Covanta's Pollution Kills

Gun violence claimed 144 lives in Chester between 2009 and mid-2014 -- an average of 32 lives per year.

Based on peer-reviewed models that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Research Council use to evaluate lives saved by air pollution regulations, the amount of pollution released by Covanta in recent years would cause between 13 and 28 premature deaths per year.

This is based on data for only three pollutants: nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). This is not counting the hundreds of other pollutants released by Covanta's trash incinerator, such as ultratoxic dioxins and mercury. If these were able to be quantified in terms of lives cut short, it would likely rival the numbers killed by gun violence each year.

Covanta is also one of the top two sources of toxic lead exposure in Chester. Lead affects the brain in ways that increase violent behavior, which means that some of the violence that plagues Chester could be aggravated by this toxic pollution.

It's wrong to put a dollar on people's lives, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regularly uses economic measures to justify the benefits of air pollution regulations. In those Regulatory Impact Analysis documents, EPA (based on peer-reviewed scientific studies and review by their Science Advisory Board), placed a value of $7.2 million (in 2007 dollars) on a life shortened due to pollution. An adult who dies prematurely from fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) would lose an average of 15 years of life.

The financial cost of deaths from these three pollutants released by Covanta's incinerator in Chester would be $94 million to $200 million dollars a year. This doesn't count lost work or school days due to asthma or other illness, those who get sick but don't die, or the impacts from any but the three pollutants mentioned above.

Return to Chester Environmental Justice