Written by Daniel Hazard
Environmental injustice in minority communities is as much or more prevalent today than 20 years ago, according to a follow-up study to the landmark "Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States" report that put the environmental justice movement on the map two decades ago.
The new UCC-commissioned study, "Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, 1987-2007" was released publicly on Earth Day, April 22, and commemorates the 20th anniversary of the UCC's ground-breaking report on environmental racism.
An executive summary of the new 180-plus page report was unveiled at a March 22 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
"[The new report] again reflects a clear racial pattern where waste sites are located and the way the government responds or does not respond to contamination emergencies in people of color communities," said the Rev. Carlos J. Correa, the UCC's minister for environmental justice.
The findings show that two decades later, disproportionately large numbers of people of color still live in hazardous waste host communities, and that people of color are not equally protected by environmental laws.
"People of color across the United States have learned the hard way that waiting for government agencies to respond to toxic contamination can be hazardous to their health and the health of their communities," said Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. Bullard was the principal investigator for the study.
The new report points to the dismal post-Katrina response in New Orleans as one example of unequal treatment of minorities in hazardous waste emergencies. The findings also show that environmental laws don't protect minority communities any more than they did 20 years ago when the report was originally commissioned.
The report is the first national study to use a new method of data analysis that better locates people in relation to hazardous waste sites, and uses 2000 census data to show that the racial disparities are much greater than previously reported. It includes two detailed case studies, one on post-Katrina New Orleans and the other on toxic contamination in an African American community in Dickson, Tenn.
Read the study online at www.ucc.org/justice.