ATMORE, Ala. (AP) — Homeowners in a rural community in southern Alabama have protested plans for an aluminum sulfate plant expected to be built by a Georgia firm in their neighborhood.
Mack Salter and dozens of his neighbors discovered the Atlanta-based C&S Chemical Inc. purchased 20 acres along the Alabama Gulf Coast Railroad north of Atmore for a manufacturing plant.
Salter said more than 100 households are within a mile of the site. Two churches are within a few hundred yards. But, being unincorporated, the Freemanville community has no authority to regulate property use.
Keiana Quarker-White, a teacher, said she and her husband just built a new home within a few hundred yards of the site.
''We have done our research,'' Quarker-White said. ''These undesirable industrial plants target rural communities, and places where minorities and low-income residents are the predominant demographic. We fit all that, and this is not justice.''
The Mobile Press-Register, in a story Monday on the community protest, was unable to reach company president Rob Chandler for comment. But in an earlier interview with Brewton Standard, Chandler defended his company, stating that in its 27 years of operation only two chemical spills have occurred.
Aluminium sulfate is a compound used in industrial wastewater treatment, the pulp and paper industry, in fabric dyeing, as a soil amendment, as an ingredient in deodorants and some times as a pesticide for slugs.
Chemical directories list the compound as a hazardous material that is harmful if swallowed or inhaled. It can irritate skin and eyes and can corrode metals.
Residents said the plant will bring noisy traffic to the quiet streets, but most expressed concerns about trace chemical releases or accidental spills.
''I have lived here 56 of my 70 years,'' said Birdie Mae Williams as she and other residents protested in front of the site Thursday. ''All the elderly people here would suffer if this comes in. Many of us have asthma that would be aggravated.''
Some area homes, residents said, are priced between $150,000 and $300,000, but many are more modest.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said when the company turned down sites in industrial parks in the area, he lost interest. When he learned the company had bought in a neighborhood nearby, he announced the development during a council meeting, saying ''the people out there deserved to know.''
Wiley Blankenship, president and director of the Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority, recently told Escambia County commissioners that he met with company officials and referred them to sites at industrial parks in the three counties he represents.
Blankenship said he was surprised to find the site they chose was in the middle of a neighborhood with no zoning.
County commissioners said they strongly opposed the plant, but that without zoning, there was little recourse.
Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton) and Sen. Pat Lindsey (D-Butler) voiced opposition to the plant in letters to the company.