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College of Arts & Sciences
Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute


Environmental Inequities in South Carolina: The Distribution of Hazardous Waste Facilities

Danika Holm

Advisor:  Dr. Susan L. Cutter

 

ABSTRACT

This thesis looks at enviromental equity in South Carolina through an examination of the spatial relationship between the location of active hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal (TSD) sites and socioeconomic groups. Using a GIS-based methodology to integrate the spatial and statistical analyses, three hypotheses were tested: 1) hazardous waste TSD sites throughout South Carolina are not randomly distributed; 2) a disproportionate number of sites are located in minority and economically disadvantaged communities; and 3) inequities result from the original location of hazardous waste facilities in minority communities.

The findings indicate that TSD sites are not randomly distributed throughout the state. Rather, they are clustered around urbanized areas with high population densities. The largest cluster is in the northern Piedmont region between and around the cities of Greenville and Spartanburg. Second, at the Census tract level of aggregation, TSD sites are not disproportionately located in minority or economically disadvantaged communities. These findings were confirmed at the block group level of analysis as well. Inequitable trends were found, however, between the location of TSDs and wealthier, white communities. Finally, the statistical tests found that race was an insignificant indicator of hazardous waste facility location. Economic status and population density were more strongly associated with facility locations than race.

This thesis only begins to explore possible environmental inequities that may exist in the state. Future studies of this nature will help public policy makers and environmental regulators address the sensitive issuse of environmental equity.

KEYWORDS: Environmental equity, TSDs, South Carolina