Crum is weighing her next step, considering both graduate school and the Peace Corps.
Crum is weighing her next step, considering both graduate school and the Peace Corps.

When Zoe Crum C’10 started plotting toxic waste sites on her GIS map of the Ironbound section of Newark, N.J., this summer, she didn’t know that her work would help convince the city’s zoning board to drop a proposal for a medical waste treatment plant.

The proposed facility, the first of its kind in Newark, would have given the city a centralized place to treat medical waste, usually processed where it is generated at individual hospitals. But what Crum’s map showed was that the Ironbound is already home to hundreds of Superfund and brownfield sites, as well as facilities that emit hazardous air pollutants.

The map helped the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC), a social services nonprofit, make its case that a facility receiving up to 100 tons of waste a day would have further taxed an area that’s home to a vibrant community. As part of ICC’s report, Crum’s map was sent to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, city councilors, the zoning board and the Environmental Protection Agency. In October 2010, the board voted 5 to 3 to defeat the proposal.

The collaboration between Drew and ICC grew out of the university’s environmental justice course, underwritten by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant in support of Drew’s Environmental Studies and Sustainability program. As part of the course, Joslyn Cassady, associate professor of behavioral science and anthropology, arranged for faculty and students to tour the Ironbound. Moved by the experience, Cassady contacted the tour guide, Ana Baptista, director of ICC’s environmental and policy division, to discuss a partnership. “We met a couple of times to discuss potential projects and collaborations,” says Cassady, “and one of the ICC’s areas of need was GIS.”

Crum, a biology major with a minor in political science, recently studied GIS with Catherine Riihimaki, assistant professor of biology. As a postgrad intern last summer, Crum worked on the map project under the guidance of Riihimaki, Cassady, and GIS Support Specialist Krista White.

Told of the proposal’s defeat, Crum, who is applying to graduate school for environmental science, was really surprised. “I didn’t expect to see results so quickly. It was a very rewarding experience,” says Crum. “The work I did this summer did good.”—Cara Swan C’11

Learn more about GIS at Drew.