Camden - A coalition of local, regional and statewide environmental advocates came together today to publicly unveil a state report that confirms that the St. Lawrence Cement Plant (Holcim) in Camden, New Jersey - located within just blocks of the Waterfront South community - does indeed contribute significant pollution to this poor and working class neighborhood.
The report, “Final Report: Contribution of Particulate Emissions from a Cement Facility to Outdoor Dust in Surrounding Community,” was submitted to the NJDEP by researchers at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute on October 6, 2008.
The report clearly states on page 11 “that the elemental concentrations and morphological characteristics showed that the re-suspended dusts from the raw cement piles in the cement facility did have some impact on the residential areas surrounding the cement facility. We did conclude that the spatial impact of the particulate emissions from the cement facility to outdoor dust occurred during the study; however, the contribution is limited to Camden residents living immediately around the facility. The highest contributions were found to occur at locations with 0.04km (1309 feet) of the facility piles.”
According to Roy Jones, Co-Chair and Coordinator of the South Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, “this means the neighborhood nearest the facility receives the brunt of the pollution. This is totally unacceptable and all of the groups represented here today agree that the piles must be covered.”
The Camden community and environmental groups credited Bill Wolfe of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility for ensuring the report reached the public’s eye.
President of the local environmental advocacy group in Waterfront South, South Camden Citizens in Action, Ms. Lula Williams said that the St. Lawrence Cement Plant should not have been allowed to build a plant in this already overburdened community. “My front porch bears evidence of the dust from the plant and the level of pollution we experience. No longer is it just our word versus that of St. Lawrence, the data in this report confirms what we have been saying for years. Local leaders have allowed Camden neighborhoods to be the dumping ground of facilities like St Lawrence.”
Ms.Williams further commented that “Waterfront South is plagued by many polluting sources, not the least of which is St Lawrence which contributes to high rates of lung disease, asthma, and cancer in this community.”
Jane Nogaki of the NJ Environmental Federation said “Waterfront South residents have been literally plagued by breathing dust from St. Lawrence Cement since the facility opened in 2002. Community and environmental groups have repeatedly asked DEP to monitor the site for dust and other pollutants. Now we find out DEP has finally conducted the work that confirms even as it underestimates the problem but withheld it from the community!”
“Trying to cover up even its admittedly weak conclusions demonstrates DEP's and Governor Corzine's failure to address a very basic need - the right to breathe clean air,” Nogaki added. “It's time for Governor Corzine to stop reneging on his commitment to alleviate environmental racism and make good on his promise to 'just say no' to more pollution in Camden and other places that suffer a disproportionate amount of pollution."
“This cement plant is a national disgrace. Not only does it symbolize environmental racism, it proves its existence,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of NJ Sierra Club. “The plant should be shut down. The Governor and DEP must now prove that they care more about protecting the public health of the people of South Camden than protecting polluters.”
Additional organizational representatives for today’s event include Marianna Emanuelle, Camden United, Dr. Nicky Sheats and Henry Rose, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.