COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – A retired Oakland Park couple who lives just across the river from the Continental Carbon plant is sharing their story about the plant and the effect they believe it is having on their home.
In 2007, a lawsuit was filed against Continental Carbon by another Oakland Park resident, along with the City of Columbus and Action Marine. The plaintiffs in the suit said their property was impacted by emissions from the plant.
The jury awarded the City of Columbus, Action Marine and the Oakland Park resident $19.5 million for damage as a result of emissions from the plant.
Now 15 years after that verdict, other residents are claiming their property is also being impacted by the plant.
Arnold and Diedra Spencer have in in the historic Oakland Park neighborhood for more than two decades and said it’s a 25-year nightmare.
“We don’t want to die because of this,” said Diedra Spencer.
Diedra Spencer, a retired postal carrier in Columbus, says she doesn’t feel safe in her own home.
And the reason for that is black carbon.
“I don’t want stuff like this to take me out,” said Diedra Spencer. “This is dangerous for everybody here. Not only Oakland Park, and I think if they knew the magnitude, of what’s going on here, more people would raise more hell.”
Diedra Spencer believes it’s coming from a place called Continental Carbon.
The manufacturer sits in Phenix City on State Docks Road, only a few miles from Oakland Park. The company is known for producing Tire Rubber Carbon Black, and Spencer says it’s all at the expense of leaving behind a trail of toxic tar.
“And I’m scared. I’ll just tell you the truth. I’m really afraid. I don’t want to be a statistic,” said Diedra Spencer.
From her front porch to her back yard and even the sidewalk connecting the two, the black residue can be seen everywhere. Spencer says she’s had enough.
“I don’t want to come outside no more,” said Diedra Spencer.
Spencer adds the problem has persisted for far too long, reflecting on her years as a mail carrier and remembering all the lives lost.
She doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence either. “If I go through this block, I could tell you every house someone died of cancer in.”
And now, Spencer’s husband, Arnold, worries they could be next.
“I’m afraid of the air quality, because of the issues we’re having here, it’s going to affect her health, which I’m quite sure it already has,’ said Arnold Spencer. “Something needs to be done about it.”
After retiring twice now, Spencer says it’s been the furthest thing from enjoyable.
“I love to come out and take care of the yard. I do most of the work out here in the yard and it’s frustrating, because I love doing it, but I can’t get out of here all the time because of the air quality,” said Arnold Spencer.