Smog Index


Photo: Matt Gant




Area of Interest: Former Sunoco/PES Refinery Site Billboard (2021)

Area of Interest: Former Sunoco/PES Refinery Site Billboard was viewable from June 2-28, 2021. It could be seen from Wharton Street, just north of the former Sunoco/PES Refinery site's AOI-8, or driving westbound on I-76 towards the Grays Ferry neighborhood.

Area of Interest: Former Sunoco/PES Refinery Site Public Posters is a forthcoming, large-format 20-poster visual essay expanding the project in public space.


Area of Interest situates research as an open set of questions related to the future of the former Sunoco/Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery, its ongoing remediation by Sunoco subsidiary Evergreen Resources Group, LLC., and Hilco Redevelopment Partners' future plans for the site. At 1,300 acres, the largest un-redeveloped brownfield in Philadelphia is highly desirable even with the long remediation timeline and limits on future use required by partial remediation. It was the East Coast’s largest oil refinery.

As community activists demand transparency and raise environmental justice concerns about remaining chemical contamination—such as EPA-actionable levels of cancer-causing VOC benzene—the toxic legacy, cleanup, and future plans continue to impact residents of neighborhoods adjacent to the site, whose populations are predominantly Black and low income, and whose lives have already been shaped by proximity to the refinery and petrocapitalism’s slow violence.

In response, Area of Interest: Former Sunoco/PES Refinery Site Billboard incorporated four pieces of research data into a visual essay, pointing on I-76 towards alternative futures in a site-specific, rented, transient format. In late 2021, Area of Interest: Public Posters will continue the project in public.


Area of Interest was created with support and participation from Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, Bethany Wiggin and Alexandre Imbot (site research, soil sampling, photography, interviews), subject matter experts Mr. and Mrs. Charles and Tammy Reeves (Resident Action Committee 2) and Miranda Mote, and project management, production research and support provided by Mia D’Avanza and Angela Faranda. Thanks to Mr. Charles Reeves and Maggie McNulty for permission to republish an excerpt from their interview in Schuylkill River & Urban Waters Research Corps Archive's Grays Ferry Oral Histories Project.

Photo credit: Matt Gant