Posts Tagged ‘environmental racism’

For Immediate Release:

The Wingnut Anarchist Collective House is located at 2005 Barton Avenue. We have now become victim of one of the symptoms of a failing infrastructure in the City of Richmond.

Many folks are familiar with the numerous problems with the City of Richmond’s public utilities like water- from the flooding that occurred in Battery Park several years ago to the fact that we have the highest minimum water rate in the world and yet most of that money does not go into repairing our ailing sewers.

Last weekend we noticed the water in our downstairs toilet was bubbling up with air bubbles from sewer gas- clearly not supposed to happen. Then on Saturday March 30th, we were doing yard work and discovered, much to our dismay, that on the side of our house the sewer had backed up/built up pressure so much it blew about 10 inches of our clean out pipe clear off and spewed raw sewage in the yard. I immediately called 311 to get folks from the City of Richmond out to deal with the problem.

When the City workers showed up they made me sign paperwork saying I would have to pay them at such and such a rate if the problem were found on my property. I had to take down a section of our fence to give them access to our 2nd clean out that is located in our back yard near the alleyway. They said they were first going to run a plumbing snake through the sewage lines on our property to make sure the problem wasn’t there, because if it was they wouldn’t fix it. They ran the snake from the alley to our house and found no problem. Then our next door neighbor came out and said that the sewer had backed up in his yard as well. Clearly this was a problem outside of any individual property.

Finally the City utility folks got a big truck and ran  a big snake through the sewer pipes in the alley, found some massive clog, and dealt with it. I thought it was all taken care of.

Unfortunately I later realized that the City of Richmond had not fixed my broken clean out pipe, or the pile of raw sewage in my yard (both of which were clearly caused by their sewer backup). I was planning to call them on Monday since it was now Easter Sunday and the problem was in a section of yard us and our dogs do not regularly access. I went downstairs and used the toilet in the half bath. None of us had used that toilet since the fiasco the day before, as we tend to use the upstairs toilet more frequently. Rather shockingly, upon flushing, water dumped from the toilet onto the floor. I assumed it was coming from the base of the toilet, like the wax ring had failed. I called 311, and told them I really did need them to come fix the clean out pipe, raw sewage, and look at the damage they had caused to my toilet. I went in the bathroom to move some things around so the City workers would be able to have better access to the toilet. That is when I discovered that a piece of the porcelain from the toilet had been blown off, and was on the bathroom floor. Water leaked when I flushed the toilet because the toilet was missing part of its side! Somehow enough pressure had built up to just blow that part of the toilet clean off.

When the City workers showed up that afternoon, I showed them the toilet and the blown up clean out. They then informed me that they couldn’t do anything about those issues. They got me to put a some dye in the toilet water and flush it so they could look at the clean out near the alley to see how long the water took to get there. Which is when we discovered that the water from the drains in our house is no longer even getting to the alley. Something that either got shoved into our sewer pipes by the back up or their snake  or some break along those pipes from the incredible pressure caused by the failing sewer is now preventing our sewage from going where it is supposed to go. So now we can’t use our drains, toilets, or shower for fear of causing a secondary or tertiary problem if our water use ends up backing up somewhere else or leaking somewhere along the way.

We have called a plumber who is supposed to come today, and also begun the process of filing a claim with our insurance company.

Unfortunately for the rest of our community, this is not an isolated issue. We talked to a 3rd neighbor last night who is also having problems with the sewer backing up and not functioning properly. There are many condemned and/or abandoned houses in our neighborhood, so it is hard to get a grasp on how large this problem is, as there is no one in those houses to issue a complaint. A lot of folks who don’t maybe realize that the problems they are experiencing are the City’s fault or who just don’t know to call 311 to get emergency water/sewage help might not be filing complaints.

Human waste is incredibly toxic and full of total coliforms and e. coli. This is a huge public health issue – you can get sick and die! Not only does the city need to pay for the damage to the property, they also need to pay for temporary shelter (like a hotel) for folks who experience these major sewage problems.

We don’t have a quote from a licensed plumber yet, but are hoping to get one day. I renovate houses and can say with confidence that this has easily caused hundreds of dollars of damage. We will have to replace the toilet, possibly some flooring and subflooring around it, get the raw sewage cleaned up, get the cleanout replaced, and figure out where and break/clog is now which could be simple or could involve replacing buried lines.

Our neighborhood, Southern Barton Heights, is largely comprised of working class people of color and low income folks. We have many elderly members of our community as well. Unfortunately, this neighborhood receives more attention by means of the Richmond Police harassing young black men on the street than we do with groceries, jobs, transit, or city utility. Folks in this neighborhood are underserved by the City of Richmond, though we all pay the same minimum 49.40 a month just to have our water/sewer cut on.  Scott Burger has been a driving force with a campaign to reduce the monthly minimum rate to encourage conservation and help out low income folks. This point hits home even harder now. If we are paying the same 49.40 a month as everyone else, then we demand that our neighborhood receive the same respect and services as Windsor Farms and all other sections of Richmond. The systematic neglect of certain areas of the city reeks of environmental racism and neglect (and in this case raw human sewage).

On one level, we just want to be able to go to the bathroom and do our dishes. But this issue IS larger than that, and we hope this aspect is not lost to anyone reading this. If folks want to have further conversations around these issues, drop us a line or 804 303 5449 or come on by 2005 Barton Avenue (go to the bathroom before you head over).

Pictures below:

The hole in our toilet

The hole in our toilet

Broken clean out pipe and raw sewage in our yard

Broken clean out pipe and raw sewage in our yard


Join the facebook event here:

Join Parents For Life for a

Candlelight Flashlight Vigil at A. V. Norrell Elementary School

to enlighten the new school board

on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Monday January 21st

6pm at 2120 Fendall Avenue

Get the babies off the dump!

Richmond’s students deserve better!

Hot Soup and Hot Cocoa Provided by Richmond Food Not Bombs

Bring your own flashlight!

Then on Tuesday January 22nd,

attend the School Board Meeting with Parents For Life to shed light on the issues with Norrell Elementary.

4:30 p.m. in the Conference Room on the 17th floor of City Hall and 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of City Hall, located at 301 North Ninth Street

The health and welfare of the city’s children should be the primary concern of the Richmond City School Board. We are committed to remain vigilant in our demand for an excellent learning environment for our most vulnerable 3 & 4 year old preschoolers as well. We will remind everyone that we believe the previous school board has failed in their duty to our children.

– Parents For Life

Here are 3 videos from the protest on 9/4/12 at the Richmond School Board meeting over the decision to re-open Norrell Elementary school in Barton Heights

This first is just a short clip of some of the protesters before the meetings.

<p><a href=”″>Norrell Elementary Protest 9/4/12</a> from <a href=””>WingnutAnarchistCollective</a&gt; on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

These next two are of the public comments period at the beginning of the meetings, when folks spoke out against Norrell – after the break: (more…)

Some amazing activists with the group Parents For Life 2012 have exposed some glaring lies by the Richmond Public Schools about A.V. Norrell. Thanks to Parents For Life 2012 for shedding light on the issues, and keeping the pressure on!

From Parents For Life 2012:

Richmond Public School recently put out an FAQ section on their website, in relation to the relocation of the Head Start program to A.V Norrell Elementary. In this FAQ, they lie about the contents of a 2007 FEMA report (available by email, mcnealkc [at] if you want us to email you the file), and about the capacity of John B. Cary Elementary. The complete refutation is attached as a .doc file.

In brief, RPS claimed that the 2007 report declared Norrell safe and the landfill no longer a problem, while in reality, FEMA detected levels of methane gas “approaching the upper explosive limit”, and unequivocally stated that the landfill is still a safety risk at the time of writing. Richmond Public Schools also alleges that no other school could accommodate 250 students, while a news report from May of this year represents John B. Cary elementary (which the FAQ mentions by name) as operating 700 students under capacity.

These discrepancies, calculated as they appear, can’t be accidental. RPS is lying about A.V Norrell Elementary.

Parents For Life_2012 invites you to join us for the Preschoolers First Day of Class Vigil at Norrell Elementary School. Norrell Elementary School was closed in 2006 because there were environmental concerns about the site, which was built on an old city landfill.

On facebook here:

Parents for Life_2012 believe that the health and welfare of the city’s children should be the primary concern of the Richmond City School Board. We are committed to remain vigilant in our demand for an excellent learning environment for our most

vulnerable 3 & 4 year old pre-schoolers as well. We will remind everyone that we believe this school board has failed in their duty to OUR children.Please join us in reminding the school board that they have endangered our children and that we will persist in our effort to protect our children.

While we wish to express our outrage at the school board’s decision, we do not want to frighten the children nor do we want to interrupt nor interfere with the normal operation of the school.

We, therefore want everyone attending this vigil to be respectful of students and staff. We ask that this be a quiet vigil and that no one yell at school personnel nor enter the school grounds. We are to remain on the sidewalks.

Representatives of Parents For Life_2012 will be present in shifts starting at 7:30 AM until 4:00 PM on Monday Sept 10.

Please join us during the times listed below as you are able.

Shifts will run:
7:30 AM to 9:30 AM
9:30 AM to 11:30 AM
11:30 AM to 2:00 PM
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM


Some folks helping Parents For Life 2012, did some research today. In less than 2 hours, using google, they were able to find evidence to support the case that AV Norrell Elementary is NOT fit to be re-opened.

Please read the articles below, and look out for an upcoming report from them on what can be found with the articles.

At tonight’s School Board Meeting, the School Board had decided in a work group meeting before to continue with their decision to re-open Norrell Elementary next week to host pre-school age children.
From 5-7 around 40 or more protesters came out and held signs in front of the 9th Street Entrance to City Hall. There was also a strong media presence.
When the School Board Meeting finally started around 7:30, around 7 or more people got up to speak against the re-opening of Norrell. Protesters made impassioned cases, bringing up numerous points against the re-opening. The School Board members seemed largely unaffected, and offered no response.
Please stay tuned, because if the School Board goes ahead with this ignorant, dangerous, environmentally and institutionally racist plan, they will continue to face a mounting resistance.
Email or to get involved.
Don’t put our babies on the dump!!

CBS 6 Coverage of Norrell Elementary controversy and the protest planned for today!

School Board member Dawn Page says on camera that she wishes she had voted against sending kids to Norrell. Her neighborhood was fliered heavily yesterday morning by 2 members of Parents For Life.


Tuesday Sept 4th at 5pm, Parents for Life 2012 will be picketing around City Hall, in response to the recent School Board decision to send over 250 pre-k students into an old, unsafe, built on a dump, school that was shut down in 2006.

There is a School Board meeting at 7pm that we will be attending as well.

When: Tuesday, September 4th

Time: 5:00pm Picket

7:00pm School Board Meeting

Where: City Hall 9th St. Entrance

301 N. Ninth Street

Richmond, VA 23219

For More Information Contact: Art Burton (804) 467- 6408 or email

Parents For Life 2012!

Some recent articles on this issue:

Pre-School at the Dump

Decision to Re-Open School Sparks Protest Plans

Re-Opening of Norrell for Pre-k Generates Controversy


More info, and previous press release after the cut: (more…)

For Immediate Release

Norrell Elementary Grand Re-Opening

Should a gas mask be on their back to school supply list?

The Richmond School Board has voted 8-1 in favor of moving over 250 pre-school age children (ages 3-4) from schools on the East End to Norrell Elementary in the Barton Heights Neighborhood.

School Officials claim that methane gas, mold, and carbon dioxide levels at Norrell are “Within acceptable limits”.

“Within acceptable limits” for whose children?

Norrell Elementary is built on a landfill, and was shut down in 2006 thanks to 7 years of community efforts to fight against environmental racism and for the health and well being of our children. At the time the methane gas, mold, and carbon dioxide levels posed serious health and safety risks to our children.

When did that change?

When was the community consulted about the decision to re-open the school?

There will be a picket and protest on Tuesday September 4th at 5pm around City Hall. At 7pm there is a school board meeting, which we will also be organizing to attend.

When: Tuesday, September 4th

Time: 5:00pm Picket

7:00pm School Board Meeting

Where: City Hall 9th St. Entrance

301 N. Ninth Street

Richmond, VA 23219

For More Information Contact: Art Burton (804) 467- 6408 or email

Parents For Life 2012!

This is being organized by a coalition of community members, social justice activists, and community organizations from around Richmond. If you or your organization are interested in joining the fight to keep our kids safe, please be in touch.