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Release Date: 07/11/1996
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, Press Office; (617)918-1064

BOSTON -- EPA Deputy Administrator Fred Hansen and EPA Regional Administrator John P. DeVillars joined Hartford Mayor Michael Peters and community activists today in North Hartford to announce the availability of $186,000 in grants and services to help address environmental degradation in the capitol's inner-city neighborhoods.

"EPA's support for the efforts of community organizations here in Hartford reflects that this administration is not only environmentally-friendly but also urban-friendly," said Hansen. "By revitalizing communities like North Hartford, we bring jobs and economic growth to America's cities while preserving the environment."

During a stopover at an abandoned vacant lot on Main Street, Hansen and DeVillars presented an oversized check to Peters and O.N.E./C.H.A.N.E. Director Larry Charles, whose organization has been selected by the EPA as a partner in the agency's Urban Environmental Initiative.

"Less than a year ago, the Clinton-Gore administration pledged to bring federal resources to Hartford so the community could begin fighting back the tide of environmental neglect," DeVillars said. "Now it's time to put the plan into action with the fine assistance of groups such as O.N.E./C.H.A.N.E., the City of Hartford and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection."

"This project is yet another indication of the positive things that are happening in Hartford. Our increasingly strong partnership with the federal government is the result of a concerted effort to coordinate efforts and share strengths -- with other city governments, state governments, federal government and community based organizations," Peters said. "This significant granting of money and services from the EPA is further indication of that partnership."

"Everyone deserves a chance to raise their children in a clean and healthy environment. That challenge is even greater in urban areas, where problems like lead poisoning, air pollution, and toxic waste degrade the quality of life," said Senator Joe Lieberman, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "Today's announcement brings us closer to that goal. This kind of interaction between government and the local community is exactly what the public wants when it comes to protecting their environment from pollution."

"This grant is further proof that when government and the private sector work together, everybody wins," said Congresswoman Barbara B. Kennelly. "It also shows that environmental protection and community development go hand-in-hand. By supporting O.N.E./C.H.A.N.E.'s efforts to clean up polluted properties and reduce health risks like lead poisoning, EPA will help transform North Hartford's environment from a liability to an asset."

"We are pleased that EPA has chosen to invest in this community. This effort compliments the work DEP has done elsewhere in Hartford through its urban site remediation project," said David Leff, assistant commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

The tour follows up on an announcement DeVillars made last October when he unveiled the EPA's urban initiative in Hartford. Since then, the agency has earmarked substantial federal funding for Hartford and hired a full time employee to work solely on the city's environmental issues. The EPA's New England office also has full time efforts underway in Boston and Providence.

Funds and resources will go toward implementing the following programs:

    • A local community environmental organizer will be hired to serve as a day-to-day primary contact for the network of local citizens. A large portion of the organizer's time will be used to redevelop a former car wash site where the event was held. For its part, EPA's New England office has committed to provide sampling and technical assistance at the site. The EPA Brownfields staff will also work with the community and potential redevelopers to assist them in taking advantage of administration initiatives, such as the $2 billion Brownfields tax incentive.
    • The EPA will fund a comprehensive environmental mapping system of Hartford to identify cumulative environmental risk impacts from a variety of sources. Through the use of the Geographic Information Systems, officials plan to establish a database to reduce health risks to local residents by identifying and addressing the most significant sources of adverse environmental impact.
    • The EPA will work with city and state health officials to provide resources from its regional office to assist in mitigating the pervasive childhood lead poisoning problem in North Hartford neighborhoods. Products of this effort will include: A "Lead in Soils" information package to help reduce exposure to children at play; English as a Second Language curriculum on how to prevent lead poisoning; and, direct training to day-care providers on the hazards of lead in and around the home.
    • Funding will be provided to train the prospective community environmental organizer and O.N.E. C.H.A.N.E. block captains to conduct indoor air audits that will help to reduce asthma and other respiratory stressors in local homes. The EPA will also provide technical directions to neighborhood audits and education on sources and remediation of indoor air pollutants.
In addition to the funding, the EPA has launched an aggressive enforcement strategy to identify Hartford's most serious polluters and to provide technical assistance to local small businesses on pollution prevention techniques. A number of inspections are currently underway and planned for the remainder of this year. Finally, EPA, O.N.E./C.H.A.N.E. and others will host a major conference titled "Redefining Our Urban Environment" Sept. 27 - 28 in Hartford. The gathering will draw hundreds of urban environmental organizers, officials and local residents from throughout New England to brainstorm solutions to environmental problems in the region's inner-city neighborhoods.