In the second part of our series on local environmental justice heroes, we are celebrating the dedicated work of Earl Wilson in Eastwick, Philadelphia. When Mr. Wilson moved to Eastwick in 1978, he had no idea then that he was buying a home near the former Clearview Landfill, a dump laced with toxic materials. Now, Mr. Wilson is the president of Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC) and is actively involved in the community trying to ensure that Eastwick is a safe, healthy place to live for generations to come.
Eastwick, a neighborhood in Southwest Philadelphia, borders the Clearview Landfill. This landfill operated from the 1950s to the 1970s and accepted municipal, demolition and hospital wastes. Waste disposal practices contaminated soil, groundwater, and fish tissue with hazardous chemicals. The Clearview Landfill and the Folcroft Landfill, located in Delaware County, make up the Lower Darby Creek Area superfund site. Eastwick residents believe that their area has increased cancer rates due to their environmental exposures. Many citizens also suffer from asthma and pulmonary related diseases.
Since 2014, EFNC has been working to bring together community stakeholders in planning and advocating for an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable future for Eastwick. EFNC is made up of individuals from many groups, including the Sierra Club, Delaware River Keepers, the Darby Creek Valley Association, and more. EFNC brings these groups together to improve the regional watershed. EFNC works with the Eastwick Lower Darby Creek Area (ELDCA) Community Advisory Group (CAG), which was established to inform residents about Clearview Landfill clean up and provide opportunity to voice concerns and provide input to the process. At the leadership of Mr. Wilson, EFNC works with the EPA to make sure that there is accurate, up-to-date information shared with the community about the status of the landfill cleanup.
The landfill is not the only environmental concern Mr. Wilson and the EFNC are involved with. Flooding is also a major issue for Eastwick. In August 2020, Hurricane Isaias brought 4 feet of flood waters to Eastwick, the lowest point in Philadelphia. It is estimated that 100 families were displaced due to flooding in their homes. EFNC is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study how Eastwick and the Heinz Refuge could be protected from flooding of neighboring creeks and rivers.
Mr. Wilson’s commitment to community engagement has made Eastwick a more involved, interactive community. Through Mr. Wilson’s leadership, Eastwick residents play a major role in the decision making process of development in their community, an important step to address environmental injustice.