Public understanding of local lead contamination

Jill McNew-Birren

Residents of Herculaneum, Missouri have been influential in shaping the management of contamination challenges resulting from the community’s proximity to the last primary lead processing plant in the United States. This paper provides a nuanced examination of two perspectives of resident activist groups involved in lead-related controversy in Herculaneum. Ethnographic data collection and storyline analysis were used to trace the evolution in local views from resembling an industrialist–environmentalist dichotomy to more compromising positions associated with ecological modernization. Implications for characterizing public environmental perspectives in the US as beginning to entertain certain aspects of the ecological modernist paradigm are discussed.

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