Environment

The Environmental Protection Agency recently unveiled a new tool designed to give a comprehensive look at the country’s environmental justice–or “EJ”–hotspots.

The map combines environmental and demographic information to highlight areas where minority and low-income residents are exposed to high levels of pollution.

To do this, the EPA uses what they call an “EJ Index.” Look at the bottom of the post for that calculation; here are a few of the maps of the Louisville area.

-Here’s the EJ Index of areas with high particulate pollution (PM 2.5). A good portion of the city is exposed to high levels of PM 2.5, but when combined with demographic data, the environmental justice hotspots include areas west of downtown,  parts of Shively and the area surrounding General Electric’s Appliance Park.

ej pm

 

-Here’s the EJ Index for ozone; it’s similar to the PM 2.5 map above.

ej ozoneErica Peterson | wfpl.org

 

-This is the EJ Index for lead paint. Again, West Louisville is disproportionately affected.

ej lead

 

-When it comes to environmental justice and traffic proximity, neighborhoods along Interstates 64 and I-264 in West Louisville are the most affected. In this map, there’s also the outlier of the areas around Bashford Manor and Newburg.

ej traffic

 

-The red and orange areas on this next map are areas with high EJ populations and are close to numerous facilities with Risk Management Plans in place. RMPs are required for chemical plants; this is where Rubbertown is disproportionately affected.

ej rmpErica Peterson | wfpl.org

 

-This map highlights EJ areas near National Priority List sites, also known as Superfund sites. Current sites near Louisville include Distler Farm and Distler Brickyard in West Point, and Smith’s Farm and Tri-City Disposal Company in Bullitt County.

ej npl

 

-The EJ communities most affected by industries discharging water pollution are–obviously–along the Ohio River.

ej waterErica Peterson | wfpl.org

 

Here’s how the EPA describes the EJ Index calculation:

“The EJ Index highlights which block groups contribute the most toward low-income/ minority residents nationwide having a higher environmental indicator score on average than the rest of the US population. To calculate a single EJ Index for one block group, EJSCREEN multiplies the environmental indicator by demographic information. This demographic information includes percent low-income and percent minority (as the Demographic Index), and total population of the block group. This is the formula for the index: EJ Index = (Environmental Indicator) X (Demographic Index for Block Group – Demographic Index for US) X (Population Count for Block Group)”

The EPA will update the data with information from the National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment during its next public update. That information includes lifetime cancer risk, neurological hazards and diesel air pollution.

Check out the EPA’s EJ Mapper here.

 

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Assignment Editor.