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EPA and Public Health Solutions Launch Environmental Health Project

Release Date: 02/07/2008
Contact Information: Kathleen Fenton, (913) 551-7874,

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., Feb. 7, 2008) - Public Health Solutions, community partners, and local officials from Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Saline, and Thayer counties met today to kick off an innovative community-driven environmental project called BASIS for Environmental Health.

Public Health Solutions, the counties' district health department, will lead an environmental health assessment that will increase local capacity to prioritize and manage related health issues in the five Nebraska counties. BASIS stands for "baseline assessment system to improve the status."

The project is funded by an $86,500 cooperative-agreement grant awarded in September 2007 under EPA's Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program. It was one of 22 projects selected from 127 submitted nationwide in 2007, and one of three funded in EPA Region 7 (which includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska).

The CARE program is designed so that EPA can help communities identify and address local environmental issues dealing with risks from toxic pollution. It also helps community partnerships achieve sustainable and measurable environmental improvements.

"This is a great opportunity for the citizens of this five-county area to have direct input about the issues affecting their communities," said John Askew, EPA Region 7 administrator. "The success of this project depends on local people helping to find solutions that are right for this area.”

Jane Ford Witthoff, health director of Public Health Solutions stated, “The grant will enable the identification and resolution of environmental health problems in the five-county district. Community involvement is essential to the success of this project. The department is very excited about helping the citizens of our rural service area address rural environmental health concerns. We have high expectations for the positive impact this project will have on the health and well-being of the citizens of Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Saline, and Thayer counties.”

Public Health Solutions has hired Kim Plouzek to coordinate and manage the project. Plouzek will work with representatives from the five-county district to gather information on their local environmental concerns. “This will be a two-year process, during which we will meet with county residents, local officials, agency representatives, and experts in various fields to develop a total assessment of the district's environment," said Plouzek.

The CARE program is a community-driven program that splits the work into two levels. CARE Level 1 projects establish strong local partnerships and help communities understand, identify and prioritize their environmental issues. Once CARE Level 1 projects are completed, communities can apply for a second round of competitive funding for the CARE Level 2 phase. CARE Level 2 projects help communities identify local solutions and allow them to begin taking action on their priority environmental issues.

Public Health Solutions is in the process of forming a team of stakeholders that represent the five-county area. The team will communicate regularly to identify and prioritize the district's environmental issues.

If you are interested in participating, or want additional information about the community effort, please call Public Health Solutions at 402-826-3880 and ask to speak with Kim Plouzek.

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Learn more about the BASIS for Environmental Health project at:

Learn more about EPA's CARE program at:

Community Action for a Renewed Environment: Local Partnerships. Healthy Communities.