The spatial distribution of leaking underground storage tanks in Charleston, South Carolina: An environmental justice analysis


A current research trajectory within environmental justice literature has been to explore various measures of proximity to environmental hazards which may contribute to exposure and health risks for vulnerable populations. Research has shown that many low-income residential areas, which often are predominantly comprised of people of color, are located in close proximity to hazardous waste sites. Public health researchers have documented that these inequities in residential patterns can be linked to negative health impacts, resulting in health disparities. The purpose of this article is to evaluate spatial distributions of leaking underground storage tanks (LUSTs) in the Charleston Metropolitan Statistical area (MSA). Furthermore, we aim to use various geographic information system (GIS) techniques that could provide local policymakers and community groups with knowledge to make better decisions for revitalization, planning, and community development efforts. Three GIS techniques were used in this study: 1) mean distance analysis, 2) spatial coincidence, and 3) proximity analysis. To examine the association between distance to the nearest LUST and proportions of non-whites in census tracts, linear regression models were applied. Chi-square tests were conducted to compare differences of race/ethnicity and SES between census tracts that host LUSTs and those that do not host LUSTs. Results indicate that a disparity exist between census tracts that host LUSTs and census tracts that do not host LUSTs based on race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. These data provide additional evidence that spatial disparities exist in the distribution of environmental hazards beyond Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) facilities in the Charleston MSA in census tracts with higher numbers of people of color and poor populations. Community groups such as the Low Country Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC) can use this information in its efforts to revitalize LAMC neighborhoods and achieve environmental justice and eliminate health disparities in underserved communities in the region. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

Publication Title

Environmental Justice