At 7pm last evening on Zoom, Mike Ewall of Energy Justice Network presented a ‘Delco Waste Incineration Info Session’ that was attended by at least 45 people from across the county and beyond. I had hoped to catch the entire presentation but was called to help a friend who had car trouble. It was after 8pm when I got back home and I went right to the dinner table to eat, forgetting all about the meeting. 

Besides Zulene Mayfield, I don’t think there’s anyone who’s heard Ewall’s entire presentation more times than me over the last several years. There’s always something new to learn each time. I got a text that the presentation was really good and they asked me to join right when the  Q&A portion began. I got on the Zoom 90-mins late and tuned in just as things were about to make an abrupt turn.

Chester’s mayor popped in and all hell broke loose from that point forward. 

I’m not talented enough with words to accurately describe what happened to make it believable to you guys reading this, so I hope you catch some of the video clips floating around on social media to witness for yourself the dialog that occurred for about 20-mins while the mayor was on. 

Of all the things that were said, the two that stood out most to me were references to people from outside of Chester and statements regarding politicizing environmental issues in Chester. 

At some point, I hope local leaders would stop discouraging people who don’t live in Chester, or who have moved back to Chester, from helping to improve Chester. Chester needs all the help it can get from wherever it can get it. I’ve lived many places and this is the only place I’ve been that doesn’t welcome outside assistance. You’re made to feel like you’re about to be deported if you’re not from here. We don’t have a large native pool of talented, intelligent, experienced, professional, educated, seasoned people who can turn this city around. We have to learn to attract and work with the best and brightest sincere offers for help, resources, and money.

Zulene Mayfield mentioned that there is no ‘magic bullet’ that will change the air pollution problem in Chester, but it will take many strategic and diverse efforts that must work together to solve the environmental issues facing us here. One of the solutions can come from local government. Yet, the mayor accused others of politicizing the environmental problems when in fact folks are looking to his administration to offer a political solution. He said he focuses on the community needs and does not politicize.

At some point, we need politicians to play politics. That’s why we vote for them. With regard to environmental justice, they can pass resolutions, enact local pollution limit ordinances, conduct monitoring, lobby for the county health bureau to set up shop in the city with the most health disparities due in large part to being the county’s largest home of diverse polluters, and so much more. Just because the DEP and EPA set pollution permit limits, there is nothing stopping local government from exceeding those limits if it’s proven to be in the best interest of the community. 

Activists, economist, health professionals, urban planners, environmental experts, sufferers, and politicians must join forces to save a community in distress. There is no magic bullet.