Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Delaware County Alliance for Environmental Justice (DelCo Alliance) and the Chester Green youth group hosted Chester city’s first Environmental Justice collective during the last weekend in October during which they offered a tour pointing out all the polluters in Chester. The youth summit consisted of over 40 people from groups across the nation.
“The Toxic Tour was open to anyone who wanted to learn about environmental justice in Chester and who [the] polluters are along the waterfront and 291 highway,” said Desire Grover, DelCo Alliance member.
Though the invitation to the tour was extended to the Swarthmore community, no one from Swarthmore attended. Morgan Bartz ’14, who interned with DelCo Alliance last summer, attributed the lack of attendance to individual conflicts; Energy Justice Network founder and director Mike Ewall said that the bad weather may have also been a factor. Bartz said that she and other Chester Fellows took the Toxic Tour last fall.
The DelCo Alliance is a collaboration of environmental justice groups throughout Delaware County that focus primarily on the environmental issues in Chester, and how they impact the entire county. Environmental Justice Network, affiliated with DelCo Alliance, is a national network of environmental justice groups. The group Chester Green was recently formed to strengthen the local youth movement around local environmental problems.
“Unfortunately the pattern is that the people who are impacted the most are those who are not leading or organizing,” she said. “How do we change that? How do we take charge of the movement that is impacting them the most? Chester Green is part of the answer. “
The collective involved workshops and discussions about environmental justice issues in the city of Chester and the surrounding county. Grover said that the collective’s goal was to educate Chester residents as well as youth from inside and outside the city.
On Saturday, members of Chester Green gave the summit’s participants a Toxic Tour of the waterfront in Delaware County. The tour provides a panoramic view of the different polluters in the county, illustrating what each business is doing, the history of their company and pollution, and what kinds of pollution they emit. The tour included stops at a coal power plant, two major natural gas burning power plants, a paper mill, the nation’s largest trash incinerator, a sewage sludge incinerator, two oil refineries, and various chemical plants and toxic waste sites. The paper mill, Kimberly Clark, burns waste coal and petroleum coke. It also produces six times more mercury than normal coal.
Ewall said that the program’s main goal is education, as many people live in Chester their entire lives and don’t realize the extent of the city’s pollution. For example, he said that many “don’t realize the trash incinerator is largest in country— it burns three times what county produces, plus trash from Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey. They’re taking care of a lot more trash than they should, and in not clean way.”
Del Co Alliance orchestrates Toxic Tours periodically, but any individual or group can contact the Alliance and request one. Grover said she hopes there will be another summit by next summer. Interested readers can visit www.ejnet.org/chester/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.