Anna Smith said on Tuesday that she will turn down a precedent-setting offer of relocation from her dioxin-contaminated neighborhood unless residents of surrounding communities also are moved.

    The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed moving 66 households most directly affected by a toxic waste site known as Mount Dioxin. Additional studies will be conducted, however, before it is decided whether nearly 300 more families will be relocated.

    "We are going to hang together or we are going to die together," Smith said. "Hell can't be any worse than this."

    Citizens Against Toxic Exposure, a community group pushing for a wider relocation, has urged residents of the predominantly black neighborhoods to take an all or none stand.

    CATE has been seeking a relocation program for nearly four years and contends the agency's reluctance is an example of environmental racism, which EPA officials deny. They say what CATE wants has never been done and could set an expensive precedent for the government's Superfund cleanup sites.

    The group will ask EPA to delay a public hearing on the relocation plan from May 16 until June 14 to give it more time to build its case, said CATE president Margaret Williams.

    Mount Dioxin got its name from EPA's excavation of contaminated soil left at the abandoned Escambia Wood Treating Co. plant to halt contamination of ground water. EPA has yet to decide what to do with the soil laced with dioxin and other toxins, which remains in a pile nearly 60 feet tall.

    Escambia is the most seriously contaminated of two Superfund sites within a half-mile of each other in the heart of Pensacola. The other is a former Agrico Co. fertilizer plant.

    Nearby residents have blamed the toxic sites for causing rashes, cancer, respiratory problems and /other ailments and deaths, but EPA officials say their claims are unproven.

    Smith, 79, lives less than a block from the Escambia site. She blames it for the death of her husband, Curtis Smith, from cancer and kidney failure.

    The agency has agreed to relocate everyone in the Rosewood Terrace neighborhood at an estimated cost of $ 4.8 million. Relocating all 350 households would cost about $23 million.
Copyright 1996 Sun-Sentinel Company
Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale)
May 8, 1996, Wednesday, FINAL EDITION
BYLINE: BILL KACZOR; The Associated Press
LOAD-DATE: May 8, 1996