Environmental Justice Assessment of Michigan reveals Environmental Injustice Across the State

unnamedReposted from Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

n July 23, researchers from the University of Michigan completed their analysis of Environmental Justice in Michigan. Laura Grier, Delia Mayor, and Brett Zeuner, under the direction and advisement of Dr. Paul Mohai, at the School of Environment and Sustainability built on models utilized in other states and found that in Michigan people of color communities are disproportionately impacted by toxic exposure. They combined interview data with qualitative data.

The study reviewed eleven environmental indicators: air toxics cancer risk, air toxics respiratory hazard index, diesel particulate matter (PM), ozone level, PM2.5 level, traffic proximity and volume, lead paint indicator, proximity to National Priority List sites, proximity to risk management plan facilities, proximity to treatment storage and disposal facilities, and a wastewater discharge indicator. The six social indicators used in the study were: percentage of people of color residents, percent of households living below twice the federal poverty level, unemployment rate, percent of residents with less than a high school education, percent of households living in linguistic isolation, and percent housing-burdened low-income households to create an environmental injustice score.

The synthesis of the results from the analyses yielded three key findings. First, environmental injustice exists in Michigan. Interview data spoke to the disproportionate environmental exposure and lack of access to environmental goods residents of low-income and minority communities experience, including living in areas with poor air quality, drinking contaminated water, and failing to receive the same levels of economic investment as other communities in the state.

The team used the data to create maps displaying environmental justice scores revealing geographic hotspots of disproportionate impact. Areas on this map with high environmental justice scores are census tracts with high concentrations of people who are minorities, have low educational attainment, are unemployed, are less likely to speak English, live below twice the federal poverty level, and are severely burdened by housing costs. For example, the top 1% most polluted tracts are represented with 86% people of color living in those areas, versus the state average of 29% people of color statewide.

See Maps created by Bridge Magazine of Detroit, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids

Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition will continue to advocate– along side of long-time community leaders– in ensuring the State of Michigan apply the cumulative impact tool in decision-making. This work builds on decades of work that are frontline community demands to recognize all the impacts on families and communities, rather than an isolated approach.

Read the full study here.