10/18/13 – Third Annual Metro East Air & Health Forum Highlights Health Impacts Of Poor Air Quality, Showcases Regional Leaders In The Fight For Cleaner Air

With air quality concerns continuing to plague the St. Louis Metropolitan region, municipal leaders and representatives from some of the region’s key civic, healthcare and environmental organizations gathered at the Caseyville Community Center in Caseyville, Ill., today to discuss the impacts of air quality on health and ways to help area residents breathe easier as part of the third annual Metro East Air & Health Forum. The event also showcased the key organizations in the region that continue to work toward improving regional and local air quality through various health and sustainability initiatives.

The event kicked off with a special keynote address from Dr. William Kincaid, MD, MPH, St. Louis University, Professor of Health Management and Policy, who discussed asthma as a critical public health issue. The keynote address was followed by a summary of the 2013 ozone season presented by Mike Coulson, Environmental Services Manager for East-West Gateway Council of Governments.  Other topics addressed during the event included the purpose and use of ozone gardens that have been developed in multiple locations in the region,  future trends in transportation and air quality, the use of solar energy in the Midwest and the indoor air quality risks of radon gas and ways to reduce exposure to radon. For the duration of the event, participants also had the opportunity to explore a variety of informational tables and displays.

The forum was highlighted by a special presentation of awards to two Metro East communities and two Metro East schools, recognizing the steps being taken by each to help improve regional air quality. Those honored were the cities of Edwardsville and Granite City, as well as Marie Schaefer Elementary School, located in O’Fallon, Ill., and Belleville East High School.

Efforts being taken by the City of Edwardsville are highlighted by its designation as a Sierra Club Cool City and its creation of a Cool Cities Initiative Advisory Commission. Steps taken as part of this Cool Cities designation include Edwardsville’s adoption of “green power” and it’s choice to utilize 100 percent renewable energy generation for residents and small businesses; it’s establishment of a citywide burning ban; the retrofitting of the public works and city hall buildings with occupancy sensor lighting, and energy-efficient HVAC systems and doors and windows; the retrofitting of all florescent light fixtures in the community’s city hall, public safety building, library and fire station #2 with energy-efficient ballasts and bulbs; and the replacement of effluent sewer pumps with variable frequency drive pumps. Additional steps taken include the development of a Christmas tree reuse program and a citywide tree planting program; the implementation of a land development code requiring residential and commercial subdivisions to dedicate active and passive green space; and the implementation of a waste pick-up process, which distributes rollaway trash and recycle rollaway cans to all residents.

The City of Granite City, long known for being an industrial community, has also adopted a number of green initiatives. Actions for which the city is being recognized include the passage of a municipal electric aggregation referendum last fall that incorporated 100 percent renewable energy into their contract. The city is also preparing to draft a climate action plan as part of an overall sustainability strategy designed to improve the environment and reduce health risks for city residents, and has established an official Sierra Cool Cities committee.  The city is also being recognized for the creation of community gardens; the establishment of a downtown farmers’ market where residents can obtain fresh fruits and produce; the use of more energy-efficient building practices and water conservation; participation in Ameren’s “Act on Energy” program; and the establishment of bike trails on city streets and a park and ride program for residents traveling to jobs in downtown St. Louis.

Along with the cities of Edwardsville and Granite City, Marie Schaefer Elementary School, located in O’Fallon, Ill., and Belleville East High School were also recognized at today’s event for their commitment to idle reduction on their respective campuses. At Belleville East, no-idling signs were acquired from the Clean Air Partnership and hung in the student and teacher parking lots where idling is common. Idle awareness bookmarks provided by the Clean Air Partnership were also distributed to students and staff. Meanwhile, at Marie Schaefer Elementary, school representatives and PTO members worked together to implement a no-idling policy. As part of their efforts, idle awareness bookmarks were distributed to students during the first week of school, letters highlighting the school’s new no-idle policy were sent to parents and staff and four no-idle signs were hung in the school’s parking areas.

“As our region continues to struggle with poor air quality, our goal in hosting the third annual Metro East Air & Health Forum was to demonstrate the many ways poor air quality can affect the health of area residents, and to unite the many individuals, organizations and municipalities in the region that are leading the charge in helping the region breathe easier,” said Amy Funk, Air Project Specialist with University of Illinois and representative of the Metro East Community Air Project. “We were thrilled with this year’s attendance and appreciate everyone’s ongoing support of this event. We also congratulate the 2013 award winners and applaud them for the many amazing steps they are taking to help improve air quality in the region.”

To learn more about the third annual Metro East Air & Health Forum, call 618-514-7854, or visit www.meairproject.org.

For more information, contact:

Shelene Treptow, The Hauser Group, (314) 436-9090

Amy Funk, Metro East Community Air Project, (618) 514-7854