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EPA Healthy Community Grants Will Help Protect Health in Mass.

Many Grants Address Children's Health Concerns including Asthma and Exposure to Lead

10/31/2018
Contact Information: 
John Senn (senn.john@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1019

BOSTON – Six organizations in Massachusetts were awarded a total of $150,000 by the US Environmental Protection Agency to fund community projects addressing environmental and public health issues. The projects will reduce environmental risks, protect and improve human health, and improve the quality of life for communities and residents of the state.

These organizations were among the 17 across New England recently awarded a total of $387,861 through the 2018 Healthy Communities Grant Program.

Grants for $25,000 each were given to:

  • The Mystic River Watersheds Association for its "Fishing Safely in the Mystic" project.
  • The Mass. Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health for its "Using Peer Leadership Model to Ensure Clean, Green, and Healthy Schools" project.
  • Island Grown Initiative for its "Reducing Food Waste on Martha's Vineyard" project.
  • The Center for EcoTechnology, Inc. for its "Berkshire Healthy Homes" project.
  • The Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association for its "Increasing and Improving Recycling and Waste Reduction" project in Wakefield.
  • The Revitalize Community Development Corporation for its "Revitalize Healthy Homes" project in Springfield.

"EPA is very pleased to be working with local community groups to address specific environmental concerns that are important to people in New England," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn. "Many of these projects being funded will help address concerns affecting children's health, such as reducing asthma triggers and taking steps to ensure children are not exposed to lead."

The details of the projects in Massachusetts are:

Mystic River Watersheds Association's "Fishing Safely in the Mystic" project builds on a 2015 health risk assessment of fish consumption in the Lower Mystic River. The study filled a major gap in knowledge about the safety of fish consumption in that area and found evidence of a range of contaminants in fish tissue, concluding that much stricter recommendations should be issued for the consumption of a variety of endemic species than those in effect. This project will develop a multilingual, multicultural outreach and education campaign to ensure users are fishing safely, while also building support in the communities of Chelsea, East Boston, and Somerville to begin to address some of the greatest threats to public health in the saltwater section of the Mystic River and Chelsea Creek. This project would build on this background scientific and demographic work to make the science most effective in protecting the health of residents by launching a coordinated public information campaign. Project partners include: GreenRoots.

The Mass. Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health's peer leadership project will address asthma and adverse environmental health triggers at schools in Boston and Brockton. Student and school staff in these cities face multiple environmental health hazards in schools, including mold and moisture, poor ventilation and filtration, and aged school buildings, many over 100 years old. A high percentage of the student body has pediatric asthma. The project supports building clean, green and healthy schools by teaching students and school stakeholders how public health can be a factor in design, construction, operation and maintenance of public schools. The project will train and engage youth and adult champions to strengthen local collaborations and promote environmentally healthy schools and reduce asthma triggers and exposure to toxic substances in schools. Project partners include: Boston Healthy Schools Taskforce, Health Resources in Action, Boston Public Schools Health and Wellness and Facilities Departments, Boston Public Health Commission, Youth on Board, and Brockton High School Science Club.

The Island Grown Initiative's food waste project on Martha's Vineyard will help put in place EPA's food recovery hierarchy to reduce waste at the source, feed people, feed animals, and compost, thereby diverting waste from landfills. This project will address source reduction through resource guides, training workshops, and school curriculums aimed at both the island's English and Portuguese-speaking populations. The project will also work to redirect edible wasted food to people and animals, to compost inedible food, and to engage residents on composting solutions. The combined outreach and educational approaches will reach thousands of residents and significantly cut down on waste sent to the landfill. Project partners include: Martha's Vineyard Vision Fellowship, Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District, Vineyard Conservation Society, and Cronig's Market.

The Center for EcoTechnology's "Berkshire Healthy Homes Initiative Phase 2" project will apply lessons learned in Phase I to educate and to help put in place home improvements that reduce energy consumption and indoor air pollutants such as moisture, mold, particulates and combustion by-products, all of which are potential triggers for asthma, COPD and other respiratory illnesses. The project will provide education and outreach to increase awareness among health care providers and patients about the links between health and the home environment, providing information and referrals to no-cost energy efficiency assessments, conducting healthy homes assessments, and identifying funding for recommended energy and healthy home improvements that reduce respiratory illness triggers in the home. As a result of this project, the Center for EcoTechnology and its partners will help improve the indoor air quality of low income and sensitive residents across the county, reducing disproportionate health burdens faced by these populations. This project will continue to build on success of the initial demonstration project and increase the number of residents able to benefit by participating in the program. Project partners include: Berkshire Health Systems, Berkshire Community Action Council, E4TheFuture, and National Grid.

Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association's "Increasing and Improving Recycling and Waste Reduction" project will do education and outreach to divert solid waste from landfills by increasing recycling rates and waste reduction in the Wakefield Public Schools. The association will work with the school system to educate students and staff on recycling and waste reduction opportunities and to improve recycling by establishing more collection points while expanding the types of materials collected. The project will also include an assessment of current green cleaning practices in the school district. Resulting recommendations will help prevent asthma and asthma triggers in the district's Early Childhood Education Center and throughout the school buildings. Project partners include: Wakefield School Department, Town of Wakefield, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Green Schools Program.

Revitalize Community Development Corporation's "Revitalize Healthy Homes" project will work to improve 10 to 15 homes in Springfield, where children have been identified as needing asthma management and improved indoor environmental conditions. The work will include complete indoor environmental assessments, environmental triggers modifications to the home, educating adults and families with children about sources of exposure that are specific to their homes through health assessments done by a Healthy Homes assessor and education on asthma triggers management by a community health worker. Information and materials will be available in English and Spanish. The healthy home assessments focus on indoor toxins including, but not limited to mold, combustion by-products, lead, asbestos and pesticides. Project partners include: Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts (PHIWM), Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition, Baystate Health Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, and Springfield Partners for Community Action.

Background

EPA New England's Healthy Communities Grant Program combines resources from several EPA programs to strategically address the environmental and public health issues burdening New England communities. Contributing programs include Air Quality Outreach, Assistance & Pollution Prevention, Asthma and Indoor Air, Children's Environmental Health, Clean, Green and Healthy Schools Initiative, Toxics and Pesticides, Urban Environmental Program, and Water Infrastructure (Stormwater, Wastewater, and Drinking Water). The program has competitively selected projects that will: assess, understand, and reduce environmental and human health risks; increase collaboration through community-based projects; build institutional and community capacity to understand and solve environmental and human health problems; advance emergency preparedness and resilience; and achieve measurable environmental and human health benefits in communities across New England.

The projects that have been awarded funding must meet several criteria including: (1) location in /or directly benefit one or more of the EPA's identified Target Investment Areas; and (2) identify how the proposed project will achieve measurable environmental and/or public health results in one or more of the EPA's identified Target Program Areas. In 2018, the Target Investment Areas included: Areas Needing to Create Community Resilience; Environmental Justice Areas of Potential Concern; and Sensitive Populations. Target Program Areas included: Clean, Green and Healthy Schools; Community and Water Infrastructure Resilience; Healthy Indoor Environments; and Healthy Outdoor Environments.

For more information about the Healthy Communities Grant Program and/or additional details about the projects, please visit https://www3.epa.gov/region1/eco/uep/hcgp.html.