Free «Environmental Injustice in the USA» Essay Sample


Environmental injustice refers to a situation where by the people in a given community who are mostly the minority i.e. the indigenous communities, the poor among other minority groups are excessively exposed to way above the normal levels of toxic effluents from factories and other hazardous environmental pollutants or rather wastes. In the event of expansion or new development projects in these areas, people in the surrounding community are unwillingly displaced. This is further worsened by the fact that most governments don't care about the welfare of these minority groups who are displaced and/ or faces a great health hazards from the highly polluted environment.

Environmental injustice stems from the fact that some people are discriminated along the lines of their economic or social status and race. There is a very big disparity in distribution of environmental burdens among people in a community (Vox, 2011).  This paper is going to discuss in detail about the toxic polychlorinated biphenyl landfill in warren county, North Carolina, its negative impacts to the community, age of the PCB land fill, the state of community before, reasons for its locations, campaigns for its relocation and lastly the current state and solution to the related problems.

Environmental Injustice in the United States

Bauer (2000) notes that there are many environmental injustices in the United States.  One example and which is going to discussed in this paper is the toxic PCB land fill in warren county, North Carolina. The majority of the residents of this county are the poor Africans Americans. The choice of this site faced a lot of opposition in 1982, this was however unsuccessful and the landfill was established.

Impact of the PCB landfill facility

The PCB waste site led to serious pollution of the environment. Additionally, selected site was not scientifically appropriate as the water table was very shallow hence high probability of this vital resource; water, being contaminated with the toxic PCB compounds.  This toxic PCB landfill facility is associated with a number of negative health and social impacts in this community. These include high prevalence of cancer in poor African American community in the area.  Studies have shown that PCBs have a great potential of causing cancer and other non-cancer related health effects to humans. People living around the PCB landfill site have a high exposure and this is a reason for the high cancer cases among the African Americans who are the majority in Warren County, North Carolina. Besides cancer, PCBSs are associated with neurological problems and endocrine effects that have been seen among the African Americans in this community.

Vox (2011) argues that apart from health effects, this facility is associated with social and economic effects. The African Americans are forced to comprise their health with the economic benefits of the facility. It is thought to provide employment to the community members. Another argument is that skilled jobs which are also well paying are in most cases not available to the African Americans due to their poor economic and social background. All these factors combine leading to elevated levels of poverty in Warren County, North Carolina, a community that host the toxic waste site.

Age of the facility

The toxic PCB landfill facility in Warren County, North Carolina was proposed way back in 1982. This decision faced a strong opposition from the locals who are mainly the African Americans at a whooping 84 percent. In their grievances, they argued that this was an environmental injustice along the lines of their color or rather race and their poor socio-economic status. Efforts to stop the PCB landfill facility form taking off did not bear fruits and thus its start in the same year of 1982. It was cleaned up after 20 years in 1993 (Williams, 2005).

The state of the community before

Bauer (2000) asserts that before the proposal and the start of a PCB landfill facility, Warren County, North Carolina did not a have a major waste and therefore environmental injustice was not felt until then. This county was already a poor urban settlement with the majority of its population being the African Americans. The blacks constituted the largest percent of the dwellers of this county at 84 percent. Majority of the dwellers of this county were also poor. These among others reasons played a major role in deciding on the location of such facilities that contributed to environmental injustices over a number of decades in the United States of America.

Reasons for its locations

Whatever the rationale for the choice of this site for a PCB landfill, it was not good at all for the community members of warren County, North Carolina who were majorly the African Americans. Historically, such decisions have been basically intentional discriminations against the minority who in the United States include African Americans in majority of counties, cities and states. Other minority groups in the United States of America in terms of race include the Hispanics, Latinos and Asians among others. These groups are usually discriminated along the lines of their race in many issues and key among them environmental justice. It is their communities that receive the bulk of the environmental burden in form of such facilities like the toxic PCB landfill in Warren County, North Carolina.  According to the community members of Warren County who strongly opposed to the proposal of a toxic PCB landfill in their neighborhood, this location was chosen basically because it was minority and poor. As we can see, it is minority in the sense that most of its members were the African Americans with a low economic status (Vox, 2011).

In my view, the consideration was irrational as it ignored the fact that the area had a shallow water table and therefore scientifically inappropriate for a toxic PCB landfill. This could automatically polluted the water system; a very vital natural resource to the health of African Americans who formed 84 percent of the total population in Warren county.

Campaigns for its relocation

A Bauer (2000) record that plans to have a toxic PCB landfill in Warren County, North Carolina drew protests the community members who were against this idea due to the perceived health hazards associated with the waste site. First, in 1982 the African American community in Warren County mounted a protest against the proposed PCB landfill and they succeeded to get a good media attention, they motivated other groups and they also managed to come up with today's environmental justice group.

Apart from the protests by the Warren County community members, there has also been individuals that have played a big role in helping the warren county, North Carolina residents to deal with the menace of the toxic PCB landfill in their neighborhood. The champion in question is the then Governor Mr. Hunt who together with the community members of Warren county and Dollie Burwell; who was among the first protestors reached an agreement on how to go about the cleaning process of the toxic PCB landfill site. The collaboration led to designing of mechanisms through which funds were mobilized and the PCB landfill was cleaned. Besides the contribution by a number of individuals mentioned above, the major credit went to the residents who pioneered the protests against this PCB landfill in Warren County. It is because of their strong disruptive power that this good end has been realized (Vox, 2011).

Williams (2005) noted that in the course of their fight against the establishment of the PCB landfill site, the community members did not engage the Raleigh-based Ward Transfer Company that was responsible of the initial illegal dumping of these wastes.  Though the company was legally punished for this act, the court provided a forum for a dialogue that was meant to identify the location for the PCB landfill. This process did not favor the residents of Warren County, North Carolina and what followed were fruitless protests. These only managed to bring the issue out through the media and to encourage more protests against such environmental injustices.  It was after 20 years that the issue was addressed by their political leader or rather the Governor who in collaboration with the residents and their lead protestor Mr. Dollie Burwell, led the cleaning of the site in 1993.

Current state

The toxic PCB landfill was cleaned way back in 1993 through the efforts of the then Governor Mr. Hunt. This marked the end to the 20 years "imprisonment" of residents of Warren County, North Carolina in an environment that was contaminated by poisonous Polychlorinated biphenyl landfill. Today, the residents of this community enjoy the environmental justice that was facilitated by the clean up of the site. What is important now is prevent such environmental injustices from happening in future and to work out environmental policies that ensure equitable distribution of the environmental burdens among all races and people on both sides of the social and economic divide (Bauer, 2000).


Environmental injustice entails unequal distribution of environmental burdens. This discriminations intentionally targets the minority in society i.e. in the United States of America, environmental injustices have been committed along the lines of race, social and economic status. One example of these is the PCB landfill in Warren County, North Carolina. This waste site is among environmental injustices on the residents of this community that has adverse health and social effects.

It was started in 1982; during then, this area was already predominantly occupied by African Americans.  Most of these environmental injustices were practices of intentional discrimination and PCB land in Warren County ids not an exceptional.   Protests by members of Warren County against the PCB landfill in their area were not fruitful until after 20 years that dreams to have it removed were realized in 1993.


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