Heart of Camden to Use Grant for Environmental Hazards Database

The Heart of Camden, a local community-based organization, has received a $20,000 environmental justice grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it plans to use to collect and analyze environmental and health data and match it with geographic information related to the neighborhoods of Waterfront South and South-Central Camden, N.J., to create an online tool.

The software will be designed to build the community’s awareness and knowledge of exposure to a variety of contaminated sites and pollution sources found in the area.

“This project will go a long way toward helping the people of Camden identify specific environmental and health risks within South-Central Camden so that its residents can more fully participate in decisions that impact their health and the local environment,” said Judith Enck, EPA Region 2 administrator. “We are here to make sure that all communities are equally protected from environmental hazards. Our partnerships with Heart of Camden and the City of Camden will help inform the local community with the facts needed to combat environmental health hazards where people live and work.”

Heart of Camden Executive Director Helene Pierson thanked EPA and said, “Over the past decade, there have been many reports suggesting that residents in our town have higher health risks due to environmental issues, but up to this point, such studies have been limited in focus. This initiative will provide a comprehensive evaluation of all available existing data on environmental exposure and their potential health risks so that we can get to work on the most pressing issues to have the greatest impact on improving air quality in the future. We are pleased to have available some of expertise at Cooper University Hospital and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in assisting us with this project."

The organization is developing a comprehensive environmental health information tool that covers emissions data, contaminated soil sites, and the status of pending air pollution mitigation and site remediation effort data. It will provide a description of known and potential health effects related to the identified pollutants. In addition, the group will analyze and compare to other urban and suburban communities in New Jersey the rates at which people in the Waterfront and South-Central Camden communities visit the hospital, particularly for respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Just last year, EPA awarded approximately $800,000 in grants to organizations working with communities throughout the country facing environmental justice challenges. Forty grants, up to $20,000 each, went to community-based organizations and local and tribal governments in 28 states for community projects aimed at addressing environmental and public health issues. In the 15 years since initiating the environmental justice small grants program, EPA has awarded more than $20 million in funding to assist 1,130 community-based organizations and local and tribal governments.

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income in the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

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