churches is not only nonsensical, it’s totally unethical. We strongly urge our elected officials to require further research before approving of any technology that could be detrimental to public health and the environment. We implore North Carolina senators and representatives to vote against any attempt to override the governor’s veto. This is a dangerous material and our communities ought to come first.

The text of this letter can also be found HERE on The News & Observer website.


Bryce Cracknell: Study ‘garbage juice’ before spraying it

Let’s play a game of “Guess Who?” I am telling you to take a couple of pills that will help with headaches. No, I am not a doctor or a scientist. No, these pills have not been studied or researched. No, I can’t prove that it will help with headaches. No, I don’t know what the side effects may be. Well, do you know who I am?

Yep, the answer is the North Carolina General Assembly. Two weeks ago, our lawmakers passed House Bill 576 that would allow municipal solid waste landfills to spray “garbage juice” or leachate over the landfill without a permit. This process is referred to as “aerosolization” and uses high pressured fans to blast leachate into the air as a way to “treat” the leachate.

There is no state or federal definition for aerosolization. In theory, the water in leachate will evaporate into the air while the harmful components will fall back into the landfill as a liquid. Like the pills in our game, this idea came from someone who is not a scientist, and this “technology” has not been studied.

Leachate is the liquid that seeps through the waste of landfills and is collected. It is currently treated as wastewater, either onsite or at a municipal wastewater treatment plant, as it is known to carry a wide range of toxic materials, bacteria and viruses. Studies have shown that leachate may contain large amounts of volatile perfluoroalkyl sulfonic acids (PFAs), which are linked to cancer, and viruses such as avian influenza, which can survive for several months in landfill leachate.

We know about the really bad stuff found in leachate, but there is a lot we don’t know about aerosolization. For example, we don’t know what actually happens to the liquid particles once they are sprayed into the air. Where do they go?

Some experts estimate that these toxic particles may drift for miles, ultimately landing on nearby homes, schools, churches, businesses, forests, ponds, streams, etc. Furthermore, what role does a humid climate, like our North Carolina summer, play? What role does wind play? If the garbage juice comes into contact with people, will it affect their health and safety? If so, to what extent? Will food start falling from the sky like a page out of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs?” Probably not, but in reality, we have no idea. There are too many knowledge gaps in regards to the effectiveness of this technology and the safety of its use in the proximity of people and the environment.

Fortunately, Governor Roy Cooper thought about the implications of unleashing an unproven technology on the people of North Carolina and vetoed the bill. “Scientists, not the legislature, should decide whether a patented technology can safely dispose of contaminated liquids from landfills” Cooper wrote in his veto statement.

This bill will go back to the legislature in the upcoming August session, where the General Assembly will likely attempt to override the governor’s veto and turn this bill into law. Please protect the governor’s veto and tell your representatives to vote “No.” Demand that the state conduct thorough research and study the effects of this technology on the health and safety of our environment and human health before approving its use.

Bryce Cracknell is a Duke University student interning with the Southern Environmental Law Center, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and at North Carolina Conservation Network as part of the Kenan Pathways of Change Program. The text of this letter can also be found HERE on the Fayetteville Observer website. 

INDYWeek’s Hogwashed Part 3

I saw firsthand in North Carolina how corporate interests are disproportionately placing environmental and public health burdens on low-income communities of color that they would never accept in their own neighborhoods. In North Carolina, large corporate pork producers are mistreating small contract farmers and externalizing their costs onto vulnerable communities, polluting the air, water, and soil, and making kids and families sick while reaping large financial rewards.                                                  -U.S. Senator Cory Booker (NJ-D)


Before the farmer stormed off, Watson says, he told her, “Just remember, I am a damn Democrat, and you must be just a nigger lover.”

“It said, ‘If you don’t back off this hog situation and if you run any more legislation, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You might find yourself in that Cape Fear River floating facedown.”                -former NC State Rep. Cindy Watson (Duplin, R)

Part 3 discusses ways to make the multibillion-dollar hog industry more sustainable, both for the environment and the state’s rural population, and the political and financial reasons those steps have not been taken.  Read the full story HERE.

INDYWeek’s Hogwashed, Part 2

Over Duplin County…there are at least fifty (hog farms) in a ten-mile radius. Each farm has a minimum of two thousand pigs, most far more. So a lowball estimate would mean one hundred thousand pigs in ten miles. Ten thousand pigs a mile. A 180-pound pig can produce eleven pounds of waste a day. That’s 110,000 pounds of waste per mile per day.

Part 2 looks at the environmental impacts hog farming has had over the last two decades, particularly on waterways such as the Neuse River.  Read the full story HERE.

From IndyWeek-> Hogwashed: An Investigation into NC’s hog industry

When the final chapter is written on these cases (nuisance lawsuits against the hog industry), we’ll see the people being represented are being prostituted for money.       -NC State Rep. Jimmy Dixon (Duplin, R)

“Deep financial ties exist between the bill’s (HB467) backers and the hog industry. Cumulatively, House Republicans who supported HB467 have received more than $272,000 in campaign contributions from the industry throughout their careers…Dixon has received $115,000, including $36,250 from individuals associated with Murphy-Brown and $9,500 from the Pork Council.

This is environmental racism. This is my family land. And I’m sure race played a part when they decided they wanted to develop this area. We’ve been asked many times, ‘Why don’t you just move?’ Move and go where?  I don’t want to move. I never knew my grandfather, but I know he walked on this ground. And his family. It’s my land.  -Elsie Herring, NCEJN Board of Directors Member

Read the complete 1st part of the investigation HERE on IndyWeek.

NC State Legislature’s HB467 = Unhealthy Communities

We decry the NC State Legislature’s override of Governor Cooper’s decision to veto HB 467, which eliminates compensation for our partner communities beyond the fair market value or fair rental value of their homes in nuisance lawsuits against Big-Ag–even in existing lawsuits. 

Concentrated hog operations are not “farms”, as state Representative Jimmy Dixon would have the public to believe. They are multi-acre industries which house thousands of hogs with limited mobility, pump them with antibiotics, and channel their untreated waste into large open ponds. That waste is sprayed onto nearby fields, causing runoff into waterways, and contamination of nearby homes.

In Duplin County, for example, residents report their inability to do basic household activities like hanging laundry, tending gardens, opening windows, or hosting barbecues due to the threat of exposure to hog feces from the spray fields. Their water is contaminated.  Their health is deteriorated via respiratory ailments and infections. Their families are harassed and threatened by local facility operators. 

Rep. Dixon, who has received over $115K in campaign donations from the pork industry, is the perpetrator of “outright lies” about industrial hog operations.

We do agree with Rep. Dixon that our state needs to protect farmers. But most of the real farmers lost their small scale hog farms to industrial hog operations years ago. Some of the real farmers are on the plaintiffs’ side of these nuisance lawsuits.

The hog industry consistently demonstrates an unwillingness to protect them and other neighboring communities.

North Carolina’s future depends on healthy residents and a healthy environment, which requires equity in regulation and industry practices, as well as equity in the adjudication of private grievances against big industries. We will hold accountable any industry or agency that violates those mandates. We expect our laws to do so, too. 

-Don Cavellini, Chairman of the Board, NC Environmental Justice Network                                                                                        Co-Chair, Coalition Against Racism



Cooper Vetoes HB 467!; Fecal Bateria Proof Found on Homes


The agriculture and forestry industries are vital to our economy and we should encourage them to thrive.

But nuisance laws can be used to protect property rights and make changes for good. We used nuisance laws to force the Tennessee Valley Authority to stop air pollution from flowing into North Carolina and we won damages to improve air quality.

Special protection for one industry opens the door to weakening our nuisance laws in other areas which can allow real harm to homeowners, the environment and everyday North Carolinians.

Therefore, I veto the bill.”

-Roy Cooper, Governor of the State of North Carolina

HB 467 is a bill that shields polluters and deprives their victims of legal rights. It would change nuisance laws that have been in existence for hundreds of years, and those changes would primarily harm residents in low-income areas and communities of color in NC. HB 467 limits the amount of recoverable compensatory damages to the value of your property should you file a nuisance lawsuit, a property value already reduced from proximity to a hog farm.

“HB467 was like salt being thrown into the wounds of families who have been suffering from the smells and other nuisances coming from industrial hog operations in eastern North Carolina. We’re pleased to see the governor standing up for communities of color, who are particularly affected by this.”

-Naeema Muhammad, NCEJN Organizing Co-Director

Read more details about Cooper’s HB467 Veto and a new court document about evidence of hog fecal bacteria found on neighboring properties HERE!


All victories for the people are made possible by the people! NCEJN and its allies appreciate your support!

NC Environmental Justice Network is a premier grassroots network of communities promoting health and environmental equity, clean industry, safe work places, and fair access to all resources through organizing, advocacy, research and education based on principles of economic and political equity!   You can support us by clicking the DONATE button on this site! Your support is a VICTORY for PEOPLE POWER and JUSTICE!

VIDEO: NC Residents Fight Back Against Hog Pollution

In case you missed it or would like to see it again, HERE is the Democracy Now! interview with Naeema Muhammad, NCEJN Organizing Co-Director and Will Hendrick of Waterkeeper Alliance, discussing HB 467, a bill that shields polluters and deprives their victims of legal rights! HB 467 would change nuisance laws that have been in existence for hundreds of years, and those changes would primarily harm residents in low-income areas and communities of color in NC!


NC Environmental Justice Network is a premier grassroots network of communities promoting health and environmental equity, clean industry, safe work places, and fair access to all resources through organizing, advocacy, research and education based on principles of economic and political equity!   You can support us by clicking the DONATE button on this site! Your support is a VICTORY for PEOPLE POWER and JUSTICE

Naeema Muhammad on Democracy Now, Wednesday May 3!!!

Naeema Muhammad, NCEJN’s Organizing Co-Director, will appear LIVE on Democracy Now!, an independent news service on Wednesday, May 3 with Elizabeth Haddix (UNC Center for Civil Rights) and Will Hendrick (Waterkeeper Alliance), discussing HB467, a bill that shields polluters and deprives their victims of legal rights! HB 467 would change nuisance laws that have been in existence for hundreds of years, and those changes would primarily harm residents in low-income areas and communities of color in NC! Click HERE from 8-9 AM to see/hear the livestream of the interview!


NCEJN is a premier grassroots network of communities promoting health and environmental equity, clean industry, safe work places, and fair access to all resources through organizing, advocacy, research and education based on principles of economic and political equity!   You can support us by clicking the DONATE button on this site! Your support is a VICTORY for PEOPLE POWER and JUSTICE!


Pushing to Spray Landfill Leachate

In Raleigh, NC, there’s a proposal in the NC House to force state environmental regulators to allow the waste industry and other industry that deals with huge amounts of wastewater to spray it in the air without having any permit. Its called aerosolization and it has not been scientifically proven to be safe.  The bill, House Bill 576, is sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin.  Click HERE to read more about the latest on this story.

Partnerships With Power: West Badin

At NC Environmental Justice Network, we like to amplify the voices of impacted communities in the interests of One Love, human rights, environmental justice and equal and equitable access to human and natural resources.

Click HERE to see a video on how Pavithra Vasudevan, a UNC Ph.D student in geography, worked with Naeema Muhammad, NCEJN Organizing Co-Director, on the collaborative research project “Race and Waste in an Aluminum Town.”


Join us for the next NCEJN Quarterly Meeting Saturday, April 29th!

ncej logoWe’re having our first quarterly meeting of 2017! Quarterly meetings are intended to bring our network of community advocates, researchers, activists, and students together in impacted communities to discuss pertinent environmental issues and strategies affecting those communities and our larger network. 

Our April meeting will be in Roseboro, NC, in Sampson County, which is impacted by the hog industry, the poultry industry, and the pending Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Our host is the Snow Hill Concerned Citizens of Sampson County.

Thanks to our board member, Mr. Ellis Tatum, for coordinating the meeting! 

Topics of discussion will include gas and oil pipelines, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and the impacts of toxic industry on property values.

If you have other topics for consideration, please provide them on the RSVP form below.

We will serve a continental breakfast from 9:30am-10am, followed by the meeting, which will run from 10am-2pm. 

Please use this link to RSVP and suggest topics.

We look forward to seeing you there!


NCEJN Board & Staff

Naeema Muhammad, Organizing Co-Director

Ayo Wilson, Administrative Co-Director

Don Cavellini             Danielle Spurlock                  Peter Gilbert

Elsie Herring              Danielle Purifoy                    Ellis Tatum

Chandra Taylor         Nicholas Woodard                 Courtney Woods

Legislature Proposes Protecting Polluters over People

Two bills recently introduced in the North Carolina House and Senate threaten to strip property rights from victims of nuisance conditions caused by agricultural or forestry operations. Under current North Carolina law, victims of nuisance can recover monetary “damages” for an unreasonable interference with their use and enjoyment of their property. The amount of compensatory damages is determined by the jury and is supposed to compensate the plaintiff for the harm caused by the nuisance. But these bills would prevent recovery for harm other than impacts on property values.

That means someone who suffered health impacts from living in nuisance conditions for years would have their suffering reduced to a real estate valuation. One resident whose neighbor made her feel like a prisoner in her own home would have her recovery limited to the market value of her “prison”.

The timing of these legislative actions suggest they are not, as proponents suggest, an attempt to protect farmers, but instead an attempt to protect polluters. Currently, approximately 500 North Carolinians, most of whom are African-American, are suing a multinational corporation for nuisance conditions caused by their industrial hog operations. Those lawsuits do not blame farmers for the harm; they allege liability on the part of a business entity that last year raked in a record $1.7B in profit. But the bills would limit recovery in these pending cases, raising concerns about their constitutionality. This begs the question: who are our representatives trying to protect?

Legislators protecting this corporation are failing to protect vulnerable North Carolinians. After all, many of these nuisance-causing operations are located in communities of color. For instance, a recent study concluded “proportions of Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians living within 3 miles of an industrial hog operation are 1.54, 1.39 and 2.18 times higher, respectively, than the proportion of non-Hispanic Whites.” Even worse, this bill would exacerbate already disproportionate impacts by incentivizing location of nuisance causing operations in areas with already suppressed property values. All told, these bills would prevent citizens from recovering damages for existing racially disparate harm and likely cause even more racially disparate impacts.

NCEJN will continue to advocate against this bill and for the protection of North Carolinian’s legal rights to make polluters pay for the harm they cause to quality of life. We encourage you to join that fight and call your legislators to express opposition to H467 and S460 today.

Changing Climate/Changing Work: Women Leaders on Economic Empowerment & the Human Right to Water

On World Water Day – March 22, 2017 – the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) is bringing together an incredible group of Indigenous and women of Color leaders based in the US, US-occupied territories, and Tunisia for an official side event at the 61st United Nations Commission the Status of Women (CSW).  Panelists will discuss the climate crisis, economic empowerment, and the human right to water from the perspective of Southern, Black, Indigenous, and Global South communities.

Moderator: Rosalee  Gonzalez, Co-Coordinator of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas, North Region; and USHRN Board of Directors


  • Colette Pichon Battle, Executive Director of US Human Rights Network
  • Ife Kilimanjaro, Senior Director of Network Engagement, US Climate Action Network


  • Naeema Muhammad, Organizing Co-Director of NC Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN)
  • Catherine Coleman Flowers, Director for the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE)
  • Chief Caleen Sisk, Spiritual Leader and Tribal Chief of the Winnenem Wintu Tribe
  • Sarah Toumi, Founder of Acacias for All

March 22, 2017, 10:30 AM – Noon, UN Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza #8G, 2nd Floor Conference Room, New York, NY 10017

For more information, to register online or watch the livestream: Click Here!




In Conditions of Fresh Water: An Artistic Exploration of Environmental Racism

inconditons-posterWith their project and resulting exhibition—In Conditions of Fresh Water—artist Torkwase Dyson and attorney/environmental scientist Danielle Purifoy explore environmental racism based on their collaborative documentary research with citizens in two North Carolina and Alabama counties.
Black towns and communities in Alamance (NC) and Lowndes (AL) Counties date back to the post-Civil War era, when free blacks across the South and beyond established places of their own to distance themselves from white terrorism and to build their own economic, social, and political institutions.
The land on which they settled was often undesirable to white property interests. Many of these communities still lack access to viable wastewater infrastructure, threatening residents’ health, local water quality, and capacity for future economic development.
Grassroots activists in both counties continue fighting to attain these basic services in the 21st century.
During the summer of 2016, Dyson and Purifoy worked and traveled in Studio South Zero, a mobile solar-powered artist workspace built by Dyson with recycled materials, conducting interviews and documenting these historic black communities. The exhibition features selections of the resulting art—photographs, drawings, paintings, and writing—that was inspired by these places and their people, histories, power struggles, and victories.
Opening event: Thursday, March 2: 6 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. panel with Torkwase Dyson, Danielle Purifoy, Omega and Brenda Wilson (West End Revitalization Association, Alamance County), and Catherine Coleman Flowers (Lowndes County)

For more about the project:



Dyson and Purifoy’s community partners for In Conditions of Fresh Water: the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise and the West End Revitalization Association. Duke University sponsors and supporters: Center for Documentary Studies, Council for the Arts, Nicholas School of the Environment, Department of African and African American Studies, Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, and the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. 

See Race and Waste in an Aluminum Town at UNC! Feb. 24, 25, 26

UNC Dept. of Communication’s Swain Studio Six Performance Series presents Race and Waste in an Aluminum Town, a play in development dramatizing oral histories of African American industrial workers and residents of West Badin, a company town in North Carolina.
Featuring subtly evocative performances by LeDawna Akins, Dorothy Clark, Rhetta Greene, John Harris, Carly Jones, Trevor Johnson, Thomasi McDonald, and John Murphy. Directed by Joseph Megel (founding Artistic Director, UNC Process Series and StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance), set design by Rob Hamilton and media design by Joseph Amodei.
Based on interviews and ethnographic research conducted by Pavithra Vasudevan (PhD Candidate, UNC Dept. of Geography) in collaboration with Naeema Muhammad (NCEJN Organizing Co-Director).
Feb. 24 at 8PM, Feb. 25 at 8PM, Feb. 26 at 2PM
$5 students/employees, $10 general
For tickets and info: (919) 843-5666


19th Annual EJ Summit Announcement

The NCEJN Planning Committee announces the theme for the 19th Annual EJ Summit: Building People’s Power Against State Violence! The committee envisions Summit sessions that consider the intersections of state violence (e.g., police, military, government policies) and environmental injustice, with a special focus on impacts on women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, youth (e.g., school to prison pipeline), and people of color.  We will circulate a call for proposals shortly.  In the meantime, if you have questions or suggestions, please send an email to: ncejsummit@gmail.com.

link in the chain

I am a link in the chain, and the link in the chain will not break here!

We’re Hiring!

Job Announcement: NCEJN Organizing Project Manager

The North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) is a coalition of community organizations and their supporters who work with low income communities and people of color to promote health and environmental equity, clean industry, safe work places, and fair access to all human and natural resources. We seek to accomplish these goals through organizing, advocacy, research and education based on principles of economic and political equity.

The position of Organizing Project Manager will involve supporting NCEJN’s efforts to connect and organize communities impacted by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), as well as organizing around issues of energy and climate justice, landfills, basic amenities, and other areas of intersectionality. The Organizing Project Manager will report to and support the Organizing Co-Director in our current organizing efforts and collaborate to increase outreach to other communities across the state impacted by environmental injustice. The responsibilities are as follows:

  • Actively develops new relationships and nurtures existing relationships with communities of color and modest wealth communities impacted by issues of climate justice, energy injustice and efficiency, landfills, access to basic amenities and other issues of environmental justice through calls, letter writing, statewide travel for meetings and working to connect communities with resources
  • Assists the Organizing Co-Director in conducting weekly conference calls with CAFO Organizers to track progress and provide support; assists the Organizing Co-Director in scheduling meetings in communities impacted by issues of environmental justice
  • Assists the Organizing Co-Director in conducting site visits and evaluations of CAFO Organizers in the field
  • Works with impacted communities and partner communities to site, develop and coordinate NCEJN Quarterly Meetings
  • Responds to educational, faith-based and governmental requests to speak on issues and activities of NCEJN
  • Develops educational materials for communities and university/student groups interested in understanding issues of environmental justice and options for avenues of involvement
  • Assists the Administrative Co-Director in representation of NCEJN at meetings with various stakeholders, particularly traditional environmental groups
  • Consults on planning, development and organization of Annual EJ Summit

The following skills are important for this position:

  • Experience in community organizing
  • Experience in meeting facilitation
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Good teamwork skills and interpersonal effectiveness

This position requires considerable travel across the state, so a valid driver’s license and access to a registered vehicle are needed. This position is currently funded for two years.

To be considered for the position, please submit a cover letter, CV, and the names of 3 references. Materials should be emailed to Ayo Wilson at ncejnetwork@gmail.com by February 28, 2017.

UPDATE: Title VI – CAFO complaint

NCEJN, REACH, and Waterkeeper Alliance recently published a press release regarding the EPA’s letter to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

You can read Waterkeeper Alliance’s post, “EPA Expresses ‘Deep Concern’ Over Discriminatory Impacts of Industrial Hog Operations in North Carolina”, here.

Also, you can read the letter sent to DEQ here.

NCEJN and Allies Respond to Latest Attack by Hog Industry


Bullies don’t like it when you fight back. For decades, the multi-national corporations that control the hog industry in Eastern North Carolina have bullied people who live near hog facilities. Elsie Herring has been standing up to the industry since the mid-1990s, and she’s gotten a lot of attention. Now, the industry is hiding behind a public relations front group, NC Farm Families, in an effort to discredit Ms. Herring and unfairly minimize the suffering that comes with living next-door to an industrial hog facility.

Ms. Herring lives in Wallace, NC—in Duplin County, which hosts more than 2 million hogs– on land that has been in her family for over 100 years. A few decades ago, industrial hog facilities began to appear in Ms. Herring’s community—just as they did in many communities of color across eastern NC. As illustrated by this 2016 photo, showing the sprayfield near the corner of River Road and Beulah Herring Lane, Elsie’s home is now surrounded by these facilities, and her health and quality of life have suffered as a result. As Ms. Herring recently stated in the News & Observer, “My family, neighbors, and I have been held prisoner in our own homes by the unbearable stench from the multiple industrial hog operations within a quarter mile of my community.” Ms. Herring no longer dries her clothes on a clothesline, for fear that they would be covered by hog manure sprayed by the facility next-door. She doesn’t garden or entertain outdoors, and no longer uses her well or fishes or swims in nearby streams. Yet, in a gross dismissal of her suffering, NC Farm Families inaccurately claimed that Ms. Herring’s problems were resolved 18 years ago.

The industry claimed to have ended the problems its pollution causes by planting some trees. There’s some dispute about the distance between Elsie’s home and the nearest field where hog manure is being sprayed; however, this 2016 video footage [Video of Spraying] of the sprayfield closest to Elsie’s home (which NC Farm Families ignores in their recent attack, identifying only the sprayfields near River Road), makes clear that waste is still being sprayed very close to her house.

Even if we take industry spokespersons at their word, they’re distributing liquid waste within 200 feet of Ms. Herring’s property. These trees cannot—and do not—prevent wind from blowing manure onto Ms. Herring’s home and discouraging her from using her own property. Nor can they eliminate the noxious odor that permeates the air. Nor can they cure the groundwater pollution that prevents her from using her well. In short, planting trees was an inadequate measure taken long ago to address problems that persist today. Ms. Herring continues to suffer the effects of the hog facilities next-door, and she continues to speak out about the pollution from these operations—a burden that disproportionately harms African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.

By attacking Ms. Herring, the industry seeks to draw focus away from the system of environmental racism that it perpetuates. But Ms. Herring’s experience is, sadly, not unique. Instead, it is representative of the plight of countless North Carolinians who live near industrial hog facilities. Because of that reality, Ms. Herring has worked for years as an NCEJN community organizer to support those whose stories mirror her own. She is not alone in her suffering, and she is not alone in her advocacy.

The industry attack is also meant to discredit the Waterkeeper Alliance, which, along with NCEJN, seeks to raise up the voices of those harmed by pollution from industrial hog facilities. But this misleading attack serves only to emphasize the importance of standing united against the deceptive industrial hog industry. As Ms. Herring wrote in her op-ed, “I support family farmers, but the multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporation that owns 80 percent of the pigs in North Carolina is putting my family at risk.” Along with brave advocates like Ms. Herring, NCEJN and Waterkeeper Alliance will continue to work with our partners to promote health and environmental quality for all people of North Carolina. [ http://blogs.law.unc.edu/civilrights/category/environmental-justice/] The polluting practices of the industrial hog industry demand a response, and we’re fighting back.

UPDATE: Environmental Groups Challenge NCDEQ For Failing To Respond to Citizen Complaints

Environmental Groups Challenge NCDEQ For Failing To Respond to Citizen Complaints

[Please find the original post on Waterkeeper Alliance’s website here.]

RALEIGH, NC – Yesterday, Waterkeeper AllianceCape Fear River Watch and the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) joined together to challenge the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) for a failure to respond to citizen complaints. The petition, filed by the UNC Center for Civil Rights on the groups’ behalf in the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings, alleges NCDEQ failed to respond as required to credible evidence of illegal activity by operators of industrial hog production facilities.

Each year, over 2,000 concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) with capacity to house more than 9 million hogs in North Carolina generate billions of gallons of waste that is laden with nutrients, bacteria, and pathogens. This waste is stored in unlined cesspools which NCDEQ and the industry call “lagoons,” and sprayed onto adjacent fields. The vast majority of swine CAFOs in North Carolina are concentrated in the state’s coastal plain, where sandy soils, frequency of precipitation, and the shallow depth of the water table make land application of waste particularly threatening to water quality and public health.

State permits governing swine CAFOs prohibit land application when the risk of runoff or discharge is heightened, including more than 4 hours after the issuance of a flood watch by the National Weather Service (NWS).

“In advance of both Tropical Storm Hermine and Hurricane Matthew, we captured time-stamped and geo-located images of operators spraying waste more than 4 hours after a flood watch was issued and we reported those violations in complaints to NCDEQ,” said Will Hendrick, with Waterkeeper Alliance. “Additional complaints and evidence were reported verbally to the agency, but it appears those complaints were ignored.”

“NCDEQ has let the people of North Carolina down by failing to act upon credible citizen complaints of illegal activities,” said Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper. “Instead the agency has given industrial animal operations a free pass to break the law and pollute public waterways. This kind of negligence endangers North Carolinians and makes a mockery of environmental regulation in our state.”

The failure to investigate is particularly egregious because illegal pollution from swine CAFOs in Eastern North Carolina disproportionately impacts communities of color. Research shows that the percentages of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans living within three miles of these swine CAFOs are 1.50, 1.41 and 2.22 times higher, respectively, than that of non-Hispanic whites.

“African American, Latino, and Native American communities disproportionately bear the burden of living near industrial hog operations in Eastern North Carolina. NCDEQ has ignored our continued requests for adequate regulation and monitoring of this industry for years. Their continued failure to investigate complaints filed by members of NCEJN and other impacted community members adds insult to injury for people living with the stench and water contamination caused by swine CAFOs,” said NCEJN co-director, Naeema Muhammad.

NCDEQ must stop prioritizing polluters over people. The agency must follow and enforce the law by investigating credible complaints and issuing a “Notice of Violation” where credible evidence shows a violation of the law.

About Waterkeeper Alliance
Waterkeeper Alliance unites more than 300 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates around the world, focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. The Waterkeeper movement patrols and protects more than 2.4 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines on 6 continents. For more information please visit: www.waterkeeper.org.

About Cape Fear River Watch
Cape Fear River Watch was founded in 1993 and began as a nonprofit organization, open to everyone, dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the health, beauty, cleanliness, and heritage of the Cape Fear River Basin. CFRW’s mission is to “protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River Basin through education, advocacy and action.” CFRW supports the work of the Cape Fear Riverkeeper and is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance. www.capefearriverwatch.org

About North Carolina Environmental Justice Network
NCEJN’s mission is to promote health and environmental equality for all people of North Carolina through community action for clean industry, safe work places and fair access to all human and natural resources. NCEJN seeks to accomplish these goals through organizing, advocacy, research, and education based on principles of economic equity and democracy for all people. www.ncejn.org

NCEJN Spotlights CAFO Organizer

During the summer of 2014 the EJ Network recruited a team of dedicated individuals to organize in their communities and inform their neighbors of the environmental and health concerns resulting from exposure to the gases, liquid and solid wastes produced within hog and poultry CAFOs. We are proud of the work our organizers are doing for their communities and our state. Therefore, the EJ Network decided to dedicate a series of blog posts to them and their work. The first of our organizers to be recognized is Anthony “Tony” Hicks of Rocky Point, North Carolina. See the transcript of our interview with Tony below.


1. How/why did you get into CAFO and/or EJ organizing?

“Through Naeema [Muhammad]. She had contacted someone from my church, and when I found out about what the cause was, I was like ‘wow,’ this is a really good cause!”

2. What work do you do as CAFO organizer?

I go in my community and in Pender County. I introduce myself to people, and I let them know that I’m with the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. And I ask them how they feel about the CAFOs in the area… the smell [and] the soot.

3. Tell us about the CAFO campaign. What are the main goals? What do you hope will come out of this work?

What I hope to get out of this, and my main goal is, to reach as many people as possible that are being affected by these CAFOs. And to assure them that Reverend Dr. Anthony Hicks wants them to know that they are not alone. Cause a lot of people, and I was shocked, a lot of people did not know that something is being done. [There are] seven (7) CAFOs in a three mile radius, and four (4) big poultry houses. And you ride by these things, oh my God, and the make you want to regurgitate.

4. What communities are you presently working with and what are the issues they’re facing?

No. I want to eventually. I’m new to it [CAFO organizing]. I’ve only been at it 4½ months. And I do see a big need for it.

5. What do you see as the most pressing EJ issues in NC/the South/the U.S. today? What do you think are the major challenges for EJ organizing?

Basically, making people aware. We need to be aware cause the smell, the fumes, the sut, or whatever it is, I believe it’s hazardous to our health. I’m finding out that [when] I’m tearing in my eyes, I thought it was allergies, I’m learning it’s from something else.

6. What have you learned from your work?

I’ve learned that somebody is doing something and there is help available. I also didn’t know it was a violation of civil rights. And I didn’t know that they [the CAFOs owners] were targeting low-income and African American communities.

7. What has been most rewarding about doing this work?

I don’t know how you’ll word it, but seeing people (sigh)[have] relief. Seeing people with an expression of relief. Seeing the expression of “Oh Lord, help is on the way”! I don’t do it for the money. I do it for the cause. I’m fighting for this thing.

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Environmental and Health Justice Moral Monday

Join members of the NCEJN and others interested in a healthy and safe environmental for all at today’s  Environmental and Health Justice Moral Monday on Halifax Mall!


Administrative Co-Director at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network

NCEJN aims to build its power and reach as a statewide resource, and seeks an Administrative Co-Director to implement program expansion and fundraising.

Position Description

The Administrative Co-Director will bring his or her vision to the organization and help NCEJN to strengthen North Carolina’s environmental justice movement.

Serving as NCEJN’s external ‘face’ and internal guide and coach to interns and future staff, the Administrative Co-Director will manage interns, support organizers, consult with the bookkeeper and will report to a volunteer board of directors.

In addition to ensuring the implementation of operations and programming, the Administrative Co-Director will be heavily involved in planning the NCEJ Summit, supervising volunteers for the summit and organizing evaluation of the Summit in collaboration with the NCEJN Organizing Co-Director.

The Administrative Co- Director is responsible for:

Promoting Environmental Health and Justice in North Carolina: This should be a driving passion for the Administrative Co-Director, among whose top goals should be achieving justice for the people of North Carolina.

This is a part-time position, with opportunity to expand to full-time based on performance and fundraising.  NCEJN is an equal-opportunity employer.

The hourly rate for this position is between $20 and $30 per hour depending on experience, through at least the end of 2014.

Application Deadline:          Friday June 20th, 2014   Extended to July 15, 2014

Please contact the chair of the board of the Network with your cover letter, resume and two references at  ncejnetwork@gmail.com.


NCEJN is a statewide, grassroots led nonprofit organization. Our central goal is to promote health and environmental equality for all people of North Carolina through community action for clean industry, safe work places and fair access to all human and natural resources.  We seek to accomplish these goals through organizing, advocacy, research, and education based on principles of economic equity and democracy for all people. We focus on the communities who are most impacted by environmental injustice, including people from low-income communities and communities of color.  We use community based participatory research, organize communities, engage media, educate elected and appointed government officials, and advocate statewide for practical solutions to achieve environmental justice. In order to be successful, every campaign at NCEJN depends on organizing with the people most affected by environmental injustices.

NCEJN Collaborators Create Publication

Two talented graduate students have been working with NCEJN to expand our statewide outreach. They are taking what they learn from communities and from NCEJN planning committee member Dr. Steve Wing, to tie communities’ experiences with injustice to their academic pursuits. The students, Willie Wright and Pavithra Vasudevan helped produce a publication, The Whirlwind. It contains essays, maps, and poems that explore the connection between race and geography in the United States. One piece in particular challenges those of us working towards environmental justice to think critically about racially motivated violence, the connection to environmental racism, and how it impacts people and environments alike.

Download a copy  here: Whirlwind, Vol1, Issue1

Evaluation of the 2013 NCEJN Summit

The surveys are in and we received very positive feedback on the 2013 EJ Summit!


Overall, Summit attendees represented 23 environmental and social advocacy groups, 14 citizen and community groups, 9 colleges and universities (4 out-of-state, 5 in-state),  5 law groups, 2 federal agencies, 1 state agency, and 1 religious group.  A majority of respondents surveyed reported that the sessions increased their understanding of EJ issues and strengthened community members’ relationships with researchers and with government officials.  A majority of respondents also felt that the role of different population-age groups in the EJ movement is necessary for success. Details of the survey results and participant comments can be found here.


We would like to extend our full appreciation to all those who were involved in attending, planning, organizing materials, volunteering at the event, and all in all making the 2013 Summit a huge success!


Thank you from the staff, board and planning committee of the NCEJN

NCEJN Planning Committee Members Attend Conference

This weekend members of the NCEJN’s planning committee will attend and present their research at the Dimensions of Political Ecology (DOPE) Conference at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. Pavithra Vasudevan and Willie Wright are both doctoral students in the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both have been instrumental in supporting NCEJN in its statewide efforts and we are glad to support them in their work to promote environmental justice here in North Carolina and Kentucky.

Best of luck to you both!

HKonJ People’s Assembly Coalition – Sat., Feb. 8, 2014


NCEJN is still reorganizing and will, consequently, post less here.  In the meantime, we still support other advocates for justice.  This Saturday, February 8th, please attend NC NAACP’s 7th HKonJ (Historic Thousands on Jones St.) in Raleigh.

Click HERE for the Facebook event.

West End Revitalization Association Celebrate 19th Anniversary

The West End Revitalization Association (WERA), a community development corporation founded in 1994 in Mebane in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, celebrated its 19th anniversary on Friday, November 15 with its annual dinner at K&W Cafeteria in Burlington, North Carolina.  WERA was founded by concerned Mebane residents when they received word that the North Carolina Department of Transportation, with the full cooperation Alamance County and Mebane officials, planned to run a highway bypass through the predominantly African American community of West End.  The plan would require the destruction of almost thirty homes and St. Luke Christian Church, which was founded by former slaves.  In an effort to fight the proposed bypass, WERA filed administrative civil rights and environmental justice complaints in 1999 with the U. S. Department of Justice to stop the City of Mebane, Alamance County, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration from proceeding with the destruction of their community for the sake of the bypass without any input from the affected homeowners or plans for their relocation. WERA alleged that these government entities had planned for and were proceeding with the proposed highway bypass in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 12898, signed by President Clinton in 1994 to address environmental justice issues in so-called minority communities.

 At the 19th Annual Dinner on November 15, several dedicated community members dined on a delicious Friday evening meal as they shared memories of years past in the environmental justice struggle and the successes and hardships that they had encountered along the way.  During the dinner, Mr. Omega R. Wilson, WERA’s President & Project Manager, recognized the invaluable contributions of long-standing board members and community residents Ms. Evon Connally, Mr. Donald Tate, Ms. Marilyn Snipes, Ms. Rachel Hester, Ms. Patricia Torain, Mr. Joe Johnson, and Ms. Chartarsha Garner.  There was also some updates regarding the acquisition of property in the community regarding the proposed highway bypass.  Near the conclusion of the celebration dinner, Mr. Omari M. Wilson, an attorney at the Land Loss Prevention Project (LLPP) in downtown Durham, North Carolina, presented Omega Wilson with the Fruit of the Land award which was given in recognition of Mr. Wilson’s collaboration with LLPP in the environmental justice movement.  Omega Wilson had been chosen with three other honorees to receive The Fruit of the Land award as a part of LLPP’s 30th Anniversary Reception on October 11 at the NCCU School of Law.

For more information about WERA, please visit www.wera-nc.org.

Racial Violence as an Environmental Injustice

Family and friends of Renisha McBride are mourning her untimely and unjust death. 54-year-old Theodore Wafer, a resident of the predominately white Dearborn Heights neighborhood where McBride sought assistance after an auto accident, murdered the 19-year-old teenager. Following her accident, which authorities say was alcohol induced, McBride vigorously knocked on the doors of residents seeking assistance. Wafer, thinking McBride to be an imminent threat – one that did not warrant a call to the police – answered her rapacious pleas by shooting her once in the head through a locked screen door. Though McBride had walked to numerous homes in the community, instead of getting assistance, she received death.

For those of us who reside in North Carolina, her murder is eerily familiar, reminiscent of the recent murder-by-cop of Jonathan Ferrell in Charlotte. Ferrell, like McBride, had an auto accident – all alone – late in the evening. Ferrell, like McBride, approached multiple homes and knocked on multiple doors seeking help. In his case, a fearful homeowner called the police to report an attempted burglary.  As two police officers arrived, likely relieved and annoyed, Ferrell approached the duo. Thinking they were facing a burglar, not a person in need of aid, the police officers tased and eventually shot Ferrell 10 times. Initially, the Charlotte Police Department announced the shooting was justified only to change their tune after an independent investigation proved one Officer Randall Kerrick negligent in the shooting. He has since been charged with voluntary manslaughter.

In the aftermath of Renisha McBride’s murder, discussion has turned to the potential for Wafer to invoke Michigan’s ‘Stand You Ground’ law, the controversial statute that supported George Zimmerman’s self-defense plea after he murdered a black youth in Sanford, Florida. Others are concerned with the racial implications of the case (McBride was black and Wafer is white). What has not been questioned, and what environmental justice activists must bring to the fore, is how perceived racial threat of blacks by whites –despite a lack of any cause for alarm – in particular environments (i.e. white suburbs) is a form of environmental racism – especially when it results in injury and death. The combination of an unwarranted threat and feelings of environmental (de)belonging are what some believe provoked Wafer to shoot to kill and a North Carolina homeowner to assume Jonathan Ferrell to be a robber. In both cases, the result was the same, McBride and Ferrell were killed in predominately white, de facto segregated, suburbs – communities were designed to be safe spaces, removed from inner-cities concentrated with ‘dangerous’ people of color.

Whether by cop or by citizens, these incidents continue to happen with saddening consistency. As advocates and activists for environmental justice, we must begin to promote a definition and understanding of environmental racism that includes acts of violence that occur in spaces where black bodies – not polluting industries – are viewed as threats, by white Americans indoctrinated by a system of racial hierarchy steeped in anti-black racism. Relegating environmental racism to the pollution of land, water, and air is too limiting and may serve to isolate us from hazards such as  violence  encountered in communities.

NCEJN extends its deepest sympathies and love to the friends and families of Renisha McBride, Jonathan Ferrell, Trayvon Martin, and the many, many others whose very existence in society has warranted removal – as if waste – by a structure of racism that has anti-blackness as its foundation.

Let us all call for an end to environmental racism and work towards a new frontier of environmental justice!