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Some neighborhoods in Philly have an unsustainable burden of environmental hazards. New City Council legislation is intended to change that
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Some neighborhoods in Philly have an unsustainable burden of environmental hazards. New City Council legislation is intended to change that

Carroll - Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery

A two-alarm fire at Delaware Valley Recycling, Southwest Philadelphia, ignited thick, black smoke in November. It was visible throughout the city. For several days, the community was filled by the stench of burning rubber due to burning tires and other debris.

The Environmental Protection Agency noted that Tires that are charredAir pollution can be caused by toxic compounds and fumes. The city is investigating the junkyard fire FoundAny toxins found in the atmosphere were not high enough to cause long-term harm. Officials advised residents to limit their outdoor time until the fire is completely under control.

The Office of Emergency Management, however, did not find.High levels of fine particlesThe smoke can cause respiratory problems in the air. Officials released an analysis to the public that showed residents experiencing nausea and headaches from the pungent odor over multiple days.

Although less toxic than other industrial accidents, the fire highlighted the harmful effects of living close to industrial operations on the health and environment.

The Community Health ActHelen Gym, Councilmember, sponsored the bill. It would require that the Department of Public Health create an environmental justice map to identify communities that are exposed to toxic chemicals and other unsafe chemicals because of their proximity to industrial sites.

Jamie Gauthier, Councilmember of Council, said that the communities most affected by pollution are often those of color.

Gauthier stated, “When we talk of environmental justice, we are by definition also talking about racial justice.”. “For too long, minorities have been burdened by pollution and the adverse health consequences it causes.

The bill would require that the city use the environmental justice map to grant any permit or license for any industrial activity, siting, or activity that could adversely impact public health. Any new project that could adversely affect the health of the community would be scrutinized.

A cumulative impact assessment would enable city officials to better understand potential health risks the site could pose for the community. The Department of Public Health would also have the power to require mitigation measures before a project can proceed.

Environmentalists refer to “cumulative effects” as the following: Combination effectMultiple sources of pollution often lead to an undue strain on certain communities.

The city’s assessment would include the “impact other past, current or foreseeable future source of pollution” across multiple areas of the community, including specific demographics and other vulnerabilities among those who live near any proposed site.

Each assessment would have its results made public. The city may need to take mitigation measures, such as monitoring air quality or deny the permit.

Gymsaid stated that Philadelphia will be a national leader in environmental justice and building a livable, breathable, and healthy future for the city. “Those most affected by pollution have a right and should be informed.

Some Southwest Philly residents were able to escape the flames of the tire fire in the aftermath.Residents were upsetThe city’s response. One woman who studies the urban environment discovered that her air quality monitor had an index of 445.EPA deemshazardous.

Carroll - Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refineryThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Hours after an explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refining plant in Southeast Philadelphia set off a fire that sent smoke into Philadelphia’s skyline on June 21, 2019.

Many residents compared the tire fire to the 2019 refinery explosion at Philadelphia Energy Solutions, Southwest Philly. The resulting fire produced hazardous smoke that lingered in the air for over 24 hours. 5,239 poundsHydrofluoric acid is a toxin which can cause skin cancer, chronic lung disease, blindness, and other conditions.

A 2020 report showed that the site, which was closed down, produced the highest levels of the carcinogen benzene of any U.S. refining plant. Philadelphia Energy Solutions had benzene concentrations of 49 micrograms/cubic meter, five times higher than the EPA norm.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention It was found thatLeukemia and other forms of blood cancer can be caused by long-term exposure. Exposure can also affect the menstrual cycles and reproductive health of women.

Some neighborhoods bear the brunt, whether it is industrial impacts or air pollution caused by car exhaust or a lack of tree canopy. Even non-environmental stressorsThese communities are often predominantly Black and brown, and can be impacted by factors such as poverty or food insecurity.

Around 21% of Philadelphia’s children have asthma, which is more than the national average. Researchers at the University of PennsylvaniaRecognizeIncreased levels of pollution are a major factor, especially in areas near industrial sites.

Drexel University researchers have also found that environmental toxins can be a contributing factor to cancer rates in certain neighborhoods.Searchable toolThis highlights the differences in cancer rates between Philadelphia.

Nicetown, for instance, had a rate of 577 cases of cancer per 100,000 residents between 2012-16. This was higher than the average 473. However, East Falls was approximately the same as the city.

The report states that “Ensuring environmental justice, the participation of communities in the formulation and implementation of laws and policy that benefit public health and prevent cancer could also help to improve community health.” .

If passed and signed into law, the Community Health Act would be one of the first.

Gov. of New Jersey Phil Murphy signed extensive Environmental justice legislationThis law requires the state’s Department of Health in 2020 to evaluate the environmental and health effects of certain facilities within overburdened areas. If a facility has a negative impact upon the health of an underburdened population, the law allows for denials of permits.

Officials from Gym’s Office said WHYYThe Community Health Act will likely be discussed at a City Council meeting later in the month.

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