Several dozen Louisvillians boarded a bus this morning at St. William Church in West Louisville. They set off to view and learn about the kinds of sites you wouldn’t want on a sight-seeing tour: a garbage dump, a chemical factory, a sewage treatment plant. But these were no unusual tourists. These were participants in Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light’s Environmental Health and Justice Tour.
The point was to give participants an insight into the twin injustices of poverty and environmental blight. The two, tour leaders contend, are often found together in this town. The toxic air in Rubbertown didn’t arrive overnight, they said, and neither did the pollution in Chickasaw Park Lake. But the culmination of so much pollution from a concentration of so much industry in western Louisville has effectively segregated these largely African American and poor neighborhoods from the rest of a city that has tended to ignore it.
The tour included stops at the Rohm and Hass plant, the Superfund site at Lees Lane, the Morris Forman Wastewater Treatment facility, the Ford Motor Assembly plant, and homes at Lake Dreamland.
The relatively new head of the city’s air pollution control board, Lauren Anderson, addressed the crowd, as did the city’s top health official, Dr. Adewale Troutman. Troutman said that western Louisville residents have some of the highest incidences of asthma and cancer in the city, as well as some of the highest instances of crime, poverty, and low education levels. He said investing in education, which would in turn help boost income rates with better jobs, could be the single most important way to creating a better future for residents.
Organizers hope to take the tour to schools and colleges.