UGA partners with new EPA Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Center

Traffic flows in and out of downtown Atlanta on the I75/I85 Connector Thursday, May 19, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

UGA to lead efforts to address environmental justice in Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. – The University of Georgia College of Engineering will serve as one of eight university partners with nonprofit research institute RTI International to establish a new Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Center (EJ TCTAC) to help communities across the Southeast advance environmental justice.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the $10 million in grant funding over the next five years to serve communities in EPA Region 4,  which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and six Tribal Nations. The center, named Resource for Assistance and Community Training in Region 4 (REACT4EJ), is one of 17 EJ TCTACs announced by the EPA in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Each EJ TCTAC will provide training and support in navigating federal grant application systems, writing grant proposals, and managing grant funding. In addition, they will provide guidance on community engagement, meeting facilitation, and translation and interpretation services for limited English-speaking participants, with a goal of removing barriers and improving accessibility for communities with environmental justice concerns.

Coordinated by RTI International, REACT4EJ project partners include the University of Georgia, Alabama A&M University, Florida A&M University, Jackson State University, North Carolina Central University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Memphis, and the University of South Carolina.

“This is the first cooperative agreement of this kind that the EPA has created with a particular focus of these Technical Assistance Centers around environmental justice issues, so it’s exciting to be a part of something brand new,” said Christina H. Fuller, associate professor in the UGA College of Engineering and REACT4EJ UGA team lead.

Joining Fuller on the REACT4EJ UGA team are College of Engineering assistant professors Alysha Helmrich and Félix Santiago-Collazo, and Jill Gambill from Georgia Tech. The team is collaborating with community-based organizations ECO-Action and One Hundred Miles to address environmental justice within the state of Georgia.

“The project will span different areas from coastal water issues, to urban flooding, to air pollution, to soil and drinking water issues that have become challenges to our state and the people that live here,” Fuller said. “I think UGA is perfectly positioned for this work given our focus on service, our history, and the ongoing relationships with communities in the state of Georgia.”

While the project is funded for the next five years, the team hopes to extend efforts beyond that. They aim to expand and collaborate with an extended network of grassroots community groups, municipalities, agencies, and others to implement sustainable environmental justice solutions in the long-term. By leveraging these collective efforts, they seek to make a lasting impact in Georgia.

“There is a lot of research about environmental justice issues, but it’s been difficult to find tangible solutions,” said Fuller. “With this grant, we aim to engage community groups to plan, fund, and implement different technologies that address both physical and social environment challenges that yield sustainable solutions now and into the future.”

By Lillian Ballance

Photo: Traffic flows in and out of downtown Atlanta in 2016. Emissions from cars and trucks have been linked to heart and lung problems. (John Bazemore / Associated Press file)

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