ECU receives more than $500,000 from EPA to prevent pollution in disadvantaged communities

East Carolina University’s Center for Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering (CSE3) has received a half-million dollar grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support pollution prevention in disadvantaged communities.

The $563,932 Environmental Justice in Communities grant is intended to allow CSE3 to develop and adopt practices that prevent pollution and increase water and energy efficiency at manufacturing facilities. The reduction of pollutants and contaminants through these practices is designed to support the health of those in North Carolina communities characterized by low-income and minority populations.

“The ultimate objective is to significantly enhance human health and the environment at the local level, ultimately contributing to a healthier, more sustainable future,” said Dr. Tarek Abdel-Salam, CSE3 director and associate dean for research for the College of Engineering and Technology.

The project is called “Advancing Environmental Justice in Disadvantaged N.C. Communities through Pollution Prevention and Technical Assistance for Manufacturing Facilities.” Abdel-Salam said CSE3 staff and students will provide their expertise in clean production, clean energy and waste reduction. CSE3 will assess resource use in the facilities and the potential for pollution prevention. Specialized training and roundtable discussions that focus on pollution prevention strategies and energy efficiency will support the adoption of clean production practices.

“Through this funding from the EPA, ECU will develop innovative approaches that are informed by academic and industry experts, accessible to community members, and drive advancements to address critical issues facing eastern North Carolina and places around the world,” said Dr. Sharon Paynter, acting chief research and engagement officer in ECU’s Office of Research, Economic Development and Engagement. “The potential impacts of increased use of safe, sustainable products as well as manufacturing practices that sustain and preserve environmental and human health is an example of the kinds of transformational innovation that ECU strives to deliver. We thank the EPA for its support of this important work.”

Students with CSE3 will learn valuable skills as part of the program, gaining real-world experience that enhances their classroom learning. The project also aligns with ECU’s mission of public service and regional transformation, Abdel-Salam said.

“This project closely resonates with this mission by developing the leaders of tomorrow who will serve and inspire positive change,” he said. “By focusing on environmental justice and pollution prevention, we contribute to the betterment of eastern North Carolina and its broader community, directly supporting the goal of discovering new knowledge and innovations for a thriving future.”

ECU was among 24 national grant recipients to receive nearly $16 million from the EPA in pollution prevention grants to advance environmental justice.

The grant is a continuation of CSE3’s efforts to support sustainability, pollution prevention and green manufacturing. A previous $350,000 grant from the EPA allowed ECU engineering students to intern in manufacturing facilities this summer to help companies reduce pollution, conserve water and save energy through lean and green practices. CSE3 faculty and students have also conducted energy use audits for food and beverage companies throughout the state as part of a previous EPA grant.

For more information on the center, visit its website.


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