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EPA Honors Blacksburg, Va. as First U.S. Town to Join New National Environmental Program

Release Date: 08/22/2006
Contact Information: Mike Frankel (215) 814-2665

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- In a ceremony today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh recognized the town of Blacksburg for being the first municipality in the country to enroll in the voluntary National Partnership for Environmental Priorities. The program challenges businesses and manufacturers to become more environmentally aware and to adopt a resource conservation ethic that results in less waste, more recycling, and more environmentally-sound products.

The Town of Blacksburg has demonstrated its progressive environmental leadership in the past, but today a bigger challenge has been met, Welsh said. By enrolling in this national program, the town of Blacksburg serves as a model for other cities and towns across the country by addressing chemical risks within the community and increasing the conservation of resources.

The National Partnership for Environmental Priorities Program encourages public and private organizations to form partnerships with EPA that commit to reduce the use or release of any of 31 priority chemicals. These priority chemicals have been targeted because they can accumulate in living organisms or have high toxicity levels. EPA, working in conjunction with the public and various industries, has set a goal to reduce the use or release of four million pounds of priority chemicals by 2011.

As a new waste minimization partner, Blacksburg has committed to reduce electronic waste by eliminating the use of lead weights on town vehicles. Lead weights are clipped to the wheel rims of every automobile in the United States to balance the tires. An estimated 13 percent of these weights come loose and fall off, entering the environment. When they do, they have the potential to contaminate soil and groundwater. As a new partner, the Towns commitment represents the elimination of 325 pounds of lead by December 2007.

In addition to becoming a waste minimization partner, the Town of Blacksburg is also the recipient of a $95,000 Resource Conservation Challenge grant to implement programs and create partnerships to conserve resources through waste reduction.

Participating in U.S. EPAs Resource Conservation Challenge through this grant program has already brought together over two dozen community groups with shared goals who are eager to partner and bring about local solutions to national environmental issues, said Marc Verneil, Blacksburg town manager.

Blacksburg will also encourage commercial property managers to recycle mercury containing fluorescent lights, and raise community awareness of the importance of recycling rechargeable cadmium batteries.

By recycling fluorescent lights, the amount of potential mercury released into the environment is reduced. Mercury is a neurotoxin which can negatively impact on human health. Especially sensitive to the effects of mercury exposure are children and pregnant women.

Improperly disposed of cadmium batteries, such as those used in cell phones, cordless telephones, video cameras, and cordless power tools can leach into and contaminate soil and groundwater. Exposure to high levels of cadmium in water and food can cause severe stomach irritation, vomiting and diarrhea. Because cadmium accumulates in the body, long term exposure even at low levels can lead to kidney and skeletal damage.

Blacksburg also has agreed to form a collaborative partnership with groups representing
all aspects of the community, including citizen groups, businesses, government, academic
institutions, and non-profits, called Sustainable Blacksburg. The voluntary partnership the town has created has a mission to develop a collaborative network that works to create a greener community.

Partnership members will participate in the development and implementation of programs to reduce resource usage, recycle materials, and create re-use initiatives. Partners will work with the community to provide outreach, educational assistance
and raise awareness.

NPEP is just one component of EPAs Resource Conservation Challenge, a national effort to minimize waste through resource conservation, recycling and re-use.

Today, Blacksburg also received the Virginia Department of Environmental Qualitys
Virginia Environmental Excellence Award.

For more information about the National Partnership for Environmental Priorities, go to:

For more information on the Resource Conservation Challenge, go to: