Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources

Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

Kristine Stepenuck

Second Advisor

Jennifer Pontius

Third Advisor

Jillian Sarazen


Environmental Justice, Water Quality, Socioeconomic Status, E. coli, Fairfield County, Connecticut.


This research aimed to determine whether there are environmental justice concerns surrounding the water quality of rivers within Fairfield County, Connecticut and its demographics. The health of the rivers, quantified by the concentrations of either Escherichia coli (E. coli) or Enterococci bacteria, and the socioeconomic health of the surrounding communities was examined. Parameters, such as percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, a proxy for income; age distribution in households; household units, size and ownership; and race were determined for Census block groups, the smallest geographical unit the U.S. Census records data for. In order to be exploratory in these possibilities, various statistical analysis tests were run to examine if there were relationships between water quality and socioeconomic factors. Such results contributed to a confluence of evidence to back up such relationships with environmental justice concerns. Statistically significant (p < 0.05) relationships were found between water quality measures and 24 socioeconomic parameters. Five parameters of particular concern were determined from these preliminary relationships. These attempted to characterize the people and their living conditions and included socioeconomic status and amount of urbanization of the neighborhoods as observed within Census blocks. Rivers with the highest concern were determined. This research helps to inform where more improvement projects should occur based off elevated bacteria concentrations and neighborhoods that are more likely to be affected due to socioeconomic status, which will benefit the overall community. Eliminating the sources of bacteria pollution in areas of lower socioeconomic status will make the area environmentally just.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.