The Inquirer has a nice piece today on the Chester Incinerator that focuses on the work of Zulene Mayfield. I’ve heard her speak at a number of public meetings over the past year, and she is a passionate advocate for the residents of Chester.
She founded Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living, long before the term “environmental justice” became shorthand to describe the impact of heavy industry on low-income neighborhoods. Over the years, Mayfield and her allies have fought back against plans for a large pet crematorium, a medical waste facility, proposals to burn tires for energy, and a plant to process contaminated soil.
“If you can name it, we fought it,” Mayfield said.
Zulene Mayfield has more allies than she once did – thanks in part to the increased recognition of the overlap between environmental and racial justice. But even with the focus of so many activists on the issue and a receptive county council, it looks like we’re still likely to fail to slow the incinerator any time soon. This quote in particular spoke to me,
“Is it exhausting to keep fighting? You’d better [expletive] believe it,” Mayfield said. “I work full time, and did this. We didn’t even have a budget when we started.”
I feel this and I know many others that do. There are too few people doing the work to protect our communities and keep our institutions functioning. People like to complain, but step up to serve? How can they? They’re already busy all the time dealing with the consequences of systems set up to prey on them or have already burned out! The article points out that even the tireless Zulene Mayfield had to at one point take a break. Our public structures are as unsustainable as our waste practices.
Back to the waste, the most recent action I’ve heard of was that the Pennsylvania DEP approved the expansion of the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority’s landfill in Earl Township in Bucks County. From this article, it looks like the expansion is expected to add 10 years of capacity to the landfill. From that Reading article it sounds like residents of the area are no more keen on our ash than Chester is.
The Solid Waste Authority’s website doesn’t list any meetings except the one in May (really there’s not any useful information on their website), but there’s a vacancy opening in May that both Chester’s mayor (who is pro-incinerator) and Chester council candidate Stefan Roots (who is against it) have applied for. The county does have a list of boards and appointments now at least, and it does list Solid Waste Authority’s member Patrick McMenamin’s term expiring October 2021 – so I guess his is the position up for appointment.