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ing the building found that the elevators were shut down and the police were called. “Squad cars came roaring in, I looked around thinking there had been a bank robbery or something, but they were coming for us,” said Sepulveda. “I don’t know what they thought we were going to do. Most of our coalition are women, and many of us are crippled. We just wanted the EPA to listen to our concerns.” But Schermbeck was more strident, “I thought redressing our government was a right, but they cocoon themselves in private office buildings where the public can’t get to them.” Meanwhile, the Texas Water Commission, finally acting on citizen complaints, began to test West Dallas neighborhoods for contamination. In 1991, the state agency contacted the EPA, informing them that there was, indeed, extensive lead contamination in West Dallas neighborhoods and sections of the housing projects. The Water Commission discovered slag \(the rocky residue from lead the area. Apparently, for years RSR had sold the slag to local residents to use as fill dirt. According to EPA documents, RSR also dumped the slag in gravel pits throughout the area. The state Water Commission identified 11 slag sites with lead levels ranging from 12,700 ppm to 64,000 ppm. “It’s what we were telling them all along,” said Sepulveda. Reverend R.T. Conley, a member of the coalition, says he took city officials down to those slag sites in the early ’80s. “The city acted so shocked when they \(Water knew it was there. I had taken them down there and showed them the sites,” Conley said. “They’ve known for a long time that West Dallas was contaminated, but they just didn’t care.” According to Conley, when the smelter was in operation in the area, a fine rain-like fallout spewed from the smoke stacks and dense clouds routinely settled over the community. “I didn’t know about lead or acid,” he said, “but I knew they cooked batteries over there and I knew that the rain that came out of the stacks ate the paint off our cars and homes. I knew it was bad.” According to Mike Daniel, the attorney representing the West Dallas Coalition in a lawsuit charging the city of Dallas, the state of Texas and the federal EPA with “environmental racism,” the city was also aware that it was bad to live near a smelter. According to Daniel, in 1968 the city deliberately segregated West Dallas and moved whites out of the housing projects into other, nicer, federally subsidized projects in other areas of the city. “West Dallas is a creature of segregation,” said Daniel. “At the time they didn’t know all the effects from the smelter, but they knew it wasn’t good to live next to one so they moved the whites out.” Daniel says there has been a history of deliberate, overt racism by the city of Dallas, and points to the zoning uproar that ensues anytime minorities attempt to move into white neighborhoods. “The city equates poverty with pollution and sees poor people as pollution.” But Dallas Housing Authority Director Alphonso Jackson says no such segregation took place and, despite records that indicate portions of the housing projects and nearby Fish Trap Lake are contaminated, Jackson maintains that the West Dallas housing projects have no lead problems and blames Sepulveda for creating an environment of hysteria. Jackson, along with Mattie Nash, who represented West Dallas on the City Council until her defeat in the May 1 election, played down the health threats and viewed the coalition as a threat to a proposed $67 million Housing and Urban Development renovation plan for 2,000 units in the West Dallas projects. Jackson and Nash, and well as members of the black Ministerial Alliance, have been outspoken critics of Sepulveda’ s attempts to have West Dallas ranked for Superfund status. Apparently the EPA also saw Sepulveda as a threat. Recently, an internal EPA memo surfaced that outlined the West Dallas lead strategy, focusing on how to deal with Luis Sepulveda. The unsigned memo, written in November 1991, stated that the agency did not “expect to overcome Sepulveda, but we can focus on the ‘silent majority’ … at some point they will turn against him and want him out of their way.” That memo also lists as “friends of the EPA” many of the community activists in the area. The regional EPA memo was similar to a confidential memo between national EPA figures that detailed the agency’s strategy on environmental equity, which was made public in February 1992 by U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat. The memo from EPA Associate Administrator Lewis Crampton to Gordon Binder, EPA Chief of Staff, identifies the NAACP, National Urban League and AFL-CIO as the mainstream groups to target in what might be described as an attempt to drown out the voices of minorities trying to influence minority groups. Binder’s handwritten notes on the memo acknowledge the United Church of Christ as a mainstream group and leader in the environmental justice movement, but repeatedly stated Binder’s unwillingness to enter into a debate with Reverend Ben Chavis, the author of the original UCC report. Binder writes that the EPA “could not give him [Chavis] a platform we create. I do not see him as responsible.” Since then, Chavis has become director of the NAACP. Waxman charged the EPA’s environmental equity plan was a goal “to diffuse political pressure for action by driving a wedge between activist groups and traditional civil rights groups.” The battle for Superfund ranking has divided much of West Dallas, especially the activists who say Sepulveda does not know how to compromise and is a “political child.” But Sepulveda says it’s all part of the EPA strategy to “divide and conquer”: “The minority community has been pitted against each other down here over this issue. We need housing desperately. We need jobs desperately. But if they build on this site, they may as well build us a cemetery because that’s what it will be.” Even the agreement by which West Dallas was been scheduled for Superfund cleanup, according to Sepulveda and Texans United, was an 1 1 th-hour back-room deal struck between the Republican administration and their local allies while the Republicans still had time to influence public policy. Sepulveda has taken issue with the Superfund plan outlined under Republican Buck Wynne, contending that it does not go far enough. The state identified 16 square miles of contamination, but the Wynne plan only asks for the five-square-mile smelter site to be cleaned up under Superfund. It also only requires a cleanup to lead levels of 500 ppm, while other Superfund sites are being cleaned to lower levels. The plan doesn’t address two slag sites outside the boundaries of the smelter, both in close proximity to schools and parks. And the EPA has refused to test dust samples inside homes, stating that it has no jurisdiction there, although other regional offices of the EPA reportedly do test indoors. “Region 6 has had a long-standing tradition of not going inside black folks homes,” Daniel said. “It’s pure racist.” Sepulveda has no plans to let down his guard. “Now that we’re a Superfund, our battle has only begun,” he said. “We’re going to be their shadow, we’re going to make sure we’re not left out in the cold, we’re going to force them to conduct a human-health assessment, and this time we’re going to make sure we get justice.” ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512 453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11