Illinois professors and students study community resilience around polluted waterways

Read the full story in Inside Illinois.

There’s no such thing as a good place to have a natural disaster, nor has there ever been an appropriate site to release toxic pollutants. But scientists have long recognized that some areas can handle such catastrophes better than others. As early as the 1970s, they used socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census to develop a tool called the Social Vulnerability Index, known as SoVI, to gauge the likely resilience of different communities.

Now a team of professors and graduate students at the University of Illinois is testing and tweaking the SoVI model by studying at a more granular level the communities around two polluted Midwest waterways. Bethany Cutts, a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences, and Andrew Greenlee, a professor ofurban and regional planning, received a two-year Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to study communities around the Lincoln Park-Milwaukee Estuary and portions of the Grand Calumet River south of Chicago, both designated “areas of concern” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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