Racism By Zip Code: Peekskill’s Toxic Waste Dump Exposes Environmental Racism

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Championing Clean Air in Westchester County: Dr. Courtney Williams Leads the Charge Against Waste Incineration in Peekskill

Dr. Courtney M. Williams, Co-Founder of Westchester Alliance for Sustainable Solutions (WASS)Peekskill, NY — Dr. Courtney Williams, is at the forefront of a critical environmental battle in Westchester County. As the Founder of the Westchester Alliance for Sustainable Solutions (WASS), she is rallying residents and local leaders to confront the alarming air quality issues posed by the Peekskill waste incinerator.

For years, the incinerator, operated by Wheelabrator Technologies, has been a contentious fixture in the community. Officially termed a “waste-to-energy plant,” it has recently come under scrutiny for its prolonged operation beyond its expected lifespan and for operating with an expired Title V Air Permit since December 2021. Dr. Williams highlighted that the facility, now marking its 40th year, is set to become the nation’s oldest incinerator by 2029.

On a recent appearance on Black Westchester’s People Before Politics Show last Sunday, Dr. Williams shared disturbing data about the pollutants being emitted by the incinerator. “We’re talking about over 600 million pounds annually of harmful pollutants like Lead, Cadmium, Carbon Monoxide, and Mercury—substances that are severely compromising the health of our residents,” she stated.

These emissions are not just numbers on a page; they translate into real health crises. Peekskill, a vibrant community along the Hudson River, is witnessing rising rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments, particularly troubling in a county already battling significant environmental justice issues.

The Westchester County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which renewed a 10-year contract for the incinerator in 2019, has been criticized for its lack of action in fostering sustainable waste management solutions. Advocates like Dr. Williams argue that the county’s inaction not only perpetuates environmental degradation but also overlooks the voices of Peekskill residents who bear the brunt of these policies.

Dr. Williams, who also serves on the City of Peekskill’s Conservation Advisory Council, has been a vocal advocate for environmental justice, drawing attention from multiple media outlets including LoHud, ABC News, and the River Journal. Her activism is fueled by her scientific background and a deep commitment to her community.

The efforts of Dr. Williams and WASS highlight a growing movement towards sustainable solutions that prioritize public health and environmental integrity over outdated and harmful practices. As Peekskill and similar communities nationwide face the challenges of aging infrastructure and environmental inequity, the resolve and activism of individuals like Dr. Williams are vital in steering the conversation towards cleaner, healthier futures.

As this issue continues to unfold, all eyes will be on Peekskill and the actions of Westchester County’s leaders. Will they finally heed the calls for change, or will the smokestacks of Wheelabrator continue to cast a shadow over the community’s health and environmental well-being? Only time will tell, but with advocates like Dr. Williams, the fight for clean air is far from over, especially with Waste Incineration being an issue impacting Black & Brown communities such as Newark, New Jersey; Colfax, Louisiana; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and El Dorado, Arkansas.

AJ Woodson
AJ Woodson
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief and co-owner of Black Westchester, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Rap Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Waste management and poor air quality has always been a environmental problem in Black & Brown communities for decades. It is so obvious that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t care about our communities. I am sure if these landfills where in predominantly white communities, the EPA would’ve solved this issue. I did a little research after reading this great article by AJ Woodson, and I found out waste management is a very lucrative sector. Billionaire tech giant Bill Gates is the leading shareholder of both Waste Management and their major competitors….Go figure. Meanwhile landfill operators continue their careless pattern of unfairly harming the health of Black and Brown people exposed to their toxic industry. I applaud Dr. Williams in her fight to eradicate this companies out of Peekskill. One solution is to file a multi billion dollar class action against the EPA. It is a start.

    • Thank you for your feedback my brother, we need to shed more light and be educated on environmental issues such as these. I know it’s not a sexy a topic as police brutality and governmental corruption buts it’s equally if not more harmful to communities of color in the name of capitalism

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