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EPA Grants $86,264 to Reduce Toxic Risks in Seattle's International District

Release Date: 11/7/2005
Contact Information: Lisa McArthur
(206) 553-1814

EPA News Release

November 7, 2005

People in Seattle's International District will be better able to protect themselves from toxic pollution thanks to an $86,264 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant that will be announced today. This grant, one of the first of its kind in the nation, will be awarded to the International District Housing Alliance (IDHA) for an innovative locally-driven project to identify and reduce risks from lead paint, mold, asbestos, air toxics and other forms of pollution.

The grant comes under a new EPA program called CARE -- Community Action for a Renewed Environment -- aimed at allowing communities a more direct say in identifying and addressing their specific local concerns about environmental risks.

EPA Region 10 Administrator Michael Bogert, will present the CARE grant at a ceremony today at the Chinatown Community Center, 719 8th Avenue South (corner of Eighth and Dearborn) from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. today.

"CARE grants are about empowering communities,” said Bogert. "This project is about listening to local concerns and observations, and identifying concrete actions to reduce risks in specific communities. Directly involving people in this way is the best way to achieve environmental and human health benefits from our programs."

With the help of the EPA grant, the IDHA will launch a partnership with local businesses, non-profits, city and county government offices and the University of Washington. Together with the community, these organizations will analyze current risks, set priorities, and chart a path forward for reducing these risks.

More than half of International District residents are Asian and Pacific Islanders and many have limited English language skills. The CARE grant project will employ technological innovations like "Photovoice," digital cameras, and handheld data recorders to break through language barriers and give the community a voice in assessing their own environmental risks. Besides lead, mold and asbestos, International District residents may also be concerned about air pollution from Interstate 5 and increased bus traffic due to the recent downtown bus tunnel closure. During the course of this project, IDHA will reach out to the community, provide education and assistance with data analysis, and then listen to community members as they set their own priorities for toxic cleanup and change.

“As our immigrant and refugee population in King County grows, our out-dated ways of engaging community needs to change," said Stella Chao, Executive Director of the IDHA. "We must find more effective models of working across language and cultural barriers to be able to embrace everyone in creating healthy and successful neighborhoods. This wouldn’t be possible without partnership.”

Across the nation, EPA is launching seven Level I CARE grants ranging from $75,000 - $90,000, and five larger Level II grants ranging from $250,000 - $300,000 for on-the-ground risk reduction projects. Level I grants such as the IDHA grant help communities to build partnerships and assess risks as well as prepare the communities for the risk reduction work of the Level II grants.

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