This is an interactive map of municipal solid waste (MSW) incinerators in the United States that depicts the location of each incinerator, along with:
Demographic data (% minority, % poverty) for the surrounding community within a three-mile radius)
Environmental justice community designation (per the demographic data)
Stack emissions data for several air pollutants, specifically: PM2.5, NOx, lead and mercury
The map shows that the majority (79%) of the MSW incinerators currently in the U.S. are located in environmental justice communities. These communities have rates of poverty and people of color that are above the national average.
Environmental justice communities are commonly identified as communities where residents are predominantly minorities or low-income; where residents have been excluded from the environmental policy setting or decision-making process; where they are subject to a disproportionate impact from one or more environmental hazards; and where residents experience disparate implementation of environmental regulations, requirements, practices and activities in their communities.
About the Data
According to the EPA, "demographic data represents the community surrounding the facility at a 3-mile radius.Statistics are based upon the 2010 US Census and American Community Survey data, and are accurate to the extent that the facility latitude and longitude listed are correct. The latitude and longitude are obtained from the EPA Locational Reference Table (LRT) when available.
In order to examine the co-location of MSW incinerators and environmental justice communities, the percent of people that identify as “minority” and the percent of people that are below the federal poverty level in the census tracts within a three mile radius of the plants was compiled from the US EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database. The definition of EJ selected is based on census tracts where: (a) the percentage of people living below the federal poverty rate is above 25 percent OR (b) the percentage of people identify as “minority” is above 25 percent. Some communities met both income and race thresholds. Most existing environmental justice definitions use either the race or income thresholds, but few require both conditions to determine if an area can be deemed an EJ community.
To determine the percent minority and percent people in poverty within a 3-mile radius of incinerator plants, demographic data was taken from the Detailed Facility Report provided by the U.S. EPA’s database, Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO). Demographic data of the surrounding area (3 miles) is based upon the US Census (2010) and American Community Survey (2015) data and are accurate to the extent that the facility latitude and longitude listed are correct. According to ECHO: “the radius is measured from the best available latitude/longitude coordinate of the facility or permit holder. Surrounding populations and other statistics were estimated by retrieving the data for Census block groups within the requested radius from each facility.”
“People of color” is determined by the percentage of the population of the given area that has self-identified as being a minority. The field is calculated by subtracting the number of persons who are “White” (and white-Hispanic) from the total persons. This number is then divided by the total persons and multiplied by one hundred to determine the percentage. The “Percentage of those experiencing poverty” is determined by taking the total “Persons Below [federal] Poverty Level”, dividing it by the total persons, and then multiplying it by 100. and subtracting the number of total persons. This number is then divided by total persons and multiplied by one hundred to determine the percentage. According the US Census Bureau, “Poverty Level” is determined by “Poverty Thresholds”: A poverty threshold is a specified dollar amount considered to be the minimum level of resources necessary to meet the basic needs of a family unit. Thresholds vary by the number and age of adults and the number of children under age 18 in the family unit, but they are the same for all states. If a family’s annual before-tax income is less than the threshold for their family size and type, all individuals in the family are considered as “Below the poverty level.”