An old industrial building bleeding out fumes and chemicals into the surrounding air and environment in the 1950’s goes to ruin, no longer in use, becoming another abandoned factory building in southwest Detroit. Long after this industrial factory building is out of use, in 2010, Detroit Public Schools Administration uses tax dollars and grants in order to build a brand new school building. Everything in the building is brand new also. The pollution and chemicals from the past are still lying under the building. According to the We are D6 campaign, There weren’t any regulations or assessments put in place before the building started or warning to anyone working there. Parents are taking their children to school with the health concerns not being brought to their attention. Students begin to come home from 9hours of school being exposed to these toxins.
There are many concerned organizations such as We Are D6, Child proofing our communities program and the parents of Detroit Public School students. The most common issues being brought to the attention of city officials are the polluted soil air and land in Southwest Detroit.
Detroit Public Schools is not expected to examine a site before building schools on top of soil. According to an article on the issue from Child proofing our communities’ organization. There is no information on what had been on the land before the new school had been built. According to a police officer that regularly Patrols the Southwest Detroit area, Adrian Cargill, she states that, in a neighborhood that has had a lot of pollution and effecting people’s health and causing more asthma cases, there should be more inspections on the soil and area where new buildings for youth are being built. “Pollution in southwest Detroit is one of the major reasons why people are moving out of this area. On a daily basis, myself as a police officer; Its normal for me to receive complaints on illegal dumping on plots of land, buildings being stripped and abandoned, and houses not being properly secured. As a citizen, I would complain about the lack of city services which plays a big part in cleaning up the city’s pollution problems.”
Through speaking with a resident of Southwest Detroit near the school Roberto Clemente, this could help to find out how the current policies affect the entire school system or the whole city of Detroit because no one knows what type of environment their kids are going to for most of the day. According to a past resident of Detroit Craig Regester states
“I didn’t really think about the environment much until I had kids. My son was born in 2002 and my daughter in 2007. Sam, my son, was diagnosed with asthma when he was five or six. I’m certain that the poor air quality in our neighborhood was a significant factor in his asthma though I can’t really prove it. Interestingly, however, my daughter has not been diagnosed with asthma. We moved to Berkley in 2013 when Sophia was six years old; so it’s possible she would have had asthma diagnosed had we stayed in the neighborhood, but who knows for sure? While finding affordable and good public schools was the main reason we moved to Berkley, the poor environmental quality in Southwest Detroit was also a factor. Information of what has been done so far about the contaminated soil that Roberto Clemente Academy has built on top of should be a way to begin enforcement of policies pushing for Detroit Public Schools to begin doing site assessments before building schools and institutions that would put communities and children at risk.”
Through some further questioning, more interesting things stated from an interview with resident Craig Regester of Southwest Detroit were “it was hard to know what to do about the air quality issues. I did call the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality a few times; and while I know this is important for trying to hold companies accountable for illegal emissions, I’m aware that it is extremely difficult to prove which companies are responsible. SW Detroit is so highly industrialized, with so many different companies contributing to the toxic stew in the neighborhood that it can be really overwhelming when you think about how best to respond. If the wind was blowing from the south (we lived about 2 miles from the Marathon refinery/DWSD, etc.), the air could be really sour. On really humid days, it could feel like you were walking through sludge. This didn’t happen too often, but enough to remember it. Whenever I would drive over the Rouge Bridge on I-75, I could see the many stacks emitting yellowish-orange fumes into the sky. It never ceased making me feel queasy.”
Things such as high levels of lead, PCBs, arsenic, and other contaminants were at the site that Roberto Clemente Academy was built on. According to the Child Proofing our Communities Campaign and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, young children are unable to be in this type of environment. They say the school was built on top of the soil a few inches above the contaminated soil but that does not seem like enough to concerned parents, also stated by We Are D6 official, Michelle Martinez. EMEAC’s head coordinator, Diana Copeland, states that “Studies have long linked increased asthma rates to proximity to busy streets and highways. And more recently researchers have made the connection between cardiovascular disease and auto pollution. Further, the burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other toxics into the atmosphere, which results in climate destabilization/warming. Increased heat in the atmosphere warms environments, causing ecosystems and weather patterns to change, impacting the production and availability of food.”
In the community of southwest Detroit, there isn’t a large selection of schools. When the building of this brand new elementary school was in its beginning stages, everyone was excited. When I interviewed Michelle from We are D 6 organization stated, “People chose contaminated land to build on, and land next to polluted communities are so cheap that it did not matter to the developers, even if it meant putting children in danger of contamination.”