Large-Scale Polluters in Philadelphia


Northeast Philadelphia

In 1984, residents of Northeast Philadelphia decided to take action against Philadelphia’s Northeast Sewage Treatment facility. After years of promises, the odor problems continued to get worse.

The Law Center filed a citizens’ lawsuit in 1985 requesting that the City Water Department negotiate a settlement to finally overcome the severe odor problem, but the City refused to negotiate. Instead of fixing the problem, the City supported an EPA effort to remove the odor regulations from enforcement under federal law, hoping to cause dismissal of our lawsuit. The EPA change was ultimately rejected in court inConcerned Citizens of Bridesburg v. EPA in 1986, and the court ordered Philadelphia to immediately stop its continued environmental violations.

The City agreed to follow the advice of a court-ordered study to fix the problems at its Northeast Sewage plant, but it failed to make any real improvements. The Court held the City in contempt, ultimately levying over $60,000 in fines for its failure to comply with the agreement.

The sewage treatment plant still operates, but improvements instituted following our intervention have drastically reduced odor and emission violations.

Our collaboration with the community groups in Northeast Philadelphia also led to:

  • The closure of Coyne Industrial Laundries, which used numerous carcinogenic chemicals that seeped into the sewer lines and basements in the neighborhood.
  • Significant improvements at an Anzon, Inc. facility that manufactured lead-based chemicals and emitted high concentrations of lead into the air.
  • Significant pollution reductions at the Aldan Rubber Company, whichmanufactured rubber-coated fabrics and emitted toxic air pollutants, causing nausea, headaches, eye irritation.
  • Facility improvements and air purifiers for area homes at the Purolite Company, which had been cited over 30 times for odor violations over a nine year period by Philadelphia Air Management Services but had never paid any fines or been forced to fix its problems until the Law Center’s involvement.