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New analysis shines light on Decatur’s toxic air

Decatur industrial plant emissions may be elevating the cancer risk to those who live near the plants.
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 9:31 PM CST
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DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - A detailed map put out by ProPublica shows just how many toxic chemicals are released in the air from Decatur industrial plants. The emissions may be elevating the cancer risk to those who live near the plants according to five years of the Environmental Protection Agency data.

It’s no secret emissions from these plants aren’t exactly safe, and the plants in Decatur have been a topic of controversy for a while now. But, this new information concerns nearby residents.

”We’re dealing with a silent killer,” said resident Doris Baker.

The analysis of the EPA data highlights Decatur as one of the country’s top hot spots with potentially cancer-causing emissions. The analysis shows the highest cancer risk areas of Decatur are 25 times the EPA’s acceptable risk.

Baker lives just miles away from a lot of Decatur’s chemical plants. She says over the years, her and others have had meetings on how the chemicals in the air are affecting them.

“There was a young lady, and I won’t ever forget her because she’s a young lady, and she has cancer. She stays up the street somewhere up here from me, and she was saying that she believes that’s why she had cancer,” said Baker.

Decatur City Council President Jacob Ladner says the city relies on the EPA and ADEM to provide guidance and regulation for the industry when it comes to environmental issues.

“Looking at the map and the report that was out there, it’s very concentrated around the industries and there didn’t seem to be a lot of issues where there were residential developments and houses,” said Ladner.

Baker says this all makes her think of her kids and grandchildren.

“I don’t want them to suffer the same things that’s in our system now that there’s no need for it to be there. We shouldn’t be going through this,” said Baker.

Statement from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management:

“The findings stated in the referenced report are theoretically based on multiple assumptions that ADEM has not had the opportunity to review. All applicable regulated facilities in the state are permitted with requirements to meet ADEM and EPA emission standards. Actual current and historical cancer statistics are developed and maintained by the Alabama Department of Public Health and are the best source for assessing cancer risks. The ADPH has attained the highest federal ranking for the quality of its cancer tracking statistics. Citizens should be aware that permits and rules are in place and vigorously enforced to protect human health and the environment.”

Statement from Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling:

“I echo the sentiments provided from the ADEM. We are thankful for the guidance and oversight ADEM and EPA provides for our industrial partners and ultimately for the safety of our residents.”

Statement from Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long:

“This is definitely something we will want to read and check on. We have a great working relationship with all our industry leaders and I’m confident they will do the right thing. I’m sure this report will be studied by everyone . It will take everyone being on board to see what needs to be done.”

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