Monies to Benefit Opening of Upper Bay Beach, Lead Poisoning Prevention, Solar Panels at Salty Brine Beach, Asthma Intervention Among Youth, Environmental Mapping and Data Development, Healthy Homes Initiatives, Environmental Stewardship Education Programs, and Many More
As a result of a previously announced settlement with Volkswagen for violating Rhode Island state laws prohibiting the sale and leasing of diesel vehicles equipped with illegal and undisclosed emissions control defeat device software, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced $4.1 million in funding for a variety of environmentally beneficial projects across the state.
Entities receiving grants include the University of Rhode Island, the City of East Providence, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), HousingWorks RI, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), the RI Schools Recycling Club, and the Farm Fresh Harvest Kitchen.
Projects range in size and scope and include remediation of storm water runoff issues in East Providence, a roof-top solar array at Salty Brine Beach, the construction of a passage for migratory fish at the John (Jay) Cronan Fishing Access on the Pawcatuck River in Richmond, an autonomous electric shuttle pilot program, lead poisoning prevention and asthma intervention programs, green and healthy homes initiatives, GIS mapping, and educational stewardship programs for at-risk youth, among others.
"A silver lining of Volkswagen's malfeasance is being turned into a benefit for Rhode Island," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "It is through this settlement that we can have a real impact on the health and well-being of our citizens and support environmentally beneficial projects right here in Rhode Island. We chose grants based on the ability to most improve the quality of life for Rhode Island citizens, to further reduce harmful emissions from our environment, improve the health of our waterways, offset climate change hazards, and create environmentally-sound educational opportunities for students. I am especially excited about the Sabin Point Beach project, which will aid remediation efforts to finally re-open the Upper Bay beach to swimming after having been closed for decades and provide recreational opportunities for thousands who might not otherwise have access."
City of East Providence Stormwater System Remediation Project to Re-Open Sabin Point Beach to Swimming ($850,000): Settlement funds will support the City of East Providence's efforts to re-open Sabin Point Beach to swimming. This beach on the Upper Bay in East Providence has been closed for decades due to chronic water pollution in the Bay. However, water quality has now improved to a point where this beach could be re-opened if localized storm water issues were remediated. This project would partner with the City, DEM, and Save the Bay to undertake the remaining remedial work to improve storm water runoff water quality necessary to open the beach.
Sabin Point Park is a favorite locale in the summer for people and families to take in cooling breezes and to recreationally fish off the pier. The East Bay Bicycle Path is a short distance from the park, as is the seasonal 1862 National Historic Landmark Charles I.D. Looff Carousel. Both of these facilities improve access to and increase the number of persons using the park and beach. This would represent the first and only beach in the Upper Bay opened to swimming in generations and act as a tangible testament to the success of the ongoing restoration of Narragansett Bay.
"The significant amount of VW funds awarded make a complete stormwater retrofit of Sabin Point Park a reality," states Acting City Manager Christopher Parella. "Without these funds, project implementation would have been incremental and subject to intermittent grant funding typically requiring our City to match funds over an unknown length of time. We now have a real opportunity to return a swimmable beach to the citizens of East Providence in the not too distant future, which is an incredible and historic accomplishment. The City greatly appreciates the support of all who have collaborated with us on this end goal."
John (Jay) Cronan Fishing Access Project. Grant amount: $130,000. DEM will use this grant to build a passage for migratory fish at the John (Jay) Cronan Fishing Access on the Pawcatuck River in Richmond. Home to more than 65 species of fish – more than any other watershed in Rhode Island – the Pawcatuck River has seen major improvements in fish passage restoration, water flow, and water quality in the past 15 years, thanks to more than $10 million in federal, state, and local funding and the efforts of the Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association, The Nature Conservancy RI, and many other partners. The removal of four dams and construction of innovative fish ladders, eel pass structures, and natural pools have opened the Pawcatuck to the migration of herring, shad, American eels, and other anadromous fish for the first time since the Colonial Era. These projects also have reduced flood risks by lowering the profile of the river and increased recreational opportunities such as fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. The lower dam at John (Jay) Cronan Fishing Access is one of the last remaining obstacles on the upper Pawcatuck that is preventing numbers of fish from migrating from the Atlantic Ocean, 23 winding miles to the southwest, to their historic spawning ground at Worden Pond, 16 miles to the east. This project is expected to take about 12 to 18 months to complete.
Farm Hazardous Waste Removal. Grant amount: $10,000: The expense of hazardous waste disposal sometimes results in obsolete pesticides remaining in storage for decades, presenting potential environmental risks such as release into the atmosphere, soil, and ground water.
The Attorney General's grant will support DEM efforts to help Rhode Island farmers self-identify and catalogue their unusable pesticides, and work with a hazardous waste contractor to collect and dispose of them safely. The project will start ASAP and be completed in two to three months.
Hospital Idle Project. Grant amount ($17,500): Idle reduction refers to technologies and practices that lower the amount of time an engine idles. Idling wastes fuel and increases engine wear, so small changes in idling time can lead to noticeable benefits including cost savings, less pollution, and reduced noise. Through the construction of idle reduction technology, this project aims to eliminate harmful tailpipe emissions and noise by ambulances idling at Rhode Island hospitals. It involves the installation of full-service, free-standing docking stations that provide stationary power for ambulances' onboard batteries and medical equipment and HVAC to regulate temperature inside the cab. This project is expected to take about 12 to 18 months to complete.
Salty Brine State Beach Solar Panel Installation Project ($200,000): One of seven state beaches run by DEM, Salty Brine State Beach has an energy-efficient pavilion to minimize heating loads and solar panels that heat the water used for showers.
This grant, funding a full-rooftop photovoltaic array, will allow DEM to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase use of clean energy, and solidify DEM's commitment to Rhode Island's Lead by Example policy through which state and municipal agencies pledge to change their consumption practices to lower-cost, cleaner, low-carbon solutions. DEM anticipates this installation will take about 12 to 18 months to complete.
School Hazardous Waste Removal. Grant amount ($10,000): This two-part project consists of helping K-12 schools throughout Rhode Island to conduct "chemical audits" identifying hazardous chemicals on their premises and, once identified, hiring local environmental contractors to remove the substances. Typically, dangerous chemicals and hazardous liquids are found in places such as science labs, art studios, metal and woodworking shops, and maintenance and groundskeeping areas. When not used, stored, or disposed of properly, these materials can pose a threat to students and school staffs. DEM hopes to reduce the likelihood and number of accidental exposures, which can disrupt school schedules and be costly and time-consuming to respond to. This project is expected to take about 6 to 9 months to complete.
"DEM looks forward to using the Volkswagen settlement funds for a wide range of projects that will benefit Rhode Islanders and our environment well into the future," said Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. "These grants will improve migratory fish passage on the Pawcatuck River, help farms and schools with hazardous waste removal, expand the use of clean energy at Salty Brine State Beach, and reduce harmful emissions and noise from ambulances idling at local hospitals. We are grateful to Attorney General Kilmartin for his actions negotiating this important settlement."
HEALTH Lead Poisoning Prevention Program ($150,000): These funds will be used by the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) to address childhood lead poisoning and asthma. The funds will support a variety of childhood lead poisoning prevention efforts, including work to provide information, referrals, and other assistance to foster families and property owners about remediation of lead hazards identified in foster homes. It will also be used to increase enforcement of Lead Safe Certificates and Certification of Conformance requirements in high risk areas. Additionally, the funding will support coordination within the healthcare system. Trainings related to screening will be offered in pediatric primary care offices, and a lead screening program in Rhode Island will be expanded.
HEALTH Home Asthma Response Program ($300,000): To address asthma, RIDOH will provide the Home Asthma Response Program (HARP) for up to 250 eligible children with severe asthma. HARP is designed for children who have had multiple emergency room visits or an in-patient hospitalization for asthma and helps families reduce exposure to asthma triggers and get their child's asthma under control. More specifically, through HARP, families get an assessment for asthma exposure, intensive asthma self-management education, and supplies to reduce asthma triggers at home.
"These funds will be used to support critical work by the Rhode Island Department of Health to address childhood lead poisoning and asthma, with a focus on the communities where these health issues are affecting children the most," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "Childhood lead poisoning is entirely preventable, and asthma can be controlled, and in some cases prevented as well, if families have the resources and support they need. Making sure that Rhode Islanders in every ZIP code throughout the state have these resources and support is a part of our work to ensure that everyone lives in a community and a home that promotes health and well-being. Every single Rhode Islander deserves an equal opportunity to grow up healthy and thrive."
Green & Health Homes Initiative ($500,000): Starting in November 2018, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) Rhode Island will utilize the $500,000 grant to continue its successful comprehensive housing intervention program to help create safe, energy efficient and stable housing for families in poverty throughout Rhode Island. Through the 18-month program, 200 homes of low income families will receive housing interventions to become more energy efficient, improve indoor air quality and address other issues such as lead hazards, safety hazards and asthma triggers.
The Attorney General's grant will be leveraged with lead hazard reduction, weatherization and housing rehabilitation programs to allow families to address hazards in their home that often cause them to be deferred from critical housing services they are otherwise eligible to receive.
With previous Attorney General funding support, GHHI Rhode Island and its partners successfully completed 175 comprehensive housing interventions for low income families residing in 23 different cities and towns in Rhode Island.
"Low income families often live in homes that are poorly weatherized and have numerous home-based environmental health hazards that cause high energy bills, increased medical costs and result in negative health and social outcomes," said GHHI President and CEO Ruth Ann Norton. "With funding support from Attorney General Kilmartin, we have the opportunity to help 200 Rhode Island families live in safer and more financially stable homes where seniors can age in place and children can come to school ready to learn and able to reach their full potential."
RIDOT TRIP Mobility Challenge ($500,000): Called the Rhode Island Transportation Innovation Partnership (TRIP) Mobility Challenge, this effort will involve the creation of a public-private partnership, aimed at testing and researching a range of factors to better understand the potential of new technology to improve mobility options for Rhode Islanders. The vehicles will be fully electric, supporting the state's environmental and emissions reductions goals.
HousingWorks RI/RI Alliance for Healthy Housing ($500,000): Settlement Funds will support several three-year projects. Through the Alliance, HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University will coordinate statewide efforts to promote healthy housing by working with regulatory agencies, public and nonprofit social service agencies, businesses and academic institutions to expand the "One Touch" system (a smartphone/tablet-based coordinated referral program); develop healthy homes training modules and materials for contractors, builders, code inspectors and home-visiting health professionals; and coordinate an outreach/educational campaign about the importance of healthy housing and resources that exist to help Rhode Islanders live in safe and healthy homes.
"The Attorney General's support has been the keystone to the collaborative effort behind the Rhode Island Alliance for Healthy Homes, a project of HousingWorks RI at RWU. This award provides critical stability for this work over the next three years," said Brenda Clement, Director of HousingWorks RI. "It allows us to connect and amplify the impact of the state's housing resources, driving our effort to enable all Rhode Islanders to live in safe, healthy and sustainable homes."
RI Schools Recycling Club (RISRC) Food Waste Reduction Program ($22,500): Settlement funds will support a multi-phased program with Rhode Island students designed to study and significantly reduce food waste in Rhode Island schools. The goal is to create a cultural shift among students relating to awareness of the food waste problem in Rhode Island and the United States and the need for change relating to this important issue.
The Environmental Council of Rhode Island will partner with the RISRC to provide assistance and support from its 60-member organizations.
URI Environmental Mapping and Data Development Projects ($835,000): Data Collection and Analysis to Conserve Salt Marshes in the Face of Sea Level Rise Salt marshes provide critical habitats for fish and shellfish, they protect our shorelines from storms and flooding, and help preserve water quality. In the face of current and projected sea level rise, unless salt marshes can migrate landward, they will drown.
URI's Environmental Data Center will use the settlement funds to identify and protect the most important land areas that marshes can retreat to. Specifically, the project includes:
• Updating the aerial maps that show where salt marshes will migrate landward as sea levels rise along the Rhode Island shoreline. These maps are used by communities and RI CRMC for salt marsh conservation. • Reconciling the marsh migration maps against property ownership GIS data to identify the most important unprotected parcels that need to be conserved to allow for landward marsh migration. • Educating communities and land trusts of these critical conservation targets; and • Creating downloadable marsh migration maps, critical conservation target web site and maps, workshops with communities and land trusts.
"The salt marsh conservation and aerial photography projects will be immensely valuable to communities, land use managers, and conservationists. They will provide detailed and current maps of our environment and be critical in our stewardship of coastal habitats, forests, and inland waters." Dr. Peter August, Professor of Natural Resources Science, URI.
Update of Statewide High-Resolution Color Aerial Photography to Support Mapping and Planning in Rhode Island Environmental managers, land use planners, municipalities, and public safety programs require an accurate and up-to-date map base from which to work. Rhode Island needs a current and high resolution digital orthophotos to support the needs of the public, state and federal programs, NGO's, and the economic development community.
URI's Environmental Data Center will use the settlement funds to implement a project to update statewide high-resolution land cover map data for Rhode Island (the "Aerial Photography Project"). The Project's objectives are to update the 2011 land cover and impervious surface maps based on the three-inch resolution Pictometry/Eagle View imagery and make this data available to all users through the 24-7 free online access via the Rhode Island Geographic Information System ("RIGIS") database and the Rhode Island Digital Atlas.
URI Bird Laser Deterrent Research Project ($50,000): The settlement funds will provide funding on innovative research to develop and refine a prototype laser bird deterrent system.
Birds are a major problem in some sectors of Rhode Island agriculture, causing extensive damage to sweet corn, berries, grapes, newly seeded crops, and turfgrass. Traditional methods of controlling bird damage, through hunting, auditory devices (e.g., propane cannons), and natural predators are often ineffective or impractical in certain settings.
Birds rely on visual cues to detect threats and find food, so they are extremely sensitive to moving or flashing lights. Large, bulky laser technology has been used to deter birds from flocking at airports and industrial sites for over two decades. However, laser technology has advanced greatly to now enable use of smaller, less expensive lasers in agricultural settings.
Dr. Rebecca Brown has been working for more than two years, in coordination with the RIDEM Division of Agriculture and URI's Department of Computer Sciences on research to develop and refine a prototype laser bird deterrent system known as the Laser Scarecrow.
Testing of a new prototype in 2017 was very successful, and Dr. Brown will use the settlement funds to expand research on the Laser Scarecrow to additional crops and industrial and recreational settings.
Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) - Farm Fresh Harvest Kitchen ($25,000): The Farm Fresh Harvest Kitchen is an innovative program that provides training for at-risk teens, enhances the environment, strengthens local farms, reduces the carbon footprint of our produce, and promotes nutrition. Now in its eighth year, Harvest Kitchen is FFRI's culinary job training program for youth ages 16–19 in the custody of Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).
Jen Stott, Harvest Kitchen Program Director said, "Harvest Kitchen is extremely appreciative of the funds received from the Attorney General's Office. The funding will support our ability to transform the lives of young people in our state with significant barriers to employment."
This grant is to support the work of our Harvest Kitchen project, and specifically the way the program addresses environmental sustainability crossed with juvenile justice. Now in its eighth year, Harvest Kitchen is Farm Fresh RI's culinary job training program for youth ages 16–19 involved with DCYF. Our trainees work to create nutritious value-added products using ingredients sourced from local farms and acquire hands-on retail experience selling their goods at farmers markets and working in our local foods café in downtown Pawtucket, where the training program is based.
Harvest Kitchen economically benefits two distinct populations in Rhode Island: at-risk youth and family farms that continually seek new markets for their produce. By utilizing excess or "grade B" (e.g., blemished) produce from local farms in creating our line of signature products, Harvest Kitchen saves those nutritious items from being lost to the landfill, and reduces the inefficient fuel consumption of longer distance sourcing—resulting in environmental benefits for all Rhode Islanders. An added benefit is the preservation of local farm land that helps insure food security.
Harvest Kitchen currently trains 40 youth per year at our Pawtucket kitchen, café, and training center and approximately 25 per year at the Rhode Island Training School juvenile corrections facility. Approximately 53 percent of our trainees find employment after graduation from the program. Harvest Kitchen works with over 20 farms in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts, either purchasing their goods or providing processing and co-packing services for those farms. In 2017, Harvest Kitchen turned out 26 different specialty items, totaling more than 1,000 cases of product that ranged from applesauce to zucchini chips.