Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Nick Padilla

Second Advisor

Dr. Adam Mathews

Third Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Baker


Historical maps, environmental justice, GIS, geography, geographic analysis

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


As the production of synthetic chemicals has grown in the past centuries to increase production, lower costs, and generally make our lives more convenient, detecting and understanding the environmental impacts of these compounds has lagged significantly behind their mass production and wide-spread use. To combat this trend, sources of these contaminants, especially those that have been removed from the landscape, need to be quickly identified to make mitigation and remediation efforts more effective. In this study, historical Sanborn maps are used to extract and digitize historical site/land use in Grand Rapids during the early 1900s through the practical application of GIS software and analytic tools. This data was combined with historic and current demographic and socioeconomic data to search for evidence of past or present environmental injustice in the city. Evidence of environmental injustice in low income communities in the early 20th century was identified through spatial statistics, as well as a geographic similarity in past and present areas of environmental concern, but little evidence was found for current environmental injustice in the area of study. The data was also used to build a searchable database of industrial areas and potential contaminated site locations that will be available for public use to educate and empower residents, businesses, and policy makers in the city of Grand Rapids.