Healthy Communities: Cumulative Impacts

Kim Gaddy

Communities of color and low income neighborhoods bear the greatest burden of pollution – i.e. impacting their physical and economic health, quality of life, ability to thrive, learn and work.

The costs are borne more by the state and families than the polluters in the form of lost work days, school absenteeism, higher health care/charity care costs, site cleanups and more. The state has an important role to play in addressing these injustices.

Clean Water Action is playing a pivotal role as chair of the air subcommittee and co-chair of the water subcommittee of the NJDEP’s NJ Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NJEJAC) and as chair of the Coalition for Healthy Ports (CHP). Our policy recommendations include:

  • Establish state-wide moratorium on new facility, operation or expansion permits in EJ communities where the cumulative impacts of pollution are already great and until such time the state establishes an inclusive decision-making process for any future permits.
  • Adopt and implement mandatory emission reductions in air, water, energy, and solid waste in overburdened EJ communities, transportation corridors and port regions.
  • Use NJ Attorney General to do more environmental enforcement sweeps with a particular focus on low income and of color EJ communities. Train community to report wrongdoing.

Cumulative Impacts

Urban communities face higher levels of pollution from multiple sources including toxic waste sites, industrial plants, and heavy city and port traffic. The "cumulative impacts" of these pollutants are making people, especially children, sick.

In the City of Newark, asthma is the city's biggest crime. Statistically speaking, more people die of asthma than homicides. School age children in Newark have double the state and national average rate (25%) for asthma resulting in most missed school daysand unaffordable medical bills.

Newark residents face the nation's 2nd greatest cancer risk due todiesel emissions. The city is home to the largest trash incinerator in the Northeast, which pollutes the air and costs the city over $9 million in disposal costs. The city is also the 3rd largest port in the nation with 7,000 trucks making an estimated 10,000 trips daily. Many of these toxin-spewing rigs are antiquated and pollute at least 10 times more than modern trucks.

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

For More Information

Contact us at njcwa@cleanwater.org.

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