From the debate over Confederate monuments to protecting confederate names of schools, racial injustice including environmental hazards disproportionately affect minority communities.
Wegmans grocery plans to build a 24 hr warehouse the size of the pentagon (219.6 acres) smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood right across the street from Brown Grove Baptist Church which was established 150 years ago by freed slaves during Reconstruction after the Civil War. The land has been passed down to relatives for generations along with oral history. This legacy continues as the backbone of the community and is a testament to our resilience and the historical importance of our land.
Brown Grove is a predominantly African American community and has been routinely targeted by Hanover County to host facilities that have negative environmental impacts. Bringing Wegmans to this community is environmental racism and will impact the quality of life of those that live there. The majority of Brown Grove residents have well water and contaminated water can cause an abundance of health-related issues, particularly for young children. This facility will contribute to traffic safety, air pollution, and health concerns like asthma, cardiovascular issues, lung disease, and cancer. Other impacts include:
- Fumes from trucks daily
- Wegmans will generate an estimated 2,864 additional vehicle trips per day
- 24-hour noise from the distribution center and truck traffic
- Increase in accidents on a residential road
- 24-hour lights shining in the community
- Destruction of 15 acres of wetlands causing more flooding on roads and property.
- Disturbance of many gravesites – they will not allow us on the property to prove their existence.
For years Hanover County Board of Supervisors has ignored the community concerns regarding industrial complexes making Brown Grove a place of business. This will be the 5th industrial business in the middle of a family neighborhood.
Brown Grove is a community where you used to catch butterflies and dragonflies. Kids could ride their bikes to their friend’s houses down the street. A brother could walk down the street to his sister’s house. But that’s not the case anymore. Brown Grove has been routinely targeted by Hanover County to host facilities that have negative environmental impacts which include Interstate-95, Hanover County Airport, a landfill, a truck stop, and a concrete plant. Brown Grove is the home of Descendants of slaves who, against all odds, made lives for themselves who have now found themselves next door to an airport, landfill, concrete plant, and now, Wegman’s distribution center. This makes Brown Grove one of the heaviest polluted neighborhoods in Hanover county. This is the essence of environmental injustice.
Everyone deserves to breathe healthy air, drink clean water, and live in an environment free from harmful pollution. The residents of Brown Grove deserve to enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental health hazards and equal access to the decision‐making process. We deserve to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. Yet, Brown Grove has been overburdened with environmental degradation.
And where does our Governor stand on this? Although Gov. Ralph Northam established a permanent advisory Council on Environmental Justice, he is in full support of Wegmans coming into a residential community.
In our recent climate, COVID-19, which is killing Black Americans at twice the rate of their white counterparts in part because of environmental issues like pollution-caused asthma and heart disease, has only advanced the urgency for justice in our community.
This video provides insight into what this land means to community members.