New project announced to further address air pollution inequities in west Louisville

November 03, 2023

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (November 3, 2023) – The Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District (APCD) today announced the APCD and partners have received 1 million dollars through US EPA’s Environmental Justice Government-to-Government Program (EJG2G) for Ambient Air Toxics and Health Action for the Rubbertown Area, a project that will examine and address air pollution inequities experienced by residents in west Louisville, with a focus on the areas surrounding the Rubbertown industrial complex. 

During this three-year project, partners will complete an air pollution monitoring study at various locations in west Louisville, including a pilot test of a novel approach to exposure monitoring through wastewater sampling. Results of the study will be used to develop and support policy recommendations for air pollution and land use to reduce air pollution exposure and help medical practitioners improve early detection and treatment options.

“This is great news for our community,” said Nicole George, Deputy Mayor for Public Health & Services. “I appreciate these efforts to secure federal funding for a project that will bring community partners together to improve health and address toxic air emissions.”

This project will take place nearly 20 years after the West Louisville Air Toxics Study (WLATS), which was completed in 2005 by the West Jefferson County Community Task Force (WJCCTF), APCD, and other local partners. WLATS found that Louisville's air had unacceptably high levels of toxic air pollutants, which resulted in the passing of the Strategic Toxic Air Reduction (STAR) Program, one of the nation’s most stringent local programs to reduce toxic air emissions. 

Since STAR was implemented in 2005, emissions of toxic chemicals have dropped almost 80 percent in Jefferson County. 

While progress the past two decades has been observed through emissions data and other forms of air monitoring, the monitoring study for Ambient Air Toxics and Health Action for the Rubbertown Area is designed to offer a direct comparison to the results of the original WLATS.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate and build on progress made by the STAR Program and so many other efforts throughout our community,” said Rachael Hamilton, director of the Air Pollution Control District. “We look forward to working with our project partners to pursue the air quality and health outcomes our communities deserve.”

As part of the project WJCCTF will conduct community engagement activities throughout, providing feedback to researchers and developing policy recommendations based on the air monitoring and health risk assessment findings. The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville (Envirome) will use the data collected through this study, other air monitoring projects, and their own wastewater sampling study to determine community health risks. Park DuValle Community Health Centers (PDCHC) will use the findings to train Community Health Workers and work with Envirome develop tools to support doctors in their treatment of residents with potential exposure. Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) will participate in community meetings, share their health equity data and expertise to further inform policy recommendations, and incorporate study findings into their health equity resources. 

Arnita Gadson, executive director of the West Jefferson County Community Task Force said, “I’m very excited to be a part of this work to prompt inclusion of environmental exposures when making medical diagnoses. It is a great opportunity for community involvement.”

“Our work with the WJCCTF and Park DuValle Community Health Center to communicate environmental health risks to clinicians at the point of care is groundbreaking,” said Ted Smith, associate professor and director of the UofL Center for Healthy Air, Water and Soil within Envirome. “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the APCD and WJCCTF in this project to further monitor and evaluate air toxics, a resource we believe has great potential to reveal health risks that can be addressed.”

“As a community advocate for air quality across our metro and state, to learn that this grant has been made available, it goes to show that our consistent communication with our elected officials has it’s benefits and aligns with health centers, like Park DuValle Community Health Center, whose centers are in the heart of air quality issues,” states Park DuValle CEO, Dr. Swannie Jett

“The Department of Public Health and Wellness is looking forward to providing health equity data and health policy expertise for this project. The outcomes have the potential to address health inequities that have burdened many residents for years,” said Connie Mendel, interim chief health strategist. 

As the work begins, a website page will be created to keep the public informed on the progress of the project.

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