The Law Center first got involved in fighting the environmental injustice in Chester in 1993, when we partnered with the community activist group Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL) to stop the proliferation of waste facilities in the city and to begin to reduce toxic emissions poisoning the community. Our first of many actions in Chester was a 1993 lawsuit to stop the opening of the Thermal Pure infectious waste processing facility, which planned to process almost 300 tons of waste per day. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DER) granted the permit even though the plans exceeded DER’s own limits by a factor of ten. In 1995, we convinced the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to finally revoke Thermal Pure’s permit, forcing the plant to close.
Environmental Racism in Chester
Chester, Pennsylvania is a small city with a low-income African American population, located in the affluent, mostly white Delaware County – and it is the site of an unprecedented cluster of industrial polluting facilities. Chester has been home to a trash incinerator that handled waste from the entire county, a sewage treatment plant that still receives the entire county’s sewage, and numerous other waste processing plants, oil refineries, and industrial polluters. Essentially, the low-income, black community of Chester has been forced to live amidst the waste of the more affluent, white towns and cities around it.