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Region 1: EPA New England

Environmental Justice News - October 2010, Issue 12


Brownfield becomes a Community Park in Lawrence, Mass.

The transformation of the Covanta property in Lawrence into a public park is a model for urban planning.

For almost 100 years, the former Covanta property served as a supplemental electrical power plant for the industrial mills in Lawrence, Mass. In later years, a trash incinerator operated on the former site. Located in the most densely populated section of the city, the former Covanta property was an eyesore for local residents and took up valuable space in the Arlington neighborhood of Lawrence. In 2002, as a part of a larger city-wide effort, the city of Lawrence was awarded a $75,000 Urban River Visions grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The city also received several grants from several state agencies and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to redevelop the property.

Through a series of community meetings called charrettes, the city identified the property as an area for a potential park within a network of parks and trails called the Spicket River Greenway. In 2008, the city bought the property for $1 and used an EPA Brownfields grant to clean soils contaminated with arsenic, dioxin, and benzo(a)pyrene. A portion of the property was capped and covered with clean soil to prevent further contamination.

The city redeveloped the property as the Manchester Street Park, using green building and landscaping techniques including permeable pavement, playground equipment, a community garden, bioswales and green space. Working with Groundwork Lawrence, a local nonprofit environmental organization, Lawrence turned the Manchester Street Park into the endpoint of a walking trail across the city. This project is a boon to the densely populated Arlington neighborhood, providing residents with more than five acres of open space and access to Stevens Pond.

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EPA Environmental Justice Funding Helps Fund Somerville, Mass. Resident's Green Line Design Charrette

EPA Environmental Justice Funding Helps Fund Somerville, Mass. Resident's Green Line Design Charrette

More than 125 residents of Somerville have contributed ideas to design plans for new Green Line subway stations planned in that city. This participation by residents in three separate workshops will help ensure the Green Line expansion serves the whole community.

Funded with an EPA Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) grant, the goal of the project is to address land-use and transportation issues impacting Somerville. The project emphasizes open space, affordable housing and economic development and involves members of a diverse community who generally do not routinely participate in planning.

EPA's Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) funding helped pay for community designed charrettes and to get as many people as possible involved presenting ideas to Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Mass DOT). Mass DOT will hold its own design and planning meetings with residents. These charrettes prepared the community to help design approximately seven Green Line stations in Somerville, which now has no Green Line stops.

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Hartford, Conn. Residents Are Recycling More

Residents of Hartford are burdened by eight regional waste facilities in the city - two landfills, two recycling facilities, a construction and demolition debris transfer facility, a sewage treatment plant, and the largest trash and sewage sludge incinerators in the state.

The incinerators emit the six criteria pollutants and air toxic emissions. Much of the toxic incinerator emissions occur through burning metals and hazardous materials that the city would otherwise accept for recycling or disposal on hazardous waste collection days. The recycling rate in Hartford is an abysmally low rate of 5 percent. Hartford residents suffer a 20 percent asthma rate, more than twice the national average.

Recycling reduces the waste to incinerators, which would improve air quality in surrounding neighborhoods. The "Get Hartford Recycling" project recruited and trained eight city residents to a newly created Recycling Speakers Bureau. The speakers bureau educated residents on how to recycle and properly dispose of hazardous waste as a way to reduce the toxic incinerator emissions.

The speakers bureau also promoted the city's recycling programs, explaining what is collected and when, and described the environmental health benefits of removing recyclables from the waste sent to local incinerators. Speakers also distributed literature in English and Spanish at events including health fairs, community meetings, and church gatherings to educate the greatest possible number of people on the importance of recycling.

In partnership with the Department of Public Works, the Hartford Recycling Task Force and other stakeholders coordinated community outreach and education and promoted the city's single stream recycling pilot. This collaborative effort resulted in a doubling of recycling rates in a pilot area of 4,500 homes in one year. Its success convinced city officials to pursue city-wide single stream recycling in the future. City officials also have expressed an interest in continuing the Recycling Speakers Bureau model of training residents to promote recycling awareness city-wide.

The "Get Hartford Recycling" project far surpassed its original community education and outreach goals. This project also is credited with being instrumental to the success of the city's single stream recycling pilot.

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Office Update

EPA Showcase Community Pilot Helps Protect the Environment

EPA has committed $1 million for environmental justice challenges in 10 communities across the nation through its Environmental Justice Showcase Communities program, the first such project in EPA history.

EPA is providing $100,000 for each project over the next two years to help alleviate the environmental and human health challenges facing these communities.

"These 10 communities will serve as models for the EPA's committed environmental justice efforts, and help highlight the disproportionate environmental burdens placed on low-income and minority communities all across the nation," said former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. The Showcase Communities effort brings together the resources and expertise of governmental and non-governmental organizations.

In November 2009, EPA New England announced that Bridgeport, Conn. had been selected for the region's EJ Showcase Community. New England is building on work that has already taken place to help the community improve its own environment by identifying a network of partnerships, and connecting with Bridgeport's B-Green 2020 initiative. Using past work as a foundation, EPA New England is working with other groups to improve indoor air quality, encourage green jobs in the community, increase recycling rates, and reduce asthma and toxic exposure in schools and homes.

At a public meeting in April, Lisa Garcia, Jackson's senior advisor on environmental justice, and Sharon Wells, acting director of Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for EPA New England, presented four $25,000 grants to the city of Bridgeport, the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, Groundwork Bridgeport, and Rhode Island Legal Services. These grants will support asthma reduction efforts, water resource protection in the Long Island Sound, and a school recycling pilot. The grant awarded to Rhode Island Legal Services will be used to develop a New England Environmental Justice Forum and to organize trainings for environmental justice groups and their advocates.

In addition to these grants, several other projects are underway. For example, a one-day workshop held on June 28 in Bridgeport drew more than 50 people to presentations on recycling and composting as well as construction and demolition recycling. Participants, including representatives from St. Vincent DePaul in Oregon and ReUse People in California, as well as local groups, discussed how to develop micro businesses that would create and support a local green economy. Participants also learned how to support Bridgeport's B-Green 2020 sustainability efforts.

Other training held this year included a Greenscaper Training at the Beardsley Zoo and a Water Boot Camp that taught local youth about the water treatment process and about careers in the water industry.

(See below for more information on these trainings.)

In addition to these projects, EPA New England has supported the Bridgeport pilot through other activities, such as a removal action at the Chrome Engineering Site. EPA has become a partner in the Pequonnock River Coalition which works in the community to improve water quality. Stormwater management, which has been identified by Bridgeport as a major issue, is partially being addressed through a city rain barrel project and other green infrastructure projects.

Finally, EPA New England has targeted some areas in Bridgeport for inspections. To report a possible environmental violation, residents can contact EPA Region 1 at 1-888-372-7341 or fill out a form online.

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Water Boot Camp

Water Boot Camp

Want to learn how to take care of our water?  Here's an idea – Water Boot Camp.

To attract young people into water industry careers, EPA New England worked with the Connecticut Section of the American Water Works Association, the Water and People Program, and schools in Bridgeport to establish a Water Boot Camp. These groups are leading the way in connecting with youth to teach them about water resources and prepare them for green jobs in water operations.

The success of this two-week summer program will be measured against the level of interest in environmental and public health protection and the increased community capacity for green jobs in the water sector. The Water Boot Camp was held during the weeks of July 12 and 19, 2010 and trained 18 students from Bridgeport's public schools.

According to national studies, more than 50 percent of the certified drinking water and wastewater treatment operators will be eligible to retire over the next 5 to 10 years. Unfortunately, our employees in these jobs are aging, like the pumps, pipes, and treatment systems that bring safe drinking water to our taps.

Quotes from students published in CTPost.com article "Camp teaches about water careers:"

"I never realized all of the jobs that are offered by the water industry," said Surline Jolicoeur, 16, a student at Harding High School. "I never knew it took so much effort to get water from the reservoirs to our homes.".

"Before, I never knew where my water came from, but now I know that it's clean and fresh," said Yaaser Abdul, 16, who will be a junior at Central Magnet this fall. "I told my Mom yesterday to stop drinking bottled water."

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EPA Trains Greenscapers in Bridgeport, Conn.

EPA Trains Greenscapers in Bridgeport, Conn.

People who want to become environmentally aware landscapers were invited to attend a "Greenscaper" Training on May 11 and May 18, 2010 for small and minority landscaping and contracting/construction businesses at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. The training was provided by EPA New England's Assistance and Pollution Prevention Office, the Bridgeport Small & Minority Business Resource Office and Bridgeport Parks Department, University of Connecticut-NEMO (Non-Point Education for Municipal Officials)/Center for Land Use Education and Research, U.S. Department of Agriculture National Water Program, and Rutgers University.

The training focused on vegetated rain gardens as a way to control stormwater runoff. As part of the program, the 28 trainees (including zoo employees) installed a rain garden at the Beardsley Zoo that will be used both for education and stormwater management.

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$15,000 EPA Grant Helps Lowell, Mass. Youth & Environment Program

EPA's New England has awarded a $15,000 grant to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) to oversee a program at the Lowell, Mass. Regional Wastewater Utility for the summers of 2010 and 2011. The funding was made available through EPA's National Office of Environmental Justice.

Since its inception in 1990, EPA's Youth and the Environment Program has been focused on introducing economically disadvantaged inner city and rural youth to career opportunities in the environmental field. This program promotes environmental education and provides high school students with increased awareness of protecting the environment and water quality within their own communities.

EPA has been extremely fortunate to work with organizations like NEIWPCC, the City of Lowell, and the Career Center of Lowell to have summer environment related job programs targeting economically disadvantaged youth.

At the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility this summer, five local high school and college students are working at several "stations" (e.g. laboratory, pretreatment, maintenance, process control, etc.) on a rotational basis so that they are exposed to some of the many facets involved with the proper operation of a wastewater treatment plant on an everyday basis. The students also participate in field trips related to science and water quality, along with college career counseling.

The first Youth and the Environment Program was initiated in 1990 and had been on-going for 18 continuous summers through 2007. This summer EPA has been able to jump start the Lowell program through NEIWPCC after a two year hiatus. Further, the efforts of City Manager Bernie Lynch and the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility staff have been exceptional as they continue to devote a significant amount of time and effort to work with these students and support this most valuable program.

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Lowell High School Students Get Real Life Science Experience from EPA Lab Personnel

Lowell High School Students Get Real Life Science Experience from EPA Lab Personnel

A program to offer science education to Lowell High School students through the EPA New England Lab has proved to be a great success, and will likely be expanded in the future.

The EPA New England Regional Laboratory in Chelmsford has supported scientific education for many years by inviting students to the laboratory, sending scientists out to classrooms as speakers, and supporting student internships. In 2009, the lab began exploring the possibility of supporting a sustained collaboration with Lowell High School that would give inner city disadvantaged students a scientific educational opportunity. The project idea was in part modeled after a similar program in the EPA Region 2 laboratory in Edison, New Jersey.

Discussions with Lowell High School educators in the spring of 2009 led to the development of chemistry and biology "short courses" delivered by the lab to the students in advanced chemistry and biology under a joint enrollment program with University of Massachusetts-Lowell in January 2010.

Each of the short courses consisted of three two-hour lectures delivered by EPA staff, an extended field trip to the lab for hands on field work and "lunch with a scientist." The chemistry short course focused on the sources, fate and public health impact of lead in the environment, while the biology class consisted of a series of lectures on the purposes of and techniques used in environmental biological monitoring.

The success of the short courses led to a similar abbreviated program conducted for the Lowell High School science and environmental clubs in May 2010.

As a result of this effort, several students applied for summer internships at the Chelmsford lab and with the EPA sponsored Lowell Youth in the Environment program at the Lowell Wastewater Treatment Plant. Student feedback was particularly positive about the hands on work with instrumentation and equipment at the lab and about the chance to interact with "real" scientists and engineers during the field trips. High school teachers are interested in a longer term relationship with the lab that would help encourage student interest in scientific careers and the pursuit of college degrees in science and engineering.

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Healthy Homes Recent Events

A new federal group has been formed to strengthen coordination and communication between federal agencies focused on making homes in this country safer. The Interagency Healthy Homes Workgroup is working on a comprehensive healthy homes concept to ensure access to green and healthy homes for millions of families.

More than 6 million homes in this country have moderate to severe structural and chemical or biological problems that affect the health of residents. Several programs at EPA, including lead, pesticides and indoor air programs, aim to make housing healthier. Programs at agencies such as the HUD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Department of Energy have major roles in reducing housing and health disparities.

In addition to the interagency workgroup, other federal initiatives are focused on Green and Healthy Homes. Several bills promote improvements in housing including the Safe and Healthy Housing Act of 2009 (HR 3891) and the Senate's Healthy Homes Act of 2010, Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010, Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, and the Energy Efficiency in Housing Act of 2009. Federal Healthy Housing Bills can be found here.

Many public health and housing associations are promoting a comprehensive green and healthy housing approach so that energy efficiency work does not compromise the health of residents. More than 90 organizations met in May in Washington, D.C. for the first Annual National Safe and Healthy Housing Coalition meeting to establish priorities on healthy housing. The key priorities were to highlight the need and recognition for healthy homes and to develop healthy housing standards that will be enforced. In June, the American Lung Association also hosted a focus group to develop a national housing public policy agenda to promote asthma control and healthy homes.

Finally, a new partnership has developed among philanthropic groups and federal, state and local partners with a focus on green and healthy homes. This new Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, hosted by the Council of Foundations with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in the lead, met in Baltimore, MD in June. Representatives from more than 14 pilot communities met to discuss their vision for developing Green and Healthy Homes Programs in their communities. The CDC facilitated the meeting and HUD funded it.

The pilot communities in New England are New Haven, Conn. and Providence, RI. Both communities have active broad-based Healthy Homes Coalitions working to coordinate health, lead abatement and energy efficiency activities. The Regional Asthma Team is providing technical assistance to these new initiatives.

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HQ Activities

EPA is Working to Deepen the Role of EJ in its Programs

EPA has released a draft plan on how to better integrate environmental justice into its programs and how to remain engaged with communities and other groups with an interest in EJ. Plan EJ 2014 is EPA's long-term strategy to advance former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson's priority to "expand the conversation on environmentalism and work for environmental justice."

Plan EJ 2014 was named in recognition of the 20th anniversary of when President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898 - Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. Plan EJ 2014 is a roadmap to help EPA integrate environmental justice into all of our programs.

The goals of the new plan are to:

  • Protect health in communities over-burdened by pollution
  • Empower communities to take action to improve their health and environment
  • Establish partnerships with local, state, tribal and federal organizations to achieve healthy and sustainable communities.
  • Over the next four years, implement the plan and work to strengthen our efforts to carry out the former EPA administrator's priority through "continuous and meaningful engagement with communities and all stakeholders."
EPA released the plan as a draft and is seeking comments and ideas, due by October 22, 2010.

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EJView Mapping Tool Now Available

EPA's mapping tool, EJView, is now publicly available. EJView is designed to allow users to choose and map demographic, environmental, and health data.

EJView is an upgrade to the Environmental Justice Geographic Assessment Tool (EJGAT). It includes the same functionality as EJGAT, but is now faster and easier to use.

More information about EJView

Start using the tool.

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National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Public Meeting

A meeting of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council was held July 27 to 29 in Washington DC. Topics for discussion during the meeting included these primary areas: (1) federal interagency coordination; (2) integrating environmental justice into EPA's regulatory development process; (3) proposed air emissions rules for power plants; (4) EPA's response to the council's Goods Movement Report; (5) an update on EPA activities related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill; and (6) a focus on water, including EPA's Urban Waters Strategic Framework and voluntary testing for lead in school drinking water.

A detailed meeting summary will be available.

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Two Mass. Filmmakers Win Environmental Justice Video Contest

Videos submitted from Dorchester and Worcester, Mass., are among the winners of a video contest tackling the subject of environmental justice. The Faces of the Grassroots Environmental Justice contest invited both amateur and professional filmmakers to come up with videos that focus on environmental justice issues that matter to them. Topics included how to make their community a cleaner and healthier place to live, plus how to ensure a more sustainable future. The amateur filmmakers were asked to create a 30 to 60-second public service review and the professionals completed 3 to 5-minute informational videos. There was also a special youth category for 13- to 18-year-olds.

EPA New England had two winning videos:

  • BOLD Teens the New Faces of Grassroots, Dorchester, Mass.
  • A Worcester EJ Story, Worcester, Mass.

B.O.L.D. stands for Breath of Life Dorchester. We are a youth-led organization focused on social and environmental justice by addressing the health, and safety concerns of our community. We are youth working to improve the quality of life in our community through education, advocacy and activism. We serve our community through civic engagement and partnerships to effectively improve the health and safety in our neighborhoods.
Cynthia Loesch
BOLD Teens

View the winning videos and other submissions.

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Environmental Justice and Rulemaking

EPA has released an interim guidance document to help employees across the country incorporate environmental justice into their rulemaking process. This interim guidance document is an important step toward meeting former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson's goal to work for environmental justice and protect the health and safety of communities that have been disproportionally impacted by pollution.

"Historically, the low-income and minority communities that carry the greatest environmental burdens haven't had a voice in our policy development or rulemaking. We want to expand the conversation to the places where EPA's work can make a real difference for health and the economy," said former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "This plan is part of my ongoing commitment to give all communities a seat at the decision-making table. Making environmental justice a consideration in our rulemaking changes both the perception and practice of how we work with overburdened communities, and opens this conversation up to new voices."

The document, Interim Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action, seeks to advance environmental justice for low-income, minority and indigenous communities and tribal governments, all of whom have been historically underrepresented in the regulatory decision-making process. The guidance also outlines the steps that every EPA program office can take to incorporate the needs of overburdened neighborhoods into the agency's decision-making, scientific analysis, and rule development. EPA staff is encouraged to become familiar with environmental justice concepts and the many ways these concepts should play a part in making EPA decisions.

EPA is seeking public feedback on how to best use and improve the guide. View the interim guidance and submit feedback.

EPA has also launched a new web site that lets the public participate in the agency's rulemaking process, demonstrating President Obama's commitment to more transparent and open government. The online Rulemaking Gateway is a portal to EPA's priority rules, giving citizens earlier and more concise information about agency regulations. It also allows the public to search for EPA rules that relate to specific interests, including impacts on small business; children's health; environmental justice; and state, local and tribal government.

Rulemaking Gateway provides information as soon as work begins and updates on a monthly basis as new information becomes available. Time-sensitive information, such as notice of public meetings, is updated daily.

Rulemaking Gateway complements the website, Regulations.gov, the federal government's main portal for tracking rules from all federal agencies, by providing brief overviews of specific EPA rules and additional ways to search rules based on the phases they are in (e.g., pre-proposal, proposal), the topics they relate to (e.g., air, water), and the impacts they might have (e.g., impacts on small businesses or environmental justice). The new web site offers a distilled "snapshot" of a rule, with just enough information for a citizen to determine his or her interest in the rule. The individual then can use Rulemaking Gateway links to Regulations.gov and to other EPA sources where comprehensive information is available.

More information on Rulemaking Gateway

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Upcoming Events

2010 National Training Conference on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Environmental Conditions in Communities
November 1 - 4, 2010
The Washington Marriott at Wardman Park Click icon for EPA disclaimer. 
Washington, DC

This year's conference expands on previous TRI National Training conferences to include sessions on sources of other environmental data and on conditions and trends in ecological and human health that collectively help to support decision-making on environmental issues in communities.

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Public Meeting
November 16-18 2010
Kansas City, Mo.

More information will be available soon.

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EPA New England EJ contacts

Sharon Wells (wells.sharon@epa.gov)
Acting Director, Office of Civil Rights & Urban Affairs

Amy Braz (braz.amy@epa.gov)
Environmental Justice Coordinator

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Web Resources

EPA New England Environmental Justice Program website

National Office of Environmental Justice

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council

National Office of Civil Rights

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State Contacts

Connecticut - Edith Pestana
Environmental Justice Administrator
Environmental Equity Program
CT Department of Environmental Protection

Maine - Malcolm Burson
Office of the Commissioner
Maine Department of Environmental Protection

Massachusetts - David Cash
Assistant Secretary for Policy
MA Executive Office of Environmental Affairs

Phil Weinberg
MA Department of Environmental Protection

New Hampshire - Michael Walls
Assistant Commissioner
NH Department of Environmental Services

Rhode Island DEM - Terry Gray
Assistant Director/Air, Waste & Compliance
RI Department of Environmental Management
401-222-4700 ext. 2422

Vermont – Catherine Gjessing
General Counsel
Department of Environmental Conservation
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

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