Is pollution poisoning Charleston’s African-American and low-income communities?


“Nancy Button says you can’t fight progress.

But that hasn’t stopped her from trying.

In 2009, the 63-year-old president of the Rosemont Neighborhood Association was part of an environmental justice complaint filed with the United States Department of Justice opposing plans for the construction of a port access road from Interstate 26, arguing that the neighborhood’s voice had not been heard during the discussion of the expansion. For Button and members of the small, aging community located toward the northern part of the Charleston peninsula, this latest project was a harsh reminder of when the construction of I-26 split Rosemont in two in the 1960s.

“The Rosemont neighborhood is comprised of African-American citizens who have lived in the community for generations, oftentimes inheriting their homes from parents and/or grandparents,” said the official complaint. “This neighborhood is tightly knit and has dealt with an abundance of toxic neighbors, including polluting industry and the placement of I-26.”

In the suit, Rosemont’s attorney chronicled the Neck area’s long history of industrial concerns dating back to the late 19th century when Charleston was a national hub for the production of phosphate fertilizer. These plants left behind toxic levels of lead, arsenic, and mercury in the soil and tainted the groundwater…”

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