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EPA Environmental Justice Grants to Help New York City Communities Prevent Lead Poisoning and Restore Wetlands; Organizations in Northern Manhattan, the South Bronx and Jamaica to Receive Funds

Release Date: 01/23/2012
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, 212-637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y. - Jan. 23, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is providing $75,000 to two New York City organizations to help them address public health and environmental problems in Northern Manhattan, the South Bronx and Jamaica, New York. West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. (WE ACT) will receive $50,000 to test homes for lead and conduct research on the best ways to detect lead hazards in households in Northern Manhattan and the South Bronx. The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance will be provided $25,000 to train students to restore wetland habitats.

“EPA environmental justice grants provide much needed funds to tackle local pollution problems in low income communities," said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "Lead poisoning can have serious and long-term effects on children’s abilities to learn. The environmental justice grant to WE ACT will advance our knowledge about how to best protect thousands of New York City children from lead poisoning. The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance will educate middle school and high school students about water pollution and give them the skills they need to be the next generation of environmental stewards.”

It is estimated three-quarters of U.S. residential dwellings built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. Lead poisoning in children can have serious, long-term consequences including learning disabilities, hearing impairment and behavioral problems.

WE ACT will use the grant funds to conduct a research project that will expand scientific knowledge on the best ways to detect lead poisoning hazards in homes. The research will identify potential sources of lead in dust particles in homes, public drinking water systems and consumer products. The organization will enlist 100 residents to have their homes tested for lead. The field testing will look at the differences between having people test for lead using an instructional DVD or being instructed by a field technician. Simple lead dust wipe tests costs $40 to perform compared to a professional lead inspection, which costs approximately $500. If the cheaper test can first be performed to reliably determine whether a more robust and expensive test is needed, this will increase the number of homes identified as having lead hazards and save money for residents.

The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance will use its grant funds to create a Rockaway Youth Marine Conservation Corps in Jamaica, New York to restore wetland habitats. The group will launch a year-long wetland restoration program that will train low-income high school and middle school students about water pollution problems around Jamaica Bay. The bay is severely impacted by sewage and chemical pollutants, which has damaged water quality. Students will participate in oyster gardening along the Sommerville and Norton/Conch Basins and design and implement projects that involve their schools and communities in the cleanup and restoration of the Jamaica Bay.

Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race or income, in the environmental decision-making process. Since 1994, the environmental justice small grants program has provided more than $23 million in funding to community-based nonprofit organizations and local governments working to address environmental justice issues in more than 1,200 communities. The grants further EPA’s commitment to expand the conversation on environmentalism and advance environmental justice in communities across the nation.

More information on the Environmental Justice Small Grants program and a list of grantees: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/grants/ej-smgrants.html

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