GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - EPA Director Gina McCarthy attended a Gulfport meeting that focused on environmental justice on Wednesday.
The session involved a discussion about the various disasters that have impacted the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
"Simply put, we're here because there are communities left behind. We are here because there are communities that are continuing to have disproportionate impacts. And for the most part, that's our low income and minority communities," said McCarthy.
The forum was a meeting of a group known as NEJAC, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. During a panel discussion about ongoing recovery efforts from Katrina and the BP oil spill, Bishop James Black suggested more federal money be spent on people, as opposed to animals.
"We're talking about human beings. There's more concern, particularly in the majority community, about trees and frogs than there are about people. So we need help. We cannot be resilient without economic help from EPA and other organizations," said Black.
From a broader perspective, Gulfport council member Ella Holmes-Hines recommended paying attention to policies and politics.
"We have many leaders that make deals behind the scenes, under the table. But they don't represent community. The most important thing you can do for African-American communities is to have public meetings and make sure they are going to be noticed properly," Holmes-Hines noted.
An advocate for Gulf Coast fishermen urged the group to consider the impact on those who rely on the Gulf waters to make a living.
"Very underserved, overlooked. But generally very hard working people. They possess a great deal of traditional ecological knowledge that must be acknowledged and respected," said Thao Vu, leader of the Mississippi Coalition for Vietnamese American Fisher Folks & Families.
McCarthy encouraged the involvement of all federal agencies.
"Because while we may be the Environmental Protection Agency, every agency is responsible for environmental justice," said McCarthy.
The EPA administrator also spent time talking about the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, calling it a national disgrace that never should have happened.