Environmental Change Agents: Lower Price Hill receives a grant to improve air quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding a $75,000 grant to help residents of Lower Price Hill and other pollution-burdened neighborhoods to become environmental change agents.

The grant will fund a community-driven, air quality monitoring project to gather data on what residents are breathing in a neighborhood that has had a history of environmental abuse.

The project is being led by Groundwork Ohio River Valley, a not-for-profit, community-based organization that has been working with Lower Price Hill residents to develop a detailed climate resiliency plan for that community.

The climate plan calls for increasing the tree canopy in the neighborhood, creating green roofs or rooftop gardens on some of the large, flat roofs of businesses, building community gardens and developing green spaces.

The organization has also stepped up the monitoring of the air quality in the neighborhood — and enlisted the help of residents in doing so — training them, compensating them, and engaging them in the work of making their neighborhood a more climate-safe place.

The EPA grant will allow that work to grow.

“EPA funding will expand an innovative local program that helps improve air quality and empowers community members to better advocate for and protect their health,” says EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe.  She visited Oyler School in Lower Price Hill on March 29 to announce the grant.

Groundwork’s monitoring program will focus on Lower Price Hill and other neighborhoods where residents experience a higher risk of heart disease and cancer related to air pollution and asthma. Groundwork will expand its data-gathering to include wearable air-quality monitors, and gather more accurate data. The information will be used to create yearly air quality reports, which will be incorporated into neighborhood climate-resilience plans.

The grant will also enable Groundwork to expand its air and water quality training for its youth employee workforce, as well as for members of neighborhood advisory groups it works with.

More than 100 youth employees and 10 neighborhood residents will be trained on air quality and monitoring techniques, along with air pollution education. Twenty youth employees will earn green infrastructure certifications.

"There is no better way to understand the impacts of climate change than learning from our frontline communities and building their power to fight it,” says Tanner Yess, co-executive director of Groundwork Ohio River Valley. 

The grant is part of President Biden's Justice40 initiative, which calls for federal agencies to deliver at least 40% of the benefits from certain investments to underserved communities.
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David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading, or watching classic movies.