Document Type


Date of Award



Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs (SOPA)

Degree Name

Master of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy


Superfund sites are well known to pose serious risks to the health of the individuals living within close proximity. For this reason, the United States federal government passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act on December 11, 1980, designed to bestow power of prosecution and jurisdiction over potentially hazardous sites to the Environmental Protection Agency. Nonetheless, a large number of low income African American and Hispanic neighborhoods have been shown to be neglected in regards to superfund site initial assessment, classification, and remediation. This thesis examines' whether race, low income and secondary educational levels, are factors causing the government to neglect and tend to local superfund sites in such communities whom are predominantly African American and Hispanic. The premise for such examination is derived from the fact that superfund sites inhabited by upper class high-income, educated Whites are attended to diligently by the government. After identification of the superfund sites, three research methods were conducted to gather information and test the claim that race, low income and secondary educational levels are factors in the lack of due diligence in the superfund site process in Harris County. The three methods used in this study included census tract data collection, windshield surveys, and in-depth structured interviews. The first research method involved data collection of race, secondary education, and income taken from the1980 and 1990 U.S. Census. The second research method entailed traveling to each superfund site under study and taking notes of the surrounding areas. This included noting racial demographics, type of zoning around the site, and observing the socio economic status of the residents located in the vicinity. Lastly, in-depth structured interviews were conducted to gauge resident's perception of how the government responded to their local superfund site throughout the process of initial assessment up to remediation. In-depth structured interviews were conducted on active community members who were knowledgeable of the superfund site process, have lived in Harris County for more than twenty years, and have or have had a superfund site in their community. Based on the data gathered from the three methods, it was determined that neither race nor education or income playa role in the process of initial assessment, classification, and remediation of superfund sites in Harris County. Yet, the six interviewees living in the neighborhoods near superfund sites did perceive race, income, and secondary education as the factors determining whether a superfund site was acted upon with due diligence by the government. And, unexpected findings that resulted from the interviews was that the public perceives that there is a lack of community involvement and public awareness that act as factors in lack of due diligence in the superfund site process