Grants Awarded to Improve Southern N.E.'s Health

By ecoRI News staff

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded grants to fund community projects addressing environmental and public health issues in southern New England. The projects, funded under the 2015 Healthy Communities Grant Program, will reduce environmental risks, and protect and improve human health.

The program combines EPA resources to address the environmental and public health issues burdening southern New England communities. The program has competitively selected projects that will: assess, understand and reduce environmental and health risks; increase collaboration through community-based projects; build institutional and community capacity to understand and solve environmental and health problems; advance emergency preparedness and resilience; and achieve measurable environmental and health benefits in communities.

Here is the list of grant recipients:

Sustainable America was awarded $25,000 for its “Implementing the Food Too Good to Waste” project. This initiative will recruit households from faith-based congregations in the Bridgeport and Stamford areas to implement a Food Too Good to Waste (FTGTW) challenge. The FTGTW toolkit will be modified for the target audience and Sustainable America will host meetings for leadership from participating congregations, implementing a six-week challenge and instructing them how to bring the challenge back to their congregations. The goal of the project is to raise awareness about food waste and reduce the amount of food waste that is incinerated or landfilled. Project partners include Interfaith Council of Southwest Connecticut and the Fairfield County Interfaith Alliance on Climate Change.

Barnstable County was awarded $66,468 for its “Stormwater Treatment Systems” project. The project will compare the effectiveness of nitrogen removal in rain gardens and conventional stormwater systems on Cape Cod parcels that contain both systems. Efficiency of the two systems will be compared in terms of cost vs. performance for nitrogen removal. The results from sampling will be compiled into a report and shared with stormwater managers and other coastal resource decision-makers. Project partners include Woods Hole Sea Grant, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and towns of Bourne, Dennis and Mashpee.

Buzzards Bay Action Committee was awarded $200,000 for its “Buzzards Bay Stormwater Collaborative” project. The project will develop a collaborative framework for municipalities to share resources on universal issues such as stormwater. The partners will use their expertise to identify problem stormwater discharges, test discharges, and map stormwater networks in the local target area. Project partners include Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program, towns of Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Wareham and Acushnet, Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management and Buzzards Bay Coalition.

Buzzards Bay Coalition was awarded $100,000 for its Sustaining the Baywaters Monitoring Program” project. The project will increase the number of water quality sampling stations in Buzzards Bay during the winter. Project partners include the Marine Biological Laboratory Ecosystems Center.

Centro de Apoyo Familiar was awarded $25,000 for its “Healthy Families: Healthy Homes” project. The project will provide outreach and education to families and residents in Lawrence, with the goal of reducing the use of toxic chemicals in the home environment and reducing childhood exposure to harmful chemicals, asthma triggers, lead poisoning and mercury. Project partners include Manos Que Ayudan, Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer, Iglesia De Dios de la Profecia, Centro de adoracion Jesucristo es el Senor; Centro cristiano Camino de la Salvación, Iglesia Asambleas de Dios and Christ United Methodist Church.

Charles River Watershed Association was awarded $25,000 for its “Soaking up the Rain in Franklin” project. The project will extend its residential rain garden installation and tracking program with the town of Franklin to increase the capacity to mitigate flooding and associated local water quality impacts from large storm events. The project will increase the number of rain gardens in Franklin, educating residents on non-point source pollution problems and solutions and maintaining an up-to-date inventory on local stormwater projects. Project partners include Franklin Department of Public Works.

Groundwork Lawrence was awarded $25,000 for its “Climate Change Mitigation & Stormwater Education” project. The project will educate residents in Lawrence about climate change, its potential impact on local neighborhoods, climate mitigation options including the benefits of urban canopy and permeable surfaces, and the damaging effects of cooking oil disposal on the city’s wastewater infrastructure and river health. Forty trees also will be planted to absorb stormwater and help mitigate anticipated increased flooding due to climate change. Project partners include Lawrence DPW, Lawrence Community Works and Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board.

Health Resources in Action was awarded $25,000 for its “Environmental Health in Early Education: Expanding E-Learning Opportunities” project. The project will adapt Boston Healthy Homes and Schools Collaborative’s Healthy Homes for Family Child Care in-person training into an online module. The online educational training will be promoted statewide to alleviate the burden of asthma by increasing the capacity of Family Childcare Educators in targeted areas of Massachusetts, such as Boston and Lawrence, to create healthy indoor environments. Project partners include Centro de Apoyo Familiar, Department of Early Education and Care and the Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership.

Health Resources in Action was awarded $25,000 for its “Moving Asthma Care Upstream” project. The project will educate accountable care organizations and/or provider groups about the benefits of asthma home-based interventions. Activities include coordinating with the six New England state asthma programs, maintaining and promoting asthma website to disseminate tools, information and best practices around asthma home visiting and sustainable financing, and participating on leadership teams of national coalitions working on financing issues to support reimbursement for asthma interventions. Project partners include Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Health Center, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Middlesex Hospital, Children’s Medical Group and the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition.

Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group was awarded $135,693 for its “Annual Harvest of the Invasive Reed, Phragmites australis” project. The project will develop a better understanding of the nitrogen bioremediation potential of phragmites. Activities include providing an outline of the regulatory process governing harvests, demonstrating the potential uses of harvested reeds that may help to finance the harvests, documenting nitrogen reduction, and educating and involving the local stakeholders and planners on the concept. Project partners include Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Connecticut, Mermaid Farm in Chillmark, WorldStove LLC, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, town of Oak Bluff’s Conservation Commission and Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was awarded $198,174 for its “Popponesset Bay Coastal Resilience & Habitat Restoration” project. The project will create an aquatic oyster reef to benefit water quality in Popponesset Bay with the introduction of large numbers of filter feeders that remove microscopic particles from the water, improving turbidity, light penetration and overall water quality. The creation of this oyster reef covering 4 acres will ensure a sustainable reef system to buffer the shorelines from future storm events, improve water quality through the introduction of large numbers of bivalves and habitat diversity, providing shelter and food sources for people and juvenile marine species. Project partners include town of Mashpee.

Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health has been awarded $25,000 for its “Asthma Prevention through Peer Leadership & Engagement in Schools” project. The project will engage champions, student peer leaders and adults to take actions to improve environmental conditions and asthma management in Boston and Lynn schools. Results and lessons will be magnified by promoting implementation of healthy schools policies and practices across the state in three at-risk communities with high asthma rates. Project partners include Boston Healthy Homes and Schools Collaborative, Boston Healthy Schools Taskforce, Girls Inc., Boston Public Schools, Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Teachers’ Union and Custodial Union (Local 1952).

Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District has been awarded $170,000 for its “Regional Planning & Training on Municipal Tools for a Resilient Taunton Watershed” project. The project will train municipal officials using new tools and information that will improve their capacity to facilitate broad implementation of green infrastructure and low impact-development approaches. Project partners include Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Mass Audubon and The Nature Conservancy.

The Nature Conservancy has been awarded $199,664 for its “208 Plan Watershed Planning & Technology Transfer” project. The project will transfer the technologies and planning approaches developed as part of the Cape 208 Plan to a broader audience to urge nitrogen reduction. The project will build collaboration and partnerships throughout the region, bringing together representatives, nonprofits and other stakeholders at a water quality summit to discuss the most up-to-date information about technology, pilot projects and monitoring results. Project partners include Cape Cod Commission and the Horsley Witten Group.

Childhood Lead Action Project was awarded $9,370 for its “Community Lead Poisoning Prevention Initiative” project. The project will provide education, outreach and collaboration within the communities of East Providence and Pawtucket, with the goals of reducing the incidences of lead poisoning, increasing public lead safety knowledge and expertise of those performing renovation or repair on residences, increasing the understanding of Rhode Island’s lead law at the city level, and building the capacity of low-income, minority and tribal populations to reduce their exposure to toxins. Project partners include Blackstone Valley Community Action Program, city of East Providence, city of Pawtucket, East Bay Community Action Program and the Rhode Island Medical-Legal Partnership.

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management was awarded $200,000 for its “Strengthening Regional Partnerships” project. The project will build the capacity to analyze changing conditions in Narragansett Bay and its watershed associated with climate change and nutrient pollution control. The project will organize project partners to begin the process of understanding the ecological response to such changes and improve local environmental conditions. Project partners include University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute, Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Rhode Island Environmental Monitoring Collaborative and Watershed Counts.

Rhode Island Department of Health was awarded $200,000 for its "Building Large-Scale Regional Capacity for the Rapid Detection of Bacterial Contamination" project. The project will support the Rhode Island Department of Health’s BEACH program to compare the results of its traditional water testing method to the EPA’s method, which allows for same-day notifications of bacterial exceedances. This project could potentially lower the number of beach closures per year. Staff will be trained in the method and the R.I. lab will become the first New England-certified laboratory to use the rapid methods for water testing and notification. Project partners include Clean Ocean Access, Save The Bay, town of Bristol and the city of Newport.

Third Sector New England was awarded $24,788 for its “The Food: Too Good to Waste Ambassador Program.” The project will support to the Rhode Island Food Council in order to expand the Too Good to Waste pilot program to low-income households across the state. Using a train-the-trainer model, an ambassador program will teach households how to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste in their homes to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills, which produces methane, a greenhouse gas, while also saving food insecure households money by preventing edible food from going to waste. Project partners include African Alliance of Rhode Island, Pawtucket Housing Authority, Providence Housing Authority, Newport Housing Authority and Rhode Island Community Food Bank.