For over 100 years, Alcoa produced aluminum at its plant in Badin, North Carolina. Since its opening in 1917, the company was found to have dumped hazardous waste without regulation until 1980 when the first Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulation declared waste material called spent potliner a hazardous waste, according to Salisbury Post.
The aluminum company finally shut its doors in 2007, with employees exposed to hazardous materials for decades, while also contaminating the environment of the nearby communities, including West Badin, Badin Lake and Little River Creek.
WUNC reports that Black residents make up more than 60% of West Badin, according to census data.
The Alcoa aluminum smelting plant, a landfill, and a highway divide Badin in half — the post office, schools, fire department, shops, restaurants, and other services all reside in the predominately white East Badin, according to WUNC.
West Badin residents have voiced their concerns over chemical dumping and the hazardous conditions produced by Alcoa. West Baldin residents allege that Alcoa left behind toxic waste that continues to impact their health and the community’s environment.
“We’ve been fighting a fight, and sometimes our arms get tired. But you can’t give up, not when you know it’s right,” said Tyson, an employee at Alcoa for 27 years, told WUNC.
Concerned residents are calling for Alcoa to excavate industrial waste from its unlined landfills, and for the Department of Environmental Quality to renew Alcoa’s National Permit Discharge Elimination System.
Residents want the company to clean up hazardous waste in the West Badin community as they allege the pollution is the source of illnesses, such as cancer, that have affected the community for decades, even resulting in some deaths, according to WUNC.
“We just ask Alcoa to clean up what they messed up,” Richard Leak, a former Alcoa employee, to a crowd gathered in front of Badin Lake earlier this year. “And to give us back our way of life.”