Health Effects and Demographics

Chester residents suffer from abnormally high rates of asthma, cancers and other health problems that are caused and aggravated by industrial pollution. Premature deaths caused by Covanta’s pollution rival the number of gun deaths in Chester each year. The financial costs of premature deaths and disease caused by Covanta’s pollution far exceeds $5 million per year. Even if it were the same, the city cannot morally justify revenue obtained from harming health and shortening lives of Chester residents.

Factsheets & Statistics on Chester

Brief History of Chester (demographics)
Chester Environmental Justice Factsheet
Articles Written about Chester
Environmental Injustice in Delaware County, PA (Feb 2006 presentation by ActionPA) [Powerpoint version (6 MB)]
Mapping Environmental Justice in Delaware County, PA (Spring 2006 report by Swarthmore College students)

Health Studies of Chester Residents

Health Survey of Chester residents living there more than 5 years vs. less than 5 years
EPA’s Health Risk Study of Chester
Health Effects of Pollutants Released by Facilities
Chester, Pennsylvania Risk Study (presentation by Reginald Harris of EPA) [Powerpoint version]

Covanta’s Pollution Kills

Gun violence claimed 144 lives in Chester between 2009 and mid-2014 — an average of 32 lives per year.

Based on peer-reviewed models that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Research Council use to evaluate lives saved by air pollution regulations, the amount of pollution released by Covanta in recent years would cause between 13 and 28 premature deaths per year.

This is based on data for only three pollutants: nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). This is not counting the hundreds of other pollutants released by Covanta’s trash incinerator, such as ultratoxic dioxins and mercury. If these were able to be quantified in terms of lives cut short, it would likely rival the numbers killed by gun violence each year.

Covanta is also one of the top two sources of toxic lead exposure in Chester. Lead affects the brain in ways that increase violent behavior, which means that some of the violence that plagues Chester could be aggravated by this toxic pollution.

It’s wrong to put a dollar on people’s lives, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regularly uses economic measures to justify the benefits of air pollution regulations. In those Regulatory Impact Analysis documents, EPA (based on peer-reviewed scientific studies and review by their Science Advisory Board), placed a value of $7.2 million (in 2007 dollars) on a life shortened due to pollution. An adult who dies prematurely from fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) would lose an average of 15 years of life.


The financial cost of deaths from these three pollutants released by Covanta’s incinerator in Chester would be $94 million to $200 million dollars a year. This doesn’t count lost work or school days due to asthma or other illness, those who get sick but don’t die, or the impacts from any but the three pollutants mentioned above.