This short video is a 2007 update to the 52-minute "Laid to Waste" documentary about environmental racism Chester made in 1996. In early 2008, the DelCo Alliance for Environmental Justice stopped plans for the world's largest tire incinerator mentioned in the video, and the threatened waste-to-fuel facilities never materialized. Currently, the main threat is the giant trash incinerator Covanta operates, and their plan to operate for another 30 years, burning 500,000 tons of New York City trash each year and more.
Now is the time to get involved. Contact us, and scroll down to learn more!
30 Years of New York City Trash Trains Coming to be Burned in Chester unless we ACT.

We had 100 people pack the Planning Commission meeting, standing room only. The Commission listened to us, and unanimously recommended that City Council vote "NO" on the trash train plan. We then packed the City Council meeting two weeks later with over 100 people. City Council has put off their vote until they learn more, from us and others. Stay tuned and get involved with us, so we can keep the pressure on and win! We need City Council to vote NO.

See our flyer and presentation to the Planning Commission to learn more.

Recent Media Coverage:

For 23 years now, Chester has been home to the nation's largest trash-burning plant at Front and Highland, now owned by Covanta. This incinerator has the fewest pollution controls installed of any of the six in the state, or in Covanta's fleet of 39 incinerators.

Claiming it'll cost too much, Covanta's incinerator lacks the pollution controls they use elsewhere to remove the nitrogen oxides (NOx) that cause asthma. Chester's rate of child hospitalization due to asthma is more than three times the state average, in large part because Covanta is one of the worst NOx polluters in all of eastern Pennsylvania. Covanta is also one of the worst polluters in the region for mercury, lead, dioxins and other toxins that contribute to cancers, birth defects, learning disabilities and more.

It's unacceptable to help this polluter in our community stay open for another three decades, as other major polluters are shutting down, including coal power plants (like the coal burning in Eddystone) and waste incinerators.

Only 1.5% of the waste Covanta burns in Chester is from Chester. Covanta thrives on making Chester the burning ground for waste from Delaware County, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and many other states. Currently, they aim to bring in trash trains from New York City, to increase the amount burned from New York from a current rate of 200,000 tons/year to at least 500,000 tons/year -- for the next 30 years. This plan is outlined on page 144 of a 700-page contract Covanta signed with New York City in July 2013. Since Covanta is not operating at full capacity so far this year, this DOES help them burn more waste and pollute Chester more.

Their current proposal before the Chester City Council must be rejected, as the Planning Commission unanimously recommended at their July 9, 2014 meeting.

Covanta's trash-by-rail proposal helps them lock in 30 years of waste supply from the wealthiest part of New York City, bringing another 15 million tons of trash to be burned in Chester.

It also gives them the infrastructure to make Chester a regional trash transfer hub where extra trash (more than they can burn) can be brought in by rail and trucked out to feed their many other incinerators within the region. Covanta is increasingly getting into the trash transfer business and this proposed waste transfer hub could live on beyond the life of their incinerator.

Disapproving the trash-by-rail plan in no way will jeopardize the $4-5 million in host community fees that are collected by the City of Chester. The city's reliance on host fees is not a reason to approve this plan.

Here's why:

  1. This revenue is not at risk of going anywhere soon. Covanta cannot pick up and relocate, like a McDonalds could. No other community would accept an incinerator -- especially the nation's largest. No new incinerator has been sited and built in the U.S. in 17 years. It would also be illegal to build a new incinerator like they have, that operates without the pollution controls now required. Any threats of lost city revenue are hollow scare tactics.

  2. Chester's health is not for sale. Chester residents suffer from abnormally high rates of asthma, cancers and other health problems that are caused and aggravated by industrial pollution. Premature deaths caused by Covanta's pollution rival the number of gun deaths in Chester each year. The financial costs of premature deaths and disease caused by Covanta's pollution far exceeds $5 million per year. Even if it were the same, the city cannot morally justify revenue obtained from harming health and shortening lives of Chester residents.

  3. Approving the plan assumes the incinerator will be around for 30 more years, and helps ensure it. In fact, the trend is that the largest polluters, mainly coal power plants and trash incinerators, are closing down as air pollution regulations become stricter over time. Many have closed in recent years and more will follow.

  4. In 2008, former Mayor Butler wrote a scathing rejection of a huge proposed tire incinerator (smaller than Covanta), stating: "regardless of their job creation claims and their alleged charitable benefits, [they are] not aligned with the future direction of the City of Chester." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recently made it clear that local governments have a legal duty to protect our constitutional right to clean air.

Communities around the country are rejecting incineration and pursuing "zero waste" planning as a way to create green jobs, protect public health and generate revenue. Please help us urge Chester City officials to do the same, and to start by rejecting Covanta's plan.

Environmental Justice / Environmental Racism

"Racism is the intentional or unintentional use of power to isolate, separate and exploit others. . .
Racism is more than just a personal attitude; it is the institutionalized form of the attitude" -National Council of Churches Racial Justice Working Group
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* Some More Polluted than Others

[ Unequal Cumulative Industrial Hazard Burdens in the Philadelphia MSA ]
(Powerpoint Presentation by Dr. Diane Sicotte)

"Now all of the issues of environmental racism and environmental justice don't just deal with people of color.
We are just as much concerned with inequities in Appalachia, for example, where the whites are basically dumped on
because of lack of economic and political clout and lack of having a voice to say "no" and that's environmental injustice."
Dr. Robert Bullard

Accomplishments of the Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL) and the Campus Coalition Concerning Chester (C-4)
Where Chester City is ...
Brief History of Chester
Waste Facilites in Chester
Health Effects and Demographics
"Laid To Waste" Documentary
What is Environmental Racism ???
Toxic Pollution in Delaware County
Articles written about Chester
Chester Photos
The Perpetrators... Russell, Rea & Zappala

Presentations & Reports:


Chester / Environmental Racism
  • Chester has the highest percentage of low-weight births in the state, and has mortality rate and lung cancer rates that are 60% higher than the rest of Delaware County.

  • Noise and vibration from the constant stream of trucks carrying infectious waste and garbage have caused the foundations of houses in Chester to crack. These trucks (at a rate of up to one truck every 4.5 minutes) travel the same roads that the children of Chester play in because they have no where else to go.

  • Blood-lead levels among the children of Chester are higher than anywhere else in Pennsylvania.

Chester, PA, a 75% African-American, low-income community Southwest of Philadelphia is home to numerous waste facilities, toxic waste sites, chemical plants and other industrial hazards. The nation's largest trash incinerator, the nation's largest medical waste autoclave (closed since 1995), and a sewage treatment plant and sewage sludge incinerator are all cited on properties just on the other side of the tracks from residential homes in Chester. The EPA has found that blood lead-levels in Chester's children are "unacceptably high," that "air emissions from facilities in and around Chester provide a large component of the cancer and non-cancer risks to the citizens of Chester," and that "both cancer and non-cancer risks, e.g. kidney and liver disease and respiratory problems, from the pollution sources at locations in the city of Chester exceed levels which EPA believes are acceptable."

Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living was a local grassroots community organization that fought for environmental justice in Chester from 1992 through 2001, under the leadership of Zulene Mayfield, who is dearly missed. In 2007, the DelCo Alliance for Environmental Justice formed to continue this work and is currently reorganizing as the Chester Environmental Justice group. While there are many toxic threats that have faced Chester, there has also been an incredible number of victories.

Please support DelCo Alliance for Environmental Justice

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with "Chester" in the memo line, and mail to:

Action Center
1434 Elbridge St
Philadelphia PA 19149

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