207 N. Center St. | Longview, TX 75601 | 903.236.4686
Dying For Profit
in Texas and on the Gulf Coast
BY TAMMY CROMER-CAMPBELL
With Fruit of the Orchard | Environmental Justice in East Texas successfully published as a book, and knowing in my heart that Winona's environmental injustice problems are not limited to Winona, I decided to expand the project to to include and other communities in East Texas and the Gulf Coast. The working title is Dying For Profit. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency states that Environmental Justice is the entitlement of all people to a clean and healthy environment where they live, work, and play, but for years minorities, and lower income Americans experience toxins penetrating their homes, workplaces and playgrounds daily.
For more than a decade I documented the effects of environmental pollution on a rural East Texas town. The project takes place in Winona; a tight knit community of 500 people living downwind of a toxic-waste injection-well facility built in 1982.
The children of Winona suffered from birth defects, rare tumors, skin disorders, and cancers that many believe are effects from the pollution. Community action, and my documentation led to the facility's closure in 1997.
What began as a pro-bono photography assignment changed my life and that is why I feel I must continue photographing other affected communities across East Texas and the entire Gulf Coast region until true environmental justice is achieved.
Now with the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history still unfolding and the egregious efforts of BP obfuscating the truth all the while covering up what is really happening, the Gulf must be a part of Dying For Profit. In the beginning all cameras were on the Gulf and what was happening to the people and their environment. Now with the well capped, the cameras have gone. The people feel abandoned. The people in the communities are experiencing first hand the effects of toxic exposure from the oil and the Corexit that reports say “someone” continues to spray.
In this project, I bring you up to date on the people of Winona, in their own voice, tell you how their lives have changed after the facility shut down over 10 years ago. De Berry, Texas, an African American, former slave community, struggles with no clean water for domestic use. Their well water was contaminated by a salt water injection well by an oil company. Yet, the regulatory agencies can’t seem to agree on which agency is to handle the problem. After five long years Reverend Hudson finally gets his water line laid by the EPA. Hudson is still on the offensive trying to ward off new gas wells from coming close to his community. Houston’s Ship Channel neighborhoods experience air quality issues and more.
Three of my subjects, from three different communities died with in a 6 week period in 2009 and two had brain tumors. It was then that the title Dying for Profit emerged. They were: Jimmy Laird, 53, of Rivercrest, TX, ended his battle with brain tumors on February 5, 2009. He donated his organs to science for examination. His family sprinkled his cremated remains over his beloved river. He lived downriver from a paper mill that dumped it's waste into the river for over 50 years. RL Glazer, formerly of Winona, Texas, husband and strong supporter of Phyllis Glazer, died February 25, 2009. RL had a brain tumor. Their team of world class neurologists had never experienced a couple both having brain tumors. Phyllis told the doctors, “we both lived in Winona.” I documented RL's Orthodox Jewish burial on February 27, 2009. Charles Brown of De Berry was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. He died March 24, 2009.
With Dying For Profit, I continue photographing communities impacted by environmental injustices with a Holga camera while also recording their voice for audio. With my plastic toy camera and my Digital DSLR, I discover visual stories of people and communities that are being affected by toxic air pollution, polluted water sources, and contaminated soil.
Communities along the Gulf coast will complete this project. I’ve been in contact with some of the locals and they are all welcoming me with open arms. Dr. Riki Ott, Valdez Toxicologist said in an interview on October 27, 2010, “People are dropping dead now — I don’t think we’ll have to wait years to see the effects like we did in Alaska.” Ott said she is dealing with three autopsies right now. She continued, “I know two people who are down to 4.75 per cent of their lung capacity, their heart has enlarged to make up for that, and their esophagus is disintegrating, and one of them is a 16-year-old boy who went swimming in the Gulf.”1 Reports are indicating that that the Pensacola Bay is toxic, so toxic they had to dilute the testing sample 20 times before they could get a reading.2 The BP Oil Spill is not over. The people are telling me it is everywhere. What is going to happen to the people, the migrating birds, the sea life, and the ecosystems in the aftermath . Are the people and wildlife going to survive? Are they going to stay? Will the migrating birds return? These are some of the questions that I will answer in the Aftermath of the largest oil spill in the world. It is my goal that by shining a light onto their pollution problems, real change will occur, and we ALL can live in a healthy and clean environment where we live, work, and play.