nomic impacts of controversial waste-treatment or waste-disposal facilities that have been in place for several years or more (Finsterbusch 1985; Seyfrit 1988; English et al. 1991; Freudenburg and Gramling 1992). Moreover, the committee is not aware of any studies of the effects of removing an established incinerator. One reason for the lack of cumulative, retrospective socioeconomic-impact research is the lack of sufficient data. Although incineration facilities must routinely monitor and record emissions of specified pollutants, health-monitoring studies before or after a facility begins operation are only rarely performed, and periodic studies of the socioeconomic impacts of a facility over time are virtually nonexistent, partly because of methodological problems (Armour 1988) and the absence of regulations that necessitate continued monitoring of socioeconomic impacts.
Whether predictive or retrospective, socioeconomic-impact assessments share the challenge—also faced by health-effects assessments—of confounding factors. Isolating the impacts of a single facility from other contributing conditions is often difficult, especially as those conditions change over time (Greenberg et al. 1995). Furthermore, the demographic composition of the area around the facility can be expected to change as time passes, making it difficult to assess the relationship between the facility and the changing group (Maclaren 1987). Individuals also vary among themselves and over time in their sensitivity to socioeconomic impacts, such as a decline in property values.
The scant information that is available on predicted or observed socioeconomic impacts of various types of controversial waste-treatment or waste-disposal facilities cannot be readily generalized to waste-incineration facilities, nor can the impacts of one waste incinerator be generalized without qualification to other waste incinerators. The host areas and the facilities themselves are, in many instances, too dissimilar to permit drawing inferences from one facility to another without many caveats (Flynn et al. 1983; English et al. 1991). As discussed further below, simply identifying the geographic boundaries of an affected area can present problems.
Much of the following discussion is based on anecdotal evidence related to social issues posed by controversial waste facilities, including waste incinerators. It is clear that much more empirical research is needed on the socioeconomic impacts of waste-incineration facilities on their host areas, but for this research to be feasible on a large scale, detailed socioeconomic data will need to be gathered routinely before and during the operation of such facilities.
It is also clear, however, that citizen concerns about waste incinerators do exist. Newspapers and popular journals report heated disputes about them; the Waste Technologies Industries (WTI) hazardous-waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, is a prime example. The publications and World Wide Web sites of citizen-group networks, such as the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (formerly the Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste), have routinely reported opposition to incineration of municipal solid waste, medical waste, and