Justice In Chester on Alabama Public Television
Alabama Public Television Education

Justice In Chester

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During the 1990s, residents in Chester, Pennsylvania, a predominantly poor, African American community, organized a movement to stop the ongoing permitting of waste treatment facilities in their city. Between 1986 and 1996, the PA Department of Environmental Protection issued seven permits for commercial waste facilities in the county, and five of them were in the 4.8 square miles of Chester. Concerned citizen Zulene Mayfield led a group called Chester Residents Concerned With Quality Living (CRCQL) as they stood up for the well-being of their community, becoming a national symbol for the growing environmental justice movement. JUSTICE IN CHESTER chronicles the decades-long history of increasing pollution and grievances, and the grassroots struggle to halt the clustering of commercial and hazardous waste facilities in the city. Mayfield and CRCQL successfully fought permits for two major treatment plants, and filed a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court and became the first major environmental case to argue on the grounds of a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As a result of Mayfield and CRCQL's activism, the PA Department of Environmental Protection modified the permitting process and created a statewide environmental justice workgroup. JUSTICE IN CHESTER underscores the importance of community involvement and highlights the power of grassroots efforts to effect positive change.

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