Spatial disparity in the distribution of superfund sites in South Carolina: an ecological study

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Burwell-Naney, K., Zhang, H., Samantapudi, A. et al. Spatial disparity in the distribution of superfund sites in South Carolina: an ecological study. Environ Health 12, 96 (2013).


According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Superfund is a federal government program implemented to clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Twenty-six sites in South Carolina (SC) have been included on the National Priorities List (NPL), which has serious human health and environmental implications. The purpose of this study was to assess spatial disparities in the distribution of Superfund sites in SC. The 2000 US census tract and block level data were used to generate population characteristics, which included race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), education, home ownership, and home built before 1950. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) were used to map Superfund facilities and develop choropleth maps based on the aforementioned sociodemographic variables. Spatial methods, including mean and median distance analysis, buffer analysis, and spatial approximation were employed to characterize burden disparities. Regression analysis was performed to assess the relationship between the number of Superfund facilities and population characteristics. Spatial coincidence results showed that of the 29.5% of Blacks living in SC, 55.9% live in Superfund host census tracts. Among all populations in SC living below poverty (14.2%), 57.2% were located in Superfund host census tracts. Buffer analyses results (0.5mi, 1.0mi, 5.0mi, 0.5km, 1.0km, and 5.0km) showed a higher percentage of Whites compared to Blacks hosting a Superfund facility. Conversely, a slightly higher percentage of Blacks hosted (30.2%) a Superfund facility than those not hosting (28.8%) while their White counterparts had more equivalent values (66.7% and 67.8%, respectively). Regression analyses in the reduced model (Adj. R2 = 0.038) only explained a small percentage of the variance. In addition, the mean distance for percent of Blacks in the 90th percentile for Superfund facilities was 0.48mi. Burden disparities exist in the distribution of Superfund facilities in SC at the block and census tract levels across varying levels of demographic composition for race/ethnicity and SES.