Environmental justice and enforcement of the safe drinking water act: The Arizona arsenic experience
Environmental justice is concerned with the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. A wide variety of empirical studies have concluded that disparate-impact discrimination does in fact exist since minority and low-income communities are at disproportionate risk for environmental harm. In this paper we examine these issues in the context of enforcing the safe drinking water act (SDWA). Specifically, we focus on the association between race, income, and hazardous levels of arsenic concentration and analyze the broad equity implications of implementing the new arsenic regulation by examining the relationship between community-level exposure to arsenic and socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the population in Arizona. The results provide no support for the contention that continued selective implementation and enforcement of the revised SDWA arsenic standard is likely to disadvantage minority or low-income groups disproportionately in Arizona.
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