CONSERVATION MATTERS FALL 2016, Conservation Law Foundation

Roseann Bongiovanni is a lifelong Chelsea resident who has led significant environmental justice campaigns for more than 21 years. She is the Executive Director of GreenRoots, Inc., an organization dedicated to achieving environmental and climate justice for Chelsea.

Growing up in Chelsea and neighboring Everett, many in our community, myself included, never realized we were living in a waterfront community simply because we had no access to our riverfront. There were no waterfront parks, no fishing piers, no walkways along the water, and almost no views of the river itself. Massive oil storage tanks, industrial facilities, parking lots, and dilapidated piers blocked the views of our waterfront.

I would like ExxonMobil to understand the burden – the impact – they’re having on the local community. They’re not just spilling pollutants into an unknown river or into unknown air with no one around them. I would like ExxonMobil executives to think about Chelsea and Everett as if this was their home, as if their parents lived here – as if they were trying to raise a family here, like I am. Would they want their family members exposed to the same pollutants that they’re exposing us to? Why is it fair that they’re doing that to our community? ExxonMobil is impacting our lives, our public health, our quality of life.

We’re not talking about just a few people. These are some of the most densely populated, lowest income, and most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the entire state, right here in Chelsea and Everett. They are the ones that are literally seeing and feeling the burden every single day. ExxonMobil needs to realize that. If Exxon said, “We didn’t realize what we’ve done, we made a mistake, we want to work with the community, we want to be a better neighbor, we want to rectify what we’re doing wrong, WE’RE SORRY,” that would be a significant victory. But they won’t. They’re not talking to us, they’re violating their permits, and they’re continuing to lie.

Every day we’re vulnerable. We worry about the constant threat of chemical and petroleum spills, and of not being able to protect our people, our environment. If a Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina hit Boston, you’d see all of our folks out of their homes, everything that they’ve worked so hard for – completely gone. It’s crazy scary, and it’s reality for us.