TIME LINE OF STATE, LOCAL AND NATIONAL EVENTS DURING THE LAST HALF CENTURY


Key:   National Events        *State Events         ~Local Events

 

Book Silent Spring Published

1962:  Silent Spring is published by Rachael Carson.  It is a “World-Famous Bestseller About Our Ravaged Environment and the Man-Made Pollution That is Imperiling All Life on Earth.”

Quoted on the back cover are three notable statements, the first by Richard Nixon:  “…The 1970s absolutely must be the years when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air, its waters, and our living environment.  It is literally now or never.”

The second quote is by the anthropologist Margaret Mead who said, “Not war, but a plethora of man made things…is threatening to strangle us, suffocate us, bury us, in the debris and by-products of our technologically inventive and irresponsible age.”

The third quote is by Justice William O. Douglas who said of Silent Spring:  “THE MOST IMPORTANT CHRONICLE OF THE CENTURY FOR THE HUMAN RACE.”

 

Congressional Acts Passed

1964:  Civil Rights Act is passed.

1965:  Voters Right Act is passed

 

Civil Rights Movement in Full Spring

1968:  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated

1969:  North Carolina Constitutional Attorney Floyd McKissick writes the book, 3/5 of a Man, a scathing look at racism in America.  Justice William O. Douglas writes in the forward, “The mood of this book makes it a must for all Americans.”

1970: February 4:  “An environmental cleanup program is proposed by Pres. Nixon, who called for expenditure of “$10,000,000,000 [10 billion dollars] for waste treatment plants.  (Am Facts, 670)

1970: April 22: 1st Earth Day is celebrated across the country, “dramatizing the concern of many Americans about the dangers of environmental pollution.”(Am. Facts, 673)

 

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Created

1970: December 2:  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is activated.  It was established in July by executive order.  (Am. Facts, 674)

1971:  Federal Government appropriates $21 million for infrastructure for the Soul City Project in Warren County, North Carolina directed by North Carolina Constitutional Attorney Floyd McKissisk.  The purpose of Soul City is to promote economic development for blacks in a model community and industrial park.  Mrs. Eva Clayton is in charge of economic development for Soul City.

1976:  September 28: The Toxic Substance Control Act is passed by Congress.  It prohibits the marketing of new chemical compounds before testing their impact on human health and the environment.  The law also forbids production of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, after 1979.  Studies of PCBs had shown they did not break down in the environment and were liked to cancer. (Am. Facts, 723)

~1977:  February:  Ken and Deborah Ferruccio leave Ohio during an energy shortage in the East and Midwest and move to Warren County, North Carolina.

 

Governor Hunt Speaks at Warrenton Armory

~1977:  Governor Hunt and industrial developers pave the way with announcing Warren County’s potential for industrial growth.  Hunt speaks at Warrenton National Guard Armory.

1977:  April 18:  President Carter calls for an all-out campaign for energy conservation.  He calls the effort “the moral equivalent of war.”  On April 20 he asks Congress for new legislation designed to discourage energy waste and encourage conservation measures. (Am. Facts, 727)

 

Love Canal Dangers Exposed

1978: February: The dangers of toxic waste landfills are exposed when residents of the  Love Canal community near Buffalo, New York makes national news.

 

PCBs Dumped Along Roadsides

*1978:  June:  PCBs are dumped along 11 miles of roadsides at the North Carolina Ft. Bragg Army Base.

*1978:  July 27 through August 10:   Midnight dumpers deliberately drip PCBs in fourteen counties along approximately 242 miles of highway shoulders.  In response, the state puts up large, permanent warning signs about every quarter of a mile saying:  “WARNING: CHEMICAL SPILL ALONG HIGHWAY SHOULDERS.”

1978:  August 2: The Toxic Substance Control Act goes into affect.  Legally, now, PCB spills must be picked up.

1978:  August 4 – 7: Love Canal is declared a disaster area by President Carter and families begin to evacuate the area.

 

Some PCBs Buried in Temporary Dump

*1978:  September: State scrapes up a “test case” of PCB-contaminated soil from alongside a mile of Warren County roadsides and buries the soil in a “temporary” dump on land of Warren County industrial developer and local campaign manager to Governor Hunt.

~1978:  November:  Warren County voters pass a bond for a two million gallon capacity waste water treatment facility large enough to serve the region.  Warren County taxpayers would pay $600,000 of the total $4.2 million cost.

*1978: December 20: The Hunt Administration announces that it intends to bury the roadside PCB-contaminated soil (40,000 cubic yards) in Warren County, regardless of public sentiment. Warren County has the highest minority population in the state and is among the poorest of the 100 counties.

 

Press Release in Response to Landfill Announcement

~1978:  December 22:   As a private citizen, in response to the landfill announcement, Ken sends out a press release stating that he will everything in his power to stop the PCB landfill and as a last resort to use civil disobedience.

~1978:  December 26:  Citizens formally organize Warren County Citizens Concerned about PCBs, and Ken is appointed spokesperson for the group.  Ken’s response in the press to the Hunt Administration announcement is another warning: “Due process first, then civil disobedience.”  Historically, this response the PCB threat begins to shift environmental concerns from post-siting (Love Canal) to pre-siting issues and moves toward a coalescence of environmental concerns with civil rights activism.

 

Citizens Speak Out Against PCB Landfill

~1979:  January 4:  Nearly 800 -1,000 people pack the Warren County National Guard Armory  for a joint state and EPA Public Hearing on the proposed PCB landfill.  State and EPA officials argue that the “dry-tomb” landfill design is a “Cadillac” and will contain the PCBs in perpetuity.   University of Maryland soil scientist Professor Charles Mulchi, hired by citizens to study the site, argues on the basis of test borings that the site is unsuitable and cannot be made suitable by the application of engineering technology.  Citizens warn that they will do what it takes to stop the landfill.  State and national media, including the New York Times, cover the meeting where hundreds of citizens speak out and warn

~1979: January 19:  A Warren County delegation meets with Governor Hunt.  Reverend  Willie T. Ramey asks the Governor if he will use “fire-hoses, electric cattle-prods” and asks just what form of tyranny the Governor will use to site the PCB landfill.

~1979: February 5: A Warren County delegation meets with EPA officials in Washington, D.C. and learns first-hand what they had only heard as a rumor from Sierra Club insiders.  They learned that EPA planned to immediately change regulations governing the disposal of hazardous waste, including changing the 50 foot minimum distance between the bottom of a toxic landfill and the water table to 5 feet or less, thus making it possible to get the Warren County site without a waiver of this regulation.

 

Lawsuit Filed Against Gov. Hunt

* 1980:  T. Mitchell Langdon, a Johnston County farmer files a lawsuit  for $10 million against Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., and approximately 50 other state and EPA officials, as well as against the midnight dumpers, Robert Burns and his sons, Timothy and Randal, as well as Robert (Buck) Ward, Sr..

* 1981:  Hunt convinces the North Carolina General Assembly to pass the Waste Management Act which gives North Carolina governors the right to choose a site for a hazardous facility  prior to a public hearing, reduces the public hearing to merely a cosmetic function, preempts local sovereignty rights, and gives governors the option to site with force if necessary.

~1979-1982:  Citizens mount a multi-layered defense, using due process to criticize EPA politicized regulations and the state’s biased science.   Warren County, private, and citizen class action litigation follows.

~1982:  June, November:  Former Asst. Secretary of Human Resources and Community Development and Warren County resident Mrs. Eva Clayton becomes Chairperson of the Warren County Commissioners.  It is the first time in Warren County history that the  majority of commissioners are Black.  Theo Williams is the first Black elected as sheriff.

 

Six Weeks of Civil Disobedience in Warren County, NC

* 1982:  September 15 – October 31:   State uses nearly one million dollars of police force to bury 10,000 truckloads of PCB-contaminated soil from approximately 250 miles of roadside.  Warren County citizens and their supporters march, protest and over 500 people are arrested.  The environmental justice movement is launched.

1982October 12:  The Washington Post describes the Warren County response to the forced landfill as “the marriage of environmental and civil rights concerns.”

*1982October 19: Under mounting pressure, Governor Hunt publishes a full-page letter in the Warren Record promising to protect future generations of  Warren County citizens, to help with economic development, and to detoxify the PCB landfill when it became technically feasible to do so.

1982: November: State officials cap the so-called dry-tomb landfill with nearly one million gallons of water in the landfill.

~1983: December:  Ken and Deborah Ferruccio and United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice Reverend Leon White and photographer Mac Shaffer take East Coast Tour planned by UCC Commission Research Director Charles Lee to Johns Hopkins and Harvard Universities.

 

Ken and Deborah Ferruccio Stand for All Citizens

~1983:  March:  Ken Ferruccio and Environmental Organizing Alliance Directors Ruffin Harris and Trish Hubbard literary take pump from state officials so that they cannot pump water from the PCB landfill and spray it on top of the landfill.   They are arrested.  Ken protests the failure of the landfill by fasting in jail for 19 days.

~1983:  Ken and Deborah Ferruccio conceive of and write a plan for organizing an East Coast Environmental Justice Network.  Ken writes the plan as the conceptual groundwork for a grant for the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice.

 

Good Independent Science Vital to Environmental Justice

~1983: June: Harvard scientists Ken Geiser and Gerry Waneck write:  “PCBs and Warren County,” and establish the importance of science to environmental justice concerns.

 

Warren County Continues to be a Target for Waste

~1983: Warren County learns that it is one of five sites being considered for a regional/national radioactive waste facility.

~1984:   Ken and Deborah’s son, Uriah (Uri) Dominic is born.

 

Leadership has its Price

~1986:  Ken and Deborah move with Uri and family to start a business in Naples, Florida.  PCB leadership is making employment difficult in the Warren County area for Ken.

~1988:  Ken and Deborah’s daughter, Kyra Christina, is born in Naples, Florida.

 

Warren County is Home

~1990:  Ken and Deborah move back to their cabin in Warren County.

~1991-1992: Warren County is targeted for a massive, regional, 1,200 acre commercial solid waste landfill to be located  near the PCB landfill. Citizens mount an opposition,  claiming, as Ken put it, “The regional landfill puts Rosa parks on back of bus again.”  May, 1992, Warren County commissioners vote to withdraw as host to this mega trash landfill.

 

Ferruccios Continue to Speak for Targeted Communities

~1992 -1993:  North Carolina is targeted with numerous mega trash landfills.  Ken and Deborah speak out against mega, dry-tomb landfills.

~1993:  May:  Ken and Deborah speak in Wilson County and warn residents who are being targeted for a mega trash landfill about failed landfill technology, saying they have grant money from the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, and with this money they are going to prove the PCB landfill is leaking.

 

Crisis at PCB Landfill in Warren County

*1993: May: Two days later Secretary of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources (DEHNR) Jonathan Howes announces there is a crisis at the PCB landfill due to up to 1.5 million gallons of water trapped in the PCB landfill.  State officials fear continued pressure could breach the clay and plastic liners, contaminating groundwater.  Ken talks with state officials and insists that nothing be done until state officials meet with citizens and explain the plan.

 

 The Creation of the Working Group

*1993:   May-June:  As a citizen and Afton resident, Ken  writes and negotiates a five-point framework for dealing with the PCB crisis with Secretary Howes.  After lengthy negotiations and ultimately threats of civil disobedience from Ken, Secretary Howes agrees to the framework, which includes no pumping of the water in the landfill unless it is directly tied to permanent detoxification, creating a citizen driven county/state PCB working group, and the state’s paying for independent scientific representation for citizens. The framework sets an environmental justice precedent for authentic citizen participation  in solutions to environmental problems.

1993: October 9: Federal Environmental Protection Agency Sub-D Solid Waste Regulations, supposedly designed to protect the public from old, leaking landfills,  become effective.  These new regulations redirect the liability of trash landfills from local governments to powerful, waste companies, known polluters, thus commercializing the solution to society’s waste disposal and paving the way for more pollution and environmental degradation.  By discouraging local governments from handling their own waste and instead focusing on regional, mega trash landfills, the Sub-D Solid Waste Regulations encourage waste expansion  for profit, making actual waste reduction and recycling something of a politicized feel-good ideal.

~1993:  October 9:  Bertie County Citizen Action Coalition and supporters march in protest of a mega trash landfill opening the first day that Federal Sub-D Solid Waste Regulations go into effect.  Earlier, while speaking out against dry-tomb landfills at a NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources public hearing  on Sub-D Regulations, Ken and Deborah met Reginald Early of Bertie County. They worked with Mr. Early and Bertie citizens to help frame a defense against the landfill which was built being just above the water table.  However, they could not rally so-called  environmental justice advocates to help stop the landfill, so on principle, Ken, Deborah and their children, Uri and Kyra, joined Bertie citizens and marched in protest as the first truck with out-of-state license plates rolled in.

 

State Stalls and Re-characterizes

*1993: December:  After months of dragging out the process, Joint State/Warren County PCB Landfill Working Group is formally organized.

*1993:  State appropriates $100,000 for “capital improvements” at PCB landfill.  Later, this money is characterized as a gift to Warren County.

*1993 – 1994:  State stalls in formally forming the PCB citizens group.

 

PCBs Found in Local Wells

~1994 – Afton, Warren County resident Rick O’Neal, worried about the high cancer rate,  takes water samples in the area to see  what kind of contamination may show up in water samples. Test results from state labs reveal PCBs, including in a sample taken  from a well next to South Warren Elementary School, located about 2 miles from the PCB landfill. State officials maintain that the PCBs found  are at normal “background levels.”  The Larry Greene family, living at the house with the contaminated well, each week hauls dozens of milk jugs of water for cooking and bathing from a friend’s house.  Alvin Greene, the teenage son, has T-cell lymphomic cancer.  The Greene family had lived quite near the landfill before they moved next to the elementary school.  Soon after the test results were publicized, drinking water was brought in for students at the elementary school.

1994:  President Clinton creates the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council  (NEJAC) and passes Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898.

 

Working Group Formed

~1994:  The Joint Warren County/State PCB landfill Working Group is officially formed. Ken Ferruccio, Register of Deeds Dollie Burwell, and DEHNR Deputy Director Henry Lancaster become co-chairs.

~1994:   Independent scientist Pauline Ewald is hired.  Split-sampled testing for PCBs and dioxins is conducted at the PCB landfill.  State denies the results which reveal dioxin contamination at significant levels outside of the PCB landfill, in the monitoring wells and in the nearby creek.

 

New Independent Scientists Hired

~1995:  State lets independent scientist Pauline Ewald’s contract expire.  New independent scientists, detoxification and waste management expert Dr. Joel Hirschhorn, and geologist Patrick Barnes, are hired to represent  Warren County citizens.

1995: January: PCB Working Group members attend the EPA’s Region IV Dioxin Reassessment Hearing in Atlanta.  State epidemiologist  Ken Rudo tells the audience he is the person who brought the dioxin contamination outside the PCB landfill to the state’s attention because he was concerned.  State scientists then deny dioxin results and call for more testing.

 

State Continues to Stall and Deny

*1996:  State scientists drag out detoxification efforts. Studies of the condition of the landfill are conducted.  Independent scientists declare that the cap of the landfill is in poor condition and that state data reveals that water is entering and exiting the landfill.  Independent scientists discover a document which reveals that in 1983 EPA found significant levels of PCB air emissions near the landfill and one-half mile away.

 

State Members of Working Group Boycott Press Conference

~1996:  November 12:   PCB Working Group members hold a press conference at the Raleigh State Capitol in order for independent scientists to reveal their findings about the poor condition of the landfill.  State officials and most PCB Working Group members boycott the press conference, but Deborah and the  scientists  speak out.

~1996:  December: Deborah Ferruccio and PCB Working Group member Bobbie Riley  attempt to inform Warren County citizens about the failures of the landfill at Coley Springs Baptist Church.  State supported local leaders continue to squelch citizen response.

*1997:  Robert “Buck” Ward of the Ward Transformer Company of Raleigh, from where  the PCBs along the roadsides came, dies.

 

*1998:  January:  Governor Hunt includes $15 for detoxification in his upcoming budget with independent oversight to be included only “as needed.”

 

Continued State Supported Strife Lead to Resignation

~1998:  Ken resigns as co-chair of the PCB Working Group.

*1998:  PCB contamination is found around the Ward Transformer site in Raleigh.  Ward Company gives the state $3 million for cleanup of the original  roadside PCB spills.

 

State Controlled Spin on Detoxification

*1999:  Independent Scientist Patrick Barnes’ contract is renewed.  His focus is largely on community education (a newsletter) and securing economic benefits for local contractors.   Detoxification and waste management expert Dr. Joel Hirschhorn’s contract is not renewed.  However, he is hired for one day to address members of the North Carolina General Assembly in order to obtain funds for detoxification.   Dr. Hirschhorn’s mission, as determined by state officials, is to make the case for detoxification technology feasibility while ignoring the failures of the landfill, including contamination from outside the landfill.

~1999:  Feeling that they cannot serve the community in good faith without a qualified independent science advisor who was a detoxification expert (in particular, Dr. Joel Hirschhorn who knew the Warren County PCB landfill) overseeing the detoxification process, Ken and Deborah resign as members of the PCB Working Group.

 

Half-Priced “Clean-Up”

*1999 – 2003:  State officials drag out detoxification efforts until a projected $24 million detoxification cleanup with independent oversight becomes a $11 million cleanup without qualified oversight.

 

Academia Recognizes Warren County

2006: Dr. Eileen McGurty writes ground breaking book titled: Transforming Environmentalism:  Warren County, PCBs, and the Origin of Environmental Justice.

 

Ward Transformer Site Incineration

*2007-2009:  Incineration of PCBs at Ward Transformer site takes place. PCBs and dioxins had been spreading  into the Raleigh area for decades while state and EPA officials did nothing even though they  had known as early as 1979 that PCBs had migrated off  the Ward site.  Robert “Buck” Ward, Sr., who did short jail time for his part in the original 1978 midnight PCB dumpings in 14 North Carolina counties and at the Ft. Bragg Army Base, died in 1996.  Then in 1997, EPA addressed the fact that PCBs had been and still were spreading from the Ward site.  It is interesting that the state and EPA did not address Ward’s leaking PCB site while they were avoiding detoxifying the failed Warren County PCB landfill.  Now, PCBs have contaminated creeks, lakes, and the Neuse River where fishermen are warned not to eat the PCB-contaminated fish.

 
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