Poor, Minority Metro-Atlanta Neighborhoods Attract More Pollution

Guest Blog | April 3, 2012 | Energy Justice, Energy Policy

Examples have shown time and time again that low income and communities of color continue to suffer disproportionate impacts from dirty energy choices here in the Southeast.

A new report released by GreenLaw appears to confirm this trend.  This report identifies eight types of air, water, and land pollution and compares them with demographic data for people living in a 14-county region in metro-Atlanta. To no surprise- research finds that low income and communities of color are more likely to live near and be disproportionately impacted by pollution than others.

The report, Patterns of Pollution, broke the 14-county Atlanta metro region up into equal-sized square blocks and analyzed the overlap between demographics and types of pollution (including brownfields, landfills, and facilities emitting pollutants) inside each block to highlight 52 air, water and toxic-release pollution points throughout metro-Atlanta.

The research uncovered that the five blocks with the most sources of pollution were in areas where there are either extraordinarily high minority densities or areas where people don’t speak English as a first language. Either way, these “environmental justice hotspots ” are located in communities where people don’t have the resources, nor the fluency to communicate in order to get involved in the process, to stop the pollution problems from growing.

The worst areas that were identified were in Douglas, Fulton and Cobb counties, as pictured on the map to the right.

The study offers several recommendations, including: creating an alliance of environmental justice advocates in the metro region; forming a working group with business and government leaders to address environmental justice issues; and convincing the federal government to help fund the state and local governments’ efforts. In addition, researchers recommend that the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) finally adopt a policy that “promotes the health of all of Georgia’s citizens and requires environmental equity in its practices.”

Currently, there aren’t any specific environmental justice policies in Georgia that protect these communities from health risks from pollution. However, GreenLaw is hoping this report leads to the EPD doing just that, and helps bring Georgia on par with neighboring states.

In the meantime, GreenLaw has created a website that allows citizens to find out what pollution sources are in their communities while contributing additional information that will be used to generate a report that provides more detailed information on pollution points and demographics for each community.

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