Environmental justice and social justice came together when the Centro Civico Mexicano (CCM) on Salt Lake City’s west side received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Program to clean up toxic waste left behind on their property by historic industrial uses. It’s a problem everywhere that low-income people suffer from disproportionate exposure to environmental pollution.
CCM was formed by Mexican immigrants to Utah in 1939. “Long before the term ‘environmental justice’ surfaced, our community was unable to rent facilities for community events from non-Hispanic owners,” according to the grant. In 1956, the Hispanic community raised money to buy the low-cost formerly industrialized property where the CCM now stands.
Unfortunately, when the Centro wanted to expand the community center and build a senior housing project, the property was found to be contaminated by coal, chemicals and other hazardous materials. People who live in the CCM neighborhood earn only 54% of Utah’s median household income. They could not afford clean-up costs by themselves. The EPA grant will not just improve community health by removing hazardous waste; CCM plans to build a sustainable, transit-oriented project using Enterprise Green Communities standards which “help ensure that people living in affordable housing are healthier, spend less money on utilities, and have more opportunities through their connections to transportation, quality food and health care services.”
Centro Civico Mexicano (155 S. 600 W. SLC):