LDF, alongside Earthjustice, and the Environmental Justice Law Clinic at Yale, represents the Ashurst Bar/Smith Community Organization (ABSCO) in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 administrative complaints against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). The first Title VI complaint was filed in 2003 with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The second Title VI complaint was filed in 2017 with EPA OCR.
ABSCO’s Title VI complaints allege that ADEM has discriminated against the Ashurst Bar/Smith community by permitting the Stone’s Throw Landfill to open and expand its operations in their predominately (98%) Black community without conducting an assessment of the Landfill’s disparate and discriminatory social, economic, and health impacts on the majority-Black community. The Stone’s Throw Landfill receives at least 1,500 tons of waste per day from all of Alabama’s 67 counties and three areas in Georgia. Trash is literally dumped in the front and back yards of the majority-Black Ashurst Bar/Smith community.
Many residents of the Ashurst Bar/Smith community can trace their land ownership back multiple generations, some as far back as the era of Reconstruction following the end of de jure slavery. Phyllis Gosa, for example, traces her family’s land ownership to the 1800s when her great‐grandparents, former slaves, invested in land as the only form of transferable wealth available to them. Ron Smith and his family actively defend their family’s land from literal and figurative encroachment by the Landfill—land that has been in their family since 1813, when Mr. Smith’s great‐grandfather came from South Carolina to Tallassee and acquired, incredibly, about 600 acres of land through federal land grants for farmers. “The Ashurst/Bar Smith community was created through pioneering Black landowners like my ancestors,” says Mr. Smith. He, like other residents of the tight-knit Ashurst Bar/Smith community are “deeply concerned that the ever-expanding Landfill will do away with the hundreds of years of history here.”
For nearly 15 years since the Landfill reopened, ABSCO members have lived with the various impacts of the Stone’s Throw Landfill on their historic Black community. These impacts include:
As Mrs. Gosa aptly stated:
I believe these impacts are allowed to happen because we are Black people. The landfill is running Black people off of their property and leading to Black land-loss. To me, this is blatant racism.
In 2017, the EPA closed ABSCO’s 2003 complaint. However, as part of our representation, LDF, Earthjustice, and the Environmental Justice Law Clinic at Yale continue to provide information to EPA OCR in support of the 2017 complaint about the ongoing harms that Black residents in Tallassee experience as a result of the Landfill and encourage EPA OCR to engage ABSCO’s members in discussions about the discriminatory impact of the Landfill on their lives and the community’s ideas for resolving that discrimination.
Among many remedies, ABSCO wants the Landfill to cease operating in their community, or to cease encroaching on their land and way of life, and to remedy the harms that the Ashurst Bar/Smith community has suffered.
Who we are
Earthjustice is America’s original and largest nonprofit environmental law organization that leverages its expertise and commitment to fight for justice and advance the promise of a healthy world for all.
LDF has been a leading advocate for racial justice in the United States, fighting to make the promise of equal opportunity in all areas of life for Black Americans a reality, including the right to clean air, water, land, public transportation, and other human necessities, recognizing that environmental justice is requisite to a democratic and just society.
ABSCO is a community group in Tallassee, Alabama, that advocates on behalf of Ashurst Bar/Smith residents, particularly against the reopening and continued expansion of a Landfill in close proximity to them. Many Ashurst Bar/Smith residents are descendants of Black Americans who were enslaved and who, following Emancipation, bought land that has remained in their family for several generations.
The EJ Clinic seeks to serve the environmental justice movement by advancing and enforcing civil rights in the environmental justice context and employing interdisciplinary tools to build legal, administrative, and scientific capacity in support of community-based advocacy. To that end, the Clinic strives to develop a generation of students to be ethical and effective advocates for their clients in this effort.