The Law Center’s work started in partnership with residents of Bridesburg in Northeast Philadelphia, a region inundated with pollution from industrial facilities and a massive municipal waste treatment plant. Our first environmental lawsuits targeted Philadelphia Coke and Franklin Smelting, both in the Bridesburg area. Starting with the Northeast plant, we also brought litigation seeking to improve Philadelphia’s three sewage treatment plants. These large-scale polluters poisoned Philadelphia’s air and water with lead and other toxic emissions, and their cumulative impact had especially bad effects on low-wealth communities. Our efforts have focused on three areas of Philadelphia – the Northeast (Bridesburg, Richmond, Kensington), the Northwest (Roxborough/Manayunk), and South Philadelphia.
Our efforts and the efforts of our client communities have secured drastic reductions in pollution, and we have helped community members obtain community benefits and important oversight and enforcement rights. Philadelphia Coke finally closed in 1982, and Franklin Smelting closed in 1997. The sewage plants still operate, though with significantly improved pollution controls.