Pollution affects everyone, but some Hoosier communities bear a much heavier burden than others. Those inequalities tend to track with economic and racial inequities, and are at the heart of the concept of “environmental injustice.”
Some of Indiana’s most environmentally burdened communities can be found in northern Lake County (“the Region”), in the cities of Hammond, Whiting, East Chicago and Gary.
To better understand the Region’s environmental justice problems, the Hoosier Environmental Council conducted a detailed needs assessment. The study examined the obstacles facing Lake County residents in understanding and taking action on environmental issues in their communities, as well as the resources that are available in the Region.
The needs assessment received generous support from the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation and the Legacy Foundation.
In the course of this study, HEC surveyed more than 300 residents on their environmental experiences and needs, and trained a community group to conduct air and water testing in their own neighborhoods.
In addition, to better understand how the Region’s unique environmental, economic and political factors interact in practice, the study also took a close look at one particular site: the J-Pit in western Gary. The findings from that investigation paint a clear picture of how political and economic disempowerment can lead to environmental issues that persist over decades and generations.
Overall, the needs assessment supports two findings: that the Region has a great need for an organization or initiative with a dedicated focus on environmental justice, and that such an organization would not lack for partners in the Region’s communities. The seeds of an environmental justice initiative would land on fertile soil: the Region’s communities abound in determined grassroots activists at the local level, and its academic and governmental institutions abound in relevant expertise.
The needs assessment alone has already succeeded in raising the profile of environmental justice in the Region. The Times of Northwest Indiana has published two articles prompted by the HEC study, one about the needs assessment in general and the other about the J-Pit in particular.
Access the full report here.
HEC Assessment of EJ Needs in Northern Lake County Communities – FINAL REPORT
HEC EJ Needs Assessment Appendix 1
HEC EJ Needs Assessment Appendix 2
HEC EJ Needs Assessment Appendix 3
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