The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $120,000 to Puerto Rico’s Desarrollo Integral del Sur Inc. to help it identify sources of air pollution in the Tallaboa-Encarnación community. The community is located in an industrial area of where there are a number of petrochemical businesses. The project is called “Pulmones Saludables, Ahora!” (“Healthy Lungs, Now!”)
“This grant will allow this community organization to gather information about air quality so they can better understand and address air pollution issues in this community,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA regional administrator. “By tacking air pollution, this grant will allow community members to work together to improve public health in Puerto Rico, which has a very high asthma rate.”
Asthma rates in the Tallaboa-Encarnación community are high. Desarrollo Integral del Sur, a nonprofit community organization, will use the grant money to identify air pollution from the local sources that may be linked to the community’s health concerns.
This project will expand upon a previous EPA-funded project, which established an inventory of structures and lands in the petrochemical corridor between Penuelas and Guayanilla that are suspected of being contaminated with hazardous substances or petroleum.
The EPA grant will be used to conduct an environmental study to determine the types of air pollutants coming from the local sources. This information will help inform ongoing plans for re-development taking place on former industrial properties in the area. The group will also work with the public to develop an asthma action plan to reduce residential exposure to pollutants.
As part of the project, Desarrollo Integral del Sur will take air samples and research existing databases of air quality information. A major component of the project will be to involve members of the community, and the group plans multiple public meetings and the use of social media and traditional media to keep the public informed of the research process, the findings and the development of the action plan.