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The Role of Geographic Scale in Monitoring Environmental Justice

Citation: Risk Analysis, 2006, 16, 4, 517 – 526

Utilizing the concept of environmental justice, this paper examines the differential burdens of toxic and hazardous waste facilities locations in low income minority communities. The association between the presence of facilities and socioeconomic characteristics of places are examined for the state of South Carolina at three different spatial scales: counties, census tracts, and census block groups. Three different types of hazardous waste/toxic facilities are also examined: Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) sites, Treatment, Storage, and Disposal sites (TSD), and inactive hazardous waste sites. At the county level, there was some association between the presence of toxic/hazardous waste facilities and race and income. In South Carolina, this translates to a disproportionate burden on White, more affluent communities in metropolitan areas, rather than low income minority communities. At both the census tract and block group levels, there is no association between race and the location of toxic/hazardous waste facilities. There are slight differences in the income levels between tracts and block groups with facilities and those without. This localized ecology of hazard sources must be expanded to include emission/discharge data in order to adequately address environmental justice issues on who bears the burdens of environmental contamination.

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