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December 2016 Featured Article

Featured Article

Ensuring Success of Your Next Green Project with the Support of Your Residents
Triad Associates

A strong correlation exists between how informed a community is on a green initiative/infrastructure project and its success after execution. Community composting services, for example, cannot operate unless families understand the how’s and why’s of separating trash. Rain gardens are at risk of getting compromised from community members mistaking seedlings for weeds during the early stages of development. These are just some common examples that many cities throughout the country have mitigated by leveraging Environmental Justice Small Grants (EJSG). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manages this program, and awards recipients who address local environmental and public health issues within an affected community.

The EJSG program recognizes the importance of helping every resident better understand environmental and public health issues while also identifying ways to address them at the local level. Grant recipients are awarded for projects that are designed to empower and educate their community in facing environmental justice concerns. Applications are currently being accepted for the FY 2017 totaling an estimated $1,200,000 in available funds. Awards will be made in the form of one year federal grants from the EPA’s regional office in amounts of up to roughly $30,000 per award for each project.

Eligible applicants include incorporated non-profit organizations - including, but not limited to, environmental justice networks, faith-based organizations and those affiliated with religious institutions and federally recognized tribal governments and tribal organizations. Applicants must be located within the same state, territory, commonwealth or tribe in which the proposed project is located. It is also encouraged that the organizations applying have a direct connection to the community impacted by environmental harms and risks.

In recent years, EJSG funding increased the awareness of residents in Camden concerning potentially harmful environmental contaminants found in their drinking water, homes and air. The project resulted in the production of a GIS map and a catalog of contaminated sites across the city. It also led to the creation of the Camden City Environmental Action Strategic Plan and Camden Community Recovery Coalition Photo Report. This work helped create a resident-driven coalition to disseminate information about the health effects associated with contaminant exposure.

Similar funding was applied in Trenton to improve the conditions of the city’s housing stock. As part of this effort, the city administered education programming for its residents on the dangers of multiple exposures of contaminants found in older housing units. As a result of this award, outreach and partnerships with various city government agencies, local community members and health and faith-based organizations were formed. Seventy-four (74) homes were tested and analyzed in the Canal Bank area of Trenton. In addition to the tenant residents, the individual sampling results were disseminated to respective building owners and to regulatory agencies.

The EPA defines environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Since 1994, over $24 million in funding has been awarded to over 1,400 community-based organizations and communities facing environmental justice issues. Applications are due January 31, 2017.

Published December 2016.

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