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Environmental Justice

Water Projects

A sample of successful projects funded through the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program

Informing Communities on the Health Risks of Failed Septic Systems (Texas) (2012)

Water pollution is a significant issue in the Texas colonias of El Conquistador, Lourdes Estates, and Agua Dulce.  In these colonias there are no municipal wastewater systems, a high number of failing septic systems, and resulting poor water quality.  The “Familias Saludables” project by Familias Triunfadoras Inc., a non-profit organization, educated residents on septic system maintenance through home-based workshops with the support of an Environmental Justice Small Grant in 2012.  The “Familias Saludables” project team conducted several workshops on septic system maintenance, health risks of polluting irrigation canals, and advocacy and leadership development training.  Two large-scale community cleanups were organized and a social media campaign launched.

Project Accomplishments:

  • Over 15,000 pounds of trash and tires collected during community cleanup events
  • 192 residents trained on septic system maintenance
  • 240 residents educated on the health risks of polluting irrigation canals

Creating a New Generation of Environmental Justice Leaders to Address Water Pollution (New Haven, CT) (2012)

With a 2012 Environmental Justice Small Grant the New Haven Ecology Project (NHEP) Inc., a non-profit organization, devised and launched the “Green Jobs Corps” project to reduce water pollution and create a new generation of environmental justice leaders.  The project team launched the Green Jobs Corps internship, a year-long youth program that combined paid work opportunities with leadership and personal development opportunities.  Green Jobs Corps students surveyed an impaired urban waterway, hosted a community cleanup of a nature preserve, created an educational wetland on a high school campus, and planted urban street trees in their neighborhoods.  Over half of the project interns expressed a serious interest in pursuing environmental careers and college degrees after participating in the program. 

Project Accomplishments:

  • 35 students trained through the Green Jobs Corps internship
  • 23 green spaces improved
  • 240 neighborhood residents mobilized around clean air and water

Testing Drinking Water Sources for Residents of Seldovia Village, Alaska (Seldovia Village, AK) (2013)

Outside the city limits of Seldovia, 165 rural residents do not have access to the public water system.  Instead, residents get their water supply from untested private wells and local creeks.  The Seldovia Village Tribal Council implemented the "Seldovia Village Tribe Safe Drinking Water Project" to test drinking water sources for village residents.  Through the support of a 2013 Environmental Justice Small Grant, water samples from private wells and local creeks were tested for arsenic, lead, copper, iron, calcium, E. Coli, and other pollutants.  An alarming 54% of private wells tested positive for contaminants (iron, coliform bacteria, and lead found to be the top three contaminants).  The project team held consultations with several residents to address their water issues and shared water testing results with the city manager and relevant staff. 

Project Accomplishments:

  • 23 private wells and 8 creek sites tested for contaminants with 54% testing positive
  • 46 community members reached, representing 62% of the population in Seldovia Village
  • Increased the awareness of Seldovia government representatives on the quality of drinking water for residents outside of city limits

Low-Impact Designs to Improve Water Quality in New Orleans’ Watersheds (New Orleans, LA) (2013)

In 2013 Groundwork New Orleans, a non-profit organization, created and launched the “The Green Slice Water Catchment Project” with the support of an Environmental Justice Small Grant.  The goals of the project were to educate New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward residents on healthy watersheds and low-impact design strategies to improve water quality.  The project team and partners conducted a series of community meetings, held a community forum on low impact design strategies that filter contaminants from storm water, interviewed multiple residents, and installed a water catchment system to address water quality and flooding concerns in Lower Ninth Ward's neighborhoods. 

Project Accomplishments:

  • Installation of a water catchment system
  • Creation of additional green space
  • Trained residents and youth on low-cost solutions to neighborhood environmental problems