At our urging, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a study in Chester to determine the cumulative health risk from all sources of pollution affecting the community – the first ever environmental justice study of this kind. Unsurprisingly, the EPA concluded that the health risks caused by environmental hazards in Chester are ‘unacceptably high’ for virtually all Chester residents.
Even in the face of these clear findings, EPA and DER continued to facilitate the onslaught of environmental racism in Chester.
The Law Center filed a lawsuit challenging the proliferation of waste treatment facilities in Chester, charging DER with violating the civil rights of Chester residents by permitting the construction of more waste treatment facilities in that community than anywhere else in the county. In 1997, the Third Circuit ruled that the law allows minority communities to file lawsuits to prevent the proliferation of polluters in their communities – and that discriminatory effects violate the law, whether or not the discrimination was intentional.
The issue was set to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, but the polluter in question withdrew its application for a permit. The lawsuit was then dismissed as moot.