Delaware Solid Waste Authority to ship Delaware State waste to Chester, PA

After protesting the Delaware Solid Waste Authority in November, Chester Residents won a major victory when the Authority voted in January to stop sending their waste to Chester, PA. This was reversed on Thursday, May 1st, when the Authority signed a contract to continue sending their waste out of state to the 78-80% black community of Chester. This contract represents 25% of the American Ref-Fuel incinerator's waste stream (the incinerator is the largest in the state and the 7th largest in the nation).

The vote was 4 to 3 in favor of the new contract. Please help by calling those who voted for it and demand that they reverse this disgraceful decision. These people neeed to be FLOODED with calls! The commissioners who voted in favor were:

Richard Pryor (Chair)  302-656-3570 (h)  410-850-9060 (w)
Phyllis McKinley       302-735-5611 (h)  302-674-5868 (w)
Ronald McCabe          302-539-7725 (h)
Theodore Ryan          302-378-0881 (h)

Please also call Delaware Governor Tom Carper 302-577-3210 (office) and demand that the Soild Waste Authority be disbanded if they cannot take responsibility for the state's waste without shipping it to Chester. The Authority doesn't allow out-of-state waste to be dumped in Delaware, but it has no difficulties with sending their problems to Pennsylvania.

Release from Green Delaware

444 Mansion House Road
Bear, DE 19701
fax (302)836-3005

Contact: Alan Muller (302) 834-3466


DOVER, DE, MAY 1, 1997 -- The Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) Board of Directors voted this evening to sign a contract with American Ref-fuel, new operators of the former Westinghouse incinerator in Chester City PA. 300 thousand tons per year of Delaware waste may be burned in Chester. The Chester incinerator is permitted to put out more than 12 million pounds per year of harmful air pollutants and is considered a major contributor to one of the worst examples of "environmental racism" or "environmental injustice" in the United States.

On February 23, 1997, the DSWA gave a contract cancellation notice to Westinghouse, giving Chester residents hope that Delaware garbage would stop coming to their community, which is beset with health problems associated with the pollution from several large waste disposal facilities.

Officials of the Solid Waste Authority have always maintained that their decisions in this matter are purely economic and deny any responsibility for consequences to the people of Chester.

The vote was 4 to 3 in favor of the new contract. Voting in favor were commissioners Richard Pryor (Chair), Phyllis McKinley, Ronald McCabe, and Theodore Ryan. Voting no were commissioners William Turner, Donald Isaacs, and John Healy.

Stephen Simmons, Business Manager of the incinerator, indicated that Ref-fuel did not intend to install emission controls for highly toxic mercury unless required to do so by Pennsylvania regulators. "This is a private business," he claimed. The incinerator is believed to be owned by Delaware County, PA.

At the same meeting, Green Delaware presented its own resolution to the Board, calling on the Authority to "permanently" abandon incineration and to adopt source reduction and recycling as "the primary waste management techniques." Green Delaware coordinator Alan Muller asked the Board to consider and vote on the "green" resolution, but Board Chair Richard Pryor rejected it out of hand and adjourned the meeting without allowing discussion.

Comment from Alan Muller of Green Delaware:

"This is a shameful decision. Given the realities of Chester, it's tantamount to a conscious decision to poison babies. We do commend commissioners Turner, Isaacs and Healy for their 'no' votes. The time may have come to dissolve the Delaware Solid Waste Authority." -more-

May 1, 1997

(Presented to the Board of Directors of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority by Green Delaware)

WHEREAS, apparently conflicting information has circulated about the intentions of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority with respect to incineration (sometimes described in other terms) of Delaware municipal waste; and

WHEREAS, in hearings held by the DSWA, testimony ran strongly against incineration and in favor of recycling; and

WHEREAS, the rate of recycling achieved in Delaware is only about one-fifth of the national average [Delaware's recycling rate is a mere 5%... Pennsylvania's is 25% and New Jersey's is about 50%]; and

WHEREAS, previous experience of the Authority with municipal waste incineration has been highly unsatisfactory; and

WHEREAS, incineration of municipal waste in Delaware would contribute to our already excessive air pollution and would discharge mercury, dioxin and other very dangerous materials into our environment, to the detriment of public health; and

WHEREAS, the prospect of another incinerator is a source of anxiety to the public; and

WHEREAS, no incinerator should be sited without the consent of the host community, and such consent is unlikely to be obtained anywhere in Delaware.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Directors of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority that:

The Authority permanently abandons incineration, or any form of combustion, of municipal solid waste and/or refuse derived fuel as a management technique for such waste.

Source reduction and recycling are hereby adopted as the primary waste management techniques.

The Authority expresses its support for action by the General Assembly to ban municipal waste incineration, to set firm recyling goals, and to protect Delaware's Coastal Zone from siting of incinerators therein.

FURTHER, BE IT RESOLVED that the staff is directed to develop revisions to the Solid Waste Management Plan consistent with this resolution, and to provide at least a preliminary report within four weeks.


Chester Residents And Supporters Protest In Delaware

By: Andy Murray

When Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living picketed the Newcastle, Delaware offices of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority on November 22, 1996, their protest seemed somewhat unorthodox. While the group included residents of Chester, environmental activists and college students, the number of protesters probably never surpassed twenty. Furthermore, the Newcastle offices for the Solid Waste Authority were located in an industrial park that saw little public traffic. The passers-by who saw the protest were most likely to be employees of the Waste Authority or truck drivers hauling trash to the nearby Pigeon Point Waste Transfer Station.

The trash was what the residents of Chester, PA and their supporters were there to protest. One quarter of the trash incinerated at the Westinghouse Resource Recovery Facility in Chester-or approximately 225,000 tons each year-is sent there from Delaware. The Delaware Solid Waste Authority was on the brink of increasing this amount to 260,000 tons per year. What DSWA was unaware of, however, was that since the Westinghouse Facility began operating in Chester in the early 1990s, its emission of pollutants like sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide has been found to continually exceed levels deemed safe for the surrounding community. Even the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection-currently under investigation by the EPA for being too lenient with industrial polluters-has levied more than $350,000 in fines against Westinghouse for its pollution violations.

Yet, in spite of small numbers and its unusual location, the Newcastle protest proved a pleasing, if mellow, success. The primary purpose behind the protest was achieved before an hour of picketing had gone by, as officials from the Solid Waste Authority agreed to a future meeting to discuss the residents concerns. This follow-up meeting was held two weeks later in Newcastle and brought together representatives of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living and Westinghouse. Over the course of the meeting, it became clear that the Delaware Solid Waste Authority had received no report of the incinerator's prior violations of the emission levels for which it is permitted. As a result of the follow-up meeting, the Delaware Solid Waste Authority has now asked to receive a list of the incinerator's pollution violations, a list of all the warnings of violations from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and monthly reports compiled from the incinerator's continuous emissions monitoring system. When asked how she thinks this information will affect the Delaware Solid Waste Authority's practice of sending its trash to Chester, Zulene Mayfield, Chairperson of Chester Residents Concerned For Quality Living, responded that she was hopeful it would at least prevent the amount of solid waste being sent to Chester from being increased.

Just as significantly, however, what seemed like a somewhat laughable November morning protest may actually have demonstrated the viability of a future course of action for Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living. For years, CRCQL has worked constantly to shut down facilities like the infectious medical waste autoclave on Chester's West End and to prevent new facilities like Soil Remediation Services from being permitted to come to Chester. Unfortunately, the Westinghouse Incinerator, the largest facility in Chester, has proven the most resilient to opposition from the CRCQL and the city. But the possibility of confronting the incinerator's oblivious business partners-the ill-informed states and municipalities that have chosen to send their trash to Chester-is a pro-active strategy that CRCQL and its supporters hope holds tremendous potential. Westinghouse, which sent representatives from the Chester incinerator and from its Pittsburgh offices to the follow-up meeting in Newcastle, has demonstrated that they are concerned by this course of action taken by CRCQL. While CRCQL and its supporters realize that convincing state agencies and city councils to be responsible about their trash disposal will undoubtedly be difficult, there is a feeling of excitement that one simple protest might have illuminated an excellent method of striking back at polluting industries that are destroying the quality of life in Chester.

Update from Green Delaware

Tonite, Jan 23 [1997], the Delaware Solid Waste Authority voted to

(1) Terminate its contract with Westinghouse for incineration of New Castle County Del. waste at the Chester PA facility. 60 days notice was given, on the grounds that the Authority finds it economically preferable to landfill the waste in Delaware. (This is a contract provision.)

(As I understand it, the Delaware contract was using about 25% of the capacity of the Chester incinerator.)

(2) Begin a study leading to a "conceptual plan" for a "waste to energy" operation in Delaware. This would include an evaluation of health effects of such a facility with input from (corporate controlled) "advocacy" groups. (Have not seen the actual text, about which there were some contradictory claims).


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Last modified: 2 May 1997