Clustering of Waste Facilities in Chester, USA


Chester, a city located within Delaware County, one of the most affluent counties in Pennsylvania, represents a pocket of environmental, social, and economic deprivation. About 76% of its 40,000 residents are African American, a majority compared to the rest of the county where African Americans are approximately 6% of the population.

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Basic Data
NameClustering of Waste Facilities in Chester, USA
CountryUnited States of America
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific CommoditiesCoal
Crude oil
Domestic municipal waste
Industrial waste
Medical Waste
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsWestinghouse Resource Recovery Facility burns up to 2,000 tons of trash/day
Project Area (in hectares)1.5
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population40,000-60,000
Start Date1985
Company Names or State EnterprisesRusell, Rea & Zappala from United States of America
DELCORA from Uruguay
Covanta Energy from United States of America
Kimberly Clark Tissue Corporation from United States of America
Gomulka - Investor
Abbonizio Recycling Corporation from United States of America
Thermal Pure Systems
Chester Solid Waste Associates
Cherokee Environmental Group
Westinghouse Electric Corporation from United States of America
Relevant government actorsUSEPA, Delaware County, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Chester City Council
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersChester Residents Concerned for Quality Living, Camous Coalition Concerning Chester, Chester Environmental Partnership, Delco Alliance for Environmental Justice
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Trade unions
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Noise pollution, Global warming
Potential: Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Other Health impacts
OtherCancer/lead/asthma/low-weight births/headaches

In 1990s: Chester's infant mortality rate was the highest in the state; Chester's lung cancer mortality rate was 60% higher than the county; and 60% of children in Chester had blood-lead levels over the maximum recommended.
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
New legislation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.There have been several victories (some facilities have closed, several proposals for new polluting facilities defeated, a few lawsuits won). However, residents in Chester keep suffering pollution from the several pollution facilities still in place and need to keep fighting every single facility that tries locate within their community.
Sources and Materials

Court Case 'Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living vs. Seif
[click to view]

Chester Residents Concerned for Quality living vs. Department of Environmental Resources

Thermal Pure vs. Department of Environmental Resources


'Laid to Waste', by Robert Bahar and George McCollough
[click to view]

Walsh et al. (1997), Don't Burn It Here

Cole, Luke and Foster, Sheila (2001). From the the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement

Czmus, Akim F. "Failure of Environmental Regulation: What Is a Poor Person to Do-Are the Civil Rights of Community Residents at Odds with Environmental Concerns-Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living v. Pennsylvania Depatment of Environmental Resources and Thermal Pure Systems, Inc., 1993 WL 456285, The." Hamline J. Pub. L. & Pol'y 16 (1994): 101.

Mele, Christopher. "Casinos, Prisons, Incinerators, and Other Fragments of Neoliberal Urban Development." Social Science History 35.3 (2011): 423-452.

Foster, Sheila. "Justice from the ground up: Distributive inequities, grassroots resistance, and the transformative politics of the environmental justice movement." Cal. L. Rev. 86 (1998): 775.

Environmental Injustice in Chester, PA. By Heather Kurtz
[click to view]

The Case for Environmental Justice in Chester, Pennsylvania by Environmental Background Information Center (EBIC)
[click to view]


'Waste Treatment Facilities in Chester', by Andy Murray, SPEEC
[click to view]

'Environmental Racism in Chester' by Mike Ewall, Campus Coalition Concerning Chester (C-4)
[click to view]

Environmental Justice Case Study: Toxic Waste in Chester, Pennsylvania
[click to view]

PPT presentation
[click to view]

Environmental Racism in Chester - Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
[click to view]

Accomplishments of C-4 and the Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living and other victories that came in the years following CRCQL and C-4's work. Source:
[click to view]

Media Links

Chester Environmental Justice, It contains portions of the 1996 documentary 'Laid to Waste' by R. Bahar & G. McCollough
[click to view]

Maggie Santiago of Chester walks her dachsund past the American Ref-Fuel incinerator every day. She says that living near the plant has left her with a chronic scratchy throat and burning eyes. "Every year, I spend more on medicine," she says.

Photo: Jim Motavalli, 1998
[click to view]

Other CommentsThis is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan
Meta Information
ContributorAlejandro Colsa Pérez, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update08/07/2015