From Birmingham to Spartanburg: Day 1

SPARTNABURG, S.C. (WIAT) – 319 miles separate Birmingham, Alabama from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Contamination, health disparities and the desire for something better has brought those within the two cities together.

On January 23, 2014 40 residents from Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont neighborhoods loaded a bus to Spartanburg. The group makes up the North Birmingham Coalition. With District 4 Representative, Councilman William Parker leading the way, residents are looking to those in Spartanburg for guidance.

Cleanup of contaminated soil at 400 homes in North Birmingham is slated to begin in February. It’s something no one in the area has ever been through, but the people of Spartanburg know what to expect.

In the 1990s several Spartanburg communities were declared Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency.  “Superfund site” is a title revered for places where toxic waste has escaped or is dumped and the Environmental Protection Agency orders those responsible to cleanup.

An old fertilizer plant, textile mill and abandoned landfill wreaked havoc on several communities. At one point, 20 tons of Sulfur was discovered underneath an old acid plant, less than 50 feet from a creek.

Years later, Spartanburg has become a model of success for economic development and housing and health programs following clean-up of widespread contamination.

Efforts to revitalize the city are about 60 percent complete, while things in North Birmingham are just getting started.

Residents now call industry officials they once scorned, allies. In fact, representatives from plants traveled from as far as Canada to attend a work session with residents from Birmingham and Spartanburg Thursday night.

City department heads, staff, EPA officials and representatives from the Jefferson County Department of Health were also in attendance.

“We’re here to learn best practices,” said William Parker. I think learning how to go about revitalization and developing a pathway for moving forward in the next five to ten years is the most important thing to take away,” he adds.

Councilwoman Shelia Tyson has visited Spartanburg before. Tyson it’s time for education and action in North Birmingham.

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