The city of New Haven and the New Haven Ecology Project each formally received a federal grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at City Hall Monday.
Both grants are from the EPA’s Healthy Communities Grant Program. The city of New Haven was awarded $50,000 to promote cleaner air standards. The New Haven Ecology Project — a private, nonprofit organization — will use a $15,000 grant to promote environmental awareness in local communities.
At City Hall, Ira Leighton, the deputy regional administrator for the EPA, said the two grants demonstrate the government’s commitment to improving the quality of citizens’ everyday lives. He also acknowledged the efforts of Rep. Rosa DeLauro to bring federal funding to New Haven.
The grant — which had 181 other applicants — will be used by the city for its Community Clean Air Initiative. In concert with several partners, such as the New Haven Environmental Justice Network, the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Conn. Department of Environmental Protection, the city will use the funds to implement its planned strategy to reduce the health risks associated with pollution. The New Haven Department of Health and the City Plan Department will sponsor prevention workshops and educational programs to reduce sources of pollution in industry, transportation and indoor environments.
National studies have indicated that New Haven’s level of air toxics emissions, which can potentially cause asthma and respiratory diseases, is the second highest in New England. In recent years, city officials have responded to the this threat by investing in fuel cell technology, encouraging private companies to use low-sulfur diesel fuel and banning smoking in bars and restaurants in early October.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. expressed pleasure at the cooperation exhibited between local, state and federal governments to bring the grants to New Haven.
“It is heartening to see examples where different levels of government can work together to address issues affecting our communities, and I thank the EPA for acknowledging and supporting our efforts,” DeStefano said in a press release.
The New Haven Ecology Project will use its grant to fund its Healthy Community Landscapes project, which will make use of New Haven’s unused land areas. Despite high levels of pollution in New Haven, there are many open space resources in the city. The NHEP hopes to counter rising levels in child obesity by opening up safe outdoor play areas in local schools. Fresh produce is scarce because of New Haven’s lack of sustainable land management. The funds will help, adding unused urban space to its 20-acre farm site at West Rock Ridge State Park. Currently, the farm produces 10 tons of food annually.
The NHEP project will also run workshops on landscaping and gardening to better involve members of the community in the environment. The NHEP’s public charter school, Common Ground High School, has been a successful model for community awareness of environmental health, NHEP Director Oliver Barton said. Food production and soil conservation are an integral part of the school curriculum.
At yesterday’s press conference, Barton expressed gratitude for the EPA’s attention to the quality of life on the community level. He said that many environmentalists devote their attention to remote regions at the expense of more populated areas.
“The grant is a great symbol of the EPA’s commitment to improving urban environments, which are often neglected,” Barton said.