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EPA grant will pay Cincinnati residents to measure pollution

Darryl Franklin was among the participants in the Beekman Corridor Climate Advisory Group convened by local nonprofits to advise the City of Cincinnati's environmental planning and responses to climate change.
Nick Swartsell
Darryl Franklin was among the participants in the Beekman Corridor Climate Advisory Group convened by a local nonprofits to advise the city of Cincinnati's environmental planning and responses to climate change.

Neighborhoods along Beekman Street in Cincinnati — and a number of other communities — have experienced decades of air pollution from nearby highways and industry. But a new grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded to local nonprofit Groundwork Ohio River Valley will pay residents in those places to measure that pollution in an effort to find solutions.

About $200,000 of the $482,000 grant will go directly to paying participants in North Fairmount, South Cumminsville, Millvale, Roselawn, Bond Hill and other neighborhoods. Participants will also include members of Groundwork's youth jobs program. The rest of the funds will be used to purchase equipment and provide training on how to use it.

Groundwork Citizen Science Program Manager Jaeydah Edwards says the effort is allied with a larger program — Climate Advisory Groups— that seeks to put members of communities experiencing environmental disparities in the driver's seat when it comes to finding solutions.

Finding solutions to longstanding problems

Decades of industrial activity and highway traffic have caused environmental damage in low-income Cincinnati communities like those in the Beekman Corridor. Due to a history of racist government policies and market dynamics, many of the residents there are people of color. The communities have lower-than-average life expectancies and higher levels of health conditions associated with pollution. The people who live in those places are often concerned about the impact that pollution is having on their health, Edwards says.

"In a lot of these neighborhoods, residents mentioned that they were concerned about the quality of the air," she says. "We wanted to form these programs to improve the air quality there."

Edwards says the data could be used to determine where more tree cover should be planted, as well as where there are opportunities for other air quality improvement measures. Eventually, Groundwork aims to publish the data in an online dashboard that shows air quality across the participating neighborhoods.

The program is already going in Lower Price Hill, where 10 residents are currently measuring air quality. The residents come to meetings where they get training on how to use two varieties of air quality monitors. Participants then go out into their communities — and even into their own homes — to measure air pollution levels. At the end of the week, they come back with the monitors, turn in their data, and receive a check compensating them for their work.

Edwards says Groundwork is aiming to pay 50 residents to do the air quality monitoring across all the participating neighborhoods.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.