In the 1960s Dickson County began taking waste from industrial chemical companies to dump in their unlined landfill. This hazardous practice was not generally known to the public.
As seems to be a tradition in this country, the landfill was located in the primarily African American community of Eno, along Eno Road in Dickson County. In this rural area all households in the Eno community were on well water.
In the 1980s ongoing testing of some area water wells alerted county officials to the presence of trichloroethylene, or TCE, a known carcinogen. White families in the area were notified of the danger and given the option to connect to the clean city water system. Black households were told not to worry, the water was safe and OK to use. Following this guidance, Black families continued to drink, bathe, cook, and wash with this highly contaminated water.
By the 1990s some of these family members started developing serious health issues, including cancers and autoimmune diseases. One family, the Holts, had several members who were seriously ill. Harry Holt, the patriarch, developed prostate and bone cancer that led to his death.
Sheila Holt-Orsted, Harry’s daughter, developed breast cancer that she narrowly survived. Only through radical surgery and aggressive chemotherapy was she able to make it.
Sheila teamed up with the National Resources Defense Council to file suit in federal court against Dickson County, the city of Dickson, and three large chemical companies on behalf of the Holt family and others in the Eno community. The Holts and NRDC were successful and received a substantial settlement.
Additionally, a federal order of consent was imposed on Dickson County to monitor area wells and be responsible for any future problems that may arise. This court order was only lifted in July of this year, 2022.
The Holts filed a second successful suit in civil court on the grounds of environmental racism. It, too, was settled for a substantial sum. Other area families followed, filing individual suits. All of these were successfully settled with Dickson County and the city of Dickson held liable for the injuries suffered.
Who ultimately paid for all this damage? Dickson County residents, who are reportedly still paying for it. However, no amount of money can ever repair this kind of suffering and injustice.
In February of this year another environmental threat was revealed in a public notice. Again, from Dickson County. (Remember the consent order was just lifted five months ago. Coincidence?)
This new threat is from the Water Authority of Dickson County (WADC). They have targeted Hickman County and Lick Creek as the site for their regional sewage treatment plant.
Why Hickman County? Well, why Eno Road? For the same reason — it looks like an easy slam dunk. Eno Road was a case of environmental racism. The Hickman County and Lick Creek threat is a case of environmental classism.
The vast majority of the sewage would come from Burns in Dickson County and Fairview in Williamson County. Two larger, more politically and financially powerful counties are targeting a traditionally rural and much less able one.
The reasons are the same in both cases — less able opponents, easy and quick profits. The outcome would be the same for Hickman County as it was for the Eno community. Our health and land compromised and put at risk so WADC can cash in on the maniacal growth of Williamson and Dickson Counties.
There are, of course, alternatives available. There always are, but they would cost more and cut deeper into WADC’s profit margin.
It seems acceptable to them to destroy our beloved gem, pure and pristine Lick Creek, and take crazy chances with our health and well-being.
We see through your ruse, WADC, and it is an insult to all who live, work, raise families and play along Lick Creek. You treat us like an easy mark to a hustler or a con man.
We have had this unwanted assault thrust upon us against our will. We will stand up and fight you, WADC. We are now part of a growing international movement of people being targeted by larger, more powerful communities and companies, like you, WADC, eager to exploit our natural resources and land.
We are viewed as a source of resources like fresh water, which is ever more precious and in short supply, and land to be used as your dumping ground. This predatory exploitation is fast becoming a national and global problem. And it is morally wrong.
You, WADC, have forced this new threat of environmental tragedy upon us. It is our duty to stand and fight for the beauty of our unspoiled land, the purity of our water, the peace of our rural existence and the health of our very lives.
To fail to defend ourselves and our creek would be shameful and dishonorable. This is our duty to what we hold dear, and this is what we must do.