Aquadale: What happened? Community response
Residents and other concerned individuals formed Stanly Citizens Opposed to Toxic Chemical Hazards (SCOTCH) in July 1989 to oppose burning hazardous waste in the community. Within two years, SCOTCH grew to more than one hundred members. However, not all residents and community members opposed the plant. Tensions arose between community members seeking to close down Solite and others concerned about potential job losses.
“Some people worked at that place for years. They didn’t want us causing trouble. But I was trying to tell them that if we are getting sick, then you are getting sick too. We’re all in this thing together.”
– Community Member
In 1991, SCOTCH and the Clean Water Fund of North Carolina filed an $18 million federal lawsuit against Solite for violations of the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. They argued for the end of hazardous waste burning by Solite. Former employees stated in court that the company had a “secret alarm.” When the loudspeaker asked for “Quentin Smith” to come to the office, employees knew that they should reduce the amount of waste burning. Two years later, the groups reached a settlement, and Solite agreed to control their pollution and to provide reports to make it easier for the state and community groups to keep track of their progress.
In March 1997, the legal tables turned. After SCOTCH filed a petition to restrict Solite from resuming burning hazardous waste, Solite sued the community group, saying that the petition was a violation of the 1993 settlement. This type of legal action has been called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), because companies may use such lawsuits to silence community groups. The groups settled in December 1998, and SCOTCH was not allowed to take action for nine months.