I’m pretty good at recognizing sarcasm and often find myself writing pithy blog posts full of sarcasm, humor, and facts. Most people recognize sarcasm when they read it but there are some who are so literal that they miss the irony that mocks or conveys contempt.

Some Guy From Swarthmore wrote a letter to the Delaware County Daily Times editor that was published today. He makes such a poor case for supporting Chester’s trash incinerator, I can only believe he’s being sarcastic to get attention.

Some Guy From Swarthmore wants us to become acquainted with the services which Covanta provides to us and measure that carefully against the proposed harm which the plant does to the environment or to the people in the surrounding area. When most people acquaint themselves with burning trash they measure it agains issues like foul odors, noise, trucks, illness, and decreased property value. 

Some Guy From Swarthmore suggests there’s an unsupported innuendo that the Covanta plant is causing death by cancer and other environmental diseases in the residents of Chester. Obviously, no one can decisively attribute any one source to any single cause of death or disease. However, when you compare death and disease in Chester’s zip code to the zip code where Some Guy From Swarthmore lives, you’ll find the life expectancy in 19013 is 74.2 years and in 19081 it’s 81.6 years. If I just lived 5.6 miles away in 19081, my chances of living a longer healthier life increases substantially. What’s so different between 19081 and 19013? Maybe an incinerator or two joined by other industrial operations nearby. If we just take the incinerator and move it to Swarthmore, raise your hand if you think their life expectancy decreases a tad.


The Guy From Swarthmore compares the comments from Delaware County Council who says the future of Chester’s economic development hinges on the discontinuance of the Covanta plant and states it’s a bit questionable when compared to remarks from Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, the current mayor of Chester. He would urge readers to look for remarks from the elected representatives of the city, as they probably have a better finger on the pulse of the benefits of Covanta for Chester.

That might work in other municipalities, but I haven’t seen anyone marching down the street following the Mayor of Chester in support of the trash plant. The Guy From Swarthmore isn’t even listening to his own government leaders who voted to have the county stop bringing their trash to Chester? And, it doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to reason that Chester’s waterfront property would be much more valuable and desirable without a trash incinerator sitting on the banks of the Delaware River.

The Guy From Swarthmore does not want you to assume, as you follow this debate, that Covanta, without sufficient evidence, has been tied to higher mortality from what comes out of their exhaust stacks. Unfortunately, sufficient evidence is so hard to get a hold of. We’re told one of the reasons the county is launching a health bureau is to collect and share evidence of health disparities in the county. As many studies that have been done in Chester and as much data that sits in the doctor’s offices, hospitals, and health care provider’s files, it’s nearly impossible to assemble accurate figures on asthma, heart disease, cancer, COPD, and so on. But, when people are sick all around you, it’s pretty obvious something is triggering the sicknesses. 

The Guy From Swarthmore says he will sit up and take notice if politicians from those surrounding communities are coming out against the renewal of the Covanta contract. I guess the Guy From Swarthmore hasn’t seen the following communities come out against the renewal of the Covanta contract: Swarthmore, Media, Nether Providence and Lansdowne. Rumor has it there are more on the way. 

The Guy From Swarthmore says the benefits of having trash sent to a Waste To Energy plant … is it’s burned to produce energy to provide heat or electricity for customers. Unfortunately, we’re not their customers so we really don’t give a damn.

Finally, The Guy From Swarthmore notes that in this complex world where our market system brings us so many things that meet our needs and desires, it is better to weigh costs and benefits before jumping into an environmental debate where we assume businesses are out to hurt us. In Chester, no one is assuming incineration is hurting us. We’ve got the funeral notices, hospital bills, inhalers, mass migration, and diminished real estate value as receipts for hurt and damage done to the city and its people. 

Once you realize you’ve been smacked up the head with sarcasm, you either laugh along or do what he suggest we do and become interested in learning more about this issue as we move forward.

Read Letter to Editor