Urban Environmental Program in New England
2003 Healthy Communities Grant Program
In 2003, the Healthy Communities Grant Program created a partnership between nine EPA New England programs – Urban Environmental Program, Smart Growth, Children’s Environmental Health, Asthma, Community Air Toxics, Tools for Schools, Pesticides, Pollution Prevention and Toxics.
The Healthy Communities Grant Program is EPA New England’s main grant program to work directly with communities to reduce environmental risks to protect and improve human health and the quality of life. The Healthy Communities Grant Program will achieve this through identifying and funding projects that:
- Target resources to benefit communities at risk (environmental justice areas of potential concern, places with high risk from toxic air pollution, urban areas) and sensitive populations (e.g. children, elderly, others at increased risk).
- 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.
- Achieve measurable environmental and human health benefits.
New Haven County was identified by national air toxics inventories as having the second highest level of air toxics emissions of all New England Counties. The level of air toxics results in numerous health impacts including asthma and an increased risk of respiratory disease. The City has since worked to identify the most significant local sources of air toxics and target these sources for reduction. This year, the City will identify key stationary sources through modeling and risk assessment and offer support to facilities wishing to work to minimize emissions. Mobile source emissions will be reduced through a program to encourage voluntary retrofitting and use of ultra-low sulfur diesel by private diesel fleets. The City will also work to reduce indoor air toxics through educational programs on toxics materials and second hand smoke in the home.
Measures of Success: Attendance at stationary source workshops, number of facilities seeking to reduce emissions through voluntary program; number of fleets retrofitting vehicles and switching to ultra-low sulfur diesel; establishment of a local supplier of ultra-low sulfur diesel; additional signatories to the Smoke-Free Pledge;
Project Partners: Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Environment Northeast, New Haven Environmental Justice Network.
Asthma is a serious environmental health issue, particularly for urban children. The NVHD receives numerous calls each year from parents seeking assistance related to an asthmatic child. The CAIRWAYS program will work to mitigate asthma incidence through an educational program targeted towards children with asthma and their caregivers. The program will focus on indoor asthma triggers including secondhand smoke, dust mites, pets, molds, and pests and actions that can be taken to reduce exposure to these triggers. The local Head Start, Child Services, and school system as well as private and public health care offices will work with NVHD to identify asthmatic children for the program. A nurse will work with the participating families to manage asthma appropriately and to identify and minimize asthma triggers in the home. Families will be revisited at intervals during the year to evaluate program effectiveness.
Measures of Success: Identify 50 children at risk for asthma; conduct 50 home assessments and provide asthma mitigation measures for 50 children; increase community awareness of asthma triggers; evaluate effectiveness through follow-up visits and reduction of emergency
Project Partners: Naugatuck Head Start, TEAM, Inc. Child Services,
The CT School Indoor Environment Resource Team has been successful in bringing the Tools for Schools workshop to over 200 schools in Connecticut. Urban schools present a particular challenge because of the large number of schools, competition for resources, and the special needs of the student population. This year, the Resource Team will focus on bringing Tools for Schools to schools in New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Stamford, and other urban communities. Outreach will include both a training program to train in-school teams and a workshop on conducting a walkthrough evaluation and identifying indoor air quality concerns. The Team will also develop a “follow-up protocol” so that they can help schools which have undergone training maintain the program.
Measures of Success: Tools for Schools training in 30 schools in small to moderate urban communities; conduct Tools for Schools training in 10 building teams in larger city school districts; follow up
Project Partners: CT Education Association, American Lung Association of Connecticut, CT COSH, University of CT - School of Medicine, Yale University, CT-OSHA, CT DEP, CT PTA, and CT Interlocal Risk
The East End community of Bridgeport, CT has suffered from the loss of industry and years of benign neglect which has resulted in high unemployment rates, several brownfield sites, poor housing conditions and many environmental health concerns. Data from the local health department found that children in the East End of Bridgeport are at high risk for lead poisoning. The housing stock in this community is old, lead paint is extremely prevalent, and the community is made up of mostly low-income, non-white families. This project will create a Neighborhood Environmental Action Team (NEAT) made up of residents and parents of lead poisoned children. The East End Community Council will work with the Bridgeport Health Department to train members of NEAT to conduct education and outreach on lead poisoning prevention. Families of children referred by the Health Department with elevated lead levels will be visited to determine the extent of lead hazards in their home. Lead screening clinics will be held in order to increase awareness of the risk of lead poisoning in the East End.
Measures of Success: Number of NEAT workers trained to conduct outreach; number of outreach and educational programs conducted; number of households visited; number of children screened for lead;
Project Partners: Health Promotion Center, City of Bridgeport Health
Urban children have little access to safe outdoor play areas; this contributes to the lack of physical activity and the increase in childhood obesity. In addition, New Haven has the second highest level of air toxics emissions in New England and a lack of open space. There is also little access to fresh and affordable fresh produce in the City. This project addresses these issues through reclaiming unused urban space and using it to expand an existing model urban farm. This project will focus on reclamation of the land through planting of cover crops, soil improvement, and sustainable land management. Workshops to engage youth in building an access trail and educational landscaping will be held. Workshops on urban gardening targeted towards community gardeners will also be conducted.
Measures of Success: Remediation of four areas surrounding the existing school; inventory of site conditions before and after;
Project Partners: Urban Resource Initiative, Inc., Common Ground
The Chinatown community is located in downtown Boston. The neighborhood is surrounded by construction activity and high volume traffic and suffers from a lack of open space and dense development. Asthma is a key environmental health issue among Chinese families, many of whom are non-English speaking. The goal of this project is to bring the Wee Wheezers asthma education program to this community in order to improve awareness of asthma triggers and appropriate medication use. The translated Wee Wheezers program will first be presented to 24 Chinese speaking families with asthmatic children as a pilot training. The families will be trained, and asthma morbidity tracked to evaluate the success of the program. Once the program has been modified for the community, 4-6 parents will be trained as community health advocates to help disseminate the program to others.
Measures of Success: Translation and adaptation of Wee Wheezers asthma education program; pilot training of 24 Chinese speaking families; training of 4-6 community advocates; distribution of asthma
Project Partners: Tufts University School of Medicine, The Quincy
Many Massachusetts schools, particularly those in low-income neighborhoods of color, are in a state of disrepair. Poor conditions in schools contribute to environmental health problems such as asthma and respiratory illness among students and school staff because of exposure to environmental hazards such as asbestos, lead, radon, mold, and toxic chemicals. The Healthy Schools initiative which works with parents, teachers, students, and school staff and administrators has launched more than two dozen “healthy schools environmental teams” to reduce environmental health risks in schools. This project will focus on schools in Boston and Lowell, two communities that are highly impacted by multiple environmental health hazards. MassCOSH will train environmental teams in environmental health issues. Teams will develop environmental action plans, learn to identify and eliminate environmental hazards, and work to create environmental policies for their schools.
Measures of Success: Convene and train environmental teams in Boston and Lowell schools; development of environmental action plans; development
Project Partners: Coalition for a Better Acre, Boston Urban Asthma
The Newton Public Schools Operations Department and Health Department address environmental health issues in the twenty two buildings within the Newton school system. Rather than react to problems as they arise, the school will develop an Environmental Management System to systematically review policies and protocols and conduct training and audits pro-actively. School nurses will be trained to identify IAQ issues and asthma triggers in the school. The school health department will also be conducting an asthma surveillance system within the school to identify trends in asthma levels. The Environmental Management Team (EMT), made up of municipal representatives, school personnel, and parents from the community will also be trained to look at HVAC and building operations, cleaning products and protocols, and building design issues.
Measures of Success: Meetings, trainings, and walkthroughs with each Newton school; pre- and post- test to school teams to document
Project Partners: City of Newton Health Department, City of Newton
The Dudley neighborhood of Roxbury has a large number of vacant lots and hazardous waste sites. There is also lead contamination in many of the yards. This is a significant health risk, particularly because many neighborhood residents have backyard gardens. The Food Project has worked for many years to address issues of lead poisoning, food insecurity, and the poor use of vacant lots. Youth and staff farm remediated urban plots using sustainable and safe methods to produce food which is sold at a neighborhood farmers market. Youth and staff also conduct outreach to neighborhood gardeners about safe gardening practices. This project will build on past successes to disseminate information on soil remediation and healthy urban agriculture. They will remediate twelve neighborhood gardens using phytoremediation techniques to reduce lead contamination to use as models for other gardeners. They will also test soil quality in 100 gardens and create a GIS map to clearly display where contamination exists. The information gathered through this project will be distributed to other gardeners, academics, peers, and other organizations. Finally, the Food Project will hold the 2nd Annual Urban Agriculture Conference which will bring together environmental and public health specialists, community organizations, and youth from different parts of New England to share information on both the policy aspects and practical implementation of urban agriculture
Measures of Success: Distribution of monthly newsletter; meeting attendance by community members; produce and distribute GIS maps; contact and engage gardeners, peers, city officials, and media;
Project Partners: Boston University School of Public Health, Roxbury Community College, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Boston Public
Environmental agencies have data on air quality and pollution sources, and health agencies have information on community health status. However, the two pieces of information are rarely considered in conjunction with one another. In addition, the data is often not easily accessed by the public. Health Link, a North Shore community organization, will work to increase public awareness of air toxics and the health effects that may be associated with them. This will include gathering available air toxics data, gathering data on the health status of the community, analyzing the data and prioritizing pollutant sources to reduce, and disseminating the information to the public. High school and college students will be involved with information gathering and review, and existing community organizations such as the Salem Point Neighborhood Association and Salem Alliance for the Environment will assist with health surveying and distribution of information.
Measures of Success: Develop curriculum outlining role of high school students; create web site; compile air toxics data; compile health status data; create and implement health survey; analyze
Project Partners: Salem State College, Salem Public Schools, Point
Early childhood exposure to toxins can have a long lasting impact on a child’s health. Many new parents are unaware of the number of environmental toxins present in the home such as pesticides, solvents, and cleaning supplies. Through an existing visiting nurse program, CET will provide environmental health education to new parents. Nurses will be trained to conduct a home assessment to identify asthma triggers, sources of lead and mercury exposure, and toxins in the home. Nurses will also provide blood lead level testing and exchange mercury thermometers as needed. Participating nurses will evaluate the program by tracking the number of visits made, the number of lead tests conducted, and other parameters. The nurse training program will be evaluated based on the nurses’ preparedness to answer questions that families ask, and the training can be adjusted as necessary.
Measures of Success: Nurses in the visiting nurse program trained
Project Partners: Berkshire Visiting Nurse Association, Sprout Berkshire Initiative for Children’s Environmental Health,
The City of Holyoke has a high rate of poverty, drug abuse, and violence, as well as environmental blight including a lack of green space and numerous polluting facilities. El Arco Iris, the youth program of Nueva Esperanza works with local youth to build self-esteem and developmental and educational success. For this project, El Arco Iris will work with youth from local organizations to develop the Youth “Vision Map”. The participants will be trained in a series of workshops on environmental issues; they will then conduct tours of neighborhoods to identify areas in which the environment could be improved. The findings will be presented at a youth summit. Youth programs participating in the summit will submit proposals to address identified problems, and two of the recommendations will be implemented.
Measures of Success: At least 30 youth trained in environmental issues; conduct neighborhood tours and generate maps of environmental problems; conduct youth summit for 100 community youth; development
Project Partners: Holyoke Youth Task Force, Hampshire College,
The communities of Chelsea and East Boston are joined by the Chelsea Creek. Both are densely settled neighborhoods with racially diverse, low-income populations, and both suffer from a lack of open and green space. The land along the Chelsea Creek is a “Designated Port Area” which limits public access to the waterfront and maintains the industrial nature of the Creek. The Creek is home to numerous hazardous waste sites, five major oil tank farms, a large rock salt storage pile, and other industries which impact the environment. The Chelsea Human Services Collaborative has worked to bring together a coalition of Chelsea and East Boston residents, government officials, and local businesses to improve the local environment and increase the potential for public access. The Chelsea Creek Restoration Project will be a continuation of these efforts with the goals of implementing plans for new green space as outlined in the Chelsea Creek Vision Plan; restoration of the Mill Creek salt marsh, including a public access walkway; development of the Chelsea Creek Rail Trail; and engagement of community members, particularly youth, in these on-going campaigns.
Measures of Success: Create and distribute outreach materials; complete construction at Condor Street Urban Wild and progress on other open/green space sites; launch new studies of environmental media by Chelsea and East Boston youth crews; hire seven new crew members for youth crews; initiate environmental education program
Project Partners: Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, Urban Ecology
Urban gardeners may be at risk for lead poisoning through garden produce because of the high levels of lead in neighborhood soil, a high dependency on garden produce for nutrition, and lack of information on the hazards of lead contamination. The City of Portland will work with the University of Southern Maine to perform lead testing on up to 100 yards in the Parkside Neighborhood. Several yards with high levels of contamination will then be selected for a phytoremediation study for which crops of spinach and Indian mustard will be planted. The plants will be harvested and analyzed for lead content to determine the extent to which phytoremediation can reduce soil contamination. The City will hold three community forums for parents and other Parkside residents to distribute information about lead poisoning and the importance of lead safety. The City will reach neighborhood residents through existing community organizations, medical centers, churches, and neighborhood schools.
Measures of Success: Screen up to 100 yards for lead contamination; select garden sites for study; establish three garden plots for phytoremediation trials; harvest and analyze crops; hold three community
Project Partners: Portland Lead Safe Housing Program, Cultivating Communities, Parkside Commuinty Policing Program, Parkside Neighborhood
Air quality in Maine has improved due to implementation of National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, but air toxics are still at levels which negatively impact the health of Maine residents. The Maine DEP will assess air toxics, including ambient and indoor sources as well as both point and area sources. A committee of groups representing environmental organizations, government agencies, industry and trade groups, and public health organizations will be formed to prioritize the list of sources based on the potential for air toxics to create health risks, and develop strategies for reducing risk. This list will be presented to the DEP which will then develop a plan for implementing the recommended actions. Indoor air quality in schools will be a special priority of this project, and the DEP will be producing a reference notebook and web site for the use of school administrators which provides best management practices and resources.
Measures of Success: Develop air toxics source list; convene Air Toxics Advisory Committee representing approximately 25 organizations; develop priority list and reduction strategy; develop plans for
Project Partners: American Lung Association of Maine, City of Biddeford, Coalition for Sensible Energy; General Dynamics; Town of Jay, League of Women Voters of Maine, Maine Chamber of Commerce, Maine Energy, Maine Pulp and Paper Association, Mead Westvaco, Physicians for
The adult asthma rate in Maine is extremely high, and it is suspected that childhood asthma rates are high as well. The American Lung Association of Maine is involved with many projects to track and reduce asthma rates. This project will focus on schools. The ALA will work with several communities that already have active community health organizations and school health coordinators. The school teams will be trained to conduct walkthroughs to identify environmental health and safety issues. They will develop environmental management systems (EMS) to address indoor air quality, energy management, chemical management, integrated pest management, and occupational safety and health. Work plans detailing various needs will then be developed and implemented. The results of this project will be disseminated to schools without an EMS as a model for future work.
Measures of Success: Convene meeting of community health organizations and school teams; raining of at least one school team and development
Project Partners: Maine School Administrative District #9.
Asthma rates in New England are extremely high, particularly among children from low-income families. The Asthma Regional Council (ARC), a collaboration of governmental and non-governmental entities, will focus on reducing childhood asthma through improved asthma surveillance, increased community capacity building, and promoting healthy indoor environments. The ARC will coordinate efforts throughout New England to monitor asthma trends and correlate trends to indoor and outdoor air quality. ARC will also bring together leaders from different levels of government, public and environmental health experts, academics, community development, and advocacy groups through biannual meetings and periodic newsletters to facilitate information sharing. Finally, ARC will work with policy makers and health insurers to address the issue of asthma prevention through support for programs to reduce indoor air pollutants.
Measures of Success: Convene two ARC council meeting; produce two ARC newsletters; convene four Regional Asthma Environmental Surveillance Meetings; hold one symposium on asthma prevention; report on pediatric
Project Partners: Boston Urban Asthma Coalition, Connecticut Department
The Connecticut Citizen Research Group runs the Lead Safe House Shelter and Healthy Homes program in Hartford which provide temporary housing to families with children suffering from asthma or lead poisoning related to their home environment. The group also provides outreach and education to families and property owners. With funding from this grant, CCRG will expand its service area beyond Hartford to the urban neighborhoods of Bristol, East Hartford, Meriden, Manchester, Middletown, New Britain, Vernon, and Waterbury. They will continue to conduct educational programs and provide safe housing as needed. In addition, they will work to enforce the federal disclosure law regarding lead paint in rental housing by notifying rental property owners of the law, informing low-incoming tenants of their legal rights, and documenting and reporting violations of the law.
Measures of Success: Train 10 members in dust wipe sampling techniques; conduct sampling for lead in 100 units; conduct parent/community training on asthma triggers and injury prevention.
Project Partners: St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
The former South Weymouth Naval Air Station is located south of Boston in the communities of Weymouth, Abington, and Rockland. This 1500-acre site offers a unique largest redevelopment opportunities for the greater Boston area The current reuse plan was approved in 1998 by the three host communities for the base; the plan calls for low-density, single-use retail, commercial and office park development with a limited amount of senior housing. The state and EPA have been concerned about the environmental impacts of this type of development and have called for rethinking of the plan using smart growth principles such as compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented development. Support for development of a smart growth plan is growing at the local level, and there also is interest on the part of the local reuse authority, South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation, and their master developer, Lennar Partners. EPA believes a plan based on smart growth principles will perform better environmentally, and also will be more profitable for the communities and developer.
ICF Consulting and Dover, Kohl & Partners will work with Lennar’s design team and South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation to help the communities rethink the plan and design a smart growth plan for the site, based on community input. As compared to the current plan, a smart growth development is expected to generate significantly less air pollution because it will be more walkable and transit-oriented, generate significantly less water pollution because it will be more compact and with less impervious surfaces, consume less energy and water through green building design, and restore and protect more natural habitat through sensitive siting of the buildings.
Measures of Success: Utilization of EPA’s Smart Growth Index and other tools to compare reuse plans; level of community endorsement
Project Partners: Towns of Weymouth, Abington, and Rockland; South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation, Lennar Partners, Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Old Colony Planning Council, Massachusetts Bay Transportation
NH Office of Community & Public Health
High Risk Homes Initiative
Franklin, New Hampshire has very high rates of childhood lead poisoning and asthma. In addition, the town has been ranked as the highest risk town for children by the NH Child Potential Index. Both asthma and lead are associated with the age and condition of housing stock. The NH Office of Community & Public Health will work to address both childhood risks through a home visitation and education program. Six homes will be visited based on lead testing results and asthma referrals from the Health First Family Care Center. Each home will be visited twice so that various health hazards can be identified and mitigated. In addition to the home visit program, workshops will also be held to education families about lead poisoning and asthma triggers in the home.
Measures of Success: Identify six families for participation in the home visitation program; conduct environmental audits in homes; conduct four hour workshop for at least 15 participants on lead
Project Partners: The Way Home, Health First Family Care Center.
Like many urban areas, Pawtucket, Rhode Island has a disproportionately high prevalence of childhood asthma. This burden is particularly felt in the poor and predominantly minority communities. In addition to the health consequence, asthma also impacts children’s ability to participate in the classroom; asthmatic children miss more class time and also may perform more poorly in school because of sleep deprivation caused by asthma attacks. The Pawtucket School Asthma Partnership will work with families to more effectively treat and manage asthma to reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits and increase the capacity of the Pawtucket Schools to help students manage their asthma. Workshops will be conducted at six of the eleven elementary schools in Pawtucket. Families of children with asthma in those schools will be invited to participate. Asthmatic students from the middle schools will be given educational activities during lunch hour sessions. School nursing staff will also undergo training so that they are better prepared to treat and manage asthma and to identify triggers within the school.
Measures of Success: Conduct educational workshops for 75 asthmatic elementary school children and their families; hold educational session for 30 asthmatic middle school children; conduct training
Project Partners: Pawtucket School Department, Neighborhood Health
The Rhode Island DOH functions as both the state and local health department, working directly with schools to implement Tools for Schools and serve as a technical resource on a wide range of indoor air quality issues. This year, the RI DOH will continue its ongoing work on recruiting RI schools for EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools program throughout the state. In addition to assisting schools dealing with poor IAQ, RI DOH and EPA will work cooperatively in training school officials and identifying opportunities to promote EPA guidance to improve environmental health in schools and prevent exposure of poor indoor air quality to students and staff. This will be conducted both through direct contact with schools and through outreach at conferences and seminars.
Measures of Success: Contact at least 50 schools; distribute outreach
Project Partners: RI Department of Health
The Childhood Lead Action Project has worked for over ten years to eliminate lead poisoning through education, parent support, and advocacy. This effort, which was initially focused on Providence neighborhoods, has been expanded to the Rhode Island wide Rhode Island Lead Collaborative. Last year, with the support of the Collaborative, a new piece of legislation was passed in Rhode Island that expands enforcement efforts with regard to tenant notification and landlord responsibility. The Collaborative will now work to implement this new law. With participants from state, local, and community agencies, the Collaborative will coordinate a state-wide task force that will work together to disseminate information to key stakeholders. Strategies include creating public service announcements, staffing a toll-free hotline for tenants to call, certifying trainers to provide lead-safe renovation courses, and coordinating with health care providers who will distribute information to their patients. Participants in the task force will meet regularly to compare and evaluate the various strategies to maximize effectiveness.
Measures of Success: Form and convene the Lead Act Implementation Task Force; ensure implementation of educational strategies by Collaborative partners (public service announcements, certification of lead-safe renovation trainers, outreach to health care providers); evaluate
Project Partners: Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission, Rhode
The Northern Rhode Island Conservation District (NRICD) developed the highly successful “Do’s and Don’ts for the Woonasquatucket River” campaign and has educated hundreds of school children about appropriate recreational uses of the waterfront. For this project, the NRICD will be training the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council to continue running the educational program. The two groups will work together to introduce the program to five third grade classes. In addition, they will meet with local businesses and agencies to introduce them to the Do’s and Don’ts campaign. NRICD will also continue working with the Blackstone River Watershed Council to develop their own urban outreach campaign. This work will include producing an informational brochure and contacting three watershed schools in Central Falls, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket to participate in the Explorer River Boat Tours.
Measures of Success: Train Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council to run the Do’s and Don’ts program; introduce the program to 5 third grade classes; meet with local businesses and agencies; work with Blackstone River Watershed Council to produce brochure, conduct Explorer River Boat Tour with Blackstone River Watershed Council.
Project Partners: Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, Blackstone
VT Department of Health
Healthy Schools - Tools for Schools
The Vermont Department of Health’s environmental health program works with school districts to address issues of indoor and outdoor air quality. To date, over 80 schools have been trained in Tools For Schools. The DOH plans to train 100 more school teams using the Vermont Institutes Interaction Learning Network, a distance learning tool. In addition, 10 grants will be awarded to schools to support their efforts to write environmental health management plans. These plans will include ways in which the schools will reduce asthma triggers in the schools, ensure that school drinking water is free from lead, and improve community air quality by reducing exposure to diesel fuel exhaust.
Measures of Success: Conduct Tools for Schools/Indoor Air Quality training of 100 school teams; run grant program and award grants to 10 schools.
Project Partners: Vermont Department of Education, Vermont Department of Building & General Services, American Lung Association - Vermont, Vermont Institute Interactive Learning Network, Vermont Superintendents Association, Vermont’s Principle Association, Vermont School Board Association.