Mariah Davis is the acting director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Queen Zakia Shabazz is the coordinator of the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative. A proposed mega-landfill across the street from the Pine Grove Elementary School in Virginia’s Cumberland County would accept up to 5,000 tons of waste every day, rising hundreds of feet high. Operating 24 hours a day for much of the week, the Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility would accept trash from within a 500-mile radius.
This landfill, if sited, would present long-lasting and far-reaching consequences to the residents of Cumberland County, more than 30 percent of whom are Black. Hundreds of daily tractor-trailer trips on local roads and noxious odors emitting from the landfill will threaten air quality. Leaks from landfills present unacceptable risks to local streams and wetlands, a prospect made particularly alarming considering the large percentage of residents who rely on private wells for their drinking water. Collectively, the cumulative impacts of these consequences and many others endanger public health and the cultural heritage of this historic African American community. This threat, combined with the historic nature of the Pine Grove Elementary School, which educated African American children in the South at the height of the Jim Crow era, led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to recently name the Pine Grove School among the 11 most endangered places of 2021.