Overview - Environmental Justice Program

What is Environmental Justice?

"Environmental justice" means that all people should be treated fairly under environmental laws regardless of race, ethnicity, culture or economic status and should receive equal shares of both environmental benefits and burdens.  The Environmental Justice movement has grown in response to increasing evidence nationally and statewide indicating that low income and minority groups are often exposed to above-average amounts of environmental burdens. Industrial air pollution, lead paint, disposal facilities, pesticides and contaminated fish are just a few sources of such pollution.

According to section 22a-20 of the Connecticut General Statutes (CGS), of the 176 affecting facilities statewide, there are 142 affecting facilities located in Connecticut's Environmental Justice communities. Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury have the highest counts of affecting facilities of all Environmental Justice communities and collectively account for almost a quarter (23%) of all affecting facilities in Connecticut. These four cities share a larger burden of potential health risks from affecting facilities than other towns in the state.

These cities also have some of the highest rates of historically vulnerable populations. Data from the United States Census Bureau's American Community Survey lists the estimated counts of minority and poverty populations in Connecticut. Compared to all towns in the state, Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven are the top three towns with the highest concentrations of minority populations (see table below). Hartford has the largest poverty population in the state (51.1%), with more than half of all residents living at 200% or less of the federal poverty level. Out of the total 169 towns in Connecticut, Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury collectively make up about one-third of the total minority population (31.3%) and the total poverty population (29.9%) in the state.

Town Number of Affecting Facilities Percent of Affecting Facilities Compared to Entire State  Population with Limited English Proficiency Minority Population 

Population Living in Poverty (200% of Federal Poverty Level) 

Bridgeport  8  6%  15.5%  80.7% 45.4%
Hartford  7  5%  15.4%  85.1% 51.1%
New Haven  12  8%  8.6%  70.9% 48.6%
Waterbury  6  4%  10.4%  61.1% 44.1%

Data from the United States Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates (2016-2020). See DEEP's Environmental Justice Affecting Facilities Map and CT Demographics & Affecting Facilities Map for more details.

CT DEEP created the Environmental Justice Program in light of these facts and because of our commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all residents.  

What does DEEP's Environmental Justice Program Do?

  The Environmental Justice Program incorporates principles of environmental justice into aspects of DEEP's program development, policy making, and regulatory activities, including but not limited to:
  • assessing the effectiveness of DEEP's efforts in the state's urban areas;

  • assessing and responding to environmental problems in low-income and minority communities;

  • developing strategies to increase public participation in DEEP's decision-making process;

  • identifying community health concerns in consultation with local and state departments of health;

  • enhancing public participation in administrative proceedings;

  • educating the public on DEEP regulations, policies and procedures; and

  • decreasing language barriers.

How can DEEP's Environmental Justice Program Assist You?

The Environmental Justice Program actively seeks ways to assist communities by responding to needs that they identify.  Please share with us what needs to be done to protect and improve the environment in your community.

Examples of issues commonly raised by residents that the Program can assist you with include:

  • Rodent control

  • Illegal dumping/auto body shops - (To report illegal dumping, call your local public works department.)

  • Air pollution/demolition dust

  • Lead paint

  • Improper pesticide use

  • Contaminated fish

  • Permitting issues

  • Lack of access to state parks

  • School inspections

Ways to Connect

  • For environmental justice administrative inquiries, please contact Edith Pestana (Program Administrator) at (860) 424-3044 or edith.pestana@ct.gov.
  • For community and education coordination inquiries, please contact Doris Johnson at (860) 424-3053 or doris.johnson@ct.gov.