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Seatack residents in Virginia Beach push back on proposed battery storage facility

The view of a cemetery and road from Beautiful Street in Seatack, a historically Black neighborhood in Virginia
Mechelle Hankerson
This is Beautiful Street in Seatack, where a battery storage facility is planned.

Residents of a historically Black neighborhood near the Virginia Beach Oceanfront are fighting plans to locate a battery storage facility in their community.

Seatack residents like Chasta Mandgum said they’re worried about the health of their neighborhood.

“They are going to be right at the back door of those families on Beautiful Street,” Mangum said. “There’s the property values, there’s safety, there’s toxins being released if it's not stored right.”

In a press release, the Seatack Civic League lists potential issues like thousands of documented fires at battery storage facilities between 2010 and 2019 and concerns about the release of toxic chemicals from batteries.

Mangum is organizing a rally for the civic league this Saturday to publicize its opposition to the battery storage facility.

Seatack’s fight is the latest instance of communities all over Hampton Roads from Suffolk to Hampton to Chesapeake pushing back against the development of industrial facilities and large warehouse projects.

Historically, Black neighborhoods in America have long been targeted for industrial development, due to lower development costs and the limited political capital of the residents who would oppose such projects. Studies have shown Black communities have become epicenters of pollution and related health issues as a result.

Mangum said the civic league met with the owners of the proposed facility and their concerns were brushed off. She said they were told the company representatives would circle back to answer safety questions but never did, and proceeded to seek approval through the city.

“I felt like they were very uncomfortable with the questions I was asking,” Mangum said.

The project is not on the agenda for the planning commission’s Aug. 9 meeting.

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