Newark aims to cut pollution in industrial neighborhoods

By Michael Anthony Adams | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on November 01, 2016

Donald M. Payne, Jr. at a press conference following a tour of the Port of New York and New Jersey and surrounding neighborhoods, including the Ironbound and South Ward.

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NEWARK — Two New Jersey congressmen toured a handful Newark neighborhoods Tuesday that have been hit hardest by harmful levels of industrial pollution months atter the city passed an ordinance to target contamination, the two announced in a release.

In July, the Newark City Council passed legislation that required developers requesting environmental permits to inform the city of any environmental impacts. 

Congressmen Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-10th Dist.), who attended the neighborhood tour, said the ordinance is an "important step in the right direction toward sustainability, and is a testament to the city's commitment to the health of every member of our community."

"Every single day, children in Newark are exposed to harmful levels of pollution from the port and other sources that rob them of their health, just because of where they live," Payne said.

"As a parent and a lifelong resident of Newark, this is personal to me. Low-income and minority residents are being denied the basic right to clean air, and it's harming lives."

According to officials, the city is overburdened with concentrated environmental pollution due to multiple sources, including port traffic, waste facilities, and industrial plants. Exposure to the pollution, officials said, can result in increased risk for cancer, more hospital visits and missed school days.

"A New Jerseyan's zip code and the community they live in should not determine their ability to breathe clean air and live in a safe environment," said Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-6th Dist.), who also took the tour.

"We need to make sure that low-income and minority children are able to grow up in pollution free communities and I am glad we are taking a look at the port's impact."

Kim Gaddy, an environmental justice organizer who accompanied the congressmen Tuesday, said, as a parent of three children with asthma, she understands the importance of clean air and the reduction of diesel pollution impacting the health of children in Newark and surrounding port communities.

An investigation by the Village Voice in May found that "one in four Newark children suffers from asthma, and the hospitalization rate is 150 percent greater for kids living in the city than in the rest of the state, and more than thirty times the rate nationwide."

The investigation also revealed that asthma attacks have become the leading cause of school absenteeism in the region.

"Sixteen-thousand trucks enter the Port of NY-NJ on a daily basis, and thousands of these trucks travel on our neighborhood streets," Gaddy said. "We can't escape port diesel. It's everywhere—our homes, schools, and parks."

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