Public Hearings and Public Health in the Gullah/Geechee Nation
The Gullah/Geechee Nation is participating in National Public Health Week along with others throughout the United States April 2-8, 2018. “Changing Our Future Together” requires an understanding of the various ways that we can support improving public health. Each day of #NPHW has a different focus ranging from behavioral health and communicable diseases to injury and violence prevention and access to ensuring the right to health care and environmental health. The Gullah/Geechee Nation has placed emphasis on the latter of the categories for the week given that improving and maintaining environmental health especially of the waterways. Water quality, seafood safety and human health are the central focus of the work of the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank. This is a priority because without a healthy Gullah/Geechee Nation environment, the citizens will not be healthy.
The website for #NPHW ask and answers the questions:
Why should I care?
“In the U.S., air pollution contributes to thousands of premature births and costs billions of dollars. In 2007, asthma cost the U.S. $56 billion in medical care, lost productivity and premature death. Costs of childhood lead poisoning are also in the billions (though each dollar invested in controlling the environmental hazard returns up to $200 in savings). The economic benefit of cleaning up mercury and other air toxins is in the billions — not to mention the up to 46,000 premature deaths that could be prevented.
Then there’s climate change, which will continue to impact people’s health and just about every factor that influences our health. Climate change is a serious risk to human health, impacting our food, water, air, disease risk and mental well-being. It’s expected to increase heat-related deaths, exacerbate chronic conditions such as respiratory illnesses and heart disease, increase dangerous asthma events, increase the severity and frequency of natural disasters, and endanger water safety and food security. Recent studies also document the mental toll of climate-related events. For example, two years after Superstorm Sandy, those who experienced the disaster were still reporting serious mental distress at levels nearly twice the national average.
In the last decade, extreme weather and fire events have cost the country more than $350 billion, and climate change is only predicted to make it worse. However, the negative impacts of climate change won’t be evenly distributed — it’s expected to worsen existing inequalities. One study estimated that if nothing is done about climate change, the poorest third of U.S. counties could experience climate-related damages costing up to 20 percent of a county’s entire income.”
What can I do?
#SpeakForHealth: Environmental health is closely intertwined with policy, from laws that keep our air and water clean to rules that protect us from toxic chemicals to local ordinances that ensure healthy housing. For example, by 2020, the Clean Air Act will have prevented more than 230,000 early deaths. And thanks to policies that removed lead from products like house paint and gasoline, dangerous blood lead levels in children have plummeted (though more than 3 million young kids still live in homes with a lead risk). Smart policies that prioritize health can make a big difference.
Use your voice to support policies and decisions that prevent harmful environmental exposures, build community resilience and protect the most vulnerable. Support funding for strong environmental public health systems — these are the systems that monitor our communities for dangerous contaminants and fend off preventable disease.
Demand action on climate change: Climate change is real and one of the greatest health threats of the 21st century. Support efforts and policies that reduce climate-related emissions, prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change, and ready the country for a clean energy future. For example, if the Clean Power Plan stays on the books, it could save the country $20 billion in climate costs and deliver up to $34 billion in health benefits. Local and individual action on climate change makes a difference, too — learn how.
Stand for environmental justice: Environmental health risks affect some communities much more than others. For example, research shows polluting industries are disproportionately located in poor communities and in communities of color. Another example: While the number of Americans with asthma increased to 25 million between 2001 and 2009, black children shouldered a disproportionate burden, with rates going up 50 percent. Learn more about environmental injustice and how to take action at the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. Several of the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank members partnered with the NAACP’s program during 2017 at which Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation provided these closing remarks:
The work of the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank and the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition continues well beyond National Public Health Week. The closing of #NPHW signals the opening of a week of public hearings in the Gullah/Geechee Nation. The hearings will determine what will take place at locations along the North Carolina and Georgia coast.
From 1936 to 1974, Kerr-McGee and other companies used a 245-acre plantation site in Navassa, NC bounded by the Brunswick River, Sturgeon Creek, a residential area, and a light industrial area for creosote-based wood treating. By 1980, Kerr-McGee dismantled the wood-treatment buildings and facilities. This was done after the area had already been contaminated and declared a “superfund site.” The soil, sediment and groundwater are contaminated by creosote-related chemicals. The EPA has stated that the contamination does not currently threaten people living and working near the Site.
In 2005, the Site was conveyed to Tronox, a Kerr-McGee spinoff that filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. In 2011, the Multistate Trust acquired the Site as a court-appointed trustee as part of the Tronox bankruptcy settlement. The Multistate Trust is working with its beneficiaries—EPA and N.C. DEQ—on the Site investigation, remediation and redevelopment planning.
The Multistate Trust has been working with EPA and N.C. DEQ on Site reuse planning with the Redevelopment Working Group of citizens, community leaders, local elected officials and other stakeholders. A community visioning workshop was held Feb. 23–24 to provide a forum for citizens to help shape the future of the Site. Residents, local leaders, and other stakeholders worked in small groups at the workshop to create possible redevelopment options for the site. Potential redevelopment options will arose from the workshop and online input statements that were taken until the end of March will be a topic of discussion during the public availability session and the public meeting on April 10 about the Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp – Navassa Superfund Site in Navassa, N.C.
Public Availability Session – 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Residents will have an opportunity to talk one-on-one with experts about the Site, environmental investigations, redevelopment planning, and related topics. Representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (N.C. DEQ), and the Multistate Environmental Response Trust (Multistate Trust) will be available to answer questions and share information.
Public Meeting – 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Representatives of EPA, N.C. DEQ, and the Multistate Trust will provide updates on Site environmental investigations, the upcoming study of potential remediation options, and possible redevelopment alternatives, and will answer questions.
Topics will include:
- Environmental Investigations—The Remedial Investigation (RI) of the Site and the upcoming (RI) report is a study designed to collect the data necessary to: (1) determine the nature and extent of contamination on and off the Site; (2) characterize Site conditions; and (3) assess risk to human health and the environment.
- Possible remediation options—The upcoming Feasibility Study (FS) of potential remediation options is designed to identify and evaluate potential remedies to address contamination at the Site, and to assess possible technologies and alternatives for their effectiveness in protecting human health and the environment.
- Redevelopment Planning Initiative—The draft redevelopment options that resulted from the Feb. 23–24 Community Visioning Workshop held as part of the Multistate Trust’s ongoing effort to identify community-backed alternatives for the Site’s reuse.
What is the goal of the RPI?
The goal of the RPI is to identify community-supported plans for potential Site reuses that protect human health and the environment and are environmentally and economically sustainable.
Learn more about the Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp Site – Navassa at http://multi-trust.org/navassa-north-carolina or https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0403028.
If you have any questions, please contact Richard Elliott of the Multistate Trust at (617) 953-1154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the opposite end of the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast just before you enter Florida, there is the Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Cumberland Island National Seashore is a crown jewel on the Atlantic Coast. The island boasts nearly 20 miles of natural unspoiled beach, marshes and maritime forest, and acres of precious coastal wilderness. Unfortunately, what makes this seashore a national treasure is at risk.
Camden County commissioners have asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow them to build a spaceport to launch commercial rockets over the seashore. If allowed, this could bring negative impacts to the health of Cumberland Island’s unique historic and natural resources, the safety of visitors, residents and wildlife on the island, and the impact of rocket debris and fuel contaminants to the coastal waters off the island.
The FAA has prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in which they recommended issuing Camden County a license to build and operate the proposed spaceport. Come out to this public meeting to ask the FAA questions about this plan and express your concerns about a spaceport and rocket launches over Cumberland Island.
WHAT: Public meeting: Tell FAA, “No way” to rocket launches over Cumberland Island National Seashore
WHEN: Wednesday, April 11, and Thursday, April 12, from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Camden County Public Service Authority Recreation Center Community Room, 1050 Wildcat Drive, Kingsland, GA 31545
RSVP: Register here. (This will allow you to obtain some helpful talking points ahead of the hearing.)
The public hearings will include an information session from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., the FAA presentation from 6:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., and a public statement period in which any individual may provide up to a 3-minute statement. Attending and sharing your own statement in support of protecting Cumberland Island would be enormously helpful. The FAA will transcribe all oral comments. All comments received through May 16 will be given equal weight and be taken into consideration in the preparation of the final EIS.
If you cannot attend the meeting, please share your concerns with the FAA by taking action online. For additional information, visit http://protectcumberlandisland.org/
It is critical to be a part of these public hearings that will assist in healing and maintaining the health of the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s environment. The negative impacts of contaminants in the Charleston, SC area have led to a number of illnesses that the citizens have. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)
is a Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank member institution that is focused on assisting with improving the public health along the South Carolina coast which is sandwiched between these two states where the hearings are taking place. In order to learn more about the work that they have done, they will close out the month with “Gullah Research Day” on Johns Island, SC. The public is invited to attend the event. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/195967680999964/ for more details.
The Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank will conclude the week of public hearings with their annual conference. The Coastal Cultures Conference will be held at the shoreline of Hunting Island Nature Center. Attending this interactive event will increase your understanding of the importance of the health of the waterways and natural environment of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and how healing the environment definitely protects human health. Leaving the event will give you more insight and tools to use in order to fight to prevent any future contamination of the coast.
May National Public Health Week and the weeks following inspire you to #SpeakforHealth.
The Gullah/Geechee Nation will host several events during the month of April so that the public can improve their health by being outdoors with their families. Gwine ya fa mo info ef hunnuh wan go:
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