Hundreds gather for 4th Annual Environmental Justice March in Chester, PA

April 20, 2024 – Chester, PA. –  People marched and caravanned from Chester City Hall to the front of Covanta’s trash incinerator, calling for environmental justice and the right to a healthy environment. Hosted by Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL, pronounced “circle”), the march demonstrated the need for clean air and justice for Chester City residents. Unfortunately, the city of Chester is a classic case of environmental racism, housing numerous polluting industries within its bounds –  including the largest trash incinerator in North America operated by Covanta. 

Children in Chester are 5 times as likely to have asthma, a respiratory condition that makes it difficult to breathe. There is no doubt this is due to the dozens of industries polluting the environment in Chester. The trash incinerator alone burns nearly 3,500 tons of trash and industrial waste every day without the amount of pollution controls that other facilities require. The pollutants released include dioxins, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, and more – all of which have serious health consequences. Of course, the pollutants emitted from the incinerator don’t stay in one place or one town.

The existing pollution and industries that are already causing unsafe environments for residents of Chester and beyond, more dirty proposals are on the table. Chester is one of the proposed locations for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal; this project would require massive infrastructure that not only would pollute the city as it prepares fossil fuels for export, but it would also disrupt and pollute cities and towns across PA with the pipelines that it would require for LNG transport. Additionally, new hydrogen hubs are being proposed across the US, including the MACH2 proposal which threatens the entire mid-Atlantic region with costly and polluting methods of generating hydrogen for fuel.  

“This Saturday’s show of power should be a warning sign to any polluting industry thinking about coming to Chester,” chairperson Zulene Mayfield said. “This is what you’re up against, and we will not stop or be bought. Our lives and our children’s lives will not be sacrificed!” 

Attendees gathered at Chester City Hall midday and heard from movement leaders including members of the clergy, EQAT, Delaware Riverkeepers Network, Philly Thrive and many more. Led by Magic Music Group Drill Team,  attendees marched and caravanned 2 miles, arriving right outside the trash incinerator. Marches and caravanners chanted for justice and carried signs, with mottos like “Ban the Burn,” “End Environmental Racism,” and “Clean Air for Chester.” 

Other groups in attendance included C4 (Campus Coalition Concerned Chester), EQAT, Climate Action Team,  Conservation Voters of PA, Physicians for Social Responsibility, PennFuture, Philly Thrive and Delaware Riverkeeper Network. The march went national this year, including groups from New Jersey, Louisiana, Texas, and more. “We stand in solidarity with the residents of Chester who, similarly to our members back in Port Arthur, Texas, are fighting for the basic necessities like clean air to breathe,”“To create the just future we all deserve, we absolutely must put people above profit and pollution.” 

The turnout and attendees from across the nation showcase the power of the environmental justice movement growing in Chester. CRCQL has been fighting for Chester’s right to clean air and a healthy environment for over 30 years now, and while the recent national attention and focus on environmental justice is necessary and long overdue – it needs to be translated into actual impacts and results for communities like Chester.

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