"On the days when the municipal trash incinerator known as Old Smokey fired up its furnace, Delphine Bennett could sit on the porch of her shotgun-style house and watch the flames flicker from the chimney. On warm, dry evenings, the escaping embers ignited brush fires in empty lots nearby. More than once, she recalls, the roof of a neighbor's home caught fire.
Nearly everyone in her family had asthma or other lung problems as a child.
'Sometimes you had trouble breathing; the kids were coughing. It was so bad you'd have to come inside and close the windows,' says Bennett, now 77, her voice raspy and frail. 'Soon as you hung the clothes on the line to dry, they'd be covered in soot.'"