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Urban Environmental Studies

2013 Education Grant from EPA

October 2012 the Urban Environmental Studies Program at Birmingham-Southern College received a grant from the US EPA Interdisciplinary Environmental Sustainability Across All Curricula to study contaminated soil in the Jones Valley area of Jefferson County.

Grant Title:

Environmental Justice in Jones Valley: Studying Soil Contamination and its Implications Across the Curriculum

Total Project Cost:


$10,000 will go toward analysis of soil samples.

$4,000 will go towards an Environmental Justice Speaker 

Remaining amount will pay faculty and staff for developing new course content, and purchase of soil sampling equipment.

Project Period: 

October 1, 2012 – September 31, 2014 

  • Data from sampling of soil will be available to residents at no charge.
  • Sampling locations are determined by a random sampling method.
  • This work is not part of the US EPA Superfund investigation in the North Birmingham Area.

Contact Information:

Birmingham-Southern College
Urban Environmental Studies
900 Arkadelphia Road
Birmingham, Alabama 35254
Communications: Hannah Wolfson 205-226-4922
Grant Contact:  Francesca Gross, Urban Environmental Studies
fgross@bsc.edu     205-226-7755


Course Curriculum Expansion

Birmingham-Southern College will use funding from the EPA Interdisciplinary Environmental Sustainability Across All Curricula grant to explore an environmental theme that has represented dire consequences for our community—soil contamination in the Jones Valley area of North Birmingham— in courses across the curriculum.  

Courses Include:

UES 160 Environmental Earth Science   Students in this course will collect soil samples to be sent to an independent lab for student-testing use in CH220, and for use as data in courses across the curriculum.

UES 210 Environmental Problems and Policy — Students in this course will examine the soil reports collected and prepared by the UES 160 class.  Based on these reports students will work in teams utilizing existing U.S. Policies directed at air, water, and land policies. As part of this class, UES 210 will examine international environmental justice issues comparing North Birmingham with other case studies. 

UES 470 Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies— Students in this course will develop independent senior capstone projects examining possible alternatives for North Birmingham neighborhoods. Students will participate in a seminar designed around a series of speakers representing various community, government and business interests. Through a term-long project, each student will develop a community remediation proposal. These proposals will be presented at the end of the term in an open community forum.

CH 220 Equilibrium and Analysis —   Students in this course will test soil samples collected in North Birmingham and compare results with results supplied by the lab.  Scott Dorman will work with senior-year student assistants in a paid, non-credit protocol development project to prepare for CH220 in spring 2013.   In CH 220, all soil samples would be analyzed for lead as part of the CH 220 laboratory.  The previous work done by students would establish guidelines for the protocols to be used.

MFS 493 Independent Study in Media and Film Studies — Students in this course will produce a documentary or narrative media piece concerning environmental justice in Jones Valley.

SO 373 Urban Sociology— Students in this course will examine the North Birmingham case as part of a module on community action and social justice. Students will compare the case with other case studies examining federal involvement in U.S. neighborhood redevelopment from urban renewal to Model Cities to Urban Empowerment Zones.