Environmental Justice Community

“Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”
National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC)

Eastwick has emerged as an “Environmental Justice Community” in the eyes of stake holders, friends and supporters.  This dubious distinction reflects the disproportionate hardships endured by this peacefully-integrated, culturally-diverse community located in Southwest Philadelphia.  Environmental concerns encompass multiple issues and date back many decades.

In the 1950’s, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority seized 2500 acres in Eastwick (then known as Elmwood) by condemnation and eminent domain, displacing ten-thousand people from their homes.  Residents resettled elsewhere, while new homes were built on swamps filled-in by silt, cinder, and river dredge spoils.  Homes have subsided due to unstable foundations, and residents report significant, consistent flooding of the neighborhood.

From the 1950’s to the 1970’s, two unpermitted Landfills operated close to Eastwick, disposing a variety of municipal, demolition, and hospital waste into the environment.   The Folcroft Landfill is located inside the boundaries of the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, and the Clearview Landfill is on the east side of Darby Creek at 83rd Street and Buist Avenue.  These landfills were collectively named the “Lower Darby Creek Area Superfund Site” and added to the National Priorities List in June 2001.  On the Clearview Landfill in Eastwick, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of conducting a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS), as well as a Time Critical Removal Action (TCRA).  The EPA is also conducting human health and ecological assessments, respectively.  EPA sampling indicated high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which pose exposure risks to workers.  Contaminants were found to have been released into nearby Darby Creek and Cobbs Creek.  The EPA stated that, “…the contaminated soil in [the Clearview Landfill] poses an immediate threat to human health and environment.” (source:  EPA document page 3)

Eastwick is impacted by toxic emissions from multiple, nearby sources.  Toxic emmissions come from the petroleum refinery, and traffic emissions from a major postal distribution center and a freeway running through the neighborhood.  Additionally, hundreds of aircraft daily release excess jetfuel into the atmosphere over Eastwick during landings into the Philadelphia International Airport, among the busiest in the world.

In the last three years, two major “100 year floods” of Darby Creek have inundated a substantial portion of the community, potentially transporting toxic substances from Clearview Landfill “Superfund site located upstream.  The documented rise in sea levels, coupled with antiquated stormwater management systems, raises significant concerns about future flooding in Eastwick.

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