Jul 03, 2012

EPA Awards Grants to Rhode Island Organizations

Providing $317,000 for Brownfields Job Training and Urban Water Protection grants

EPA Awards Grants to Rhode Island Organizations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing a total of $317,000 to three Rhode Island organizations. One grant will provide job training for environmental work and two grants will help address urban water quality issues, all of which will contribute to cleaner, healthier communities.

Groundwork Providence, Brownfield Job Training Grant: $200,000

Under EPA’s Brownfields “Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training” program, a $200,000 EPA grant will assist Groundwork Providence to train 54 students and place at least 45 graduates in environmental jobs. Groundwork Providence will track graduates for at least one year to assist students’ transition to the workforce.

The training program includes 40-hour HAZWOPER, underground storage tank leak prevention, solid waste management and recycling, wastewater management, lead abatement supervisor, innovative treatment technologies, construction safety and innovative technologies for water issues. In addition, supplemental training in integrated pest management, wastewater treatment operation or underground storage tank operation will be offered to select students. Participants who complete the core training program will earn six state or federal certifications. Groundwork Providence is targeting unemployed and underemployed residents of Providence, Woonsocket, Central Falls and Pawtucket, and will partner with the Providence Housing Authority, Workforce Solutions of Providence/Cranston, Family Success Centers and the West Elmwood Housing Corp.

“EPA’s Brownfield Job Training grants can be a real catalyst helping to change peoples’ lives for the better,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Investing to provide people with the skills to earn a good living are also helping to protect the health of the local community by targeting historically disadvantaged neighborhoods where environmental cleanups and jobs are often most needed.”

Since 1998, EPA has awarded more than $42 million nationally under the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program. As of June 2012, approximately 10,300 individuals had completed training and approximately 7,300 obtained employment in the environmental field, with an average starting hourly wage of $14.12. The development of this green workforce will allow the trainees to develop skills that will make them competitive in the construction and redevelopment fields.

Graduates of the program are equipped with skills and certifications in various environmental fields including lead and asbestos abatement, environmental site sampling, construction and demolition debris recycling, underground storage tank removal, ecological restoration and green building techniques. Graduates use these skills to improve the environment and people’s health while supporting economic development in their communities.

Urban Water Quality Improvement Grants

In two separate grants, EPA is awarding $117,000 to two organizations working to address water quality impairments in urban areas of Rhode Island.

Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, Providence, R.I.: $60,000

The Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island will team up with Urban Pond Procession and Groundwork Providence to creatively engage residents of the Reservoir Triangle neighborhood through educational and training initiatives to generate citizen energy for restoring water quality in Mashapaug Pond, the last remaining natural pond in Providence.

The project will involve community assessments to understand storm water impacts to the pond. Homeowners and school children will learn about storm water pollution sources at home and receive hands-on education about residential and neighborhood storm water practices that homeowners can employ. Residents will be invited to participate in neighborhood tours to identify locations and opportunities to craft rain gardens, disconnect drain spouts and capture rain, etc.  Project partners will also work with green-job graduates on community assessments to locate potential landscape sites designed to treat runoff and train residents on basic practices that reduce runoff into the pond.

"On behalf of the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, I am thrilled to receive this EPA Urban Waters grant. The project this grant will fund is less of a "project" and much more a continuation of years of foundational work we have done in the Reservoir Triangle neighborhood, along with our partners, to reclaim Mashapaug Pond and create a vibrant, safe and restored natural area for Providence residents. We could not have done this without the steady support of the EPA, from our early days with the CARE grant, through today,” said Amelia Rose, director of Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island.

Narragansett Bay Estuary Program/Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Assn., Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket and Central Falls, R.I.: $57,000

The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Assn. and the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program will lead an effort to develop an “Urban Waters Fish Community Monitoring Program” to target restoration actions to improve water quality for Providence’s urban environments. Narragansett Bay Estuary Program will lead an effort to develop an “Urban Waters Fish Community Monitoring Program” to target restoration actions to improve water quality for Providence’s urban environments.  Under the project, they will develop a fish community monitoring program for three wadeable urban rivers and tributaries: the Moshasshuck River, the Woonasquatucket River and the Blackstone River, flowing through urban areas around Providence, R.I. Existing historic fish and water quality data will be assembled and analyzed to establish baseline data, develop urban river habitat assessments and identify areas where no previous information is available. The project will identify issues and related urban conditions and then target locations for water quality restoration actions. It will engage the urban community to provide citizen-scientist education program(s), develop a monitoring protocol for volunteer monitoring procedures and to hold workshops to provide volunteer training for long-term monitoring. Data and assessments will strengthen community and watershed organizations and enliven communication with city and state officials to support restoration efforts.

“For the past year, the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program has been working with watershed organizations and state agency representatives to develop indicators that will describe the condition of the rivers and streams in the Narragansett Bay watershed. Although we were interested in describing the health of the fish communities in the rivers, we did not have the necessary information. We are excited to use the EPA funding to develop an urban waters fish monitoring program that will help us understand how fish communities are impacted by water quality. We will use the data we collect to identify restoration actions that can be taken to improve water quality and restore urban fish communities,” said Meg Kerr, Watershed Program Manager of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program.

The two Rhode Island grants are part of $2.7 million EPA awarded nationally to 46 organizations in 32 states and Puerto Rico to help restore urban waters. Funding from EPA’s Urban Waters program supports communities’ efforts to protect and restore water quality so they can access, improve and benefit from their urban waters and the surrounding land.

“We are very proud to provide funding to help these groups address urban water quality issues in Rhode Island,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “These funds will help restore urban waters and support community revitalization on and near these rivers.”

Many urban waterways have been polluted for years by sewage, runoff from city streets and contamination from abandoned industrial facilities. Healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance educational, economic, recreational, employment and social opportunities in nearby communities. By awarding these small grants to restore urban waterways, EPA will help communities become active participants in restoring urban waters while improving and protecting their neighborhoods.