DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — A woman who has battled for years to protect her neighborhood from dangerous gases and chemicals is sharing her story.
“How can you dig out over 150 years of chemicals?”
That’s Linda Kirkland’s question as she watches clean up crews work across the street to remove arsenic and lead-filled groundwater and soil.
“You can only dig out so much dirt and put fresh dirt in, but we know that rainwater, it pushes the chemicals down,” Kirkland said. “We are on top of the water.”
Kirkland has lived on what residents call “Acid Plant Hill” all her life. During that time, she has endured ammonia leaks, evacuations, lawsuits and neighbors’ deaths. Kirkland told News 18 she believes these stemmed from the fertilizer plant.
“So many people died from respiratory (problems) and cancer and some are still suffering even after it’s gone,” Kirkland said.
According to Kirkland, many residents had no choice but to live on the hill. Back in 2000, Kirkland joined her neighbors in a lawsuit against the plant in an attempt to have it shut down. The lawsuit eventually came to a disappointing settlement.
It was nearly a decade later when the news broke the plant would be demolished.
Kirkland remembers that day vividly.
“Oh, I knew it was coming down so I was happy,” Kirkland said. “But I often thought about the people that died that shouldn’t have had to die from those chemicals.”
Although the fertilizer plant is gone, Kirkland said she believes the danger is not.
“If they put a subdivision or something over there, they have tanks and I don’t even think they’ve taken them out (of) the ground,” Kirkland said. “Tanks that held those chemicals years and years in the ground. If they didn’t take them up, then we know that there is still potential danger.”
According to Kirkland, the plant’s land will always serve as a reminder of the lives that were lost in the neighborhood.