In a historic equal justice agreement, community leaders are holding the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) responsible for letting industrial swine facilities harm people, air, and water without adequate swine waste controls. The “grossly inadequate and outdated systems of controlling animal waste” result in an “unjustified disproportionate impact on the basis of race and national origin against African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans,” according to the complaint. Swine feces and urine have tainted the air and water for decades in eastern North Carolina’s communities of color. The stench makes it hard for people to breathe. DEQ agreed to enforce the federal civil rights laws. The settlement includes providing a language access program, developing an environmental justice tool to help alleviate health and environmental inequities, and a number of changes to the draft general swine permit.
Naeema Muhammed, Executive Director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), vows “the harmful effects of the hog industry on communities in eastern North Carolina continue, and all of us involved in this struggle need to keep the pressure on.”
The communities took action before the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against DEQ. NCEJN, Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), and Waterkeeper Alliance filed the complaint. They are represented by the Yale Law School Environmental Justice Law Clinic, Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights, and EarthJustice.
The Title VI framework is highlighted in the report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine called Communities in Action: Pathway to Health Equity (2017)