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EPA Funds Local Group to Fight Pollution in Northern Manhattan

Release Date: 09/26/2007
Contact Information: Rich Cahill (212) 637-3666,

(New York, N.Y.) WE ACT for Environmental Justice got a boost today as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials visited Northern Manhattan to present the group with a $100,000 Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) grant. EPA’s CARE program supports communities in creating and using collaborative partnerships to identify sources of pollution and reduce human exposure. Northern Manhattan is the first CARE community in New York City.

EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg, who hosted the presentation, praised the organization. “WE ACT is a strong local force in Northern Manhattan with a long history of success in intervening for the Harlem community and reducing environmental health risks,” said Steinberg.

WE ACT is a non-profit, community-based, environmental justice organization dedicated to building community power to improve environmental health, protection and policy in communities of color. The organization is a nationally recognized leader in advancing environmental justice, and received EPA’s Children’s Environmental Health Excellence National Award in 2005.

The community suffers from high rates of asthma and the organization has already identified air pollution as one of the community’s priority environmental concerns. Using EPA funds, WE ACT will join government, businesses, health agencies and academia to educate the public, continue discussions between residents and local industries, and develop diesel emission reduction projects. EPA will provide technical assistance and support throughout the process, but it is wholly up to the community partners to decide which environmental issues are most critical and develop partnerships to address them.

EPA selected WE ACT for a Level l CARE grant to help it create partnerships and develop plans for identifying pollution sources and reducing exposure to pollution in its local area, and set its own agenda for action. With its Level I funding, WE ACT will identify and prioritize pollutants and create a collaborative partnership to make community decisions on high priority pollution problems that compromise public health.

“A healthy community begins with a healthy environment. This CARE project addresses environmental issues that negatively impact public health,” WE ACT Executive Director Peggy Shepard said. “We take great pride in having been recognized by EPA for this important work and the first CARE community in the city,” she continued.

In addition to air pollution, WE ACT has identified several environmental health concerns in Northern Manhattan, an area of only 7.4 square miles, which has a population of over 600,000 people –many of whom are children and the elderly. Among these are:

    • Pest infestation and improper use of pesticides, which creates exposure to allergens and can exacerbate asthma.
    • Two sewage treatment plants that impact air and water quality.
    • Poor indoor air from housing disrepair, mold contamination, lead in household dust from peeling lead paint and poor ventilation plagues many residential buildings, which are in close proximity to polluting sources.

    WE ACT was chosen for this grant out of a field of 127 applicants nationwide in the second year of the CARE program.

    For more information, visit EPA’s Web site at