Environmental Justice in Chester

Chester is a center of environmental justice activism and has crossed some important milestones.

According to the United State Environmental Protection Agency: “Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.” United States Environmental Protection Agency.

In other words, it is a movement against environmental racism, which is the unequal impact of environmental hazards on people of color.

The history of Chester is riddled with environmental injustice, and the community has made efforts in combating this. Leading organizations have included Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living, CRCQL or “circle”, 1992-2001 led by Zulene, Campus Coalition Concerning Chester or C4, 1996-1999, Laborers International Union Local 413, 2001-2003, Chester Environmental Partnership, 2005-present and the Delco Alliance for Environmental Justice, 2007-present.

Together these organizations have won many victories, but none decisive enough to obliterate environmental injustice in Chester. However, a 1997 lawsuit brought Chester national attention when for it was the first time an environmental issue had been considered and garnered success from the viewpoint of environmental justice.

Some successful results include closing down the ThermalPure medical waste autoclave in 1995, defeating the Remediation Systems contaminated soil “burner” in 1996, closing the Crozer-Chester Medical Center medical waste incinerator in 1997, defeating a pet crematorium proposal defeated. The State of Delaware State stopped sending waste to the Chester incinerator, Cherokee Biotechnology’s contaminated soil plant defeated and DELCORA lost a sludge incinerator won. The Ogborne construction demolition waste transfer station was defeated in 1998, the Kimberly-Clark tire burning plan was denied in 2001 and the Clean Metal incinerator ash plant closed in 2005.

More info: http://www.ejnet.org/chester/delco-ej.pdf

From “Environmental Injustice in Delaware County, PA” by Mike Ewall — founder and director of http://www.actionpa.org – the waste treatment industry doesn’t provide much in the way of employment opportunities, although that is how it had been advertised initially. A privately-owned incinerator will remain open on publicly-owned land until the end of its renewable contract in 2017. Reducing waste doesn’t immediately translate into reducing the incinerator’s emissions.


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