Activism

Groups of concerned citizens, including the Stephen Foster Neighborhood Association, Ban CCA, Protect Gainesville Citizens and the Stephen Foster Neighborhood Protection Group, have been working for decades to spread awareness of the issue and encourage community activism.

“Over 158 other sites have been closed since ours was declared a Superfund Site,” said Maria Parsons of the Gainesville Neighborhood Protection Group. “We’re still not cleaned up. Why? People coming together matters. You need to get active. Dig your heels in. Protest. Write letters. Make phone calls.”

“The EPA says they’ve done almost 10 years of studies,” said Tia Ma, an officer of Protect Gainesville Citizens. “We have no idea what those studies are. I want a compilation of all the tests that have been done so we can make decisions together. I don’t want to create bad guys. I just want honesty.”

Protect Gainesville Citizens is calling out to concerned Gainesville residents, including UF students, who are willing to learn more and contribute whatever skills they may have toward making Gainesville a cleaner, safer place. Their meetings are held at 7 p.m. at Wild Iris Books on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month. All are welcome.

“I think the city of Gainesville and UF can really come together with some creative ideas,” Ma said. “It can be an amazing win-win.”

Like other residents of the Stephen Foster Neighborhood, Ma was unaware of the dangerous implications when she bought her house two years ago on 708 NW 31st Ave. As a local massage therapist, she no longer feels comfortable treating clients at her house because she doesn’t know what sort of poisons they’ll be exposed to. Furthermore, she’s scared to let her cat roll around in the soil outside.

“I’ve noticed more and more animals with tumors in this neighborhood,” she said. “To hear that three doors down the street, people are dying of cancer and houses are going out for sale – my heart has been broken.”

Ma has proposed the idea of using the property previously owned by Koppers to build an environmental research center, which would commemorate decades of anxiety and suffering, transforming them into a learning experience.

“We should just admit that we’ve fucked up,” she said. “We can utilize the resources we have in this town. We can do our best to clean it up and do so publically and teach others to do it so this never happens again. It’s not okay to just sit back and let the company decide how to make money on their 90 acres after they clean it up. ”

Brourman said Beazer East has “no problem” with that idea.

“There are going to be some public meetings where people can talk,” he said. “We’re all ears to those sorts of things.”

Ma’s lease on the house will expire in July. She plans to permanently leave before then. Ma is a healer, and her beliefs include leaving places in a better condition than how she found them. Her goal is to fill the entire meadow around her house with ferns and sunflowers, known for their ability to heal the earth by absorbing industrial toxins.

If you're ready for action, make sure you know who the key players are.