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EPA Awards 2019 Environmental Justice Small Grants for Projects in Rhode Island

11/05/2019
Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that $1.5 million in competitive grants will be awarded to 50 organizations working to address environmental justice issues in their communities, including $30,000 grants for two projects in Rhode Island. A grant to the Southside Community Land Trust will fund an urban agriculture project in Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls; another grant to the Refugee Dream Center in Providence will address housing safety and lead poisoning among refugees.

Fifty percent of the grants awarded will support communities with census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones – an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. 

"Rural and disadvantaged communities are often disproportionately affected by environmental health risks, and at EPA we are working to reverse this trend," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "These grants support the President's initiatives to invest in and revitalize distressed communities. By supporting often overlooked, local organizations that understand the unique challenges that their communities face, we're better able to put in place long-term solutions to improve the environment and health of underserved areas of the country."

"These grants further EPA's commitment to support communities across New England as they work to address critical environmental and public health issues," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. "Addressing environmental justice concerns is a priority for EPA and the projects funded by these grants will have long lasting benefits for years to come."

Project information:

  • The Southside Community Land Trust project will address lead contamination and toxic materials that are a major threat to the health and wellbeing of urban residents in Rhode Island. SCLT serves hundreds of residents in the greater Providence area who grow food for their families in the urban environment. The safety and quality of this homegrown food is at risk when soils are contaminated with heavy metals, or when gardeners apply synthetic chemicals to their plants. Together with local gardeners, partner organizations and local youth, SCLT plans to support community-based education on the hazards of toxic contaminants in the outdoor environment, and how to work around those hazards to safely grow food. In addition, communities will develop approaches that serve to minimize the spread of toxic contaminants into public waterways. Project activities include local citizen scientists collecting soil and food samples for accurate chemical analysis performed by university laboratories, training residents on methods for creating growing systems that avoid contaminated soils, and learning strategies for minimizing transport of contaminants, including garden mulching and crop. Through this project, over 300 local residents will be empowered to safely grow food and to protect their local environments.
  • The Refugee Dream Center will lead a project to address housing safety and lead poisoning among refugees in Rhode Island. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, refugee children in Rhode Island are more than four times more likely to be lead poisoned than children in the general population. The main objectives of this project are to increase awareness about lead safety and decrease the incidence of lead poisoning among refugees. The primary activity for this project will be the "Journey to Health" workshop series, which is a series of culturally attuned preventative health education workshops for refugees. The main proposed project outcome is for approximately 30 participants and their families to have increased knowledge, skills, and access to resources on housing safety and lead poisoning. Additionally, funds will be used to support a community health worker and healthy homes case manager to provide direct guidance to refugee families.

Background

EPA's Environmental Justice Small Grants program provides critical support to organizations that otherwise lack the funding and resources to address environmental challenges in underserved and overburdened communities. The funding will help organizations in 27 states and Puerto Rico carry out projects that will:

  • Educate residents about environmental issues that may impact their health.
  • Collect data about local environmental conditions.
  • Conduct demonstrations and trainings to shed light on those conditions.
  • Work collaboratively to address environmental justice challenges in their communities.

The grants will enable these organizations to conduct research, provide education and training, and develop community-driven solutions to local health and environmental issues in minority, low-income, tribal, and rural communities. Sixteen of this year's environmental justice grant projects are in communities that are especially vulnerable to disasters.

Specific grant projects include: reducing exposure to lead and other water pollutants; developing green infrastructure and sustainable agriculture projects; implementing basic energy efficiency measures in low-income households; and increasing overall community resiliency. For the second year in a row, EPA's Urban Waters program provided $300,000 in funding toward some of the grant awards. Ten grants were awarded to communities focused on improving water quality. This year EPA received 208 applications, which is the highest number since 2013. The grant awards provide approximately $30,000 per project for a one-year project period.

More information:

For descriptions of each of the 2019 Environmental Justice Small Grant awardees' projects, visit https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/environmental-justice-small-grants-program-project-descriptions-2019.

For more information on the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, including descriptions of previously funded grants: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/environmental-justice-small-grants-program