Rocket Fuel and Trash

I saw the deadly pesticides and the waste products of pulp mills when I was a child. It was a simple step to think that they might still be polluting the Blackbelt environment. It was easy to find credible sources to support that view. I had never given a thought to rocket fuel, trash, and coal ash. This line of thought did not occur to me until I read about the Olin Corporation dumping DDT into the Tennessee River and the impact of that on Triana, Alabama. The Olin Corporation was manufacturing DDT at a military facility, Redstone Arsenal. If you are familiar with the history of rocket science in the US, you might be familiar with Redstone.

Redstone Arsenal is located near the city of Huntsville in Alabama, US. It was established in 1941 during World War II, mainly to serve as a chemical weapons producing centre. The base is used as the centre for the US Army’s missile and rocket programmes.

Even though the history of Redstone is fascinating, summarizing it is beyond the scope of this brief report. The full text of Baker’s Redstone Arsenal: Yesterday and Today is available free of charge through the Internet Archive ( WHNT provides us with a special report: Special Report: What’s Hidden Beneath Redstone Arsenal? This video and written report posted in 2014 describes what is buried underground at Redstone and the efforts to clean it up. Special Report: What’s Hidden Beneath Redstone Arsenal? | Redstone is a case study in The Remediation of Buried Chemical Warfare Materiel, a publication of National Academies Press.

Contaminants have been identified in the vicinity of the RSA site, including solvents, metals, pesticides, CWM, and hazardous remnants from rocket fuel R&D and testing, such as perchlorate. These contaminants have impacted ground-water, soil, sediments, and surface waters in the region29and are of concern for both public health and economic prosperity. The proximity to the Tennessee River, which is used for drinking water and recreation, increases the importance of selecting the best remediation approach.30 Redstone Arsenal: A Case Study, Remediation of buried chemical warfare, materiel. National Academies Press (2012).p.73.


The residents of Triana, Alabama experienced not just the DDT dumped into the Tennessee River by the Olin Corporation but also a trash dump that engaged in illegal practices. In 2008 Greenway Recycling Solutions opened East of Triana with goal being a recycling facility that would accept construction debris such as wood, cardboard, metal, bricks and other materials that could go in the ground. Recycling these materials was intended to keep them out of a landfills. But things got out of hand with all the construction debris coming in and piling up. Trying to separate the debris into recyclable piles became a nightmare, leaving the company unable to stay ahead of the piles. Things got out of hand, and became a threat to the health of the community, because the company accepted materials that it was not authorized to receive. The proposed recycling center became a dumping place for unsightly debris that threatened ground water and attracted vermin. In June 2009 the state documented the existence of an “unauthorized dump.” A formal violation notice was issued in 2010 and the company fined. Residents of Tiana felt they were once again being dumped on. Tiana was not the only community where Greenway ran into trouble and it was not the only company that engaged in illegal dumping practices. I think it is legitimate to question if these practices impacted health in Alabama. What is the situation in your Blackbelt homeplace.

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