Environmental Justice Case Study: Adams Landfill Facility, Fort Wayne, IN

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Above image taken from Tiger Mapping Service, 1997.


The Adams Center Landfill, owned and operated by Chem Waste Management in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is located in a well-populated, low income and predominately minority urban neighborhood. As many studies have shown, this trend of locating hazardous waste sites in minority neighborhoods has become common for corporations like Chem Waste Management. These minorities bear the burden for much of the waste, while having few resources to prevent the siting of these landfills in their communities. Darrell Leap, hydrogeologist and professor at Purdue University, stated that the Adams Center Landfill would rate a "3, possibly 4" out of a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being an ideal site, geologically, for a landfill. Leap continued by stating the significant possibility of water contamination as a result of the landfill. The communities surrounding the Adams Center Landfill have learned of this danger, and have been fighting the renewal of the federal permit, as well as expansion of the landfill at the state and local levels.

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In March of 1995, EPA Region V issued a final permit decision approving the renewal of the federal portion of the permit for the Adams Center Landfill Facility in Fort Wayne, IN. Chem Waste Management also wished to expand the existing landfill, and sought the appropriate approvals from state and local authorities. Polls have shown that 70% of the population was not in favor of the expansion of the landfill. Resistance to the landfill expansion was strong at the local level, and much effort was being made by the local communities (in Fort Wayne and neighboring New Haven) to stop the landfill expansion. The efforts at the local level were, fortunately, successful in preventing the expansion.

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Key Actors

Congressman Mark Souder

Souder opposed EPA's renewal of the Adams Center Landfill's federal permit. He filed a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming that the renewal was inconsistent with President Clinton's Executive Order 12898, declaring that all federal agencies should consider environmental justice in their respective mandates. He also made efforts at the legislative level to prevent expansion of the landfill.

Chem Waste Management, owner and operator of the landfill

Chem Waste Management would like to expand the hazardous waste portion of the landfill by a height of 14 feet by modifying the slope of the mound. It has further asked the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Managment for a permit modification which would include steeper slopes. This modification would result in an additional 89,000 cubic yards of air space.

Indiana Dept of Environmental Managment (IDEM)

IDEM held a public hearing on October 23, 1996 at Paul Harding High School. A public hearing will be conducting when a draft decision has been issued. Comments can be sent to IDEM at:

Steve West, permit writer
Plans, Permits, and Review Section
Hazardous Waste Management Branch
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
100 N. Senate Ave.
Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-6015

Dennis Gordon, Allen County Zoning Administrator

Gordon has issued several stop-work orders aimed at the landfill, alleging violation of zoning ordinances and covenants. He was a key player in finally settling the suit and getting Chem Waste Management to agree not to expand the landfill.

Allen County Dump Stoppers

Allen County Dump Stoppers is a community group formed to create opposition to the Adams Center Landfill. They issued a video tape in 1989 criticizing the development of the landfill. They have also made themselves a strong presence at all public hearings concerning the landfill.

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EPA Region V's demographic study of the area affected by the landfill shows a 40-80% minority population within two miles of the Adams Center Landfill. Within three miles, the population is 80-100% minority.


% of Population

% of Tot. Households Below Poverty Line







American Indian, etc.*



Asian or Pacific Islander






Click here to link to more demographic information.

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Resistance to EPA Region V's approval of the landfill's renewal permit was presented to the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). Those challenging Region V's actions included the City of New Haven and two residents of the city as well as the NAACP and Congressman Mark Souder. It was argued that Region V's permit decision was not consistent with Executive Order 12898, issued by President Clinton in 1994, and that Region V erred by attempting to implement the EO without guidance or criteria by EPA headquarters. Even though the EO specifically directs federal agencies to consider the environmental effects on minorities, EAB judge Edward B. Reich stated that "there is no legal basis for rejecting a RCRA permit application based solely upon alleged social or economic impacts upon the community" ("'Environmental Justice' Claims Cannot Strike Down Permit, says EPA", 1996). Although this battle was lost, objections to approval of the land fill expansion continued at the state and local levels.

In January, 1996, when Indiana's hazardous waste siting authority convened, hundreds of opponents appeared to express their opposition to the landfill expansion. More than 400 people were present for the early hours of the hearing and more than 600 signed a petition opposing the landfill expansion. A local group, the Allen County Dump Stoppers, set a up a lounge and offered refreshments and moral support at the hearing. Approximately 90 people were given the opportunity to speak during the 10 1/2 hour hearing, and those opposing the renewal outnumber supporters by a 3:2 ratio. Issues of fairness, economics, as well as Chem Waste Management's apparent lack of good faith towards the community were raised.

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In March, 1996, by an 8-1 vote the Indiana Hazardous Waste Site Approval Authority denied Chem Waste's request to expand its existing site. However, it appears that the IDEM is still in the process of making a decision on Chem Waste's request to allow steeper slopes. Community members should write IDEM at the address stated above and attend any public hearings held regarding this issue, expressing their opposition to any change that would allow more hazardous waste to enter the landfill.

In short, the landfill should be closed or moved to an area more properly suited for landfill, socially and geologically. The possibility of water contamination in an urban residential area is by no means acceptable. The negative health impacts, coupled with the finanical inability of some residents to move or rely other sources of water, creates a setting of inequity and injustice. To support this claim, Congressman Souder has proposed a bill that would prevent hazardous waste sites from opening or expanding near residential areas or farmland. The passing of such a bill would provide some additional protection for residents of communities in and around Fort Wayne. Regardless, more studies by hydrologists and geologists must be submitted with permit requests to the EPA and local authorities in order to provide a more accurate assessment of the impacts of landfill renewal and/or expansion.

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Residents of Fort Wayne and neighboring communities should stay informed on the bureaucratic process which decides permit renewals and landfill expansions. The community should stay advised of any public hearings or alternative forums where their interests can be expressed. Such a role is ideal for Allen County Dump Stoppers, in that they will perhaps provide the public with education on health and environmental risks of landfills, and with outlets through which the community can express its views. Allen County Dump Stoppers' involvment so far has helped create a successful grassroots movement in opposition to the Adams Center Landfill.

A greater degree of community involvement in the legislative process could be very beneficial towards efforts to prevent landfill renewal and expansion. Fort Wayne residents are fortunate to have a Congressman who tried to prevent a landfill in their community, and who introduced a bill that could help others in similar situations. Although Congressman Souder has expressed concern that such a controversial bill would never pass during an election year, he plans to continue introducing it. With the help of the community and the media, voter awareness and support of the bill will increase both locally and nationally. The Fort Wayne community as a whole should actively support any and all of Souder's efforts towards environmental justice.

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Key Contacts

Dave Stieglitz, Constituent Liaison
Office of Mark E. Souder
Fort Wayne District Office
U.S. Federal Building
1300 S. Harrison Street, Rm. 3105
Ft. Wayne, IN 46802

Cheryl Hitzmann, Allen County Dump Stoppers

Dennis Gordon
Allen County Zoning Administrator

Steve West, permit writer
Plans, Permits, and Review Section
Hazardous Waste Management Branch
Indiana Dept of Environmental Management
100 N. Senate Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46206-6015

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