Online Program

Seattle cumulative health impact analysis: Using science to influence decision-making

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

C. Linn Gould, MS, MPH, Just Health Action, Seattle, WA
South Seattle's Duwamish Valley (DV), which flanks the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site, is home to 80% of Seattle's industrial lands, and the city's poorest and most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. It has long been referred to as an Environmental Justice (EJ) community but limited evidence has been available to date to validate or quantify this designation. The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition Technical Advisory Group and Just Health Action received an EPA EJ Research grant to conduct a Cumulative Health Impacts Analysis to quantify the DV's cumulative impact status relative to other Seattle areas. Using California EPA's cumulative impacts ranking methodology, the DV received the highest score demonstrating a disproportionate burden relative to the rest of Seattle. The analysis was also conducted to assist decision-makers in prioritizing activities and taking action in communities with the largest cumulative impacts. Two recommendations were EPA directed to improve the proposed Superfund Site cleanup plan. Two additional non-Superfund recommendations were made to reduce DV disparities using funding from parties responsible for cumulative impacts over time: 1) Establish a community-run organization to revitalize the DV; and 2) Agencies must apply EJ principles in environmental regulations (i.e. permitting). This presentation discusses the cumulative health impacts method, the results, and limitations of the study. We also describe the recommendations and how they were received and responded to by the community, policy- and decision-makers. Finally, we offer suggestions on how the analysis could be improved for those who might be interested in using a similar approach to influence decision-making.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain the cumulative health impact method used and how it contributed to an Environmental Justice designation for Seattleā€™s Duwamish Valley. Describe two recommendations made in this cumulative health impact analysis and how it might lead to reducing Duwamish Valley disparities. Discuss how the results of the cumulative health impact analysis influenced policy and decision-makers.

Keyword(s): Environmental Justice, Risk Assessment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the primary researcher and author of this report
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.