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Environmental Justice Groups Sue Over Incinerator Pollution | New Jersey News

Environmental Justice Groups Sue Over Incinerator Pollution | New Jersey News

Environmental Justice Groups Sue Over Incinerator Pollution | New Jersey News

By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press

NEWARK (N.J.) Two community groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in New Jersey and California. They sought to make trash incinerators, many of them located in minority communities, emit less pollution to the air.

One of the incinerators that meets those standards has sometimes emitted pink-colored mist into Newark’s air.

The groups are asking a judge to order the agency’s updating of its standards for large incinerators. According to them, the EPA was supposed do so at the least 10 year ago.

Plaintiffs in two separate lawsuits seek the same goal: a court order directing EPA to act immediately to limit the emissions of these incinerators.

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Jonathan Smith, an attorney for Earthjustice, New York said that 80 percent of these large-sized incinerators are located in environmental justice groups. The stated commitment to environmental justice compelled the EPA to update its emissions standards.

Ana Baptista, an Ironbound board member and environmental justice expert at The New School, New York, said that there was a consistent pattern of these facilities, some of them old, being located in environmental justice communities. These lawsuits are essential to address that.

Environmental justice is a movement to ensure minority communities that are already disproportionately affected by pollution sources are not subject to more, and to reduce existing sources.

The lawsuits were filed Jan. 13 in Washington’s federal court of district, and Dec. 21 in Washington’s appeals court.

The EPA declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

The lawsuits are based on violations of the Clean Air Act. According to one lawsuit, amendments to the 1990 law require the EPA set performance standards for large incinerators that burn 250 to more tons of trash per day and to update them every five years.

The lawsuit claims that the EPA failed to meet the most recent deadline for an update in 2011.

East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice operates in Long Beach, California and eastern Los Angeles. It supports community programs and opposes incinerators. In 2018, an incinerator was closed in Commerce, California.

Ironbound Community Corporation is a large social services provider in Newark, New Jersey. The name of the corporation comes from the railroad tracks which border it on three sides. It helped delay a plan by a sewage utility to build a backup power station in an area already plagued by pollution and poor air quality.

Baptista grew to live in this area, and describes it as being often smelly and heavily industrialized.

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She noticed something else as she drove to her parents’ home in 2020.

She said that she saw bright pink smoke rising from it. I was initially confused. Was this some kinda sick joke or breast cancer awareness thing?

According to Covanta (the company that runs the facility), the tainted smoke was caused by the plant burning materials containing iodine from Newark chemical companies. According to Covanta, the company that operates the facility, it stated that there were several instances of pinkish-purple mist between 2018 and 2020. It also said it had stopped accepting such material.

Smith stated that four New Jersey trash incinerators fall under the EPA standards in Newark Camden Rahway Westville in Gloucester County and Camden Camden. Similar incinerators can be found in California in Long Beach or Crows Landing near Modesto.

According to the companies operating the incinerators, they all adhere to federal environmental standards.

One lawsuit notes 2007 litigation in the context of which the EPA agreed that it would review its incinerator standards. A 2008 court order sent the matter back to EPA for a second glance.

The lawsuit stated that “more than 13 years have passed since courts remand without any action from EPA in review or updating its standards.”

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Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not been published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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