The last time I was home, I mentioned the bad smell in the air, and I thought one of the local illuminates was going to beat me up. My guard was down and I forgot how sensitive that certain people are to these comments. You must never say that the Emperor is dancing butt naked. It’s best to comment, that you admire his attire and feign interest in the whereabouts of his purchase.
I’m passing on this article that I read a few months back. NOT MY WORDS. You might find it interesting.
Industrial Pollution Ruins Fernandina Beach, Florida
Juniper Russo, Yahoo Contributor Network
Feb 5, 2010 “Share your voice on Yahoo websites. Start Here.”
• Fernandina Beach
• Fair Wages
• Sea Island
• Amelia Island
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My family visited Fernandina Beach, Florida with the intention of eventually moving there. Everything we read about the city made it seem like an ideal place for us– it was warm, beautiful, coastal and very close to my family in Savannah, Georgia. In terms of its beauty and overall appeal, Fernandina Beach was everything I dreamed it could be. However, the plague of industrial pollution forced us to cut our vacation short and vow to never return.
Fernandina Beach appealed to me and my husband because it is located on Amelia Island, which is the southernmost of the Sea Islands– the chain of subtropical isles that line the southern Atlantic coast. These gorgeous islands are well-known for their tight-knit communities, abundant wildlife, artistic cultures and walking-friendly layouts. Fernandina Beach was exactly what I expected in this regard. Like the other Sea Island cities I’ve visited, Fernandina Beach is warm and lush. Spanish moss drips from ancient evergreen oaks; broad sidewalks lie adjacent to fine art galleries.
Despite its benefits, I couldn’t force myself to overlook the industrial blight. The moment we crossed into Amelia Island on our travels, I felt like I hit a brick wall of foul-smelling pollution. I checked my daughter’s diaper repeatedly and searched the car for spoiled food, only to realize that the foul scent was emanating not from our vehicle, but from the air around us. We soon saw the reasons for the gag-inducing smell. On each end of the small island, industrial plants belched toxic smoke into the air. The smoke stacks were short and the water was discolored around them.
As we settled into town, barely able to overlook the rank scent, we inferred a bit of information about the sources of the pollution. Locals told us that one of the mills was a plastic company; two others were paper mills. Most of the locals didn’t even notice the smell any more– people sensitive to the pollution had moved away long ago. One of the people who worked at our hotel informed me that his mother and sister, who both have asthma, had to move from the area because of the mills; his stepfather had died at 45 of lung disease after working in the mills for nearly thirty years. He added with an air of sadness that he knew the factories would never leave because they provide one of the few sources of reliable income for the island’s permanent residents.
Unfortunately, this conundrum plagues many areas that are ruined by industrial pollution. Factories like these tend to exploit poorly educated workers, particularly those of racial or ethnic minorities. The pay is low and the health effects are grave, but locals with no other means of feeding their families often have no choice. If industrial mills paid fair wages and took measures to minimize their effects on the environment, they could benefit local economies– however, exploitative companies like those that plague Fernandina Beach do much more harm than good. These industrial mills hinder tourism and prevent would-be residents from moving to the city.
I witnessed this effect repeatedly during my short stay in Fernandina Beach. I sat on a bench downtown and tried to clean my glasses, but I realized that the greasy haze I saw was smog, not gunk on my glasses. As I struggled to eliminate imaginary smears, I heard a woman talking to someone, gasping for air: “Honey, we can’t stay here. I can’t breathe in this city and I’m almost out of medicine!” Her companion tried to encourage her to “just try to have a good time” but she insisted that she couldn’t stay. I assume they left the town quickly.
My husband and I, too, had to leave town because of the pollution. My daughter, a toddler, coughed constantly when we were in Fernandina Beach and made strange wheezing sounds in her sleep. I felt a constant, nagging tightness in my chest and my husband would wake up gasping for air. The smell of the pollution was so pervasive that none of us could taste our food anywhere we ate. As we left town, I found myself near tears with disappointment. Fernandina Beach is a lovely city on a stunning island. I found it heartbreaking to witness industrial blight ruining a seaside paradise.
Fernandina is a jewel of the south, chemically oxidized and industrially polluted.