Terri Sewell, Randall Woodfin weigh-in on Birmingham indictments surrounding EPA clean-up site

Terri Sewell, Randall Woodfin

A Jefferson County grand jury on Tuesday indicted the Southeast regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a former Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) Commissioner for violating state ethics laws in his work to stop the listing of North Birmingham’s Superfund site on the EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL).

The North Birmingham 35th Avenue Superfund Site consists of contaminated soil from industrial pollution.

Alabama 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell believes the indictment is “a step in the right direction.”

“This week’s indictment is a step in the right direction for residents of North Birmingham who were the victim of corruption and hazardous pollution,” Sewell said in a statement. “We still have work to do seeking justice for families whose homes and communities have been contaminated… North Birmingham should be reconsidered for the National Priority List. No family should have to live with a contaminated backyard, and no community should be left to clean up decades of industrial waste. We must continue fighting for a full cleanup of North Birmingham until our whole community is made safe.”

In August, Sewell led a tour of the Superfund site along with Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and other city, state and neighborhood leaders. The site consists of contaminated soil from industrial pollution. Sewell, Woodfin, and Sen. Doug Jones have called on the EPA to consider North Birmingham for the NPL.

According to EPA Region 4 Superfund Division Director Franklin Hill , the study site of roughly 2,000 properties revealed that 390 sites have undergone the contamination removal process; 127 sites are in need of treatment.

“The corruption and the appearance of corruption has destroyed the public’s confidence in this process, which has hijacked efforts to clean up the North Birmingham community,” Woodfin added. “The people of North Birmingham deserve a transparent process in order to restore their community and the resources needed to make them and their neighborhoods whole.”

History of the site

According to EPA guidelines, a site may be included on the NPL if it scores 28.50 or greater on the agency’s Hazard Ranking System. The North Birmingham 35th Avenue Superfund Site scored a 50.

On July 19, 2018, a federal jury convicted a coal executive and an attorney who represented the coal company in a criminal conspiracy to prevent the North Birmingham 35th Avenue Superfund Site from advancing to the NPL. On November 13, it was reported that EPA Southeastern regional office administrator Trey Glenn and a former business partner, Scott Phillips, were charged with multiple ethics violations in Birmingham in keeping the site off of the NPL.