CEP meeting discussed federal grants and possible solutions with residents
Environmental stress has been one of the leading causes of health concerns for long-time Chester residents who believe air quality and pollution are the reasons. To explore the topic, the Chester Environmental Partnership (CEP) help a public meeting last week at Faith Temple Holy Church, 1005 West 7th St., Chester, to discuss and review past and current environmental conditions that have been causing awareness and interest.
Dr. Horace Strand, church pastor and CEP chairman began the presentation with words of encouragement too those who showed in an interest to learn about Chester's current environmental status.
"What I find is that people who are experiencing problems with the emissions, the nuisance factor of trucks, noise and other things that come with industries that are too close to residential dwellings, usually feel helpless and powerless because they don't know where to begin to get attention and to resolve the issues they have in their community," he said.
The partnership is made up of local residents and representatives from the University of Pennsylvania, Widener University, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP); Chester city government; the Crozer-Keystone Health System; Mother Earth Energy, Inc., Covanta and Delcora.
Adam Cutler, a PILCOP lawyer who has been working with CEP for the past five years, briefly spoke about some of Chester's current environmental complaints and issuesand the federal grant available to help groups address those issues.
"CARE stands for Community Action for a Renewed Environment and EPA gives these grants out every year to only a few recipients," Cutler said, adding, "The idea in general is for communities to learn about and understand the environmental risk that they're dealing with everyday and to come together and develop solutions. As you go through the grant process and get to the Level Two grant, you get to start implementing those solutions and start leveraging other funds that are available from other sources."
Cutler continued by breaking down the different levels of the CARE grant. Level One requires togetherness from the community.
Dr. Ted Emmett, from the University of Pennsylvania's Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, presented a slide presentation dissecting Chester's past and current statistics on health and how it has been affected by surrounding industries.
According to Emmett, death rates in Chester compared to surrounding counties and when compared to all of Delaware County, Chester had a lower rate of people diagnosed with cancer, but Chester had more people die from cancer that those in Delaware County, according to the statistics from 2005 through 2009.
According to a 2010 survey, Chester residents face barriers that also contribute to possible health issues such as crime, grocery store locations and transportation. Alpha Cartlton, 83, has been dealing with an unruly neighbor around property maintenance for the past four years.
"What I was afraid of with all of the junk in his yard, (was that) somebody may come by and throw a match and I'd be gone. It was bad enough because I've has smoke problems in my home and had to get somebody in; they came, painted my house, they took my drapes down, they went to the cleaners and shampooed it. That's how bad it was from the fire in his place."
The purpose of the meeting was to introduce residents to the environmental problems, the statistics, and what's being done to solve those issues.