Gloster, MS residents efforts to reduce hazardous air quality get ear of EPA, environmental groups

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Gloster, MS native Krystal Martin has been working tirelessly to rid her hometown of hazardous pollutants. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Just last week she accepted an anonymous gift on behalf of Greater Greener Gloster to assist with continuing the fight. The check was presented by Congressman Bennie G. Thompson on behalf of the anonymous donor.

JANS – Gloster, MS is situated in Amite County, 15 miles from the Louisiana border. Its population of 1,200 is 80 percent Black; perhaps the reason it took nearly seven years to have its complaints pile high enough to get the attention of top government officials concerning a wide range of hazardous pollutants being released in the manufacturing of wood pellets. The culprit, Drax’s Amite BioEnergy, LLC (Drax-Amite), which opened in 2016.

Although EPA, USDA and the Dogwood Alliance1, a nongovernmental organization, began to address the residents’ concerns in 2022, it would take until May 9, 2023, for the agencies to finally tour Gloster and meet with Greater Greener Gloster members and other community stakeholders to discuss the adverse human health and environmental impacts on the residents. MDEQ was also actively involved.

After months of bi-weekly conference calls, a stakeholders meeting was held May 9, 2023, in Gloster, MS. Community representatives shared their primary concerns about the impact of the local wood pellet production facility, other local environmental and public health issues, but also a variety of other quality of life issues. 

To better enable the MDEQ to understand the environmental issues, representatives of the MDEQ Community Engagement and Air Permitting program were invited to and participated in the last six of the biweekly community calls leading up to the May 9, 2023, event.

As part of next steps to improve air quality in Gloster, EPA recently issued a full report of its findings from community stakeholders, and GGG is still awaiting MDEQ to provide a hazard mitigation plan for Gloster and levy fines against Drax.

According to Dr. Krystal Martin,  GGG spokesperson, “In 2021, MDEQ fined Drax $2.5 million for exceeding air permit limits by emitting three times more air pollution than permitted.  In March 2023, MDEQ served Drax with a second notice for violating the Clean Air Act, but as of today, there has been no fine levied against them. In the past, Drax was fined by MDEQ, and they have been fined twice in Louisiana.

“As a resident and concerned citizen of Gloster, Mississippi, I am outraged that no immediate action has been taken against this U.K. based company for repeatedly violating the Clean Air Act,” Martin said. “I am saddened that our very own MDEQ has not taken immediate action to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of present and future generations of the Gloster community.”

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Gloster, MS residents efforts to reduce hazardous air quality get ear of EPA, environmental groups

By Jackson Advocate News Service
January 8, 2024