Is Your Neighborhood A Toxic Wasteland?
In Kalamazoo, A Mom & Veteran Is Fighting For Clean Air Amidst An Expanding Polluter
“Kalamazoo is like a toxic wasteland,” Brandi Crawford-Johnson, a disabled veteran and resident of Kalamazoo, Michigan’s Northside neighborhood told The Brockovich Report in a recent interview.
“Erin Brockovich gave me a lot of inspiration,” she said. (Thanks, Brandi, you inspire me too!)
In 2018, Brandi saw a news article that startled her, stating that Kalamazoo, a town of about 75,000 people, had some of the dirtiest air in the nation.
“I looked at the source for the information and it was the American Lung Association,” Brandi said. “In their ‘State of the Air’ report from that year, Kalamazoo received an F for air quality.”
She wondered if there was a connection to her severe asthma. She’s not a smoker and her doctor couldn’t figure out why her health was so bad, triggering her to need three different inhalers, two medications, and a nebulizer.
She started to research polluters in her area. She found the two top polluters: Pfizer and Graphic Packaging International (GPI). GPI’s cardboard packaging plant was located in the city limits.
Brandi got active, joining The Environmental Concerns Committee for the city to try to tackle the air pollution problems. Once she was appointed to the committee, she sent them the research and reporting about the air quality.
But she soon hit her first setback. After attending her first meeting, she learned that the committee sent a cease-and-desist letter to all the reporters and data companies that relayed information on the town’s air quality “for fear it would ruin Kalamazoo’s reputation,” she said.
“I was shocked,” Brandi told us. So, she quit the committee.
Her next call was to her state regulator, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, known as EGLE. She spoke with an air quality inspector, who assured her everything was fine. She filed a notice of strong odors against Graphic Packaging, anyway, asking questions like: Are they using pollution prevention? Do they have filters on their smoke stacks?
Brandi was told the company was in compliance and that their stacks had been tested regularly.
“I believed her, like a lot of people do, who believe the EPA and EGLE,” she said. “We don’t learn about environmental issues in high school or college unless we are studying those subjects.”
She didn’t know at that time that others in the neighborhood were also filing odor complaints.
Like many people, Brandi’s life was upended during the pandemic. She and her family sold their house and were set to move to Florida to be closer to her family, but lockdown restrictions kept them in Michigan. Her family spent some time renting a house in a different part of Michigan, and during that time her asthma was much less severe.
Ready to join the fight? You can read more about our mission here. Click the button below to support us and become a paid subscriber.
Talk to Your Neighbors
Her love for Kalamazoo stayed strong, and she bought another home in her neighborhood in Kalamazoo. Within days of moving in, her eyes started burning when she stepped outside. She bought some eye drops but they didn’t help. She went back to her doctor for allergy eye drops, but those didn’t work either.
She started talking to her neighbors in the predominantly Black community. It turned out that many of them had asthma as well, along with COPD and burning eyes.
She contacted the local wastewater plant and found out that they had been monitoring for hydrogen sulfide, but the public hadn’t been notified about it. She kept researching, making Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the city of Kalamazoo. She found an odor study from 2009 that showed gas leaks at Graphic Packaging and the wastewater treatment site (located next to the plant). And there were more violations.
It turns out that EGLE, has issued eight violation notices to Graphic Packaging since 2012 for odor violations, according to local media.
The Next Step
Fast forward to this September. Brandi filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. EPA, saying that state environmental regulators discriminated against the majority African American neighborhoods surrounding the plant when they approved an air permit for Graphic Packaging International last year.
The permit allowed the company to expand its plant “despite several reported violations of non-compliance” with federal air quality standards, says the EPA's response to her complaint.
EGLE is reviewing the complaint, and more media is starting to take notice and write about this issue.
Brandi continues to speak at national environmental justice meetings and at the White House environmental justice council meetings.
“I didn’t know we were considered a frontline community and I didn’t know about environmental racism, I didn’t know anything,” she said when she started her activism.
I’m glad she knows now and continues to act. It’s all we can do. Bring awareness and keep fighting.
P.S. The "State of the Air" 2021 report finds that despite some nationwide progress on cleaning up air pollution, more than 40 percent of Americans are still living in places with unhealthy air quality, and the burden is not shared equally. People of color are more than three times more likely to be breathing the most polluted air than white people.
Does this stink sound familiar? Read about another containerboard plant in South Carolina here. It’s time to stop the toxic stink, everywhere.
EPA, 1970 DEC. 2, 2021
Local Heroes + Excellent Super Sleuth Skills! Erin you were mentioned on the show The Doctors today on the U channel right after an episode on the Decades program that discussed the begining & reason for the EPA on Dec. 2, 1970! Nixon started EPA because his democrat opponent was fighting for protecting our air & water & communities sick & suffering.
Thanks to Erin, Susanne & courageous women & families everywhere sharing acts w/ health facts, science, logic & reason!
Under your homes miles underground you have zero clue about what's going down. Miles away landing on cars & yards? Companies could be mining right under your BLDG & you never knew.
Going for medical help is another form of insult to injury for so many of us especially children & women. WTF?!
The only way to be able to know for sure is with DIY + PSA E/I Education & Information Campaign!
This is another helpful published tool to help fight & find out where your community is impacted.
No BODY is safe or immune & we're ALL downwind & downstream!
Even if your miles away will there still be hell to live & pay!?
Best built house doesn't matter, it's all about LOCATION?!
We try to move & move & move & as it turns out, we can still be living in some of the worst high cancer risk areas & not know.
The most expensive areas & highest tax rates can still prove how they pull the wool over the public's eye's & damages health.
They call it a country club, under feet & views of wildlife running by windows & homes, the dust & air impacts health & homes.
They look so nice out front & then disappear under the ground who's SOP is to use poisons & leave toxic wastes in their wake.
They put outdoor water parks right under the billowing wastes that blow on land, air & water & land down in our faces & properties.
They put parks & kid's playing fields for baseball & soccer right under the fires burning off the worst health damaging toxic wastes.
There're ways to protect & use inavulable resources without negatively impacting everyone & deeming all of us collateral damage.
Insurance denies claims of damages for every excuse & then when you can't go home your coverage is dropped & you lose it all.
Real Estate & insurance proved all the negative health ramifications from thousdands of years of history, math, science & evidence.
Companies market & take advantage, money & leave another disaster behind IF insurance pays out in very recent water damage.
IF your home is in a doomed zone/cancer alley, you have to give full disclosure & the companies never compensate the damages.
Naperville's nice area & homes are blasted off their foundations & the siding on the homes is damaged by blowing toxic dust waste.
Hinsdale, BurrRidge, Willowbrook, Downers Grove, Lisle, Joliet, Elwood, Channahon, Morris, Braidwood, Crestwood, Rockford, Pilsen, Waukegan, etc. + all neighbors in ILLinois & beyond.
This time of year when we're supposed to give, give, give; WHY ARE THE COMPANIES PROVIDING HELP HARMING US TOO?
Where's IRL science & facts provided regrading products we buy & use loaded w/ harmful cancer-causing poisons by DOCTORS?
Sick & tired of being forced living the hell of noxious smell you later sick & tired hell especially when it's all preventable & detectable.
Women make up 50% + popUlation & we can protect & learn these critical life tips & skills.
Millions of US can do easy how to detect, prevent & protect people, pets health indoors today!
Sure bet to help end health & homes full of toxic & poison filled regrets is by putting our money where our mouth is for all our kids!
Safe, Clean & Green LAWS-LAND, AIR & WATER SOLUTIONS + ER/EvolUtion + ResolUtions + AmeriCANs + Loving; Living; Learning & Leading SolUtions is ALL 4; 1 = HumanKIND