Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

William Tate


Lead contamination in Herculaneum, Missouri presents a complex context where the long history of a large lead processing plant has created an environmental health hazard. Local residents have been forced to balance their interest in promoting a clean and healthy local environment against their desire to preserve community identity and honor the history of their city and its most prominent industry. Additionally, contamination and related controversy has substantively impacted this community and its citizens on multiple levels--e. g., education, health, and financial well-being. The study presented in this dissertation explores not only the impact of contamination upon the community, but also the influence of the community upon local lead management. The study crosses disciplinary boundaries and is situated at the intersection of science education literature with environmental policy and public understanding of science research. The research questions guiding the project focused on: 1) the approaches taken in applying regulatory tools to the management of local lead contamination, and: 2) the ways that local stakeholders describe the problem of lead contamination in Herculaneum. Accordingly, the findings of this project reflect two primary themes. First, a policy cycle in which the understandings of lead contamination and management is described. The influence of this local policy cycle on the revision of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead in 2008 is discussed as a second policy cycle in which the definition of lead contamination on the national scale was expanded and refined. Second, two activist perspectives that have dominated local lead controversy over the past decade are characterized and changes in their activist strategies are traced. Community Health Activists advocated for increased regulation and restrictive measures to protect the health of local community members from lead industry activities. Community Preservation Activists fought restrictive regulatory measures and advocated instead for initiatives that would support community prosperity and growth. The dissertation concludes with a secondary analysis of the findings in terms of environmental policy learning, defined here as the adaptation of stakeholder perspectives and approaches in response to changes in physical or political conditions. The ways that environmental policy learning influenced changes in both policy approaches and stakeholder perspectives with regard to lead management in Herculaneum provide insight into educational dimensions of the context of lead contamination in Herculaneum in terms of changes in the perspectives and approaches of local stakeholders. Implications for research in science studies, interpretive policy research, and science education, as well as for environmental regulatory representatives and citizen activists are explored. The dissertation concludes with a brief outline of two research studies stemming from this dissertation as directions for further work.


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