Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 4, 2013

Environmental action plan addresses residents’ concerns

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — When  Boyd and Greenup County residents were asked what their top environmental concerns were, air quality topped the list again and again.

Indoor and outdoor air quality are the top priorities among the 10  environmental concerns residents of the two counties have. Drinking water, the built environment, littering and recycling, road conditions, flooding, abandoned homes, sewage overflow and polluted waterways rounded out the list of top 10 concerns.  

 Each of these issues is addressed in the first ever Environmental Action Plan for Boyd and Greenup Counties, published earlier this year. The plan follows a two-year study conducted by the Boyd-Greenup Partnership for Environmental Concerns. The group gathered input from 700 residents through a series of 10 meetings conducted from South Shore to Burnaugh, said Holly West, the program’s managers.

“As a coalition, we had to do this prioritization and risk ranking,” she explained. “We looked at what we can do to make a difference, so we looked at air quality overall and decided indoor air quality would be our biggest focus. That is what we could physically tackle,” West said.

The report suggested four strategies for tackling indoor air quality, one of which the group has already completed through the National Center for Healthy Housing, which established Kentucky’s first and only Healthy Homes training site here.

The remaining strategies include: introducing the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools program into local districts, educating and encouraging workplaces to improve their indoor air standards, including implementing smoke-free workplace policies, along with increasing community education and outreach, will be  completed over the next six months to three years.

Outdoor air quality is a tougher issue to tackle, said West, but the partnership has identified five strategies that can help. These range from smoke-free school campuses to partnerships with local industries to media campaigns targeting smoke free parks.

The safety of drinking water was also a major concern for respondents. The three year plan calls for exploring ways to disseminate warnings quicker to and more effectively to residents.

Promoting “liveable communities and healthy environments,” is among the other goals of the report. Among the suggested strategies for doing so include advocation for more sidewalks and bike lanes, neighborhood watch programs, along with garden and farm programs at schools.

Recycling and littering will be addressed through increased public participation in voluntary programs and could involve exploring opportunities for public composting, according to the report.

The project was funded by an $87,000 Community Action for a Renewed Environment grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Boyd and Greenup County received one of only two given in the entire country. The other award was given to Gulfport, Miss.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.