Environment and Climate Workgroup

Work to Date

The Environment & Climate Workgroup reviewed Peoria’s cumulative negative environmental impacts, which represent numerous potential health effects felt by an individual or community, as well as the various social, environmental, and economic factors that contribute to them. Unlike the data for some of the other areas studied, most environmental data is not broken down by race, but rather by geography.

Environmental Justice (EJ) communities are areas that bear the disproportionate weight of pollution and its toxic effects via spatial proximity to industrial or left-behind contamination. Over the years, zoning laws and policies have tended to corral pollution into neighborhoods that were historically denied political power — specifically in racially and ethnically marginalized and lower-income communities.

Workgroup Members:

  • Nick Firmand (Co-Chair)
  • Jonathan Thomas (Co-Chair)
  • Joyce Harant
  • Barbara Kaptanian-Ruth
  • Jim Johnson, Steering Committee Liaison

Next Steps

The workgroup will consider the following key focus areas in 2023:

  1. Working with local, state, and federal governments to create legislation that mandates comprehensive, community-oriented cumulative impact assessments and gives permitting authorities at all levels the power to deny any permits that will add to the disproportionate pollution burdens suffered by the affected communities.
  2. Bolstering and expanding current asthma prevention, treatment, and awareness programs.
  3. Partnering with the EPA to offer environmental training and assessment.

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Indicators of Racial Disparity

Parts of Peoria are designated as Environmental Justice Areas, having two nearby coal-fired electric plants; numerous large industrial manufacturing clusters; and as many as 20 chemical facilities. A significantly higher proportion of people of color and those living in poverty reside near the most hazardous of these facilities. A large and growing body of research has found that this proximity exposes those residents to higher levels of environmental pollution than people who do not live near these facilities.

The workgroup chose to use the Environmental Justice (EJ) Index from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as our key indicator of racial disparity. The EJ Index delivers a single score for each community so that public health officials can identify and map areas most at risk for the health impacts of environmental burden. Within the City of Peoria, the 61602, 61603, and 61605 zip codes in particular show extreme levels of environmental justice inequity. About two thirds of the population of these areas are people of color.

U.S. EPA Environmental Justice Index

The higher the index score, the worse the situation is in that area.

Zip codes 61602, 61603, and 61605 show most of the 12 EJ Indexes at or near the national 90th percentile or higher. The percentage of people of color in those three zip codes is significantly higher than the rest of the county. The table on the left compares the results for zip code 61605, which is primarily populated by people of color, to zip code 61614, which is primarily White. Primarily White zip codes in Peoria County have few EJ categories above the 75th percentile nationally.

Peoria Zip Code6160561614
People of Color66%34%
Particulate Matter 2.59371
Diesel Particulate Matter8761
Air Toxins Cancer Risk8930
Air Toxins Respiratory HI7744
Traffic Proximity8058
Lead Paint9357
Superfund Proximity3517
RMP Facility Proximity9443
Hazardous Waste Proximity9264
Underground Storage Tanks8969
Wastewater Discharge92N/A