A recent study published in Environmental Research Letters has given supporting evidence that “environmental racism” is a conceptualized reality created by the biggest polluters in the U.S. — factories, warehouses and other facilities that house toxic waste are overwhelmingly located in poor, non-white neighborhoods. Historically, this has also been true for many urban areas around the globe. The issue of environmentally overburdening communities is one that many communities have unjustly had to face because of the percentage of people who are considered to be low-income individuals. In Chicago, much has been said and done by local groups to alleviate the pressures of living in a community where the quality of air, water and resources is not always up to a livable standard.
“Through partnerships with advocacy groups, industry, other agencies and individual residents, EPA has empowered the environmentally overburdened communities in Southeast Chicago to achieve significant environmental benefits in a short timeframe, while building the infrastucture that will ensure the area’s continued progress.”
In collaboration with Illinois EPA and the City of Chicago’s Department of Public Health, over 70 companies were investigated for Clean Air Act compliance since 2014 on Chicago’s Southeast Side. Most notably, the U.S. EPA inspected over 25 reported sites in direct response to listening to affected communities about their concerns, including exposure to petcoke dust. Of the several resultant enforcement cases, three enforcement actions, in particular, resulted in dramatic air quality improvements for the community.
For an inside look at how Chicago has dealt with the issue of soot pollution and other local environmental concerns, check out this article from the Chicago Tribune that was published back in 2015: The Problem with Soot
Benzkofer, Stephan. “For Much of Its History, Chicago Covered by Smoke, Soot.”Chicagotribune.com, 5 June 2015, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/history/ct-dirty-air-pollution-environment-chicago-flashback-per-0607-jm-20150605-story.html.
EPA. “Environmental Issues in Chicago’s Little Village & Pilsen Neighborhoods.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 29 Jan. 2018, http://www.epa.gov/il/environmental-issues-chicagos-little-village-pilsen-neighborhoods.
Nina J. Egbon is a member of the student Communications Team in ACP/SUST 250 “The Sustainable University” class at Roosevelt University in Chicago. This spring 2018 semester, the Communications Team is writing for and editing the RU Green Campus blog and social media channels.