Leaking underground storage tanks and environmental injustice: Is there a hidden and unequal threat to public health in South Carolina?


There are approximately 590,000 underground storage tanks (USTs) nationwide that store petroleum or hazardous substances. Many of these tanks are leaking, which may increase the risk of exposure to contaminants that promote health problems in host neighborhoods. Within this study, we assessed disparities in the spatial distribution of leaking underground storage tanks (LUSTs) based on socioeconomic status (SES) and race/ethnicity in South Carolina (SC). Chi-square tests were used to evaluate the difference in the proportion of populations who host a LUST compared to those not hosting a LUST for all sociodemographic factors. Linear regression models were applied to examine the association of distance to the nearest LUST with relevant sociodemographic measures. As percent black increased, the distance (both in kilometers and miles) to the nearest LUST decreased. Similar results were observed for percent poverty, unemployment, persons with less than a high school education, blacks in poverty, and whites in poverty. Furthermore, chi-square tests indicated that blacks or non-whites or people with low SES were more likely to live in LUST host areas than in non-host areas. As buffer distance increased, percent black and non-white decreased. SES variables demonstrated a similar inverse relationship. Overall, burden disparities exist in the distribution of LUSTs based on race/ethnicity and SES in SC. © Copyright 2013, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2013.

Publication Title

Environmental Justice