There are 3 competing narratives to trash incineration in Chester. 

  1. The incineration company says they meet EPA regulations with 99.9+% of what comes out of their exhaust stacks being normal components of air, including water vapor, nitrogen, oxygen, and CO2.
  2. The local environmental justice folks label Chester’s incinerator as the most expensive and polluting way to manage waste, and is far dirtier than landfills. It’s also dirtier than burning coal. It’s the largest polluter in Delaware County and one of the largest sources of nitrogen oxide pollution contributing to asthma attacks, cancer, and more.
  3. Chester City government encourages municipalities who already send their trash to Chester’s incinerator to continue to send their trash here for financial reasons as the incinerator contributes to the city budget according to how much trash they burn. More trash, more money. 

It’s widely known EPA regulations are not adjusted based on health outcomes in a community. Even if the incinerator meets or exceeds EPA regulations, the environment remains unhealthy. Environmental justice folks hoping to expose and remedy health disparities are hampered by institutions reluctant to make health data available. And, a city government strapped for cash ignores warnings from the environmental folks in order to maintain business as usual with the incinerator. 

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who cares?

I can only observe that as a child of the 60s and 70s growing up in Chester, none of my playmates carried an inhaler around. Now, you can hardly find a child who doesn’t suffer from asthma. When we consider what contributes to that drastic change, it’s pretty easy to narrow it down to very few causes. 

Either we all are going to be happy continuing down this road of acceptance and denial, or we’re going to put our thinking caps on to determine if there are solutions to improve health disparities in Chester. 

I encourage you to pick a side.