Environmental Justice Perspectives on Solid Waste Siting: A Case Study of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Landfills
Waste generation in the U.S. has reached new heights, but the exploitation of Native American lands for waste disposal is nothing new. Many of the negative effects of massive waste production and toxic pollution, such as poor health outcomes and decreased property values, disproportionately burden impoverished, minority communities inside and outside the United States (Brulle and Pellow, 2006). Native American communities have long been exploited for their natural resources and land-use, but in recent decades Indian country has also become a common place to store nuclear, hazardous and municipal wastes. This project is a case study of a local Indian reservation, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and examined the socio-historical context of the landfill operations in terms of five principles of environmental justice. Each principle was defined and key moments from the SRPMIC's landfill history were discussed to demonstrate ways that the situation has improved, stayed the same or worsened with regard to the rights outlined in each principle. It was concluded that there needs to be an acknowledgement by involved municipalities and industries of the historical context that make the SRPMIC and other nearby Native American communities "ideal" contractors for waste management. Additionally, while the SRPMIC could currently benefit from looking into the principles of environmental justice as a guide to manage past and operating landfills, the Community will have a specific opportunity to revisit these issues under closer scrutiny during the closure of the Salt River Landfill in 2032 in order to ensure more environmentally just outcomes. Finally, it was concluded that scholarship at the intersection of environmental justice and Native American communities should continue because looking closer at the ways that local Native American communities are facing and resisting environmental injustice can serve to develop future models for other communities facing similar challenges to achieving environmental justice.