Marsha Jackson is a resident of the south section of Dallas, Texas who worked to get an illegal toxic waste dumping site removed.
The waste site, named Shingle Mountain, is a 60-foot tall pile of discarded roofing shingles that crept into Jackson’s backyard.
The pile spans more than a city block and spreads “just a few feet away from my bedroom,” Jackson told The Washington Post. It started to form after white businessmen, Christopher Ganter and Cabe Chadick, decided the area was ideal for a dump site in 2017. They purchased vacant land and directed truck drivers to the area to avoid fees from a landfill. Ganter then set up an illegal operation to grind the shingles down to dust, a process that puts toxins and glass particles in the air for Jackson and her surrounding 100 neighbors to inhale. The two men faced multiple lawsuits for their illegal operation that didn’t have the necessary state permits to begin with.
It took months of work from Jackson and other members of the community before city officials even acknowledged the site existed, even though it’s illegal. The city finally made plans to remove it after their push.
Jackson, 62, started making complaints about the massive pile beginning in January 2018, and it was 11 months before anyone heard her story. An environmental group hosted an event where Jackson spoke out and brought attention to the dump site. From there, local media attention put the site on city officials’ radar.
The area of Dallas where Shingle Mountain is located was settled by formerly enslaved people and has been zoned for projects white neighborhoods didn’t want for more than a century.
The area of the city has been zoned for industrial rail yards, concrete mixing facilities, chemical plants, warehouses that bring about 100 diesel trucks a day, and a landfill.
The projects are the legacy of environmental racism put in place by redlining and other discriminatory city planning tactics that Dallas’ Black mayor and city manager, and diverse city council inherited.
In Dallas, studies show that Black and Latino residents breathe more polluted air than white residents, and have a shorter life expectancy. This, however, is not unique to Dallas. Historically, predominantly Black areas have been subjected to environmental racism since Reconstruction.
Chris Dowdy, vice president for academic affairs at Paul Quinn College, an HBCU in Dallas, said, “You can draw a straight line from where Black folks gathered after emancipation to the redlining maps, to where you’re more likely to be poisoned because of zoning, and where people die earlier.” Paul Quinn participated in the study called, “Poisoned by Zip Code,” which illustrates Dowdy’s point.
For Jackson, and other residents around the country, the reality of this issue shows up on a daily basis. She’s dealt with her voice going in and out for a while now, something she’s attributed to the toxic cloud spewed out from the waste site.
After a web of lawsuits, the city of Dallas finally announced last month they approved a contract to have the waste site removed. Contractors are scheduled to start removing the waste as early as next month.
Photo: Getty Images