Helping Garfield County chart its environmental course | PostIndependent.com

Helping Garfield County chart its environmental course

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Garfield County is about midway through an effort, funded by a federal grant, to determine exactly what local residents believe are the most critical environmental health issues facing the region.

According to an e-mailed announcement sent out this week by the county’s consultant, Royce Arbour Associates of Boulder, the process is about to involve approximately 150 volunteers, who will be taking part in an online survey this month.

“You will receive e-mails asking you personally to register your thinking online three different times,” stated the e-mail message, which was issued in the name of Environmental Health Manager Jim Rada.

“The purpose is to help Garfield County citizens to come to consensus on environmental health issues,” the message continued. “As a panel member, you will see consensus grow, plus receive a complete report on the results.”

The project is called “Garfield County C.A.R.E.S.,” which stands for Community Action for Responsible Environmental Solutions, Rada told the Post Independent.

The effort began in earnest in 2009, according to Rada, although he got the $99,000 grant in 2007 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The grant, which is due to expire in October, is meant to provide funding to “define environmental health concerns related to rapid community and industrial growth in Garfield County,” according to a July 20, 2009, letter from the Board of County Commissioners – which also acts as the Board of Health.

In that letter, the commissioners put out a call for up to 75 county residents to take part in the survey, but Rada noted that things have changed since the middle of 2009.

For one thing, he reported, the panel of participants has “doubled in size,” in large part due to a high level of interest among citizens who participated in early meetings and discussions about the survey.

Rada said that, working with the community’s input, he has generated a list of 37 environmental concerns, which are listed on the project’s website, http://www.garfieldcountycares.com. That list will be refined and listed by priority according to the responses to the online survey.

The list so far begins with bacteria and other contaminants in food, followed by the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells; diseases that can be transmitted to humans from animals; drivers using cell phones and other distracting devices; airborne emissions from gas drilling operations; and more than 30 additional matters.

In addition to the survey, the consultants will host a series of public meetings in April and May to present the results and a “draft report” detailing residents’ feelings about environmental health issues, according to Rada.

Following that, he said, the consultants will compile a final report on the survey data.

Rada said the current work is only Phase One of the project. He expects to apply for more grant money for Phase Two next year, perhaps in partnership with a community organization, which would involve a search for what Rada called “community-based solutions” to some of the problems and priorities identified in Phase One.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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