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Maine DEP Wins $50,000 EPA Grant For Community Air Toxics Initiative

Release Date: 11/07/2003
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it has awarded $50,000 to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a program to evaluate, prioritize and reduce risks from toxic air pollutants for Maine residents. The public announcement came at a meeting today in Augusta of the program’s advisory committee, which includes community and environmental organizations; local, state and federal governments; and industrial organizations. The grant comes from EPA New England’s new regional Healthy Communities Grant Program.

The DEP’s Maine Air Toxics Initiative was created in response to a national EPA study of air toxics that indicated potential risks to Maine residents. Air toxics are a broad group of air contaminants that can cause serious health effects to people breathing them, including for example benzene and chromium compounds. Ozone (smog) and particulate matter (soot) are not considered air toxics and are addressed by other programs.

Maine’s initiative will work with a range of stakeholders to further evaluate risks from air toxics in Maine, using federal and state emissions data and air movement models. The stakeholder advisory committee will then identify the highest priority air toxics and develop immediate actions to reduce risks for Maine residents. The group will also identify a long-term targeted strategy, with clear implementation goals and timeframes, for DEP to pursue. These strategies could include economic incentives, targeted pollution prevention programs, new legislation at the state level, or partnering with regional agencies to resolve interstate issues.

“While we have seen significant reductions of emissions of air toxics in recent years, we believe that there are still health risks posed by current levels,” said Michael Kenyon, Air Programs Branch Chief for EPA’s New England Office, speaking at the advisory committee meeting. “EPA is very excited about Maine DEP’s plan to conduct a thoughtful analysis of the risks and the source of those emissions, and then develop strategies to reduce levels of those pollutants.”

“This initiative will be directed to identifying early actions as well as long term solutions that will reduce exposure to toxic emissions in Maine,” said Dawn R. Gallagher, Commissioner of the Maine DEP. “That's why the breadth and depth of expertise gathered here today is so incredibly important. Frankly we couldn't undertake such an ambitious and worthwhile project without the help provided to us by EPA. I am optimistic that we will come up with creative approaches that truly serve everyone involved.”

The 2003 Healthy Communities Grant Program was designed in EPA New England and joins together resources from nine different programs including Assistance & Pollution Prevention: Schools Sector, Asthma, Children’s Environmental Health, Community Air Toxics, Pesticides, Smart Growth, Tools for Schools, Toxics, and the Urban Environmental Program. The grant program competitively identifies top quality community-based projects that will achieve measurable environmental and human health improvements in communities across New England in the target investment areas of environmental justice areas of potential concern, places with high risks from toxic air pollution, service sensitive populations, and/or are urban areas.