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EPA awards CARE grant to investigate environmental health issue


A partnership of state and local organizations has received a $92,970 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fund a community-based investigation aimed at determining the most important environmental health issues in and around Salina, Kan.

The Kansas State University Pollution Prevention Institute, the Kansas PRIDE program, and local partners in Salina are joint recipients of the grant, which is provided by EPA's Community Action for Renewed Environment Program.

The CARE program offers funding to eligible community partnerships at two levels. Salina's grant, under CARE Level 1, will help forge strong local partnerships and enable residents and their partners to better understand, identify and prioritize their environmental health issues.

After the completion of the CARE Level 1 project, the community may apply for additional funding for a CARE Level 2 project, which could total approximately $275,000. CARE Level 2 projects help communities implement solutions identified in the CARE 1 process that address the reduction of toxic environmental concerns.

Nationwide in 2008, EPA awarded $3 million to CARE cooperative agreements for 13 communities in rural and urban areas, out of 130 applicants. Only 68 CARE projects in 64 communities have been funded nationwide since 2005. Such projects have helped address water quality in the Puget Sound, determine environmental health issues in Gary, Ind., and reduce electronic and pharmaceutical wastes in Michigan.

"Salina, like most communities, has its share of environmental challenges," Salina City Manager Jason Gage said. "Being good stewards of our natural resources is a very important goal for the City of Salina. This grant gives us the opportunity to take a big step in that direction."

Salina will use information developed by its CARE Level 1 grant to determine if a CARE Level 2 grant is needed to help the community reduce environmental risks.

Salina resident Barb Johnson, a pollution prevention specialist at PPI, will serve as Salina's CARE project manager.

"We are very excited that the EPA chose PPI and the Salina community to be a part of this process," Johnson said. "This project will build upon our residents' interests to improve the health of our community and local ecosystem."

Evidence of local interest in environmental issues has been demonstrated by heavy attendance at public meetings held in recent years on such topics as water quality, adequacy of water supply, climate challenge and dependence on coal-fired power plants, Johnson said.

The Kansas PRIDE program's Sherry Davis will co-facilitate meetings to assist the community with understanding, identifying, and prioritizing their environmental issues.

"This will be a two-year process in which we will meet with many residents, businesses, local officials, agency representatives and experts in various environmental and natural resource fields," Davis said.

PPI and the initial Salina partners are in the process of forming a community-representative leadership team that will meet regularly to investigate and communicate findings on environmental issues to the community at large. PPI will advertise for local volunteers to join this effort in the near future.

Citizen input will be a key component throughout the CARE process. The first public meetings will be held in early 2009 and will be announced in the Salina Journal and other local publications.

Individuals and organizations that would like to become a partner in Salina's CARE process can e-mail Barb Johnson, barblj@ksu.edu, and ask to be added to the e-mail listserv.

2 Star EK\9-B

Date: 1/8/09

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