Vacant property, dilapidated houses, closed factories, and empty buildings, overgrown with weeds and crumbling to the ground, can be described as blight. All over the country, plants, warehouses, mills, and neighborhoods, sit alone unused with no active sign of life. Whether a downturn in the economy, a natural disaster, or environmental incident occurred, a story can most likely be told from an abandoned piece of property or vast empty stretch of desolate land. No matter what happened, the business, family, or operation that once inhabited the property more than likely will never be the same or will ever be back again- and the property is now likely to be full of asbestos pollutants.
As time goes on, these buildings and lands begin to deteriorate, and everything in them or around them begins to lose its structural and physical integrity. As a result, if asbestos-containing materials are present within these areas, they can become harmful, especially when they start to break apart or crumble due to deterioration.
Exposure to asbestos has been linked to lung disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma cancer. Not only can asbestos pollutants be harmful, but these abandoned or polluted areas that are not managed or remediated can become toxic from their exposure to many other substances as well.
For centuries, asbestos was used in buildings well past the midpart of the twentieth century, even here in the United States. Today, there are still a vast amount of buildings standing and vacant that still contain asbestos pollutants. Asbestos fibers are harmful when they are inhaled or swallowed. When they break apart and become airborne, they are most likely to be exposed to anyone within a specific area.
These scenes are not just happening in one area of the country, but all over the nation. The good news is that these areas smitten with blight do not always have to be this way. Especially, if an area is contaminated, there are actions communities and states can take to help revitalize, reuse, or redevelop space for the greater good. In other words, there are environmental programs that are available to help an area be brought back to life and developed into a safer place.
Well, there is hope and help that could be available to improve these properties through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields and Land Revitalization program. The EPA is the agency responsible for overseeing the Brownfields and Land Revitalization program. Brownfield sites are monitored, assessed, and organized within 10 EPA regional offices located across the country, which also includes coverage of Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.
In purpose, the program was founded to help local communities, states, and other organizations redevelop an area classified as a ‘brownfield area.’ A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. These properties can range from an abandoned auto shop to a vacant steel mill.
According to the EPA, there are over 450,000 brownfields in the United States. Not only is the program helpful for helping clean up contaminated sites, but also geared toward improving economic development in the area. Cleaning up those properties could protect the environment, eliminate blight, and reduce the developmental pressure of greenspaces and useable land.
Overall, the EPA has drawn out a five-year plan or “Back-to-Basics” agenda. The agency’s strategic plan has been broken down into three goals. These goals are to (1) Deliver a cleaner, safer, and healthier environment for all Americans and future generations by carrying out the Agency’s core mission; (2) Provide certainty to states, localities, tribal nations, and the regulated community in carrying out shared responsibilities and communicating results to all Americans; and (3) Increase certainty, compliance, and effectiveness by applying the rule of law to achieve more efficient and effective agency operations, service delivery, and regulatory relief.
The Brownfields program is initiated through grants from the agency. As part of the 2018 Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act, more authorizations were made to help utilize more brownfield grants, ownership or liability stakes, and implementation of more state and tribal response programs. Grant funding is the foundation for program support that is allotted to various governments, agencies, or tribal organizations.
Under the law, state agencies are the first line of defense when it comes to environmental rules, regulations, and implementations on a state level. The same principle goes for tribal agencies, but the tribal entity falls back to federal jurisdiction, in regards, to rules and regulations.
The EPA Brownfields program funds several types of grants and loans that include but are not limited to: assessment grants; revolving loan fund grants; cleanup grants; multipurpose grants; environmental workforce development and job training grants; technical assistance, research, and training grants; and state or tribal response program grants.
In the beginning, the Brownfields program was designed for citizens who lived in or near communities that had been affected by consistent or historical environmental contamination, disparaging health and living conditions, or economic suppression, to benefit from assistance in redeveloping their under-incentivized communities or lands. The EPA agency program was and is still a means for communities to receive appropriate environmental remediation or justice, stop or eliminate possible health risks, and help bolster or restore their local economy.
The Brownfields program helps local governments, communities, and responsible parties to organize with each other to create opportunities to clean up the environment and better serve the community. Studies have shown that “Brownfield sites tend to have greater location efficiency than alternative development scenarios. Results of five pilot studies show a 32 to 57 percent reduction in vehicle miles traveled when development occurred at a brownfield site rather than a greenfield. Fewer vehicle miles traveled means a decrease in pollution emissions, including greenhouse gases. These same-site comparisons show an estimated 47 to 62 percent reduction of storm-water runoff for brownfield site development.
A 2017 study concluded that cleaning up brownfield properties led to residential property value increases of 5% – 15.2% within a one- mile of those sites. Measuring data near 48 of those brownfields, from another study found an estimated $29 to $97 million in additional tax revenue for local governments in a single year after cleanup. Inherently, this was 2-7x times more than the $12.4 million the EPA contributed to the cleanup of those brownfields. Several surveys also indicate crime across the board was reduced in recently revitalized brownfields areas.”
Assessment grants provide direct funding for up to 3 years. In particular, these grants are designed to assess or characterize a potential site’s inventory, planned activities, site-specific cleanup plans, and community involvement related to potential brownfield sites. Furthermore, these grants are classified into community-wide assessment, site-specific, and assessment coalition categories.
Community-Wide Assessment Grants– are designed for recipients who have not generally identified a site-specific brownfield site. Overall, these applications for this particular type of grant are most used when there is a significant potential for numerous brownfield sites within or near a community. In turn, recipients can apply or receive up to $300,000 for assessing locations that potentially contain hazardous waste, contaminants, pollutants, or oil.
Site-Specific Assessment Grants– are appropriate for an identified property, and the funds will be utilized for this one site only. Applicants may apply or receive up to $200,000 for general assessment, but up to $350,000 may be requested and granted upon approval. The higher amounts must meet specific criteria that exceed or meet anticipated measures of property size, hazardous contamination, or ownership status of the brownfield property site.
Another grant designed for one entity or agency to combine forces with another agency or group that may be limited in managing their federal government agreements with state or federal environmental authorities. These grants are described as:
Assessment Coalition Grants– were a governmental agency or entity with more resources than a smaller entity or agency may join forces to manage an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreement. To apply, only one member has to submit a proposal under one of the coalition members in order, to perform assessment grant activities in every coalition member’s community or region. Combined, the cooperative group or applicants may apply and receive up to $600,000 for co-jointed efforts to assess sites for hazardous waste contamination, substances, or pollutants.
In the coming year, EPA anticipates awarding an estimated 100 Assessment Grants for an estimated $31 million, subject to the quality of applications received, availability of funds, and other applicable considerations. EPA may expend up to 25 of the amount appropriated for Brownfield Grants on sites contaminated with petroleum.
After a culmination of significant snowfall, warmer temperatures, and heavy spring rains, almost twenty-five percent of the whole town of Minot, ND, was destroyed by flooding. The need for housing and rebuilding efforts were well underway but was still coming up short with developmental progress. Although federal and state agencies were assisting with sewers, water supply, and roadways, the housing and building needs were still lacking in return.
After hiring private consultants, suggestions led to contacting the EPA for assistance, which spurred the city’s interest in obtaining grant funds to help bolster the housing and business development expansion that desperately needed to occur, in the North Dakota, river town. Not only did Minot need assistance with housing and town redevelopment, but they also needed help with planning a successful strategy to achieve those goals.
To start, the town of Minot, utilized an initial $200,000 Redevelopment Area-wide Plan Grant to help layout plans and strategies for cleanup, flood mitigation, and area revitalization along the downtown river area. The community came together and then reorganized after formulating almost two years of the planned redevelopment.
Furthermore, after city officials and engineers collaborated with the EPA, they applied and received a $400,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant. In the beginning, there was a vacant shopping center that sat idle since the flood. Officials confirmed that almost 8 feet of water went through the shopping center built in the 1960s. The shopping center, formerly called Oak Park Shopping Center, once contained restaurants, bars, a movie theater, car repair, retail stores, and a grocery store.
Upon inspection of the former shopping center’s grounds, environmental tests showed there were no harmful EPA standards that were above or below any threshold recommended for commercial use. After federal and state agencies cleared the site from environmental concerns, the new owners were now relieved of that liability, which they could make into a strong sales pitch to developers. Today, the redeveloped site is the home to a daycare facility, a movie theater, a trampoline center, and several restaurants.
In the end, the town of Minot also was able to increase the resilience of its economy by using these assessment grant opportunities, which opened up the door to the city receiving an additional $74 million grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Without the initial drive to contact the EPA, the town of Minot, ND, might not be in the state it is in today.
Another way for entities or coalitions to receive funding from the EPA is with the Revolving Loan Fund Grant (RLF). An RLF Grant is designed to balance all resources to clean up and redevelop brownfield sites. These funds are generated not only for certain site-specific conditions but are also intended to encourage investors or stakeholders to borrow this money to reinvest into regions or brownfield site areas.
Generally, this type of borrowing and investment takes a sizeable vested interest or commitment from all parties involved. Projects or development investments utilized under this program will typically be long term ventures, sometimes spanning over several decades. Even after the project is completed, the funds can still be active and can be drawn for future brownfield cleanup or development.
Due to the longevity of these loans or grants, applicants may apply for up to $1,000,000 million for one drawing at a time to clean up and redevelop hazardous waste, pollutants, oil, and other substances. As a rule, any coalition member cannot be a member of another RLF Coalition or submit an RLF Grant application as an individual applicant, in the same year or period.
One example of a revolving loan fund project was completed in West Palm Beach, FL. Here, The Palm Beach Lakes, golf course in operation for almost 30 years had been closed since 1996. As a result of decades worth of pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer treatments, the soil and groundwater became contaminated. On record, the property tested with high levels of concentrated arsenic in samples taken from the property’s land, groundwater, and surface water.
In effect, the golf course had been closed for years. After several economic housing downturns and hurricanes, the housing market in West Palm Beach was in dire need of an affordable housing market. As it turns out several years later, around 2003, with efforts initiated to redevelop and revitalize the vacant golf course to benefit the environmental health and economic needs of the surrounding area, an $800,000 EPA Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund was obtained to begin the excavation and removal of contaminated soil and water filtration on the property.
Before and after the project was completed, the revolving loan funds opened the door to over $30 million in public and private support through tax credits for voluntary cleanup efforts, sales tax rebates, and revenue bonds. The overall result led to the construction of 264 multi-family apartment units catered to low to moderate-income households. These tax credits were utilized within the state of Florida for the designation or use as Voluntary Cleanup Tax Credits (VCTC). In turn, this project, with the cleanup efforts completed in 2005, became the first affordable housing project funded by the Brownfields program.
As a result, this successful venture assisted with the EPA Revolving Loan Fund Grant has encouraged the surrounding community and the state of Florida to be very receptive to finance Brownfield projects, especially with affordable housing initiatives.
Cleanup grants are intended to be issued for specific brownfield sites that are owned by a particular entity or individual who must be the applicant at the time of filing. The grant funds can be dispersed at one time, but funds cannot be dispersed after three years.
Applicants are allowed to apply for up to $500,000 for one site or multiple sites, but the stipulation still stands upon a single ownership requirement for all brownfield sites to have one sole owner. Eligible recipients must also be able to leverage or share 20 percent of the liability of the amount granted. The shared cost can be in the form of cash, labor, material services, or assets pledged. Exemptions are available for waivers of this requirement for Native American Tribes, nonprofit organizations, and smaller government entities, typically with less than 50,000 people within their population.
The EPA anticipates awarding an estimated 18 Cleanup Grants for an estimated $9 million, subject to the quality of applications received, availability of funds, and other applicable considerations. Also, the EPA may expend up to 25% of the amount appropriated for Brownfield Grants on sites contaminated with petroleum.
In many cases, some industries or companies may relocate to other areas or close down, but still, leave their remains behind. An excellent example of an industry that left remains for the community to deal with happened in Columbia, MO. For almost seventy years, the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad company operated a section of track in addition to a large bulk oil terminal within the town of Columbia.
In the late 1960s, the terminal and track sections were closed down. Before the EPA Brownfields program, the City of Columbia utilized one of the first-ever grant programs awarded by taking advantage of the National Rails-To-Trails- Conversion grant available in 1977. The city then converted the abandoned railways to hiking and biking trails.
A community that was a pioneer before its time knew how to work together to revitalize an abandoned resource and reinvest it back into the community. To no surprise, back in 1997, two years after the EPA Brownfields program was introduced, the city of Columbia received a $40,000 grant from the state of Missouri to demolish a building that was on the old railroad company property.
For compliance purposes, the city performed testing and found petroleum contamination in the ground around the old oil terminal. Shortly after, they applied for an EPA Brownfield Cleanup Grant to assist with cleaning up the site. As a result, in 2003, the city received $200,000 in funding that helped remove oil-contaminated soil and over 12,000 gallons of polluted water.
Today, the community park hosts much more than a hiking and biking trail. The park has playgrounds, rain gardens, picnic areas, and an amphitheater. The park also hosts festivals, artistic displays, and gazebo rentals, for social gatherings. The revitalization was all done with the start of an EPA Cleanup Fund grant.
Multipurpose grants cater to applicants who are in a position to meet exceptional capacity requirements when it comes to planning, progressing, and finishing brownfield site work from the cradle to the grave. Eligible recipients will be required to have the resources and knowledge available to successfully developing inventories of brownfield sites; prioritizing brownfield sites; conducting community involvement activities; conducting environmental site assessments; developing cleanup plans and reuse plans related to brownfield sites; carrying out cleanup activities on brownfield sites owned by the applicant; and developing an overall strategy for revitalization.
Qualified applicants can apply for up to $800,000 under the terms and condition of proving their ability to explain how direct funds from the grant will accomplish at least a single- phase II environmental site assessment; one brownfield site cleanup; and an overall plan for the revitalization of one or more brownfield sites, if there is not already an organized plan developed.
As a result, these grants can be extremely technical but provide funding for a broad- range of varied activities. Although the grants require more formal measures, the funds must be used for assessment and cleanup actions in a specific area, such as a regional district, neighborhood, town, a particular recorded tract of land area. The proposed areas must not be in distinctly different communities or regions. At last, grant funds will only be dispersed for up to five years.
Due to the vast nature of the wide-ranging project to be accomplished, an extensive EPA Multipurpose Grant was found to be best suited for project sites selected across several broad areas of old coal country in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. For several hundred years, coal mining was a large part of this northeastern area of Pennsylvania.
After the mining shutdown, the land was left abandoned with enormous amounts of acid drainage leftover from the remnants of literally thousands of acres of abandoned coal mine properties. One year before, the EPA organized the Brownfields program in 1994, a nonprofit company, called the Earth Conservancy bought over acres of abandoned coal company property from the former Blue Coal Corporation estate. The nonprofit company seized the opportunity after the coal company land became available from bankruptcy proceedings.
Before the purchase of the property, Earth Conservancy constructed an extensive plan for utilizing the large acreage formerly used for coal mining operations and aggregate use. The original idea allotted 3,000 acres for reclamation due to mine pollution, in which Earth Conservancy made their top priority. The plan then called for the remainder of the property to be appropriated for economic development and farmland use, residential development, and the rest for greenspace.
With the implementation of these EPA Multipurpose grants, the first initial 3,000 acres of polluted mine land was reclaimed and restored near the Susquehanna River. Also, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has transacted with the nonprofit to own and manage the reclaimed land for conservation and public recreation. Today, recreational trails, commercial and industrial parks, and a college dormitory are now located on the property that was once lost to decades worth of environmental pollution.
These specific grants are formulated to fund local government, nonprofit, and area residents affected by brownfields. Generally, these funds are utilized for training, connecting, and recruiting unemployed or various job seekers to develop the skills needed to secure full-time employment in multiple roles within environmental fields such as hazardous and non-hazardous waste management, water quality improvement, emergency response, and chemical safety. The intentions for these funds are for a more sustainable environmental workforce residing in communities for future benefit.
“EPA’s Job Training Program has helped to transform communities that need it the most. By investing in a local workforce to conduct environmental cleanup activities, we can help revitalize low-income neighborhoods traditionally,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler .“Seventy-five percent of those trained under our program have gone on to find full-time jobs with good wages. I am proud to announce that EPA is building on these successes by providing additional grants to help lift communities out of poverty, employ returning veterans, and build a skilled environmental workforce for the future.”
Since this program began in 1998, more than 288 grants have been awarded. More than 18,000 individuals have completed training, and of those, more than 13,679 individuals have been placed in full-time employment, earning an average starting wage of over $14 an hour. Here the EPA developed environmental job training programs to offer residents of communities typically affected by environmental pollution, economically disadvantaged, and brownfields an outlet to gain the skills and certificates needed to capture local environmental work opportunities in their communities or the immediate area.
Nonprofit organizations are awarded competitive grants to train, recruit, and to locate unemployed and underemployed people. Individuals who complete selected training programs are guided along the way. Training initiatives and programs are also available to minorities, tribal members, transitioning, veterans, dislocated workers who have had to relocate jobs or occupations because of area economic suppression. The training programs also serve minorities, tribal members, transitioning veterans, dislocated workers, and others who might have economic disparities due to location, job loss, or underemployment.
One program that has helped to not only to promote citizens in their communities but also build strong relationships with local employers is the Civic Works Service Corps in Baltimore, MD. In particular, a non-profit organization called the Civic Works Service Corps had established a niche network where companies and utility services now seek their graduates for employment.
Beginning in 2001, the non-profit organization first utilized funding from the EPA Job Training Grant. Those funds provided additional occupational skills training for residents looking to develop environmental careers and earn a steady paycheck. When individuals complete the first Corps six- week curriculum, they are eligible for at least six highly credible ecological certifications.
Civic Works Corps award certifications that include but are not limited to: Confined Space Operations, Lead Abatement Worker, Asbestos Abatement Supervisor, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certified Hazardous Waste Site Worker or otherwise known as (HAZWOPER) certification. Traditionally, when these students finish their certifications, they are ready to go to work.
Ten years later, the Baltimore Center for Green Careers (BCGC), a division of Civic Works, opened in 2010, using a $200,000 EPA Brownfields Job Training Grant awarded to Civic Works. The BCGC was developed mainly in response to the high unemployment rates and other economic and social barriers affecting residents who may have been incarcerated or did not graduate high school.
The BCGC’s mission is to “create business and employment development initiatives that contribute to environmental sustainability and are open to all Baltimore job seekers.” John Mello, Projects Director at BCGC, explains that the idea for the center evolved because Civic Works “wanted to achieve social justice goals while achieving environmental goals.” Currently, the program still hovers around a 90% graduation rate with almost equal job placement credentials.
Research grants, in addition to training and technical assistance grants, are funded under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The EPA enforces amendments within this act to provide funds for communities to help with brownfields.
In particular, technical assistance focuses on subjects included but not limited to partnering with community organizations; environmental health and safety; environmental education development; equitable development; funding for sustainable training programs; environmental health and safety initiatives; and providing support for students, social services or job placement. Grants like these are available to all communities or institutions.
Over the next five years, EPA will provide technical assistance, assets, and outreach to industry, states, tribes, and local communities as part of its effort to ensure national safety and security for inland oil incidents. For support, there are approximately 580,000 spill prevention, control, and countermeasure facilities, including a high-risk subset of 4,600 facility response plan facilities required to ensure that resources will be available to respond in the event of a discharge.
Funding for technical assistance, research, and training are instructed to be used for eligible purposes only. Permissible purposes or use of these grants are to be used only to fund the necessary direct costs of research and assistance. For example, the cost of research that may include personnel, technical experts or contractors, materials, supplies, travel expenses, and other rental expenses.
These funds must strictly be allotted for exact technical assistance, training, and research only projects. The carryover or use of these funds for anything else that may include activities such as environmental cleanups, construction, land or equipment acquisition, penalties or fines, other cost-sharing requirements from other projects federal or private, administrative costs, compliance with any laws other than what applies to the use of these funds, and foreign travel, are not allowed.
EPA anticipates awarding Training, Research, and Technical Assistance Grants for an estimated $1,400,000, subject to availability of funds, quality of proposals received, and other applicable considerations. The award is anticipated to be funded incrementally on an annual basis over seven years, at approximately $200,000 per year.
As an example, a typical recipient of funds from these grants would be an organization such as the New Jersey Institute of Technology. This educational institution is funded through these particular grants because of the assistance they provide to communities. In effect, the school’s primary need for the funding is not for the cleanup or development initiative, but their technical assistance services.
In turn, the Technical Assistance Program funds organizations, such as New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), that work with a large team and network of partner organizations to provide technical assistance to communities and other stakeholders; helping them tackle the challenge of assessing, cleaning up and preparing brownfields sites for redevelopment, especially underserved, rural, small, and distressed communities.
For example, the New Jersey institution provides its expertise in explaining environmental legal matters such as regulations, laws, technical documents, and assistance related to brownfield site assessment, remediation, and redevelopment issues. Other types of support provided may include community workshops, participation in public meetings, facilitating discussions between community stakeholders on brownfield issues, and conducting seminars on specific brownfield issues.
State and Tribal Response funds are guided under Section 128(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which allots $50,000,000 million worth of grant monies to enhance and establish, state and tribal response initiatives. These funds are also administered and appropriated by the EPA region offices.
Funds from these grants are used to enhance or create new and existing environmental response initiatives. Also, additional funds can be utilized for cleanups at brownfield sites, purchase environmental insurance, or to create financial or insurance packages to start or complete specific brownfield site projects.
Also, an additional $1,500,000 million is awarded inside a grant program to assist small businesses, small communities, Native American tribes, rural regions, or disadvantaged areas, to enact training, research, and technical assistance to people and organizations. The money from this additional grant program can go toward brownfield site assessments, remediation, inventory, community involvement, or site preparation.
One state that utilized this powerful advantage of an EPA State Response Program grant was South Dakota. After forty years, the city of Aberdeen, SD, bought the remains of an old school building that was owned by a private company. In 2011, when the city purchased the property, the school building was the only two-story facility standing. At one time, the school was going to be remodeled for office space and rental use by the company, but that never happened.
Once the property was purchased, the state applied for funding to receive an environmental site assessment before beginning plans for demolition of the old buildings. After the results came back, asbestos was found throughout the building along with soil samples testing positive for petroleum contamination. When the assessment showed the site to be environmentally unsafe, the state went further and obtained funds from the EPA Brownfields 128(a) CERCLA fund.
By tapping the resource of this state response grant funds provided by the EPA, the town of Aberdeen was able to utilize $45,000 to assess, cleanup, and remove the asbestos. Also, they were able to get an additional $7,000 in funding to safely remove and properly dispose of an abandoned petroleum tank that was buried underground at the Aberdeen property.
These initiatives to obtain funding to obtain assistance with environmental hazards opened the way for the construction of a new library to be built on-site. With the efforts and actions of the people of South Dakota, which included the city of Aberdeen, South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and private donors, a new 29,000 square foot library and learning center stand on the property today.
Not only do the revitalization and redevelopment of brownfields help bolster the economy, but they can also help increase the livelihood of the people in their community. Statistically, many brownfields are located near low-income communities that may lack vital services such as affordable housing, access to fresh food, sufficient affordable housing, and medical care. In connection with the lack of these amenities, the overall health of the community tends to suffer.
One initiative that utilizes these brownfields in severely underserved areas is what the EPA refers to as their community-centric approach known as Brownfields to Healthfields or (B2H). The overall idea is pretty self -explanatory, in the sense that brownfields are being transformed into healthfields, where not only medical facilities can be located, but where other viable human resources can be accessible in return. These newly open spaces can serve as a sustainable source for community members to access recreation, fresh food, education, and jobs.
This initiative leverages resources to address contaminated site remediation, advance environmental justice, promote community health, restore urban watersheds, and support communities. The idea of conforming these contaminated areas to better the health of the population is well supported not only in urban but rural areas where access to healthcare and other resources are limited.
Here an exceptional grant program was designed to specifically interject those needs with funding that is provided directly to the community- based organizations or tribes that will help those underserved communities. The long-term goals of the program are to support underserved communities in their efforts to build their overall capacity and create self- sustaining, community-based partnerships that will improve local environments in the future.
Last year, 50 organizations nationwide were selected to receive awards totaling $1,500,000 in Environmental Justice Small Grant funding. Individual grants were for up to $30,000 each for one-year projects. Four to six organizations in each EPA region were selected to receive an awarded grant.
Furthermore, these Environmental Justice grants are divided into three grant types:
EPA’s Urban Waters program in the Office of Wetlands Oceans and Watersheds provided $300,000 (of the $1,500,000 total) for ten small grants addressing clean water issues in 2019. The Environmental Justice and Urban Waters programs have partnered since 2018 to provide funding and additional expertise to underserved communities disproportionately impacted by safe water quality issues.
Northeast Area Denver, CO Residents Trained in Water Conservation And Improvement
In an effort with the EPA to obtain funding through an EJ grant, residents of the Northeast area of Denver, CO, were able to engage in making infrastructure improvements on their property to improve water quality and conservation, with an environmental group called Ground Work Denver.
Ground Work Denver obtained these funds to help provide area residents with the knowledge, tools, and resources to install and maintain green infrastructure improvements on their property, such as rain barrels and rain gardens. This initial effort by the group began for educating and encouraging residents to think about promoting, and participating in enhancing water quality around the area; therefore, improving the health and well-being of their community members.
Due to the increased likelihood of extreme weather events now and in the future, and that underserved populations tend to be the most vulnerable and least equipped during such events, EPA gave special consideration in 2019 to projects addressing the needs of communities impacted or likely to be affected by natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, and earthquakes.
EPA Grant Funds Residents In Assessing Respiratory Illness From Hurricane Michael
In effect, one of those projects initiated along the Florida coast happened to be in response to the environmental impacts that seemed to occur after Hurricane Michael, landed around Panama City, FL, in 2018. After the storm was weathered, the residents of the community began to see a dramatic rise in respiratory illness. The damage was so severe that families all around the city were surrounded by so much construction debris that it made them sick. The storm debris was laden with mold, fine particulates, mildew, and other harmful substances, including asbestos.
Funding for this project was derived from the main objective of helping the community improve the air quality indoor and outdoor. These funds were backed to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education for air quality problem solving, community forums, a survey, indoor air quality monitoring, public outreach, and a multi-partner convention, which include but are not limited to the Florida Dept. of Health, Gulf Coast State College, and Community Health Task Force. The whole project is designed to reach over 2,000 residents within a specific area of the community.
In 2019, 25 of the 50 projects (50%) are located in or impact areas within qualified Opportunity Zones as designated in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Additionally, each year, the EJ grants program prioritizes funding organizations that not only have never received an EJ grant before but have never received any federal funding.
Migrant Workers And Farmers Assisted In Michigan From EJ Grant Funds
An example of one new EJ grant recipient is the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Program (MMLAP). This group was organized under the Worker Protection Standard Advisory Group, which is a group to help inform Michigan agricultural employers of changes made to the US EPA Worker Protection Standards that are now in full effect.
With the help from an Environmental Justices grant, the MMLAP will be able to use those funds to bring bi-lingual pocket guides to migrant workers, pesticide workers, and farmers. These guides will also follow with presentations made to not only migrant workers, but to healthcare workers, and farm owners to inform them about protecting farmworkers from pesticide. The long-term organization’s goal is to improve the health and long-term well-being of migrant workers and their family members by reducing exposure to and mitigating damage from pesticides. With the assistance of this grant, thousands of migrant families will be presented with this valuable information.
In turn, there are Other environmental grants and organizations are available to qualified areas through federal, state, and even local governments. On the national level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a core goal of protecting the health and environment of all citizens who live in the United States. EPA offices are located throughout the country and are organized by regions, which represent different areas or states.
As a whole, the EPA provides direct support through financial and technical assistance to vulnerable, low-income, minority, and tribal communities seeking to understand and develop holistic solutions to their environmental and public health challenges. These resources are allocated to improve the quality of the air, land, and water so that communities may live, work, play, pray, and go to school in healthier, more sustainable environments.
Not everyone has ever had the first option to choose where they live or lived. Some communities have been exposed to not only asbestos or chemical exposures, but also to the confines of being surrounded by underserved needs to specific resources within the communities they live or grew up near. If you or a loved one feel like you may be suffering from the harmful effects of asbestos, regional pollution, whether it be from mining, natural disaster, or industrial contamination, please feel free to contact experienced asbestos, mesothelioma, or environmental attorneys for advice.
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