Our months of planning paid off last week with an all-day forum that brought EPA together with a host of other government agencies and partners to address the revitalization needs of Newport News, Virginia.
Newport News is one of five communities in EPA's Mid-Atlantic region receiving assistance under the Agency's “Making a Visible Difference in Communities” (MVD) effort.
A room full of about 80 people engaged in finding solutions to the most pressing problems facing the city's most overburdened neighborhoods – from air and toxics pollution to equitable development.
A series of panels offered best practice examples and resources, and a networking session gave members of the community a chance to meet one-on-one with federal, state and city agency representatives.
There was good energy throughout the day with practical and positive discussions on the opportunities and challenges, and on the need for the process to be inclusive and the community to be involved.
As EPA's MVD coordinator in Newport News, I had the pleasure of working with the city, the Southeast CARE Coalition and our other partners to plan the forum. I know we're all glad that the weekly conference calls, regular emails, and last-minute agenda changes are behind us.
Now the real work begins.
The information we gathered will help our agencies and organizations build on the progress already being made in Newport News. We assured the community that we weren't just dropping in and leaving. We'll continue to fit in where it makes sense to help the city as a whole address its revitalization priorities. For example, EPA is helping to bring green infrastructure to a city schoolyard to serve as a model for reducing stormwater pollution and preventing flooding.
At the forum, EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin called for a coordinated response to the environmental and public health issues identified by the community.
Based on the turnout and the dialogue, we have momentum behind that charge.
About the author: Jonathan Essoka works in the Office of State and Watershed Partnerships in the Water Protection Division of EPA Region 3.