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World Water Week Insights Continued: Environmental Justice and Clean Water Quality in NC

After hearing from the World Water Week panel a few weeks ago, I decided to interview Sarah Hatcher, a senior Environmental Sciences major. Sarah has been instrumental in coordinating student efforts working with the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA).

When I asked her how she became involved with RENA, she began with her home roots in Wallace, NC. Wallace is located in southeastern North Carolina within two counties, Pender and Duplin, whose economies are largely based on industrial hog farming operations.

After studying abroad in Ecuador, where she learned about environmental injustices with regards to access to clean water, Sarah decided to look into what was going on in within her own community in Chapel Hill.

This led her to Dr. Steve Wing, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiologist at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Health, who has collaborated with many state efforts in environmental justice issues–from hog industry pollution, to clean water access on Rogers Road. Over the summer of her junior year, Sarah partnered with Wing on a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to work on well water contamination in Duplin County.

After her summer’s work was over, Sarah was determined to stay involved with environmental justice issues in North Carolina. Like many Environmental students, Sarah strove to make the connections between the classroom and the surrounding environment.

Along with her sister, ­­­­­Shannon Hatcher O’Shea, who is the project lead of the local Engineers Without Borders chapter, Sarah continued her work assessing water quality and empowering members of the community in which she was working. She will continue her work with community based environmental justice this summer and next fall at UNC’s field site in Morehead City, NC. She’ll be working with the director of the field site,  Dr. Rachel Noble, a microbiologist, whose work addresses water quality issues along the East Coast. Exemplary students like Sarah represent the connection of science with action and policy, and the role that students play in this process.

Laura Stephenson is an environmental science major at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, focusing in environmental and community health.

Posted on: April 20, 2010, 10:28 am Category: Sustainability and Education, The Life of an Environmental Studies Student Tagged with: , ,

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