Bingham Park Landfill Study

Unsafe and unhealthy environments disparately impact low income communities and people of color and present serious environmental justice issues (Taylor 2014). Across North Carolina there are over 2,500 environmental hazard sites including chemical spills, disposal sites, and buried landfills. Disproportionately the 656 sites of pre-regulatory landfills buried throughout the state are found in neighborhoods of color. This project examines one particular community impacted by environmental racism and evaluates a process for addressing the legacy of environmental injustices. This project will extend and expand a two-year (2019-2021) implementation project addressing environmental justice (EJ) issues of a buried landfill.

Our research project engages residents in the Cottage Grove community, the Cone Health System, and faculty from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in an investigation a landfill buried under Bingham Park in east Greensboro. We will  document the impact on neighborhood political empowerment and environmental awareness, and gauge any improvements to the environment. This project builds upon recent EJ and restorative justice work to address adverse community conditions, encourage pro-environmental behavior, examine local community-based environmental conflicts and the collision with macro-level environmental issues, and acknowledge the role of place identity and inequality and how individuals and communities respond to collective environmental threats, including health effects.

The principal investigators are Dr. Stephen J. Sills, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Housing and Community Studies; Dr. Sandra Echeverría, associate professor in the School of Health and Human Sciences’ Dept. of Public Health Education; and NC Institute of Medicine President, Kathy Colville.

The goals of the research project are to: 1) develop and test a framework for addressing environmental justice (EJ) concerns in communities of color; 2) evaluate the effectiveness of a UNCG/Cone Health community-based environmental education program; and 3) build the case for remediation of a Greensboro park (Bingham Park) and streams under the NC Pre-Regulatory Landfill Program.

“As much as we are honored by receiving this fellowship, we are more excited about what it means for the people in the Bingham Park area,” says Colville. “This fellowship will help us better understand the impact on residents’ health today and, hopefully, inspire actions for a healthier tomorrow.”

The study builds on years of action-oriented research that Sills has committed to over the course of his career. “Partnerships like ours are rare and necessary for addressing environmental justice concerns. Restorative justice requires that the voice of the community is in the fore, supported by robust data and strong evidence.”

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