Communicating Environmental

Hazards: Neighborhood-level
Environmental Health Information
Concerning Coal Ash Ponds
Stephanie Piperno, Jeff Rose PhD
Davidson College
Davidson, NC
March 13, 2015

Coal Ash Ponds
q  A harmful by-product of burning coal
q  Contains metals like arsenic, antimony, chromium, and selenium.
q  Mixed with water and stored in ponds (often unlined)
q  Health effects: increased risk of cancer, stomach aliments,
and lung and heart problems.

Image 1. Where does coal ash come from?

Ponds in the United States
1,400 coal ash dumps in the United States
•  70% are located in low-income communities
•  200 are known to have contaminated nearby waters
•  21 of the nation’s 45 high hazard ponds are in the Southeast

Image 2. Coal ash sites

Coal ash ponds in North Carolina
q  North Carolina has 37 coal ash dumps located at 14 sites spread through out
the state
q  Dan River Coal Ash Spill in Eden, NC
•  Attention from the media
q  Riverbend Steam Station’s 2 ponds make EPA’s hazardous ponds list

Image 3. Hazardous ponds in NC

Image 4. Dan River spill

Riverbend Steam Station

Image 5. Riverbend Steam Station, Mt. Holly, NC.

Riverbend Steam Station
Mt. Holly, NC

Image 6. Aerial map of Riverbend and Stonewater

Research questions
q  1) How aware are Stonewater residents of Riverbend’s coal ash
ponds and how did these residents become aware and
educated about the ponds?
q  2) What sources of information did the residents find most
trustworthy?
q  3) What sources of information do the residents perceive as
responsible for disseminating environmental risk information?

Image 7. Smoke stacks

Hypotheses
¤  Two dependent variables:
q  Knowledge
q  Source of information
q  Independent Variables:
q  Years lived in Stonewater
q  Level of education
q  Race
q  Gender

¤  Knowledge= B0 + B1years + B2level of education + B3race +
B4gender + B5responsibility+ E
¤  Source of Information= B0 + B1trust + B2level of education + B3race
+ B4gender +B5responsibility+ E

Methods
q  Developed a 23-question questionnaire
q  Created a pilot questionnaire and distributed it to a local community
q  Administered using three methods:
o  By foot to 150 homes
o  On the community home page
o  Personal emails sent to 140 residents

Image 8. Aerial view of Stonewater

Questionnaire results
q  35 responses over a 27 day period
q  82% white
q  56% of respondents were male
q  Response rate?
Level of Education  

Response  

%  

High school graduate  

1  

3%  

Trade/technical/vocational
training  

0  

0%  

Associate degree  

9  

27%  

Master's degree  

10  

30%  

Professional degree  

10  

30%  

Doctorate degree  

3  

9%  

Total  

33  

100%  

Number of
Year moved into home   Residents  
N/A  

5  

2003  

1  

2005  

4  

2007  

2  

2008  

2  

2009  

2  

2010  

6  

2011  

5  

2012  

3  

2013  

4  

2014  

1  

Results
Regression 1: Knowledge as dependent variable
Regression  Statistics
Multiple  R
0.595474941
R  Square
0.354590405
Adjusted  R  Square
-­‐0.063027568
Standard  Error
0.592327159
Observations
29
ANOVA
df
Regression
Residual
Total

Intercept
Year  
Q19  Education
Q21  Black
Q21  Asian  
Q20  Female
Q12  Duke  
Q12  Developer
Q12  Real  Estate
Q12  Media
Q12  Town  
Q12  Resident

11
17
28
Coefficients
53.02666334
-­‐0.026182068
-­‐0.079059514
0.545384906
0.496171336
0.315492364
0.216003403
0.162012683
-­‐0.216281638
0.130467425
-­‐0.122943198
0.14665833

SS
MS
3.276904432 0.2979004
5.964474879 0.35085146
9.24137931
Standard  Error
102.2934584
0.050811314
0.121141439
0.686721332
0.53576043
0.286871643
0.155471719
0.254332517
0.238170013
0.164184032
0.182025283
0.165518477

t  Stat
0.51837785
-­‐0.5152803
-­‐0.6526215
0.79418664
0.92610672
1.09976839
1.38934209
0.63701128
-­‐0.9080977
0.79464138
-­‐0.6754183
0.88605413

F
Significance  F
0.84907841 0.59957727

P-­‐value
0.610876077
0.612992693
0.52272829
0.438033376
0.367351978
0.286763574
0.182659516
0.532602834
0.376520471
0.437775834
0.50849388
0.387950738

Lower  95%
-­‐162.79367
-­‐0.1333846
-­‐0.3346456
-­‐0.9034705
-­‐0.6341844
-­‐0.2897539
-­‐0.1120133
-­‐0.374582
-­‐0.7187764
-­‐0.2159306
-­‐0.506983
-­‐0.2025551

Upper  95%
268.846995
0.08102043
0.17652658
1.99424027
1.62652704
0.92073863
0.54402006
0.69860739
0.28621316
0.47686545
0.26109658
0.49587179

Significant Results

Level of education’s influence on source of information:
Regression 2:
Source of
Information

Significance F

P-Value
(Education)

Coefficients

Social Media

0.024

0.035

-5.835

Real Estate

0.020

0.035

-5.711

Community

0.025

0.039

-5.753

Discussion
q  Residents are more informed today about environmental risks of
coal ash ponds.
q  Level of education influences what sources people use
Awareness when first moved to Stonewater
Answer  

Awareness today

Response  

%  

Response  

%  

Very aware  

5  

15%  

19  

56%  

Somewhat aware  

12  

35%  

14  

41%  

Unaware  

8  

24%  

1  

3%  

Never heard the
term "coal ash"  

9  

26%  

0  

0%  

Total  

34  

100%  

34  

100%  

Conclusions
Research
q  Small sample size
q  Needed more questions about
demographics (income, job, and
age)
q  Most concerned residents could
have already moved out of
Stonewater
q  Could explore further the types of
sources individuals use to obtain
information
•  Ex. What kind of materials are
people using when they select
personal investigation

Application
q  One organized, trusted, and
accessible system of
environmental risk information
q  Mixed levels of community
engagement
q  Economic interests outweigh
health concerns

Sources
http://appvoices.org/coalash/facts/
http://earthjustice.org/features/the-coal-ash-problem
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/
apr/04/world-bank-funding-coal-power
http://www.southeastcoalash.org/
http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-07-22/
water-stress-threatens-future-energy-production
http://imgarcade.com/1/coal-ash-pond/

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