3 Phila. groups get grants to fight environmental hazards

Posted: February 28, 2014

In Port Richmond, residents are exposed to air pollution from oceangoing vessels, factories, and heavy traffic along I-95.

In Overbrook, toxic chemicals in area waterways and water quality overall are issues.

Many in Philadelphia's Hispanic neighborhoods don't realize the danger of lead contamination from older, deteriorating buildings.

All three are the target of environmental-justice funding from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, whose deputy administrator, Bob Perciasepe, traveled to Philadelphia on Wednesday to highlight the grants.

Three community groups are receiving $30,000 each.

Concilio - the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations of Philadelphia - will use its funds to provide information about lead poisoning. It also will distribute carbon monoxide detectors and information about fire safety.

"We need to focus more holistically on safety," said Concilio's deputy director, Julie Cousler.

The Clean Air Council will work with residents to identify hazards in Port Richmond, a community that was developed at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

Through workshops, residents will learn about policies to reduce air pollution exposure and explore what they can do about it.

"Some communities benefit more from clean air than others, and in a country as wealthy as ours, that's not right," said the council's executive director, Joseph O. Minott.

Jastech Development Services Inc., a nonprofit that sponsors the Overbrook Environmental Education Center, will start a program to teach residents how to dispose of hazardous household waste and toxic chemicals.

"Our objective is to turn potential into performance," said Jastech's executive director, Jerome Shabazz.

Across the nation, the environment has improved, said the EPA's Perciasepe, "but that progress has not been equally distributed."

One way the agency is addressing that is through the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, begun in 1994. It has awarded more than $24 million to 1,400 organizations.

The three grants highlighted Wednesday are among 39 nationwide totaling $1.1 million that were announced in September.


sbauers@phillynews.com

215-854-5147 @sbauers

www.inquirer.com/greenspace

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