ATLANTA – Oct. 15, 2008: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today awarded $100,000 to Environmental Community Action, Inc. (ECO-Action), a local non-profit, for their work on the South Atlanta For the Environment (SAFE) project.
The award is part of EPA’s Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program, a community-based, community-driven program that builds partnerships to help the public understand and reduce toxic risks from numerous sources. Since the program was established three years ago, CARE has provided over $9.5 million to 65 communities nationwide. The SAFE project is one of just 14 CARE grants awarded thus far in 2008.
The City of Atlanta is divided into 24 Neighborhood Planning Units (NPUs) and the SAFE project will focus on NPU-V, located in South Atlanta. The five neighborhoods that make up NPU-V, Adair Park, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh and Summerville, are home to more than 15,000 people. Area residents are concerned about environmental health threats, including higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and asthma than the rest of Fulton County.
“South Atlanta neighborhoods are suffering from disproportionate health outcomes,” said Russell Wright, Acting Deputy Regional Administrator for EPA in Atlanta. “Through the EPA’s CARE Program, the SAFE Coalition will identify and begin to address all sources of environmental health risks.”
The purpose of the SAFE project is to develop a sustainable environmental health collaborative involving residents, community-based organizations, municipal and state agencies, a university and local businesses. Through the collaborative, SAFE partners will conduct a multi-media assessment of environmental exposures and establish priorities for risk reduction. Residents will be involved in every step of the project, from identifying potential sources of pollution to setting risk reduction priorities.
Some of the environmental challenges that the SAFE project hopes to address over the two-year project period include the large number of vacant lots and brownfield sites in the neighborhoods, and associated illegal dumping activities that occur at the sites. These problems are compounded by improper trash and construction debris disposal that invite vermin and contaminate soil and surface water. Automobile and truck emissions are a major concern—both along Interstates 20 and 75/85 that traverse the neighborhoods and from commercial diesel trucks that travel along secondary streets. Indoor environmental hazards include childhood lead poisoning, since most housing was built before 1978, mold, mildew, asbestos and indoor air pollution.
“This cooperative agreement between the EPA and ECO-Action will enable SAFE to plant seeds of partnerships and hope for environmental health protection in Neighborhood Planning Unit-V,” said ECO-Action Executive Director Dr. Yomi Noibi. “It is my fervent hope that the community will work hard together to ensure the sustainability of SAFE with ECO-Action’s help.”
Established in 2005, CARE is a competitive grant program that offers an innovative way for communities to organize and take action to reduce toxic pollution in their air, land and water. By joining forces, for-profit and non-profit organizations can work together to improve the environmental health of a community and its residents.