Working to Make a Visible Difference in Newport News

Newport News Assistanceby Jonathan Essoka

Our months of planning paid off last week with an all-day forum that brought EPA together with a host of other government agencies and partners to address the revitalization needs of Newport News, Virginia.

Newport News is one of five communities in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region receiving assistance under the Agency’s “Making a Visible Difference in Communities” (MVD) effort.

A room full of about 80 people engaged in finding solutions to the most pressing problems facing the city’s most overburdened neighborhoods – from air and toxics pollution to equitable development.

A series of panels offered best practice examples and resources, and a networking session gave members of the community a chance to meet one-on-one with federal, state and city agency representatives.

There was good energy throughout the day with practical and positive discussions on the opportunities and challenges, and on the need for the process to be inclusive and the community to be involved.

As EPA’s MVD coordinator in Newport News, I had the pleasure of working with the city, the Southeast CARE Coalition and our other partners to plan the forum.  I know we’re all glad that the weekly conference calls, regular emails, and last-minute agenda changes are behind us.

Now the real work begins.

The information we gathered will help our agencies and organizations build on the progress already being made in Newport News.  We assured the community that we weren’t just dropping in and leaving.  We’ll continue to fit in where it makes sense to help the city as a whole address its revitalization priorities.  For example, EPA is helping to bring green infrastructure to a city schoolyard to serve as a model for reducing stormwater pollution and preventing flooding.

At the forum, EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin called for a coordinated response to the environmental and public health issues identified by the community.

Based on the turnout and the dialogue, we have momentum behind that charge.

 

About the author: Jonathan Essoka works in the Office of State and Watershed Partnerships in the Water Protection Division of EPA Region 3.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Sustainability Rendezvous

By Michael Slimak

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining some of my colleagues from the European Union at an event in Washington, DC to present information and share examples of how we are all making strides to better understand and assess the environment.

The gathering, A Sustainable Future for All: EU and US Efforts to Measure and Assess Progress Towards a Sustainable and Resource Efficient Economy, was an opportunity to explore how countries on both sides of the vast Atlantic Ocean see a pathway to cleaner, healthier communities and a more prosperous future for us, our grandchildren, and beyond.

One of the great aspects of the rendezvous was listening to the common themes emerge from different perspectives and across a diversity of organizations. EPA research is at the forefront of forging that confluence of thought.

EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities research program was among the first explicitly organized to build bridges across traditional research disciplines—uniting ecologists, public health experts, toxicologists, and social scientists—to illuminate the connections between a healthy environment and specific, identifiable aspects of human well being. We work to connect natural ecosystems and the “services” they deliver such as climate stability, clean air, fertile soils, and watershed functions with critical aspects of livable communities: public health, environmental justice, economic opportunity, and long-term prosperity.

Simply put, we are working to empower communities and make things better for people.

EPA's Report on the Environment.

A section of EPA’s interactive Report on the Environment. Go to http://cfpub.epa.gov/roe/ to explore more.

An important way we do that is to develop the information, data, and tools that individuals and communities need to assess and monitor the environment. At the rendezvous, I shared one of our latest examples: EPA’s Report on the Environment. The European Environment Agency produced a similar effort in the European Environment, State and Outlook 2015 (SOER).

EPA’s report is an interactive resource that shows how the condition of the environment and human health in the United States is changing over time. It presents the best available indicators of national trends in five areas of interest to EPA: AirWaterLand, Human Exposure and Health, and Ecological Condition.

The Report on the Environment is an example of the kinds of scientific, environmental indicator-based resources EPA researchers are developing to provide transparent, open access to the information decision makers need.

Like our European counterparts, we are working together to embrace the concept of sustainability as a way to change the paradigm of environmental protection from something apart from traditional economic calculations to realizing opportunities in efficiencies and long-term solutions. Resources such as EPA’s Report on the Environment are helping us make that happen, and it was great to learn that we have committed partners to work with across the globe.

Portrait of Michael SlimakAbout the Author: Michael Slimak, Ph.D., is the national program director for EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities research program. An ecologist by training, he has worked on issues ranging from strategic research planning to aquatic and terrestrial contamination and risk assessment.

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.