Community Member

People Against Neighborhood Industrial Contamination (PANIC)

Birmingham, Alabama

People Against Neighborhood Industrial Contamination (PANIC) takes on corporate polluters to advance environmental justice in black neighborhoods of the 35th Avenue Superfund Site (Birmingham, AL). PANIC was organized in 2012 after the EPA named the site and disclosed its risks: high levels of arsenic, lead, and PAHs in the air and soil. Local residents—like PANIC founder Charlie Powell—tell too-common stories of family, friends, or neighbors lost to cancer, a trend county officials deny. For 10 years, PANIC has unearthed toxins old and new, including a history of racist zoning that poisons and impoverishes black homeowners, and a 2010s bribery scheme between government officials and corporate energy to halt site cleanup. PANIC engages its neighbors to share stories and gather facts, and it advocates for just solutions that remedy housing discrimination. PANIC insists on government buy-out of toxic properties, and it offers support and advocacy for any resident who wants to move.

View of ABC Coke’s coal storage area – EPA Photo, 2018

EPA’s September 2014 document proposing addition of the 35th Avenue site to its National Priorities List (NPL) states that “hundreds of residential lots are contaminated with benzo(a)pyrene, arsenic, or lead exceeding health risk exposure standards.” The State of Alabama also recognizes the health risks to the neighborhood and sent EPA a letter supporting its NPL listing. Birmingham’s mayor wrote to EPA, saying, “The case for NPL placement is compelling” and emphasized the criminal conspiracy to stop the site from being placed on that list. Despite this recognition by the relevant government offices, the site is still only “proposed.” So for now, EPA is hampered in its “remedial response actions” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability (aka Superfund) Act. Compensation is what PANIC insists on: fair market value—to allow neighbors who want to move out to do so and to pay back neighbors who want to stay and make their property livable again.

Banner for the PANIC 10th Anniversary Celebration, May 2022, PANIC Facebook

For more information:

A Reckoning in North Birmingham as EPA Studies the ‘Cumulative Impacts’ of Pollution and Racism – Inside Climate News, July 2023

Opinion: Roy S. Johnson: As Birmingham rises, we must not forget neighbors living on tainted, poisonous soil –, June 2022

Residents in SuperFund Site Seek City’s Help to Move – Birmingham Watch, June 2022

Superfund Cash Spigot Opens, But Some Communities Still Waiting – Bloomberg Law, March 2022

Bluestone Coke allowed to continue operating despite strong objection from JCDH – CBS 42, September 2021

In Three Predominantly Black North Birmingham Neighborhoods, Residents Live Inside an Environmental ‘Nightmare’ – Inside Climate News, August 2021

HAZARDOUS HOMES: Thousands of U.S. Public Housing Residents Live in the Country’s Most Polluted Places – The Intercept, January 2021

Advocates Call for Environmental and Racial Justice at North Birmingham Superfund Site – Birmingham Watch, July 2020

A2 Staff

A2 Staff

This profile was compiled by a dedicated team of staff members who conducted interviews and gathered information from various outlets, including news articles, social media, and other sources.


Charlie Powell, President & Founder

Social Media

Climate Impacts

Air Pollution, Flooding, Heat

Environmental Justice Concerns

Coal/Coke Plants and Emissions, Hazardous/Toxic Sites, Lead Contamination, Mining, Superfund Sites


Art Activism, Community Organizing and Education, Elevation or Relocation of Homes, Fighting Industrial Contamination, Legal/permit challenges to development, contamination, pollution, etc, Policy Reform, Political activism, including protests, petitions, and lobbying

501c3 Tax Deductible


Accepting Donations