Today, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) celebrated its selection as a recipient of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant for environmental justice projects that benefit low-income and minority communities in South Carolina.
DHEC and EPA representatives were joined by federal, state, and local officials and neighborhood leaders at a special event in North Charleston today to recognize the community-based project the funding will support. DHEC will use its $200,000 grant to develop a Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) training program in eight underserved communities in the North Charleston area that will help these neighborhoods better prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters like hurricanes, flooding, chemical releases and pandemics.
“This EPA grant will allow us to empower communities with the resources and information they need to be resilient when dealing with disasters,” said Myra Reece, DHEC Director of Environmental Affairs. “The purpose of this project is to help our communities become educated and informed about the holistic framework of the entire disaster recovery cycle while supporting the important connections between the environment and public health.”
Participants from the eight selected neighborhoods — Accabee, Chicora/Cherokee, Union Heights, Howard Heights, Windsor Place, Five Mile, Rosemont, and Liberty Hill — will attend in-person and virtual training sessions centered on disaster preparation and recovery. Participants will complete assignments that demonstrate their training in how to best address various scenarios caused during emergencies, including unhealthy home conditions, food insecurities, and energy or weatherization issues. Community disaster drills and exercises will also be part of the CDRR training program.
“Providing these resources to inform and protect economically and environmentally disadvantaged communities that are most vulnerable to natural emergencies such as COVID-19 is essential,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker.
Through the State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement Program, EPA is providing grants over a two-year period to work collaboratively with environmental justice communities to understand, promote and integrate approaches that provide meaningful and measurable improvements to public health and the environment.
DHEC’s environmental justice program is managed within the Office of Environmental Affairs. Environmental justice is defined “as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Learn more scdhec.gov.