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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(4), 3864-3888; doi:10.3390/ijerph120403864

Healthy Vinton: A Health Impact Assessment Focused on Water and Sanitation in a Small Rural Town on the U.S.-Mexico Border

1
Center for Environmental Resource Management, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79932, USA
2
Pan American Health Organization, WHO, Washington, DC 20037, USA
Current address: Center for Inter-American and Border Studies, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79932, USA;
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Jeffery Spickett
Received: 17 October 2014 / Revised: 24 February 2015 / Accepted: 18 March 2015 / Published: 7 April 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Impact Assessment: Realizing Its Potential)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1602 KB, uploaded 7 April 2015]   |  

Abstract

We conducted a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) focused on water and sanitation in Vinton, TX, a small rural town on the U.S./Mexico Border. We present the Vinton HIA as a case study to inform the practice of HIA in rural limited resource communities with higher than average levels of unemployment and poverty, and limited infrastructure. Household surveys, focus groups, and interviews provided quantitative and qualitative data on water sources and quality, sanitation practices, and community health. We found that some of the current water sources in Vinton did not meet drinking water standards for total dissolved solids and arsenic; the majority of septic tanks were not managed properly; and there was a short-term risk of water scarcity due to prolonged drought in the region. Prevalent ailments reported by participants included stomach problems, diarrhea, and skin problems. These ailments can be related to arsenic and/or biological organisms in water. The positive direct and indirect health impacts of improved water and sanitation in Vinton included: reduced gastrointestinal illnesses and skin disorders; improved water quality, quantity, and pressure; reduced risks from failing septic systems; increased property value; potential economic growth; and enhanced quality of life. The negative direct and indirect impacts included: residents’ initial and monthly costs; increased property taxes; increased debt by local government; and the need for ongoing support from changing elected decision makers. The unique challenges in completing this HIA included: (a) limited available data; (b) a culture of fear and distrust among residents; (c) residents’ lack of education, awareness, and civic discourse regarding water and sanitation issues and their impact on public health; and (d) lack of civic discourse and participation in the democratic process. An important outcome of the HIA was the characterization of local water supplies, which motivated and empowered the community members to become more involved in civic discourse concerning their water supplies. Results are transferable to similar low-income rural communities worldwide where residents are lacking in information about their water supplies and in political “voice”. View Full-Text
Keywords: water quality; sanitation; arsenic; total dissolved solids; E. coli water quality; sanitation; arsenic; total dissolved solids; E. coli
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Hargrove, W.L.; Juárez-Carillo, P.M.; Korc, M. Healthy Vinton: A Health Impact Assessment Focused on Water and Sanitation in a Small Rural Town on the U.S.-Mexico Border . Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12, 3864-3888.

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