Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Assessing Adaptive Capacity to Discern Community Resilience in Charleston, West Virginia: Case Study of the 2014 MCHM/PPH Spill
by Parasram, Vidisha Devi, Dr.P.H., The George Washington University, 2019, 213; 22618579
Abstract (Summary)

Background: Adaptive capacity is a component of community resilience that offers insights into how communities recover from technological or manmade disasters such as chemical/environmental contamination events. Although community resilience is now United States policy to address national security and public health impacts from climate-related storms and terrorism-related disasters, few studies assess the way it functions in the context of technological or chemical disasters and the characteristics necessary for affected communities to respond to and recover from them. The ability to respond to environmental contamination events resonates in the community capacity literature defining community resilience. This dissertation employs the domains of adaptive capacity to assess whether past contamination events increased the ability of the Charleston, WV community within the Kanawha Valley, known as “Chemical Valley,” to better respond to a chemical spill of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) and a mixture of propylene glycol phenyl ethers (PPH) from an aboveground storage tank contaminating the public drinking water supply of 300,000 residents.

Study Design: This study uses a qualitative design, snowball sampling methodology, and semi-structured interviews with residents, emergency responders, emergency managers, public health officials, local government officials, and members of community-based organizations to assess how domains of community adaptive capacity established in the literature relate to this type of incident.

Results: The history of chemical and environmental contamination events in the Charleston, WV community demonstrates strong adaptive capacities by emerging and existing horizontal and lateral leadership; a high degree of social support and networks; a deep connection to community history, values, critical reflection, organizing skills; and community power, and a purposeful participation in community organizing initiatives. These qualities are invaluable to articulating community needs and resources in responding to and recovering from the 2014 chemical spill. However, distrust in the state and federal government response and misinformation during this and previous emergencies influenced these domains. This study finds establishing trust in government and decision makers as an essential component of community adaptive capacity is imperative to building capacity. This study also finds social media facilitated community mobilization during and after the event.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McCormick, Sabrina
Commitee: Michaels, David, Zota, Ami
School: The George Washington University
Department: Public Health
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 81/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental Health, Public health, Environmental Justice
Keywords: Adaptive capacity, Community history, Community resilience, Social capital, Social support, Technological disaster
Publication Number: 22618579
ISBN: 9781392642184
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