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December 21, 2021How Black Communities Become “Sacrifice Zones” for Industrial Air Pollution

Every time Pam Nixon drives along Interstate 64, she sees the Union Carbide plant. Wedged between a green hillside and the Kanawha River, the sprawling facility has helped define West Virginia’s “Chemical Valley” for the better part of a century, its smokestacks belching gray plumes and fishy odors into the town of Institute, population 1,400. To many West Virginians, the plant is a source of pride — it was a key maker of synthetic rubber in World War II — and a source of hundreds of jobs. But to Nixon and others in Institute’s largely Black community, it has meant something else: pollution. The plant reminds Nixon of leaks, fires, explosions — dangers she’s dedicated most of her adult life to trying to stop.

 

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