"After many years of struggle and challenge these two neighborhoods are seeing progress toward addressing many environmental and health concerns in collaboration with their industries who co-exist with them," said Dr. Mildred McClain, executive director of Harambee House.
"This process sets the stage for great things to come - a permanent mechanism that will lead to healthy, safe and clean neighborhoods as well as the advancement toward environmental justice," she said.
The neighborhoods of Hudson Hill and Woodville are home to 1,600 people, 97 percent of whom are people of color and the 75.5 percent of whom live below the federal poverty level. The neighborhoods are surrounded by 17 industries, and residents are concerned about health risks from air toxics.
Hudson Hill and Woodville are situated alongside an industrial area that houses International Paper, Weyerhaeuser Company, Arizona Chemicals, Colonial Oil, Swift Agri-Chem Corporation, Georgia Power, and Engelhard Corporation's Savannah operations.
Savannah's industrial area adjacent to the waterfront (Photo byJay Waldron)
Adjacent to the industrial area is the Savannah River waterfront that is of particular concern to the Hudson Hill community
Dioxins, created and released during chlorine bleaching processes when the companies whiten paper products and wood pulp, are known carcinogens and are suspected developmental toxins.
Residents of both neighborhoods fear gardening, a historic and cultural practice that most residents have discontinued because of fine particulate matter in the air and concerns about dermal exposure and wet deposition from rain.
Other community concerns focus on sulfur compounds, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides.
Chatham County ranks in the top 20 percent of U.S. counties for particulate matter, soot, smoke, dust, dirt and volatile organic compounds. The chemicals are known to aggravate breathing, respiratory and cardiovascular disease. These two communities have children, women of childbearing age and elderly that are especially vulnerable to toxins in the air, water, and soil.
The air quality concerns are compounded by the planned expansion of Bay Street, a major thoroughfare that bisects the community, and will increase the number of diesel-fueled heavy trucks traveling through the area, emitting more than 40 toxic chemicals into the air.
Harambee House hopes to use the newly awarded grant money to address these air pollution problems.
"The CARE Level 2 project will provide us with an opportunity to work with our industrial neighbors and partners to educate each other about environmental conditions in our neighborhoods," said Tyrone Ware, president of the Woodville Neighborhood Association. "We will work to reduce potential hazards and enhance the quality of life for our residents and industrial neighbors."
With the new grant, Harambee House will involve business and industry representatives to determine emissions reductions and other environmental improvements that can be made on a voluntary basis, with support from EPA's Voluntary Partnership Programs.
The project will implement emergency preparedness plans and procedures in the community.
Other goals are to reduce transportation associated emissions, improve community property and increase greenspace, improve water quality and access to water resources for the local community and engage residents in identified air quality issues and monitoring.
The award is part of EPA's Community Action for a Renewed Environment, CARE, program which supports communities in creating and using collaborative partnerships to reduce exposure to pollution through voluntary risk reduction activities. Since the program was established four years ago, CARE has provided a total of $10.4 million to 64 communities nationwide.
"Under the first phase of the grant, Harambee House and its partners were extremely successful in educating Hudson Hill and Woodville about toxic issues," said Russell Wright, EPA Region 4 assistant regional administrator.
With this second grant, Harambee House will help the communities to engage local businesses and industries, and build on their success by implementing new projects to help reduce the risk of exposure to everyday toxins, he said.
The Savannah CARE project is one of just four across the country to have received both Level I and Level II funding. Level II communities are further along in the CARE process and are prepared to measure results, implement risk reduction activities, and become self-sustaining.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.