Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Neva Hassanein

Commitee Members

Robin Saha, Elizabeth Putnam


TRI, RSEI, Elkhart County


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies


This thesis investigates 2017 industrial chemical air pollution in Elkhart County, Indiana starting with data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators model (RSEI). TRI requires facilities across the United States to report release amounts for certain chemicals known to cause adverse human health impacts. A related database, the RSEI model adds context to release amounts by modeling for toxicity and exposure. The resulting RSEI score approximates relative risk among releases. In combination, these tools are intended to allow communities to identify risks and provide oversight of point-source industrial chemical pollution in their neighborhoods. In this thesis I explore the limitations and capacities of these data for proactively addressing pollution in my home community of Elkhart County where manufacturing remains a cornerstone of the local economy.

In Elkhart County, styrene and cobalt arose as primary concerns based on rankings from TRI and RSEI respectively. While styrene emissions come from a number of facilities located throughout the County, Kennametal Stellite is the only facility to release cobalt. RSEI scores indicate cobalt as the greater concern, but a review of health assessments published by U.S. government and international agencies suggests that styrene lacks a sufficient risk assessment due to outdated research backing its RSEI toxicity weight. As a final method of investigation, this study mapped RSEI geographic micro-data with the Center for Disease Control’s Social Vulnerability Index and found where vulnerable neighborhoods have the added burden of the heaviest toxicity-weighted concentrations of chemicals in the County. Overall this research reflects what a concerned community member like myself may learn from these data. I now know that styrene warrants further research and cobalt releases from Kennametal pose serious health risks to the surrounding community and vulnerable populations in particular.


© Copyright 2019 Magdalena Lehman