EJ Action Timeline


Chester Residents decide to take collective action against the numerous industries waste facilities moving to Chester and formed the grassroots advocacy group Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL)

1st CRCQL ACTION: protestors blockaded the residential streets used to transport waste to the Westinghouse incinerator for over two hours, resulting in Westinghouse agreeing to build a new access road in order to minimize neighborhood disturbance. 

Thermal Pure Systems opened the nation’s largest infections medical waste treatment facility, was issued a permit by the PA DEP, that CRCQL immediately  challenged. Despite submitting 500+ signatures from opposed residents, the City Council request the PA DEP to expedite the facility’s permit. The DEP issued Thermal Pure’s permit without holding a public hearing, violating state laws that require a public hearing when a proposed permit is controversial or has public opposition. The permit also allowed the facility to process more than 10x the amount of waste allowed by state law. 


  • ACTION/PROTEST: CRCQL led a march from Delaware County seat in Media, PA to Chester protesting the harmful conditions Westinghouse and officials subjected the Chester community


  • Chester passes a novel zoning ordinance, with language preventing companies from locating certain types of waste facilities in the city unless they can prove they will not create a net increase in pollution. This ordinance was later watered down and only applies to new industrial that locate there, not existing ones. 


  • Thermal Pure permit appealed by CRCQL to the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP). In February 1995, a Commonwealth Court revoked the permit. The decision was appealed by Thermal Pure to the PA Supreme Court, and the court unanimously voted to reopen the Thermal Pure facility. Eventually Thermal Pure closed down in 1995.ThermalPure medical waste autoclave (largest in U.S.) closed down

    • Later attempts by California-based Ally Capital Corp to reopen the plant failed early in the permitting process and the building was ultimately town down.


April 12, 1996:  

ACTION/PROTEST: Students from as far as Delaware, New York and throughout Pennsylvania organized with CRCQL to protest at the corporate headquarters of Russell, Rea & Zappala in Pittsburgh (the firm behind the cluster of waste facilities in Chester, PA).

April 22, 1996 

(Earth Day): Held the only Earth Day activity in Harriburg, a press conference in the state capital followed by a protest against the Department of Environmental Protection.

May 1996: 

In response to the DEP permit approval of yet another toxic facility in Chester, Soil Remediation Services, CRCQL files a ground breaking complaint complaint in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of PA accusing the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), citing violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and failure of the DEP to look at the racial composition of a community and discrimination by concentrating waste facilities in black, low-income communities. The lawsuit was the first in the country to sue a state under violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, setting the stage for environmental justice movements to follow. 

November 22, 1996: 

Protest in Delaware State’s Solid Waste Authority, resulting in meetings that led up to the Authority’s decision to stop sending waste to Chester.

November 30, 1996: 

Soil Remediation Services (SRS) is defeated!.


January 23, 1997: 

Delaware Solid Waste Authority votes to stop sending waste to Chester’s incinerator

November 7, 1997: 

Cherokee Biotechnology plant is defeatedPennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection denied a permit to Cherokee Biotechnology for their proposed contaminated soil bioremediation plant. This is the first time that DEP denied a pollution permit to a corporation targeting Chester.  

December 18, 1997: 

Chester Residents Win Case Against DELCORA!The settlement with the DELCORA sewage treatment plant & sludge incinerator will require new pollution controls and will help the fund a Children’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for the community.

December 30, 1997: 

  • Federal Court Gives Green Light to Environmental Racism suit against PA DEP!
    This landmark victory upholds the environmental racism case and sets the precedent that a community doesn’t need to prove that this type of discrimination is intentional. (Unfortunately, on a technicality, the Supreme Court later declared the case moot — because Soil Remediation Systems, the subject of the lawsuit, withdrew their permit application — and “set aside” this tremendous court victory, requiring that the precedent be set again. The defeat of the proposed Soil Remediation Systems facility, which would have burned off toxic gases from contaminated soil, was itself a major victory.

Other Victories: 

  • 1998: Ogborne construction/demolition waste transfer station defeated
  • 1999: Delaware State stops sending waste to Chester incinerator


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