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Environmental Justice, Radioactive Waste, and The Manhattan Project: Resources

This guide provides information about Environmental Justice, Just Moms STL and their efforts to bring attention to the radioactive waste resulting from the creation of the atomic bomb, and the Manhattan Project.


Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is a concept that merges concerns about social equity and environmental issues, broadly defined as the equal distribution of environmental goods (i.e., access to good environmental conditions and services) and bads (e.g., contamination), and the equal enforcement of environmental laws and policies on all people, regardless of race, gender, and economic status. It started out as an urban issue but soon developed to reach rural and global dimensions. The term refers both to an activist movement and to an interdisciplinary academic field of research that converges issues of environmental politics, ethics and law, spatial and social justice, and sustainability, among others.

The origins of environmental justice go back to the US grassroots social movements of the late 1970s, when the first social concerns about the spatial and social distribution of toxic and waste treatment hazards arose in the United States, given that related facilities are associated with local health and environmental risks, such as soil contamination, air pollution, and loss of clean watercourses, among others. At that time, various studies were demonstrating a direct correlation between the location of toxic and contaminating activities and the social and racial status of nearby inhabitants. These first preoccupations on the siting of toxic and hazardous facilities were framed as environmental racism, as most of these facilities were situated in low income and minority communities, principally Afro-American and Latino.

Source: Orum, Anthony M., editor. “Environmental Justice.” Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedias in Social Sciences: The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies, by Chile MARIA CHRISTINA FRAGKOU University of Chile, 1st ed., Wiley, 2019. Credo Reference, Accessed 25 Sept. 2023.

Just Moms STL @ Jefferson College:2023 Event Poster

Environmental Justice Resources

EPA: Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys:  

  • The same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and
  • Equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Explore the EPA's resources about environmental topics, laws & regulations, and tools to help communities.

EPA Superfund Sites

Since 1980, EPA's Superfund program has helped protect human health and the environment by managing the cleanup of the nation's worst hazardous waste sites and responding to local and nationally significant environmental emergencies.Thousands of contaminated sites exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. These sites include manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills and mining sites.

In the late 1970s, toxic waste dumps such as Love Canal and Valley of the Drums received national attention when the public learned about the risks to human health and the environment posed by contaminated sites.  Learn more...

Radioactively Contaminated Sites

Image: Workers collecting soil samples.

If radioactive materials are manufactured, used, stored, or disposed of improperly, it’s possible for them to contaminate buildings and the environment. Sites contaminated with radioactive material require cleanup. Every site cleanup is different. The actions needed for cleanup depend on a number of factors including the radioactive elements involved, the amount of the material, and the potential for human exposure.


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Atomic Homefront

In addition to the ability to stream this title, a DVD copy with public performance rights is available in the Jefferson College Library.

The Manhattan Project

University of California's  The Moment in Time documents the uncertain days of the beginning of World War II when it was feared the Nazis were developing the atomic bomb. The history of the bomb's development is traced through recollections of those who worked on what was known as "the gadget." [6/2000] [Show ID: 5090]

Manhattan Project Oakridge

                           Front page of Knoxville News-Sentinel on August 6, 1945.

Manhattan Project: Oakridge, TN. The rolling hills and narrow valleys of East Tennessee proved to be the ideal location for the top-secret atomic weapons program developed here beginning in 1942. Oak Ridge, Tennessee was home to several massive Manhattan Project facilities employing thousands of workers during and after World War II and was the headquarters for the project after relocating from New York City. These facilities in Oak Ridge operated with one goal in mind: enriching uranium for use in the world’s first atomic bombs.

Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste is generated as a by-product of producing or using radioactive materials by industries such as mining, nuclear power generation, defense, medicine, and certain types of scientific research. Source:

The Poisoned Dream: The Love Canal Nighmare

The Poisoned Dream

Access Restricted: On-Campus or Jefferson College users only for off-campus


In 1980, three frustrated mothers made American history by taking federal officials hostage in the community built on the site of New York’s toxic Love Canal. In this riveting exposé, the three activists—Lois Gibbs, Barbara Quimby, and Patti Grenzy—and research scientist Dr. Beverly Paigen, who staunchly stood by the residents, discuss their volatile four-year political battle to have the entire community evacuated. Archival footage of President Jimmy Carter, Jane Fonda, government officials, and residents who were on the scene convey the urgency of America’s first headline eco-disaster. (48 minutes)

Just Moms STL

Missouri Independent Feature Article

Records reveal 75 years of government downplaying, ignoring risks of St. Louis radioactive waste

The Missouri Independent, MuckRock and The Associated Press spent months combing through thousands of pages of previously-unreleased government records that show radioactive waste was known to pose a threat to people living near Coldwater Creek as early as 1949. But federal officials repeatedly wrote potential risks off as ‘slight,’ ‘minimal’ or ‘low-level.’

Illustration by:Illustration by Tyler Gross

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Discovery Service @ Jefferson College Library

Search across several databases for articles, books, ebooks, and more. Want to find a specific database? Try our A-Z List of Databases. Login with your myjeffco gmail account.