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EPA Announces $4 Million in Research Funding to Build Resilience and Protect Vulnerable Groups from Environmental Impacts of Natural Disasters

09/03/2020
Contact Information: 
Dawn Harris-Young (region4press@epa.gov)
(404) 562-8421 (Direct), (404) 562-8400 (Main)

ATLANTA (Sept. 3, 2020) – Today, as part of its 50th anniversary celebration and recognition of Environmental Emergency Preparedness month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $3,997,876 in funding to five institutions to conduct research to build resilience in communities and among groups, including children and older adults, that are more vulnerable to the potential environmental impacts of natural disasters. Researchers will investigate topics such as understanding the effect of major coastal flooding events and identifying the most promising infrastructure solutions to reduce hurricane and flood-related industrial contaminant releases and exposures.

“As a nation, it is our duty to protect those among us who are the most vulnerable, particularly children and older adults,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These grants will help protect our communities and provide the information they need to be prepared and stay safe.”

“We are pleased to support universities in the Southeast and their efforts in science, engineering and research,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “This work is vital to finding innovative, sustainable solutions to protect our environment and our natural resources.”

Facilities and regulatory agencies take numerous precautions to anticipate and prepare for natural disasters or changing environmental conditions that can pose increased risks for contaminant releases and contaminant migration to nearby communities. Following a natural disaster, EPA addresses environmental emergencies through laws such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), known as Superfund, presidential directives, national frameworks, and a series of statutes. The agency’s emergency management support is led in the field by on-scene coordinators (OSCs) who assess, monitor, and evaluate activities during and after a response.

Research conducted by universities furthers preparedness efforts by aiming to understand how communities can become resilient to risks and protect the health and wellbeing of their most vulnerable groups – young children, older adults, and those who are less amenable to evacuation or relocation during disasters.

The universities receiving grants through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program for this work include:

  • Duke University, Durham, N.C., to assist communities in developing comprehensive strategies for building resilience to contaminant releases associated with natural hazards.
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, to improve the scientific understanding of how flooding can elevate the risk of exposure to wastewater-related contaminants among older adults in Puerto Rico.
  • Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, to improve the resilience of underserved communities in Houston to hurricane- and flood-induced releases of metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from industrial facilities.
  • University of California – Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Calif., to understand the exposure risks that coastal flooding poses to vulnerable communities due to unintentional releases of hazardous materials from contaminated sites.
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., to understand the effects of flooding caused by extreme weather events on PFAS distribution and transport and how societal factors can exacerbate the impacts of PFAS exposure.

Currently, EPA is assisting in recovery efforts related to Hurricane Laura, including assessing conditions at National Priorities List Superfund sites along the path of the storm. EPA deployed the Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT) aircraft flights to conduct air monitoring in impacted areas and has used the Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer unit on site to conduct air monitoring in the impacted areas. At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, EPA has deployed Subject Matter Experts for water and wastewater to assist with assessments in southwest Louisiana. We have also ensured that our Environmental Justice and Tribal communities in the path of the storms have been kept updated and informed of all activities. Hurricane Laura information can be found at: https://response.epa.gov/hurricanelaura

For more information on EPA's STAR recipients:
https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipients.display/rfa_id/654/records_per_page/ALL

Learn more about EPA Research Grants.