Canton and four other metro communities have more sources of pollution than anywhere else in the region, according to one Atlanta environmental advocacy group.
GreenLaw on Monday named its top five “environmental justice hotspots,” the areas where the correlation between race, poverty and pollution is strongest.
Canton was second on that list.
"The City of Canton reported continuous Clean Water Act violations at its plant between 2008-2011," David Deganian, the lead author of the report and an attorney at GreenLaw, wrote. "These include violations for fecal coliform, phosphorus, and nitrogen in levels exceeding permit limits, all of which negatively impact water quality. The city was fined $3,000 by Georgia’s EPD on July 26, 2011 for its Clean Water Act permit exceedances."
Officials with GreenLaw said Canton's "unprecedented growth"—a nearly 200 percent population shift from 2000 to 2010—placed increased demands on the area's wastewater treatment system.
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"Fifty-three pollution points were identified in this hotspot and 49 of these points represent violations of the City of Canton Water Pollution Control Plant’s Clean Water Act permit," Deganian wrote in the report.
The analysis found that the metro area's most polluted areas have large low-income and "linguistically isolated" communities or a high percentage of minorities, according to PBA 30, Atlanta's PBS station.
A 2-mile stretch of Fulton Industrial Boulevard connecting Fulton, Cobb and Douglas Counties is the region's top pollution hotspot, followed by Canton, the border that separates DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties, Atlanta's Grove Park neighborhood, and central Douglas County.
"Little more than 20 percent of this block’s residents are minorities," Deganian said of Canton, "but its demographic score is in the upper quantile because high school graduation rates are 20 percent lower than the regional average, a quarter of all residents are living in poverty, and more than 20 percent of households are linguistically isolated."
Officials with GreenLaw said they hope Monday's report convinces lawmakers as well as other leaders to create policies and laws needed to curb toxics in vulnerable communities.
“Georgia has fallen behind,” GreenLaw executive director Justine Thompson said in a news release. “As states across the country strive to protect all of its citizens—regardless of race or economic status—from the health impacts of pollution, Georgia remains one of the only states in the nation with no mechanism to ensure equality in environmental decision-making.
“For Atlanta to remain a player in the global economy, we need to show the world that Atlanta takes care of the health and well-being of all of its residents.”
Along with the findings, GreenLaw unveiled a new website that allows people to type in an address and find out what pollution sources are in their communities.