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EPA Supports Innovative Environmental Justice Initiative in Camden, N.J.

Release Date: 01/15/2010
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) Highlighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) commitment to ensuring that everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, the people of Camden, N.J. will be receiving an important environmental information tool put together by the Heart of Camden, a local community-based organization, to help them better understand environmental conditions in their community. Thanks to an environmental justice grant from EPA, Heart of Camden will collect and analyze environmental and health data and match it up with geographic information related to the neighborhoods of Waterfront South and South-Central Camden to create an online tool. The software will be designed to build the community’s awareness and knowledge of exposure to a variety of contaminated sites and pollution sources found in the area. EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck was joined at today’s announcement by the Mayor of Camden, Dana L. Redd and the Heart of Camden’s Executive Director Helene Pierson.

“This project will go a long way toward helping the people of Camden identify specific environmental and health risks within South-Central Camden so that its residents can more fully participate in decisions that impact their health and the local environment,” said Judith Enck. “We are here to make sure that all communities are equally protected from environmental hazards. Our partnerships with Heart of Camden and the City of Camden will help inform the local community with the facts needed to combat environmental health hazards where people live and work.”

Heart of Camden Executive Director Helene Pierson thanked the EPA and said, “Over the past decade, there have been many reports suggesting that residents in our town have higher health risks due to environmental issues, but up to this point, such studies have been limited in focus. This initiative will provide a comprehensive evaluation of all available existing data on environmental exposure and their potential health risks so that we can get to work on the most pressing issues to have the greatest impact on improving air quality in the future. We are pleased to have available some of expertise at Cooper University Hospital and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in assisting us with this project."

Using EPA funding, the Heart of Camden is in the process of developing a comprehensive environmental health information tool that covers emissions data, contaminated soil sites, and the status of pending air pollution mitigation and site remediation effort data. It will also provide a description of known and potential health effects related to the identified pollutants. In addition, the group will analyze and compare to other urban and suburban communities in New Jersey the rates at which people in the Waterfront and South-Central Camden communities visit the hospital, particularly for respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Heart of Camden is dedicated to revitalizing the Waterfront South neighborhood through affordable housing, family and youth services and economic development. Their environmental efforts include addressing environmental issues in the area such as air pollution and the contamination of water and soil.

Just last year, EPA awarded approximately $800,000 in grants to organizations working with communities throughout the country facing environmental justice challenges. Forty grants, up to $20,000 each, went to community-based organizations and local and tribal governments in 28 states for community projects aimed at addressing environmental and public health issues. In the 15 years since initiating the environmental justice small grants program, EPA has awarded more than $20 million in funding to assist 1,130 community-based organizations and local and tribal governments.

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income in the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

For more information please visit: http://www.epa.gov/Region2/ej

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