By Sharon Nunn
Apex, N.C. — One of Wake County’s largest waste disposal facilities sits tucked between one of North Carolina’s newest toll roads and multiple high-priced neighborhoods and apartment complexes like 12 Oaks, Forest Springs, and Camden Reunion. The landfill’s placement – in a majority-white, upper middle class Holly Springs neighborhood with an average income that is almost double the state’s average – is statistically outside the norm. In North Carolina, solid waste facilities are disproportionately located in communities of color and low wealth.
Privately owned landfill companies, the nature of public waste disposal, regulations and the lack thereof, are contributing factors.
There’s a term [city] planners use. It’s called ‘lulu’ — a locally undesirable land use. Nobody wants to be right next to it, but as a whole, we need them out there.
— UNC School of Government professor Richard WhisnantWarren County and the birth of the environmental movement
Nationwide concern for where and how waste disposal facilities are constructed spread after North Carolina’s legislature planned to dump contaminated soil into a landfill in majority-minority Warren County in 1973.
Multiple lawsuits were heard, scientific studies were conducted and backlash erupted, some of which included black protesters lying in front of dump trucks as they brought contaminated soil to the landfill.