Newark’s Ironbound Community Fights for Environmental Justice


The “Ironbound” community, an area of Newark, NJ surrounded by train tracks, is fighting off the construction of a new gas-fired power backup plant proposed for sewage treatment facilities.

The plant is said to be necessary construction to prevent another type of outage like that which occurred during Superstorm Sandy when floodwaters overwhelmed plants causing power outages that prevented the state's sewage treatment plants from treating the raw sewage flowing into the facility.

The proposed backup plant would burn fossil fuels emitting pollutants into an already heavily polluted area. The Ironbound community already sees some of New Jersey’s worst air quality.

Newark residents want the commission responsible for building the backup plant to use renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuels which would add to the already detrimental air quality. According to some residents, air quality is so bad in the area that residents have become accustomed to smells of sewage. “Every few days the air stinks like sewage,” said Patricia Cortado, an educator at a Newark school just two miles from the treatment plant.

Cortado says that Newark residents want “an alternative that will not slowly murder the people in the area.”

Environmental activists in Newark have been working to get the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission to toss out their plan to build a backup power plant that runs on fossil fuels and instead adopt a new strategy for backup power in favor of renewable energy.

Governor Murphy signed a law in 2020 that aimed to protect minority communities, like the Ironbound community, from further pollution and environmental deterioration. The law would deny permits to construction projects that an environmental justice analysis determines would have a disproportionately negative impact on minority or low-income communities.

Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds, an environmental activist of Newark, NJ said Newark has “been bombarded by pollution from people who don’t live here and frankly don’t seem to give a damn. We are sick, literally, and tired of the casual attitude and indifference from the fossil fuel industry toward our well-being. We are fighting for our survival.”

Meanwhile, a solar farm in the Newark area has opened atop a closed landfill using sun-powered clean energy. The farm is said to be dedicating 55% of its electricity to low to moderate-income communities.

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