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- Focus on Schools
Public schools are community anchors. They house and nurture our growing children for 6-8 hours each weekday. They are meeting places for families, sporting events and extracurricular activities. They employ public workers and are funded by our tax dollars.
With very few local laws and no federal law to prevent local authorities from building new schools on contaminated land, recent school budget cuts mixed with time limited large grants from the federal government has created an atmosphere of short sighted and quick fixes by school districts of building on toxic land.
CHEJ has become the leading national organization advocating for clean and safe land for schools through grassroots organizing, innovative research, and national advocacy. In 2002, CEHP (formerly CPOC) and partner organizations analyzed five states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and Michigan. The purpose of this analysis was to approximate how many public schools were within ½ mile of a known contaminated site. The results were astounding. Over 1,100 schools in just these five states are within ½ mile of a contaminated site, negatively impacting the health of over 600,000 students.
Then in 2005, we analyzed how many state regulate school siting (50 State Survey Table Results and Column Descriptions) and take into consideration potential site contamination. Again, we were outraged. Only five states have any law at all that makes it illegal to build a school on a contaminated site. The other 45 states are mostly silent. With health experts, engineers, and community organizations, CHEJ created Model School Siting legislation. Community groups are now able to craft laws that fit their specific needs and criteria. We encourage groups and concerned citizens to take what they have created to their local school board, city council or state Department of Education to help and encourage the passage of health protective school siting laws.
USEPA Healthy School Environments: The healthy school environments web site is designed to provide one-stop access to the many programs and resources available to help prevent and resolve environmental issues in schools.
In October 2011, EPA released its school siting guidelines. The EPA was mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to create a voluntary guidance document to be used by decision makers to evaluate environmental factors that may impact locating a school in a healthy environment. The school Siting guidelines can be used as a resource to enact stronger laws and policies in your community.
CHEJ created fact sheets that highlight key points of the EPA School Siting Guidelines, explain why school siting policies are necessary, and guidance on how to enact a local school siting policy. Click on fact sheet below to download.
Check out CHEJ’s version of school siting guidelines: Safe School Siting Tool Kit