MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Plans are underway to build a boom of tourism in Mobile’s Africatown.
Survivors of the slave ship Clotilda built that settlement and many of their descendants still live there. Those neighbors said environmental racism is affecting their health, quality of life, and must be addressed.
Walter Moorer said he and his Africatown neighbors are suffering under a cloud of noise, fumes and dust.
“I used to get up in the morning and sit on the porch with my coffee. Don’t do it. Because of the dust,” said Moorer.
The house his grandparents built on Chin Street back in 1941 sits Vulcan Materials rock quarry, the shipbuilding site Three Mile Drydock, and the construction company Hosea Weaver and Sons.
Moorer said trucks roar down the easement on Bay Bridge Cutoff Road and kick up dust, making it hard to breathe.
“We’ve been wearing masks before COVID-19. Because of the dust,” he said.
Moorer said he’s complained to the city and the companies about the dust for over 20 years, starting back in 2000. Hosea Weaver and Sons own the easement and claim no one has contacted them.
They said the maintenance of the road is not their responsibility and it’s Vulcan’s job as a tenant to take care of that.
The company said in a statement:
“To our knowledge no one in the community has reached out directly to our company but we welcome the opportunity to meet with the residents to address their concerns. We try at all times to limit excessive noise from our facility. The maintenance of the road is not the responsibility of Weaver, and it is our understanding that the businesses that utilize this road are preparing to pave it. H. O. Weaver operates its Bay Bridge Cut Off Rd. facility under an Alabama Department of Environmental Management Air Permit and must at all times adhere to the guidelines as outlined in the permit. This is inspected by ADEM on a regular occurrence.”
Michael Weaver, Hosea O. Weaver and Sons
Tashundra Fausch believes that not enough is being done about the air quality.
“Get out and come stand out here in this air,” she said.
Faush’s ancestors were aboard the Clotilda and her grandparents built the home on Chin Street where she and her three children used to live until they moved a few months ago.
Faush said she feels helpless about the situation.
“I’ve done everything that a mother could do to try to make a better environment for my children. But if the city is not going to do it now, what else can I do besides move?”
Vulcan said they’ve talked with neighbors and made some changes like installing sprinklers and bringing in a water truck to wet the easement and tamp down the dust.
Vulcan said in a statement:
“The community sits on the edge of an area with several industrial business uses which serve the port of Mobile. Through ongoing dialogue with the neighbors we have made several changes to our operation:
Installation of sprinklers thourghout our yard. We brought in a water trcuk to assist with water sprays on roads and stockpile areas. Upon feedback from the nieghbors, we brought in a larger water truck. We adjusted our hours of operation to start later in the morning. We have begun relocating material to a different area of the yard to reduce noise and have plans to move piles further away from neighbors. We installed speed bumps to reduce the speed of trucks.
The close proximity of some of our neighbors to this operation makes our job a bit more challenging, but we haven’t given up. We will continue to meet with our neighbors and work with other industry members in the area to seek solutions to neighbor concerns. If a neighbor has a question or concern, we ask them to contact us. We want to get this right.”Atisthan Roach, Vulcan Materials Company
Neighbors said they have reached out to the companies, and done a lot more, trying to find relief.
“I sent them a certified letter. Each one of us sent a certified letter to them, to no avail,” said Moorer.
Hakim Yisrayl said the dust has cost him money, too.
“Our people built this place, and they’re tearing it up. Destroying it. For the sake of money,” he said. “The sand and dust has messed up the AC units in my house, so I have a window unit. I also messed up my unit in the vehicle, in my hummer but it’s also turning my paint on my vehicles.”
Moorer said he hears sounds of machinery, often day and night.
“With Vulcan, we have to deal with the dust and the smell. Sometimes we have to shelter in place,” he said. “The shipyard, it’s at night, they be wide open. Noise all night long. I’m just tired of calling the police all night. Just to no avail. Hosea Weaver sneaks in at night. Loading asphalt. Dumping old asphalt.”
Hosea Weaver admits violating city noise ordinance at times, saying they do it out of necessity for road projects where lane closures during daytime hours are not possible. The company said they worked with Mobile Police investigating at least one noise complaint and never heard from police after that.
News 5 called Three Mile Drydock several times about the noise neighbors say they make. They said their CFO would call back.
We’re still waiting on that return call.
“These are serious concerns. There is decisive scientific data that shows that there are serious health impacts,” said Ramsey Sprague, President of the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition and Environmental and Climate Justice Chair of the Mobile NAACP.
Sprague has been working with neighbors here for years, urging state and local officials to do something about what he calls environmental racism.
“We haven’t even begun celebrating Africatown’s contributions to world heritage. We’re really just getting there in the city of Mobile,” said Sprague. “I feel like there’s a real need to reconcile the industrial impacts with the residents of Africatown in the context of the interest of the artifacts.”
Neighbors said paving the easement and building a barrier wall would at least be a start. No mention of doing that by Vulcan, but after our follow-up questions, the company said they plan to meet with Hosea Weaver on what they can do to improve the site.
Mobile City Councilman William Carroll said he’s just being made aware of the situation.
“I’m always in favor of supporting our citizens, our neighbors or anyone in district two that may be in harm’s way if they’re being inadvertently harmed by any type of environmental issue,” said Caroll. “I’m glad to hear their concerns and what’s causing it and look for some type of resolution.”
Moorer is doubtful he’ll ever get a good night’s sleep or breathe fresh air on Chin Street.
“I feel like I’m running a race. But, it looks like it keeps moving further and further away,” he said. “I just sit up, get my coffee and pray in the morning. Hopefully somebody will hear our prayer. Help us, we need help. That’s what we’re asking for. Just a little help. That’s all.”
Councilman Carroll said he plans to meet with neighbors in March about their concerns.
Mobile Police said they are gathering information about the situation and they will get back to us.