New England Public Radio By Shannon Dooling 

Stephanie Alvarado tests the water temperature of the Chelsea Creek as part of a Green Roots ECO Crew project. CREDIT KATHLEEN DUBOS / WBUR

Stephanie Alvarado tests the water temperature of the Chelsea Creek as part of a Green Roots ECO Crew project.

CREDIT KATHLEEN DUBOS / WBUR

Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change -- think New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. These areas suffer from poor air quality, increasing temperatures, and extreme weather.

In many of those same communities, residents already live among health hazards like fuel storage units and the toxic remains that come with them. In the city of Chelsea, Massachusetts, residents bear these burdens while much of New England benefits.

Standing along a three-mile stretch of the Chelsea Creek, Roseann Bongiovanni, a lifelong Chelsea resident, pointed out a few of the notable landmarks.

"That is the storage depot for 100 percent of the jet fuel that's used at Logan International Airport, 70 to 80 percent of the region's heating fuel -- so that's all of New England -- and road salt for 350 communities in the New England area," Bongiovanni said. 

Just down the way is the New England Produce Center, which in order to supply produce to all of New England, requires a steady stream of trucks coming in and out of the facility -- leaving behind emissions.

"So you'll see in Chelsea that we provide a lot of regional benefits but those burdens are on the backs, essentially, of Chelsea residents," Bongiovanni said.

Bongiovanni heads up an environmental justice group called Green Roots. The organization engages community members in a city where almost 21 percent of the residents live below the poverty line and 60 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino.

Chelsea resident Stephanie Alvarado, 17, is a member of the Green Roots ECO crew. The young people come together to learn more about the health and environmental hazards facing their city. The day we met, she and a fellow crew member were preparing for a community event to raise awareness about water quality in the creek.

For Alvarado, who's grown up in Chelsea, the work she does with Green Roots is personal.

"I have a lot of friends and family who do have asthma," Alvarado said. "It just sucks watching them walk for a long time and then having to pause and pull out their pump and just, you know take that medication. You know it's heartbreaking to see them having to go through that because of all the things that we are living in." 

Chelsea residents are living with things like air pollutants.

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