Race, Income and Environmental Hazards

Project Description
Project Overview:

The preponderance of empirical evidence, thus far,
suggest that racial minorities (Blacks, Hispanics,
Latinos, etc.) and low-income groups are subjected
to disproportionately large amounts of pollution and
environmental risks in their neighborhoods. Minorities
and the poor are known to be adversely affected by
unregulated growth, ineffective regulation of industrial
and hazardous waste facilities, and local land use policies
that favor those communities with political and economic
clout (Bullard, 1994a). Environmental justice, defined as
the provision of fair, equitable treatment of people of all
races, cultures and income with respect to the development,
implementation and enforcement of laws, regulations and
policies, has become an issue of top priority in the United
States. However, despite the strong regional and national
interest in environmental justice, our ability to determine
the disproportionate distribution of environmental risks
within minority and low-income populations is still lacking.
In general terms, it is well understood that racial minorities
and the poor shoulder a disproportionate share of environmental
hazards, but the computer-based tools needed to effectively
redress existing and future environmental justice concerns
are yet to be developed, especially for Iowa. In order to
achieve a full understanding of the process and casual
mechanisms of involved in environmental justice, an
integrated and spatially explicit modeling approach is needed.

Project Goal:

The work proposed here will develop a GIS-based tool
and prototype system that will allow us to investigate
issues of environmental justice involving hazardous waste
facilities, underground storage tanks, and large hog farms
in Iowa. The study will integrate a wide range of existing
environmental, socioeconomic, and demographic databases with
ArcView GIS and S-Plus statistical analysis software to test
the overarching hypothesis that higher levels of environmental
degradation in Iowa are associated with race, ethnicity and
income. A detailed geographic analysis will be conducted to
weigh the relative strength of the association of race and
income with the distribution of environmental hazards
identified above. The target audiences for the study are
environmental citizen groups, state resource agencies,
racial minority groups, and federal government agencies
charged with environmental and public health mission.

This study will address three environmental statutes:
the Safe Drinking Water Act, through analysis of large
hog farms and waste lagoons; Toxic Substances Control
Act, through analysis of hazardous waste facilities in
the EPA?s Toxic Release Inventory; and the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
(through analysis of underground storage tanks).
Furthermore, since the study will use a GIS-based
approach to enhance understanding of environmental
inequity problems and will involve workshops and
information exchange, it meets the first and third
program goals identified in the Office of Environmental
Justice Small Grant Program.

This study has the potential to make significant
fundamental contributions to our understanding of
environmental justice concerns in Iowa and to provide
the basis for targeting and/or prioritizing enforcement,
pollution prevention, education, and outreach programs
required in the implementation of environmental justice.
Also the project will provide the tool needed by resource
agencies to develop comprehensive regional and statewide
strategy for responding to environmental justice concerns.

Project Contact:

U. Sunday Tim
215 Davidson Hall
IOWA State University
Ames, IA 50011-3080 USA
Office Phone: 515-294-0466
Fax: 515-294-2552

Project Homepage http://www.public.iastate.edu/~acramesh/Environ.htm

[Summary provided by IOWA State University]