Hopewell Township plagued with sprawl — Trenton suffers from environmental racism

From Hopewell Township to Mulberry Street, the Trenton area suffers from a range of environmental problems.

Whether it is sprawl or toxic waste dumps, residents are forced to deal with the results of lax environmental regulation and a Bush in the White House doesn’t bode well.

Hopewell Township, a wealthy suburb, is losing its land quickly to development. The buildings that sprouted with the I-95 development in the 1970s have multiplied in the last 10 years, and continue to do so.

The possible expansion of the Trenton-Mercer Airport has residents in Lower Makefield, Pa. up in arms.

It’s yet another example of the old cliche “not in my backyard” (NIMBY). Residents pay a lot of money to live in these suburbs and don’t want to be bothered by pollution.

But they have no opposition to putting it somewhere else – say, in the city of Trenton, where poorer people live.

The Beats and Deadlines journalism class got insights into this and other environmental problems last Friday on the annual reporting exercise which goes back to the 1970s, organized by Dr. Robert Cole.

These suburbs are only a short drive away from Duck Island, south of Trenton, where legends of lover’s lane killings and bizarre crime live beside the Trenton Sewer Plant.

Duck Island is the site of a lot of illegal and legal dumping of toxic waste.

The PSE&G plant produces enormous amounts of fly ash, and the drive through the islands is littered with grassy mounds.

These mounds are old trash heaps that, over the years, have been taken over by brush and resemble huge meat loaves.

North of Duck Island, 15 minutes from the suburbs, is Lalor Street, in downtown Trenton, where residents live in sagging row homes.

There is nothing but noise here and there are no expanses of green.

On Lalor Street, there is an empty lot where someone parked trailers filled with toxic waste for companies who didn’t want to pay to have it dumped safely, expensively and legally.

Lalor Street, is where in the early 1970s Champale, a company that made malt liquor, put toxic waste barrels in the roofs and attics of the row homes they owned.

The Deutzville neighborhood is nearby, where Republican Mayor Jack Rafferty threatened to put an incinerator so that Democrats of Deutzville neighborhood would be downwind and could smell the trash burning.

On Enterprise Avenue, there is Trenton Iron and Steel, a major junk dealer, with a lot filled with unidentifiable hunks of twisted copper and steel, and the remains of useless New Jersey Transit train cars rusting into the ground.

On Calhoun Street, right across from the Monument School, there is the former Magic Marker factory site.

Gould Batteries came first, leaking toxic waste into the ground. When the Magic Marker factory took its place, children from the school would climb the fence to grab discarded markers.

The children would run through ground covered with battery acid. Today, under the Brownfields regulation (which means a site can be sold even if it is not completely pristine), the site is covered with cement and “cleaned.” But there are no new buildings there.

It’s called “environmental racism.” Dump the pollution and waste on those who can’t afford to stop it, and in this country, those who can’t afford are usually those whose skin color is not white.

But near the Battle Monument, at Brunswick Circle, new townhouses are popping up, in a sort of hopeful defiance to the land that had been laid to waste around them.

Environmental degredation is never good – but comparing the problems of suburban sprawl with the continual abuse of the inner city’s environment, one thing becomes clear: something has to be done.

The distance between Hopewell Township and Mullberry Street is less than 10 miles.

A distance that is not very far at all.