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America’s Most Polluting Incinerators Disproportionately Affect Low-Income Neighborhoods and Communities of Color

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A slag pile on the grounds of the old American Zinc plant, which is now designated as a Superfund site by the EPA, in Fairmont City, Illinois.

A new report from the Tishman Environment and Design Center at New York City’s New School found that 1.6 million Americans—disproportionately low-income and minority residents—live near the country’s 12 most polluting incinerators. And in total, 4.4 million Americans live within three miles of an incinerator.

According to the report, which was commissioned by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and used Environmental Protection Agency data, 79 percent of all municipal solid waste incinerators are located within three miles or less of communities of color and low-income communities. (The authors refer to these as “environmental justice communities.”) The placement of incinerators in these communities is not a coincidence, the authors write, arguing that, in fact, it is the result of structurally racist policies such as segregation and expulsive zoning at federal, state, and local levels.

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