Monday, May 2, 2011

Good Citizens Don't Poison Their Communities

An interesting twist on the scrap metal yard recycling businesses that line the western side of Lamar Street in South Dallas.

One of them is getting an award! For their civic contributions no less...

I've stated before that these are necessary, legitimate businesses. They are 'green businesses'. They just don't belong in residential neighborhoods.

The fight between Unify South Dallas and Gold Metal Recyclers is around just that issue. All protestations aside, the rights of the homeowners in the area to live free from pollution, industrial vehicle traffic and depreciating property values due to the undesirability of the neighborhood directly and indirectly associated with this business and its neighbors, has to be a consideration that is taken seriously. The reason why they don't have the same respect as their fellow citizens in North Dallas who, for instance, may protest a Wal-Mart's encroachment on their neighborhood or their neighbors in East Dallas, along Greenville Avenue who want zoning to protect them from heavy automobile and pedestrian traffic (from businesses that were already there when most of them moved there, by the way), is that South Dallas residents are poorer. They can't hire lawyers to represent their interests. They have no lobbyists. They don't contribute much to political campaigns. And they're political representation consistently sides with the interests of the scrap metal yard owners...

Gold Metal made a huge production of their desire to be a part of the 'solution' for the redevelopment of the neighborhood. However, they have followed that with cautions that they have no developer and no concrete plans for actually redeveloping the area. They just want to show that they are open to the conversation.

In the meantime, a study which they have commission, showed that the ground beneath their property actually is contaminated! Because the study is limited in its scope, the study does not show that the contamination has spread across the street into the neighborhood...but what's your guess? It is not contamination that started yesterday, but that was there before them and has been contributed to by them in the 30 plus years that they have been there.

So the owners of Gold Metal will be feted.  Read these excerpts from a post by Dallas Morning News' Sharon Grigsby last week...

"...Friends of Fair Park, at the Crystal Terrace of the Dallas Music Hall, will honor Gold Metal Recyclers and the Goldberg family with the 2011 Spirit of the Centennial Award for their "longstanding commitment to Fair Park and the South Dallas neighborhood."

And what of the potential dangers posed by the pollutants?
""...The award honors the Goldbergs for "doing their part to create a more vibrant and sustainable community. The Goldbergs have proven to be good citizens contributing to the welfare of the South Dallas area by providing hundreds of jobs, giving back to charities and organizations in need, preserving natural resources and putting millions of dollars back into the economy.""
"That is simply a big pile of dung. And we'll explain why -- in detail -- in an editorial next week. What's so sad is that I bet most of the people in the audience will clap enthusiastically and think how lucky South Dallas is to have the Goldberg family. Here's what those audience members ought to know (from one of the many editorials we've written on this topic):
Longtime residents have seen dramatic quality-of-life deterioration as Gold Metal's business has expanded. Metal scavengers have gutted nearby houses. Dust constantly wafts through the air as tractor-trailer rigs, piled high with scrap, line up at the company's entrance. Loud machinery operates constantly inside, and the ever-present mountain of junk metal sits like a tattered doormat declaring, "Welcome to South Dallas."
"If the whole story of Gold Metal and the Goldberg family was presented at the luncheon today, the party favors at every table would include our last editorial about Gold Metal Recyclers, from February of this year. Then I'd ask who in the audience would like this "good neighbor" doing its work across the street from their house. Here are a few paragraphs from our most recent editorial:
Representatives of Gold Metal Recyclers revealed last week that soil and groundwater beneath their South Lamar scrapyard contain toxins that include arsenic, benzene, lead and mercury.
The source of these toxins remains unclear. Frank Clark, an environmental consultant hired by Gold Metal, pointed to previous landowners from decades ago who used that part of South Lamar for a smelter, an iron mill and a fuel station. But his report also notes, "The nature of present-day, on-site operations indicates the potential for releases of COCs [chemicals of concern] to on-site soils and/or groundwater.""
"In other words, Gold Metal may have been adding to the toxic stew since it opened for business there in 1976. "It warrants further investigation," Clark says."

GoldMetal Toxins Report

 Now, ask yourself a question: what type of offer would you make on property located adjacent to or near a scrap metal yard located on ground contaminated with pollutants and carcinogens? Who would buy your house? Your business? Who would loan you money to rebuild your church? That's what the residents of the neighborhood surrounding the scrap metal yards face.

Again, this isn't to mark the owners of Gold Metal as evil people. They are business people. It's in their interest to make the minimal amount of changes to their business with the least amount of disruption to their operations as possible. But the people who live, work and worship nearby, have interests as well. The possibilities of pollution to their property, while not as extensive as the profit interests of the Gold Metal, is at least as substantial a concern as those of the Goldberg's. The health and safety concerns are also of concern. Reported by residents of small explosions and fires on the recyclers property represent hazards that ought not simply be 'mitigated'. Combined with potential dangers associated with the carcinogens related to the contaminants on the property there are concerns that cannot be ignored and need to be addressed before the Goldbergs are rewarded by anyone - let alone by those whose interests (Friends of Fair Park) carry the imprimatur of Dallas' approval.

The argument of the Goldbergs is that they and their workers work in this environment everyday. They surely wouldn't expose themselves, their families and their workers to hazards that they considered to be harmless. This is what one of the family told me. To which I replied: it's the same argument you would have gotten from those who worked with asbestos 40 years ago...

It would speak volumes of the City of Dallas' regard for all residents, if they would work to engage the South Dallas residents, other stakeholders and Gold Metal for a resolution that respects the rights, investment and health of homeowners as much as highly as it regards and rewards the rights of businesses. 

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