Low-Income Communities Targeted For Hazardous Waste Sites


If you think what was done to Flint, Michigan is an isolated case, think again.

As Michael Moore pointed out during his appearance last night on MSNBC, there are towns and cities all over the country that have been poisoned and are still being poisoned in a myriad of ways.

Which came first? Hazardous waste disposal sites being purposely built near low income communities, or communities that went into decline after the construction of a hazardous waste site?

A recent analysis conducted by Paul Mohai of the Univeristy of Michigan and Robin Saha of the University of Montana looked at 30 years of demographic data and the placement of 319 hazardous waste facilities. It found conclusively that the placement of such sites was targeted towards low-income communities, which are predominantly comprised of minorities and people of color.

A summary of the full results of their studies was published in two papers by the journal Environmental Research Letters; the first in November and the second in December of last year.

According to the researchers, NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) occurs more frequently in more affluent white communities. Low-income communities with less resources and political clout to fight the construction of such facilities are targeted by industry.

The report did find instances of demographic changes after the construction of the facilities. However, it was only after those communities had already begun to experience the movement of more affluent white residents out of those locations for a decade or more.

Mohai and Saha found that living in transitional communities impacts the economic and political power of the remaining population, making them easy targets.

They wrote: “Areas with large numbers of people of color with limited resources and political clout have limited ability to fend off new unwanted facility siting. Furthermore, areas undergoing demographic changes are also areas vulnerable to declining social capital, resources and political clout, as demographic change may represent the weakening of social ties, the loss of community leaders, and weakening of civic organizations.”

In a separate statement Mohai said, “Contrary to earlier beliefs about post-siting demographic change, neighborhood transition may serve to attract noxious facilities, rather than the facilities themselves attracting people of color and low-income populations.”

Ann Werner is the author of thrillers and other things.

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Ann Werner

Ann Werner

Ann Werner is a blogger and the author of CRAZY and Dreams and Nightmares. You can view her work at AnnWerner.info

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Ann Werner