Fighting Grain Emissions in Gainesville

At least twice a month for over two decades, the residents of Newtown—a low-income, mostly African-American, section of Gainesville—have watched a cloud of grain particles coming from the Purina mill next door hover and settle over their playground, streets, yards, and homes. Since August 2006, GreenLaw has been helping a local civil rights organization, the Newtown Florist Club, to fight for the community’s right to be free from these harmful particles of dust which can lodge in lungs and cause asthma, bronchitis, rhinitis, dysprea, coughing, and wheezing. The particles also irritate other body parts and cause pruritic skin reactions, conjunctivitis, and dermatitis.

The Environmental Protection Division finally found evidence in the summer of 2006 that the Land O’Lakes Purina Feed LLC mill silo appeared to be violating state rules regulating air contamination by covering the community in grain dust at least ¼ inch thick.

GreenLaw was able to obtain improvements at the plant that have stopped the emissions for good.  “We are so pleased with the result.  So much was at risk.  Children whose bodies are still developing are particularly at risk from all kinds of air pollution. In this case, parents can actually see the grain dust on their children’s bicycles and swings, and they know that their lungs are in danger, ” said Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw.

The Newtown area is surrounded by industrial development. The low-income residents have had few options in dealing with pollution from a variety of sources. Faye Bush, president of the Newtown Florist Club, says, “The residents were here first. It wasn’t that we chose to live next to these facilities. Yet the burden of proof (of pollution) has always been on us, and that’s not right.”