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“House Poor, Pollution Rich”

“Thousands of public housing residents live near the most polluted places in the nation — and the government has done little to protect them.”

“An investigation reveals that more than 9,000 federally subsidized housing properties sit within a mile of a Superfund site, and the government has failed to inform many residents of the potential threats they face. As a result, low-income renters are paying for government inaction with their health.”

“In some ways, they couldn’t be more different. Gerica Cammack is a Black woman from Alabama; Floyd Kimball is a white man from rural Idaho. Yet they’re facing a similar ordeal. They’re both single parents, forced by difficult circumstances to live in government subsidized housing surrounded by pollution that is, or could be, poisoning their children. Like tens of thousands of people across the country, they live near, or on, some of the most toxic places in the nation. And the government has failed to protect them.  

In 2019, Cammack moved into the Collegeville Center, a public housing complex in north Birmingham, Alabama. She knew that moving into the neighborhood came with risk. The complex sits near a bevy of industrial sites that produced steel and iron and spewed pollution over nearby residents for decades. She’d lived up the road years earlier and remembered how the fumes could be so overwhelming that the taste would linger in her mouth. But she was pregnant, homeless and grateful for the apartment, so it was a danger she had to face.

Little did she know that the Environmental Protection Agency had classified the area as a Superfund site, signifying that it was one of the most polluted places in the country.”

Angela Caputo and Sharon Lerner report for American Public Media and The Intercept January 13, 2021.