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EPA Environmental Justice Grant to Help Ironbound Community Promote Sustainable Practices through Urban Gardening and Environmental Education

Release Date: 01/23/2012
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, 212-637-3664,

(New York, N.Y. - Jan. 23, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is providing $25,000 to the Ironbound Community Corporation to enhance a community garden and promote environmental education in the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey. The wide variety of pollutants that affect the Ironbound, from existing and former chemical plants, waste industries, and trucks, airplanes and ships, has made the area a focus of EPA efforts to reduce pollution in low income neighborhoods.

“EPA environmental justice grants provide much needed funds to tackle local pollution problems in low income communities," said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "The grant to the Ironbound Community Corporation will expand a community gardening project that brings children and adults together to learn about sustainable practices, and will train community residents on ways to reduce pollution in the Ironbound.”

More than 50,000 people live in this Newark neighborhood and it is one of the most densely populated and diverse areas of the city. Seventy-five percent of its residents speak a language other than English, including large numbers of people who speak Portuguese or Spanish. The community suffers from double-digit unemployment and high poverty.

There are a wide variety of pollutants in the Ironbound from existing and former chemical plants, the local garbage incinerator, and trucks, airplanes, and ships. Newark is densely populated and there is an elevated level of asthma in children living in the area. Poor air quality particularly impacts children and adults who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma. Pathogens and toxic pollutants in the water pose risks to human health and water quality.

The area is heavily industrialized, and when a property has been previously used for industrial or commercial activities, the soil is often nutrient deficient, highly compacted and potentially contaminated. The health of the soil can be improved to support community gardens like the one planted by the Ironbound Community Corporation. Healthy soil holds water and contains beneficial organisms, plant nutrients and organic matter.

The Ironbound Community Corporation is the largest comprehensive social service provider in the area. The environmental justice grant to the organization will be used to enhance a community garden that provides environmental activities for residents. The project will support existing gardening efforts at the East Ferry Street Family Success Center, add new sustainability elements such as a rain harvesting system to better manage storm water, and link all greening and gardening activities to educational activities. In addition, the group will encourage civic participation and sustainability practices, and train community members on ways to address pollution.

Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race or income, in the environmental decision-making process. Since 1994, the environmental justice small grants program has provided more than $23 million in funding to community-based nonprofit organizations and local governments working to address environmental justice issues in more than 1,200 communities. The grants further EPA’s commitment to expand the conversation on environmentalism and advance environmental justice in communities across the nation.

More information on the Environmental Justice Small Grants program and a list of grantees: