Monday, December 26, 2005

GOVERNMENT: $200,000 brownfield grant awarded to Goodwill in Pennslyvania

Homeless retards to be put to work cleaning up toxic waste!

The Federal Brownfields Program empowers states, communities, and other stakeholders in economic development to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. A brownfield site is real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. On January 11, 2002, Bush signed into law the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. Under the Brownfields Law, EPA provides financial assistance to eligible applicants through four competitive grant programs: assessment grants, revolving loan fund grants, cleanup grants, and job training grants. The brownfields job training grants provide residents of communities impacted by brownfields with the skills and training needed to effectively gain employment in assessment and cleanup activities associated with brownfield redevelopment and environmental remediation.

Goodwill Industries of the Conemaugh Valley, Inc. will train 40 residents, placing a minimum of 34 graduates in environmental occupations or secondary education, and track graduates for two years. The instruction, which includes hands-on experience, consists of four 15-week training cycles, each with 240 contact hours. The Pennsylvania Highlands Community College (PHCC) will deliver the training at the college and at the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center. Course instruction includes hazardous materials management, environmental geology, sampling, monitoring, HAZWOPER, and mobile equipment handling and safety. Graduates will receive HAZWOPER certification and automatically qualify for admission into PHCC with 13 hours of technical core credits. Goodwill Industries will recruit Johnstown area residents most affected by harmful environmental conditions, and if necessary, reach out to the remainder of Cambria County (population 149,543). Goodwill Industries employs job development staff who meet with environmental employers and hold environmental career fairs.

Johnstown (population 23,906) has several brownfields, including the Lower Cambria Iron Works. EPA awarded brownfields assessment and cleanup grants to Johnstown in 2004, thereby increasing the demand for environmental technicians. This demand is likely to increase further due to the large number of mining and mine drainage sites that also require assessment and cleanup. Johnstown’s poverty rate for families is 142 percent greater than the state average and 105 percent greater than the national average. The unemployment rate is about 66 percent higher than that of the state and nation. Twenty percent of Johnstown residents between the ages of 19 and 21 are not working or enrolled in school, compared to 14 percent for the state. Environmental employers report that they have been unable to find skilled environmental workers in the local area.

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