EPA Administrator Visits City Water Plant to Announce $50 Million in National Environmental Justice Initiatives, Support for YH20 Program

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Today, at the City of Baltimore’s Ashburton Water Filtration Plant, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan announced that the agency will provide $50 million dollars for Environmental Justice initiatives through funds allocated to EPA under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Under the Environmental Justice initiatives, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) will receive $200,000 in federal grant funding to expand the YH2O Career Mentoring Program.

"Taking on environmental injustice is necessary for present and future generations to thrive. I thank the EPA for recognizing this and bolstering our local efforts to build a cleaner, greener, more equitable Baltimore," said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. "This investment will support Baltimore YH2O, a six-month program that extends opportunity to young adults through full-time employment in the water industry."

DPW’s YH2O Career Mentoring Program partners with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED) and the Chesapeake Water Environment Association (CWEA) to train young adults for careers in the water industry. This innovative, award-winning mentoring program provides participants with opportunities to explore water industry careers through worksite tours, job shadowing, and connection with a career coach/mentor. 

Since the YH2O Career Mentoring program started in 2015, 96 young men and women have completed the program. These young people have joined the ranks of Public Works Departments of Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County, and in private industry. To enroll in the program, participants must be a Baltimore City resident, between 18 -24 years of age, with a high school diploma or GED, and be unemployed or underemployed.

"We know how important it is to put funding to work in environmentally overburdened, economically underserved areas, and today we’re excited to let our communities know that thanks to the American Rescue Plan, help is here,” said Administrator Michael S. Regan. "EPA is drawing on its many years of experience working with communities and organizations that strive for environmental justice to ensure these funds will deliver real-world results for those who need it most.”

Under EPA’s State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement (SEJCA) program, the agency is awarding its first competitive grants focusing directly on the unequal impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color, low-income communities, and other vulnerable populations. Projects include training, developing citizen-science tools, pollution monitoring, and educational campaigns to enable Environmental Justice advocates, scientists, and decision-makers to address pollution and create thriving communities.

“We must always see investments in our infrastructure as investments in our communities, including not only roads and bridges and pipes and drains, but also people. Infrastructure means jobs. Infrastructure means opportunities – opportunities to make a lasting difference, and opportunities to learn and refine the skills on which strong careers are built. That’s why I am excited to help underscore the importance of the EPA American Rescue Plan grant announced today to the Baltimore DPW YH2O mentoring program, which prepares young adults for full-time jobs in the drinking water and wastewater services industry. These are exactly the type of targeted, community-focused investments we need to continue making in this city and country alike,” said Senator Ben Cardin. 

“Every Marylander needs access to clean, safe drinking water. This federal investment will support critical workforce training in preventing and reducing water pollution, which will not only help us protect public health by ensuring safe drinking water but also prepare more Marylanders for careers in this field. I was proud to help secure these funds within the American Rescue Plan and will continue working in Congress and with Administrator Regan to provide resources to upgrade our water infrastructure and address environmental inequities across our state,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen.

In collaboration with its program partners, DPW will use the $200,000 in federal grant funding to provide additional YH2O training focused on environmental justice and community engagement. In addition, with this new funding, the Department will be able to further expand the current YH2O program to include Solid Waste and other DPW program areas.

“With this federal grant funding, DPW can expand the already nationally recognized YH2O Career Mentoring Program and elevate the level of training provided to the young adults who make a commitment to participate in this critical job-training program,” said Acting DPW Director Jason W. Mitchell. “We are grateful to the EPA, not only for the funding but also, for their recognition of Baltimore City and DPW’s commitment to environmental justice.”

 

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