Environmental justice and Superfund NPL designation in the application of the Hazard Ranking System: Case study in EPA region III using GIS

1999 1999

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Abstract (summary)

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also called Superfund), was enacted in 1980 to respond to growing abandoned hazardous-waste-site problems. Under the Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed the National Priorities List (NPL) to set priorities for cleaning up Superfund sites in accordance with the Hazard Ranking System (HRS) score for each site.

The Office of Technology Assessment, the National Research Council, and other researchers have reported that the HRS score has been manipulated in data collection and sampling by interested parties to meet their individual objectives. In contrast to poor and minority communities, affluent communities have more resources to invest in comprehensive site investigation, yielding a potential for socioeconomic inequity in the site-screening process. This potential bias can lead to an environmental justice problem.

This dissertation investigates the following hypotheses: (1) the HRS score is not a significant predictor for NPL designation; and, (2) race/ethnicity and socioeconomic factors of affected communities are significant predictors for NPL designation.

To test the first hypothesis, this dissertation employed both descriptive and statistical techniques to analyze real HRS scores for both NPL and non-NPL sites in EPA region III. To test the second hypothesis, this dissertation performed logistic regression analysis using site-specific demographic data within a certain radius from each site, as calculated by the aggregation method using a Geographic Information System (GIS) Arcview.

As previous studies have argued and as this dissertation hypothesizes, the results of several analyses for testing both hypotheses show that the HRS score is not a significant predictor for NPL designation, and show that the percentage of black people, the percentage of people living under the poverty line, and population density are significant predictors for NPL designation.

Thus, the HRS score is not the major criterion for NPL designation. Rather, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic factors actually control the trajectory of a Superfund site's cleanup. The fact that variables of Black (minority status) and low-income are significant predictors for NPL designation means that environmental injustice effects exist in the HRS process for NPL designation. In conclusion, Race/ethnicity and income factors have been major forces for NPL designation in EPA Region III.

Indexing (details)

Urban planning;
Area planning & development;
Environmental science;
Public health
0999: Urban planning
0999: Area planning & development
0768: Environmental science
0573: Public health
Identifier / keyword
Health and environmental sciences; Social sciences; Environmental Protection Agency; Environmental justice; GIS; Hazard Ranking System; National Priorities List; Superfund
Environmental justice and Superfund NPL designation in the application of the Hazard Ranking System: Case study in EPA region III using GIS
Ban, Yong Un
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 60/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780599559585, 0599559586
Giegengack, Robert F.
University of Pennsylvania
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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