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EPA Earmarks $1M Grant for Projects in City

McKeesport officials plan stormwater control improvements, additional greenspace

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
November 06, 2023
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

City officials are excited about a $1 million grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that will enable McKeesport to address stormwater runoff along the Youghiogheny River, add native shade trees to several neighborhoods, and engage young people in conservation work.

The grant includes partnerships with groups such as Allegheny CleanWays and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the city announced last week.

“We are thankful for this opportunity to improve environmental conditions within the City of McKeesport,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “This, like many other endeavors here, will be a whole-community effort. I can’t say often enough that I believe in ‘working together for a better McKeesport,’ and our community is full of organizations and volunteers who are committed to our city’s health and environmental wellbeing.”

The EPA in late October announced nearly $5.3 million for projects in Pennsylvania designed to address environmental problems in low-income communities. McKeesport was one of eight communities statewide that received grants, according to Virginia Nurk, EPA spokesperson in Philadelphia.

Funding for the Environmental Justice Government-to-Government Program and the related Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Program comes from the Inflation Reduction Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2022.

The money awarded to McKeesport in this round is part of the largest investment ever announced under those two programs, the EPA said.

In all, 186 projects received funds totalling $128 million, according to the EPA. Each of the projects receiving funds is designed to address problems such as clean air and water, or prepare communities for climate change, the EPA said.

City Administrator Tom Maglicco said McKeesport is earmarking its grant for projects designed to address stormwater runoff and pollution; expand efforts to clean up illegal dumping; incorporate more trees into neighborhood greenspaces; and develop plans for a public greenhouse.

McKeesport is proposing creation of a “bioswale” — a landscaped drainage area — near the McKees Point Marina will be intended to keep polluted rainwater from getting into the Youghiogheny River following storms.

The bioswale park will also provide new greenspace along the Great Allegheny Passage biking trail, city officials said.

UPMC’s contribution will include conducting a health impact assessment to measure the results of the projects, the mayor’s office said.

Funding also will be dedicated to McKeesport’s cleanup program, a long-time partnership with Allegheny CleanWays to remove junk and trash from abandoned lots and areas along the riverbanks.

The city also will plant more than 100 new trees and will choose varieties that will not damage sidewalks, Maglicco said. Local young people will be hired to assist with the project, he said.

Funding also will be used to evaluate the feasibility of transforming a local brownfield in the Jenny Lind Street corridor into a new neighborhood greenhouse with workforce development support, Maglicco said.

Partners for the projects will include Tube City Renaissance, Allegheny CleanWays, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Student Conservation Association and UPMC McKeesport, Cherepko said.

According to the EPA, the Environmental Justice Government-to-Government Program provides funding to local and state governments to work with community-based organizations to address environmental and public health concerns.

Other EPA grant selections in Pennsylvania under this program also include:

Allegheny County, $328,827 to improve climate preparedness for the 38 environmentally burdened communities in the county and incentivize environmental justice communities to create resiliency strategies;

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, $1 million to create an expandable, manageable, and sustainable program that will proactively engage communities to better understand their concerns before there is an event of concern and provide communities with the necessary tools to help address environmental issues in advance of a crisis; and

City of Philadelphia, $1 million to institutionalize environmental justice within its municipal policies and practices.

In a prepared statement, Michael Regan, EPA administrator, said projects were selected that can improve the “health, equity and resilience of communities,” and which can serve as a model for other local initiatives nationwide.

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, whose district includes McKeesport, said the money from the environmental justice program is intended to benefit cities and neighborhoods that have historically borne the brunt of industrial pollution.

“This funding will support our work at the local level ensuring every person has access to clean air and drinking water and every community has the resources to proactively address climate change,” she said in a prepared statement provided by the EPA.

Originally published November 06, 2023.

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