Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) Program
Kansas University School of Medicine's Wichita Initiative to Renew the Environment (WIRE), Wichita, Kansas
The Wichita Initiative to Renew the Environment (WIRE) is a recipient of a CARE Level 2 Cooperative agreement. The University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita Department of Preventative Medicine and Public Health, in partnership with the Environmental Leadership Council (ELC), will be the organizations leading this project. This Level 2 project will sustain collaborative partnerships dedicated to community understanding and education about toxic risks and reducing those risks, and environmental pollutants that impact Wichita's inner city. WIRE will focus on three top concerns: mobile source air emissions, pollution in the Arkansas River, and poor waste management. Through this Level 2 agreement, WIRE will reduce the risks from mobile air emissions, stormwater runoff in the Little and Big Arkansas rivers, solid waste pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and will develop the capacity of the ELC to ensure those reductions are self-sustaining. WIRE will also identify and implement culturally appropriate communication strategies for reaching inner-city target populations to provide education opportunities to internal and external partners, the media and the community at large; develop guidelines and implement strategies for idling reduction; and recruit and educate businesses to reduce waste and prevent pollution via the WasteWise program.
WIRE conducted dozens of discussion groups, developed education campaigns, and asked the community to prioritize their top environmental concerns during WIRE's CARE Level 1 cooperative agreement. The second highest concern was that the Arkansas River, a focal point of the city, is contaminated with sediment and other pollutants, mainly due to stormwater runoff. WIRE now has a CARE Level 2 cooperative agreement, partly to address this water contamination.
One project in the agreement that is nearing completion is a "Grotto" rain garden in a park setting adjacent to the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers, which is designed to reduce the flow of stormwater runoff into the Arkansas River. The rain garden is about 100 feet long and 50 feet wide, consisting of limestone rock which forms sedimentation pools. When completed, it will also include native plants purchased from a local nursery in Spring 2011 and soil and compost to compliment the stone work.
This collaborative project includes partnerships among WIRE's volunteer organization, the ELC, the City of Wichita Park Department (landscaping architecture support), the Kansas State University Extension Agency (horticulture and naturalist resources), and the Master Gardeners (planting assistance). An ELC member stationed at McConnell Air Force Base secured the assistance of Base volunteers to provide long-term maintenance for the rain garden.
The Waste Audit project's goal will be to engage numerous local businesses in initial or start-up recycling processes. A process was set up to initiate audits at Green Biz facilities in Wichita. A local architectural company will be participating in an audit in the near future. WIRE staff presented an overview of the audit process to the Green Biz Wichita membership at a July 2011 luncheon meeting. WIRE's ELC staff also met with a local City Commissioner and will meet again with him and the Mayor of Wichita to discuss recycling and solid waste issues. The Commissioner continues to express an interest in solid waste and recycling issues.
WIRE Project Manager Honored by Kansas Public Health Association
Dr. Elizabeth Ablah of the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita (left in photo) received the Special Service Award at the Kansas Public Health Association's 2011 conference in Wichita. The award recognizes individuals who have rendered outstanding service to Kansas in the interest of public health and/or environmental improvement. Dr. Ablah, assistant professor and Master of Science in Clinical Research director, joined the KU School of Medicine–Wichita's Preventive Medicine and Public Health Department in 2003. She has worked her way up from a research associate to assistant professor, leads numerous research projects, and supervises student capstone projects. In recent years, she has spearheaded significant research efforts into Wichita’s environmental landscape. Dr. Ablah is pictured with fellow awardee Dr. Suzanne Hawley, also of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.
Migrant Whole Health Outreach (MWHO) is a successful CARE Level 1 recipient from 2007. It has now received a CARE Level 2 cooperative agreement grant for its Forward Community of Hope project and will continue its work with the nearby trailer park residents, the John Deere Community (JDC). MWHO is an interfaith-based organization founded by migrant workers to address the needs of the seasonal and settled migrant families in the Bootheel of Missouri and surrounding border areas of Arkansas. MWHO will focus on the JDC in the Dunklin County, Missouri. The CARE Level 1 consensus meetings outlined three critical priorities for this project: 1) implement reservoir-hydrant infrastructure for waste and stormwater, 2) reduce hazards involving pesticides, solid waste and stray animals, and 3) address drinking water and indoor/outdoor air quality issues.
The JDC has now hosted two successful cleanup efforts in which more than 48 residents participated. MWHO has worked one-on-one with 14 residents who are committed to giving up their burn barrels in place of composting, recycling, and paying for their own trash pickup. Twenty-one burn barrels have been removed from the trailer park. More residents are now using lidded trash receptacles. Air pollution and problems related to loose trash have been reduced, and abandoned and wild animal nuisance issues that were once common have subsided.
South Central Dunklin County Sewer Board
JDC residents identified their top priority: Finding a solution for their lack of waste treatment. With the help of the Midwest Assistance Program (MAP), the JDC trailer park became its own legally-recognized sewer board and received training from MAP on how to run an efficient board. Although an initial request by the South Central Dunklin County Sewer Board to connect with a nearby city's sewer system was denied, MWHO and the board are continuing to work with EPA, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the Missouri Attorney General's office to research other viable sewage treatment options.
The Environmental Sustainability for the Salina Community project is a recipient of a Level 1 CARE cooperative agreement. The Pollution Prevention Institute (PPI) at Kansas State University will be administering this project, with assistance from the Kansas PRIDE program.
VIDEO: Salina’s CARE Level 1 and 2 Projects
Barb Johnson of Kansas State University’s Pollution Prevention Institute summarizes the City of Salina’s CARE Level 1 project from 2007 to 2009 in this video. Johnson also explains what Salina’s next steps will be as the city takes on the CARE Level 2 project in 2011-2013. A video of her presentation at a League of Women Voters meeting is available at www.salinatv.org/other-programming.php . To access the video: Choose “2011”, click on “Dec” box, then on “Environmental Sustainability for the Salina Community”, then on “Launch Player for Selected Program”.
Prioritizing Salinians' Environmental Concerns
The CARE Level 1 project was built on the existing desires of community members to conserve, protect, restore, and preserve the health of the Salina community and its ecosystem. The project gave community stakeholders the opportunity to participate in an organized partnership to identify environmental health risks related to pollutants from multiple sources in the community. The more significant community concerns include water contamination associated with degradation products, contaminated groundwater plumes, and air pollution from toxic and chemical releases such as lead compounds and ammonia.
PPI partnered with teachers and students in various schools to advertise a youth educational environmental contest. Salina's Lakewood Middle School won the contest by submitting and working on projects where youth participated in understanding the health effects of radon, received hundreds of radon evaluation kits and were encouraged to test their homes, and submitted the results to the Health Department. The youth also participated in stenciling storm drains in the Salina area with messages such as "Only rain down the drain" to help prevent water pollution from hazardous stormwater runoff. The Salina Journal published a March 2011 article about the youth project.