Majority-Black Penn. Community Fights Proposed $6 Billion LNG Terminal

"“There’s no place to put it that is not going to be an unbearable, intolerable burden for the people who live near it.”"

"Bonnie Waites remembers how Chester sounded years ago, before the incinerator came to town in 1992, bringing the seemingly endless rumble of waste trucks into this small city in southeastern Pennsylvania, just down the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

Back then, she and her neighbors could hear the clear call of the church bells ringing down the street at St. Hedwig’s.

“Everything was beautiful,” Waites told Environmental Health News (EHN). “You could hang your clothes outside on the lines. The kids could play. We had a playground and a swimming pool. But you can’t sit outside now.”

In what was once a proud and neighborly community where residents sat on their porches and looked after kids playing in the streets, the noxious smell and degraded air quality attributable to the Covanta waste incinerator — the largest in the country, burning as much as 3,500 tons of trash a day — have driven residents indoors or out of town. The city’s population, which is 72% Black, has dwindled by 20% in the past three decades, falling to about 33,000. Many who remain suffer from health problems linked to the incinerator and other industrial facilities, including the Delcora sewage treatment facility, a Kimberly Clark paper mill and a PQ Corp. chemical plant, all of which have a history of pollution. The Covanta facility alone emits as much as 200,000 pounds per year of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), a pollutant that contributes to respiratory illness, diminished lung function and is even linked to cancer. Childhood asthma rates in the city are at least three times higher than the national average."

Ben Seal reports for Environmental Health News November 2, 2023.

Source: EHN, 11/07/2023