By Lacey Reyna
Many Americans awake in the morning to the warm aroma of coffee brewing in their newly purchased Keurig machines. They get up, pour themselves a cup, and go about their day without a second thought. Many Americans never consider how different their lives would be if they were viewed as disposable as the K-cups in their machines, if they had been born as lower class. Many Americans do not consider the ugly truths of this country—they turn their cheek to the oppression occurring right in front of them. While many wake up in the morning to the aroma of coffee, the people of Altgeld Gardens wake up to the inescapable stench of dried sludge from the local sewage-treatment plant, garbage burning in the nearby incinerator, air pollution from the surrounding steel mills, and the scent of petroleum coke stored in facilities near the neighborhood.
Altgeld Gardens serves as a searing example of what occurs to a community of specific demographics when the population at large needs a place to store their garbage as well as industrial waste and pollution. This community is isolated from the rest of Chicago by various sites such as a waste incinerator, a sewage-treatment facility, multiple retired and functioning landfills, and several petcoke storage facilities. The existence of these waste and pollution sites has not only led to health impacts for locals, but also a concern for the mistreatment of the community as a whole by means of environmental injustice and environmental racism. The community of Altgeld Gardens in particular has seen countless examples of injustice, but many individuals have also been working to combat these issues along the way.