Background: A wealth of research has shown that communities of color and low-income populations have been disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards and locally unwanted land uses (LULUs) including incinerators, power plants, landfills, and other pollution-intensive facilities. Unfortunately, the state of Maryland has made little progress in constructing tools to assess and address environmental injustice and related health issues. The National Center for Smart Growth has begun developing a new mapping tool for the state of Maryland known as Maryland EJSCREEN that highlights the prevalence and frequency of environmental hazards and LULUs and health risks for nearby populations.
Goal: The long-term goal is to use this tool to highlight areas with environmental justice issues, areas that need additional investments, and be used in permitted, regulations, zoning, and development decisions.
Objectives: The objectives of this project: 1) Collect information on environmental, social, economic, exposure, and health indicators that should be included in the Maryland EJSCREEN tool; 2) Obtain feedback on from various stakeholder groups on indicators that should be included in the tool and prioritized; and 3) demonstrate the utility of the EJSCREEN tool.
Approach: In collaboration with the Partnership in Active Learning in Sustainability (PALS), we performed a literature review of economic, social, environmental, exposure, and health indicators identified as important by several Prince George’s County community members and stakeholders through a series of demonstration workshops. Stakeholders included residents from the Port Towns, Environmental Action Council members, the Environmental Justice legislative team, and the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities. Flashcards, posters, and surveys were distributed to community members and stakeholders in order to gather valued feedback regarding which indicators were deemed necessary and acceptable to be highlighted in the Maryland EJSCREEN tool.
Results: We found that the demonstration workshops were quite effective in soliciting feedback from residents, advocates, health practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholder groups.
Importance to public health: The tool can be used by local residents to advocate for new policies, better enforcement, and public health improvements. The tool can be used by government officials to build healthier, greener, more equitable, and more sustainable communities.