Debbie Hindla is a single, working mother of four and a resident of a beleaguered industrial ghetto in South Baltimore. In May of 1998, the FMC plant near her home on Wagner’s Point sent a cloud of toxic gas over her neighborhood, adversely affecting dozens of residents. When Hindla’s 10-year old son began exhibiting signs of medical distress, she turned to the Fairfield and Wagner’s Point Neighborhood Coalition and Center for Health, Environment and Justice for help. For more than two years, the groups have worked together to win relocation benefits for 100 families living in the polluted community.
Debbie Hindla’s home and the homes of her neighbors are surrounded by more than 20 chemical plants, a sewage treatment facility, an oil refinery, ship loading docks and other industrial facilities. Fairfield has no sewer pipes, and illegal dumping is a serious ongoing problem. Since November of 1997, Lois Gibbs, who led the negotiations for buy-out of homes at Love Canal twenty years ago, and other staff at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice have assisted the community in defining their strategy for obtaining relocation and negotiating with government officials. The Center helps them make their case for a government buy-out at the rate of comparably sized dwellings in more suitable residential neighborhoods.
In early July of 1998, during a highly publicized tour of the neighborhood and televised debate, Hindla succeeded in securing assurances from both Baltimore’s mayor and its Congressional Representative to help secure public financing for a buy-out of residents’ homes. In addition, because of her role in the Wagner’s Point Neighborhood Association, Hindla was able to contact officials at FMC and obtain reimbursement for all of her son’s medical expenses. Without the well-publicized community struggle and resulting political pressure, Hindla would probably have had to foot those bills alone. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice continues to work closely with the Neighborhood Coalition to help parents like Hindla and enable them to move to a neighborhood where children can grow up safely.