According to Robert Bullard, the protestors put “environmental racism” on the map.
In other words, race was a more powerful predictor than class of where toxic waste facilities are located in the United States.
The Toxic Wastes and Race study was revisited in 1994 using 1990 census data, in which it was found that people of color were 47 percent more likely than white Americans to live near a hazardous waste facility (Goldman & Fitton, 1994).”

Presentation slides by Clarissa Cowley

The national environmental justice movement in the United States was born in mostly African American, rural, and poor Warren County, North Carolina.
In the early 1980s the state government decided to dispose of 30,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the tiny town of Afton-more than 84 percent of the community was black in 1982 (Bullard, 2000).
Protests ensured, resulting in more than 500 arrests. The landfill later became most recognized symbol in the county, and Warren County became a symbol of the environmental justice movement.
By 1993, the facility was failing with 13 feet of water trapped inside it (Exchange Project 2006). For a decade, community leaders pressed the state to clean up the leaky landfill.
The Warren County protests provided the impetus for a 1983 U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) study, Sitting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with Racial and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1983).

Presentation slides by Clarissa Cowley

The GAO study found that three out of four of the off-site, commercial hazardous waste landfills in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4:
  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
The toxic waste sites were located in predominantly African American communities, although African Americans made up only 20 percent of the region’s population.

Presentation slides by Clarissa Cowley

United States Environmental Protection Agency ↗

Created in 1970

Also known as Superfund, authorizes the President to respond to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances into the environment. CERCLA authorities complement those of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which primarily regulates ongoing hazardous waste handling and disposal.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention ↗

Created in 1946

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the national public health agency of the United States. It is a United States federal agency, under the Department of Health and Human Services, and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia

Illinois Department of Public Health ↗

Created in 1877

In fact, IDPH has 200 different programs that benefit each state resident and visitor, although its daily activities of maintaining the public’s health are rarely noticed unless a breakdown in the system occurs. With the assistance of local public health agencies, these essential programs and services make up Illinois’ public health system, a system that forms a frontline defense against disease through preventive measures and education.