Air Alliance Houston is part of a new project, Metal Air Pollution Solutions (MAPS) that is underway and making progress. The project is taking place in the neighborhoods of Lawndale, Magnolia Park, Sunnyside, and 5th Ward. This is a 5 year project that is just getting underway that involves three phases. Air Alliance Houston is partnering with The University of Texas School of Public Health, Rice University, and the City of Houston Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of the project is to improve the environmental health of Houston’s communities that border metal recycling facilities.
My name is Juan Flores and I was brought in as the community outreach coordinator for the MAPS project. I am from Galena Park, a city on the Port of Houston, and I have been around heavy industry all my life which in turn has made me a huge advocate of clean air. I have over 18 years’ experience in community organizing, including being a commissioner for the City of Galena Park. I look forward to making this a successful project.
One of the first steps we undertook was to establish a Community Advisory Board (CAB) which consists of agency partners, representatives of the metal recycling industry, and community representatives. The purpose of the board is to get input and support to implement this project. We have a diverse group that is really coming together and steering this project in the right direction. These meetings are held at least monthly, and sometimes more if needed.
Researchers will soon begin collecting air samples using equipment ranging from battery operated samplers that sit on a tripod to a mobile laboratory. These samples will help us determine whether or not outdoor air levels of metals, which may have sources other than the metal recycling industry, could potentially impact health. We hope to use this data to examine options for improving air quality and community health.
We will be conducting key informant interviews in all four neighborhoods in August. We are looking for residents who would to like to participate in our interviews. The purpose is to get the residents’ perspectives of their neighborhood, and any concerns they might have about metal recycling facilities. In October will be conducting community forums throughout the four participating neighborhoods to gather information from the overall community to put together a public health action plan. The forums will be advertised throughout the communities, and are to be held at local community center.
The project is really moving forward and progress is being made. The communities are really starting to come together and see how important this project is to their future as a community. So, if you live in one of the participating communities, keep an eye out for us. We are heading your way to make a difference. If you would to participate just let us know.