Northwest Atlanta neighborhoods are primarily composed of working-class African American citizens with little access to amenities and services. Residents are faced with multiple environmental stressors, including a polluted Proctor Creek; foul odors and respiratory irritants; dilapidated, sub-standard housing; major highways; heavy truck traffic; air pollution; rail yards; wastewater treatment plants, incinerators, landfills, and illegal trash dumping sites; car repair/maintenance shops, welding shops; diesel truck stops; rock quarries; concrete and metal recycling facilities; superfund sites; neglected city parks; large areas of impervious surfaces; eroded stream banks that abut residential properties; various types of industrial pollution; and a lack of convenient shopping and greenways.
Research conducted by the Clark Atlanta University Environmental Justice Resource Center in 1994 identified 64 uncontrolled toxic waste facilities in one area of the community, Zip Code 30318. The Neighborhood Environmental Project conducted by the City of Atlanta in the 1990s identified this area as one of the most polluted zip codes in Fulton County and one of the most industrialized areas of Atlanta (Northwest Atlanta Corridor). Despite these studies conducted over 15 years ago, the majority of these environmental stressors identified in these studies still exist.
The West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, made up of residents who live in Northwest and Southwest Atlanta, has been concerned about and working to eliminate and/or reduce the impact of these stressors for 15 years. Through funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency, WAWA conducted its "Mobilizing Community Residents to Identify Environmentally and Public Health Hazards in Northwest Atlanta," an effort to engage the community in gathering comprehensive data on the present-day effects of the existence of these stressors on our community health, environmental quality, and overall quality of life. The environmental and public health concerns addressed by this project included problems of little to no enforcement of illegal dumping; industrial pollution and right-to-know; the impact that environmental exposures have on the health of community residents; and access to environmental information.
Today, WAWA continues its work in the Proctor Creek watershed. We are creating a Proctor Creek Stewardship Council, which consists of residents and volunteers who will lead stewardship activities in various parts of the watershed. We are cultivating watershed residents who can craft a compelling case to prompt action by local decision-makers, local government entities, academic institutions, and business industries to partner with the community to improve the quality of the watershed. We are enabling watershed residents to gain the self-sufficiency to lead participants in a community coalition that evaluates the establishment of public green space and participates in the process to acquire, develop, and manage a new urban greenway system along Proctor Creek. Finally, we are working on the Proctor Creek North Avenue conceptual plan's contents and application with downstream communities.