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Trash From All Over the Country Winds Up in Uniontown



18 October 2022

In Uniontown, Alabama, a hamlet of Perry County, there are glamorous pastors’ lunches, with congregants dressed nattily in plumed hats and tailored suits. There are seven churches in this community of around 2,000. At sunset, young people gather on outdoor basketball courts to scrimmage and socialize. On game nights, the entire town shows up to cheer on the varsity basketball team at Robert C. Hatch High School, which has won 10 state high school championships. It’s the kind of community where neighbors regularly drop in to check on one another, especially older residents who need help and companionship.

The region where Uniontown is located is nicknamed the Black Belt, originally because of its fertile land and later in reference to its history of slavery and its large number of Black residents. During the civil rights movement, Perry County was one of the many hubs of grassroots organizing that emerged along the Black Belt.

Alex Jones, born and raised in Uniontown, remembers Sunday dinners and spirited conversations with his cousin Juanita; her husband, Ralph Abernathy; Coretta Scott King; and Martin Luther King Jr. when Jones was attending Alabama State in the 1960s. The Selma to Montgomery Marches began at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, just 30 miles east of Uniontown.

Over the past 15 years since Arrowhead Landfill opened in 2007, dozens of people who call Uniontown home describe disruption in their lives. They complain about a strong stench, health concerns and noise at all hours of the night coming from the site.

There have been months when the problems have worsened, like when the landfill started accepting coal ash after a spill of the waste in Kingston, Tennessee, in 2008. Exposure to the substance in the short term can cause irritation and shortness of breath, and in the long term, it can lead to liver damage and a variety of cancers, according to the CDC.

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National Minority Quality Forum is a research and educational organization dedicated to ensuring that high-risk racial and ethnic populations and communities receive optimal health care. This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization integrates data and expertise in support of initiatives to eliminate health disparities.

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