The New Hill Community Association (NHCA) and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a Petition for Contested Case Hearing today in an attempt to stop the Western Wake Partners from building a $327 million wastewater treatment plant in the historic and primarily African-American town. petition.pdf

The petition asks that a neutral third-party review the partner’s actions, and make a final ruling.

The petition contests the issuance of a clean water permit for the facility by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Quality.

It also contends the site “has larger human and environmental justice impacts than other, more suitable alternatives, including land previously condemned by Progress Energy in the same general vicinity. Noise, odor, traffic, and light spill from the sewage treatment plant will impact the New Hill Historic District, including the predominantly African-American First Baptist Church and cemetery. Western Wake Partners reverse-engineered Site 14 by prematurely committing nearly $10 million to the site before considering its human and environmental impacts. This commitment of resources prevented an unbiased consideration of better, alternative sites in the same general vicinity.”

The plant, which was scheduled to begin construction this year, will not be built in Apex or Cary or any of the partners’ towns. It will loom across the street from the New Hill Baptist Church and playground, and a half-mile from the First Baptist Church of New Hill. The plant will sit within 1,000 feet of 23 homes. But who lives in those homes is as important: 87 percent of those approximately 230 residents immediately affected by the sewage treatment plant are African-American, on fixed incomes, elderly or retired.

Rev. James E. Clanton of the First Baptist Church New Hill says it is unfortunate that the community has had to resort to litigation to have its voice heard. “We have been willing to host the partners’ sewage treatment plant so long as it was not in the middle of our community, but the partners won’t meet us halfway.”

Litigation will be expensive, and thus far the community has been able to pay those costs from a $10,000 grant from the Impact Fund, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that financially assists community groups in the areas of civil rights, environmental justice, and poverty law.
A barbeque fundraiser held by the First Baptist Church of New Hill also raised $4,648.