Date of Award

12-17-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Christine Stauber

Second Advisor

Tim Frederick, MPH

Abstract

President Bill Clinton created an executive order in 1994 mandating that all Federal agencies incorporate Environmental Justice into their policies and practices. Although the 1994 executive order requires consideration of environmental justice, there is no consensus on how to quantifiably assess the provision of environmental justice in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Low income and minority populations often have disproportionate exposure to hazardous waste sites.

In an attempt to examine the implementation of environmental justice principles, this study examined the differences between populations that lived near pre-final decision and completed hazardous waste sites that were cleaned up through the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act administered by the EPA. This study focused on selected sites in EPA Region 4 (the Southeast US). Using ArGIS mapping, census data was gathered for the population living within a 1-mile radius of the selected sites. Race and income of populations within the radius were compared between the pre-final decision and completed sites. Chi-square analyses were completed to determine if the populations were statistically significant. The total populations for pre-final decision and completed sites across EPA Region 4 was analyzed as well as individual state populations.

The analysis suggests significant differences between population race and income pre-final decision and completed sites. Overall, the pre-final decision sites had a larger minority population and lower income in comparison to the completed sites, but the results varied by state. Of the seven states that were compared, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida had a higher proportion of minority and low-income population living in close proximity to the pre-final decision sites in comparison to the completed sites. Due to small sample size and some study limitations, the results are difficult to draw conclusions from. Additional research should be performed to better understand how sites are remediated and whether or not there is an unequal burden experienced by low-income and minority populations during the clean-up of hazardous waste sites.

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