The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation has awarded two grants totaling more than $1 million to Wayne State University for projects aimed at improving water and air quality in Michigan. The Healthy Urban Waters initiative through the College of Engineering received $650,000 to accelerate development of the Huron to Erie Alliance for Research and Training (HEART) field stations that promote collaborative water research and community education in the Huron-to-Erie corridor. A second grant of $375,000 was awarded to the Transnational Environmental Law Clinic (TELC) at the Wayne State University Law School for an air quality initiative to promote community health and environmental justice by addressing sources of air pollution in the greater Detroit area. Both projects began in the summer of 2015 and are funded for three years.
“These two projects illustrate the link between research and community that is part of the DNA of Wayne State,” said Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson. “Clean air and water should be available to everyone, and it is particularly important for industrial areas with large populations to lessen their environmental impact. We are fortunate to partner with the Erb Family Foundation to improve and protect our natural environment, and build healthier communities.”
The goals of the Healthy Urban Waters initiative and Transnational Environmental Law Clinic closely align with the values of the Erb Family Foundation. “Our mission revolves around sustainable, healthy communities and a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem,” said John M. Erb, president of the Erb Family Foundation. “We are proud to join with the College of Engineering and Wayne Law to support the dedicated research, education and outreach that will protect the Great Lakes’ natural systems and provide for cleaner air.”
Continuing a partnership with the multidisciplinary Urban Watershed Environmental Research Group, funding from the Erb Family Foundation increases the capacity of four HEART field stations to advance collaborative regional water science, urban field research and integrated community education efforts. The grant also will fund a publicly accessible data archive to develop, validate and improve urban watershed models to ensure that the most effective prevention, mitigation and restoration programs are deployed.
“The Great Lakes water system is one of the most precious resources in the world, and we are fortunate that it’s right at our doorstep,” said Carol Miller, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and the leader of the Healthy Urban Waters project. “But with that opportunity comes great responsibility. The grant from the Erb Family Foundation strengthens our ability to learn more, to share information and apply solutions that protect this urban watershed.”
The grant for Wayne Law will allow TELC to convene community meetings, develop policy solutions and serve as a lead partner with other state efforts to address air pollution. In collaboration with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, TELC will create an Air Quality Advisory Committee for Detroit and southeast Michigan. The grant also will fund a coordinator to serve as a liaison between technical experts and community residents, and develop a series of informative materials detailing types and sources of air pollution and associated health impacts.
“We will be a resource for those communities with nearby industrial or manufacturing operations that affect the local air quality,” said Nick Schroeck, assistant professor at Wayne Law and director of TELC. “Often, the policies are complex and the jargon is highly technical, leaving vulnerable communities with few avenues to participate in the process. The grant from the Erb Family Foundation allows us to work on the behalf of affected neighborhoods.”
The grant from the Erb Family Foundation is part of Wayne State University’s $750 million Pivotal Moments fundraising campaign, which had its public launch in October 2014.