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August 6, 2009

EPA approves $200,000 grant for ULM Social Science Research Lab

The Environmental Protection Agency approved $200,000 in grant funding for the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s Social Science Research Lab to clean up an abandoned and polluted site near downtown New Iberia.

The grant is funded through the EPA Brownfields Program, which supports the redevelopment of properties that have some level of pollution in which the property’s owner, city or parish did not cause the pollution.

SSRL Co-Director John W. Sutherlin, Ph.D., said his group actively participated in several federal and state-led workshops in Baton Rouge to obtain the funding.

“The last three weeks were the toughest,” he said. “We had to summarize technical data regarding site pollution along with community needs and plans. The development of a real budget to pay for the clean-up was also exhausting.”

Several students worked on the grant application, conducting research on the City of New Iberia, especially any distinguishing features that would make the city seem worthy of federal funding.

“The key for obtaining any Brownfields grants is to tell a story,” Sutherlin said. “We wanted the grant reviewer to get a sense or a feel for what that community has to offer.”

In the case of New Iberia, many people are familiar with Tabasco, the author James Lee Burke, and maybe even Jefferson Island, according to Sutherlin.

This is not the first Brownfields project the SSRL has successfully developed. Last year, the SSRL was instrumental in securing almost $50,000 for a clean-up project in the Town of Eunice. State monies were used there to conduct an inspection and develop a cleanup plan for an abandoned hospital.

The SSRL has been a regional player in Brownfields since 2007 when it hosted the first North Louisiana Brownfields Workshop.

Added Co-Director Joe McGahan, “With these recent projects, the SSRL is beginning to be thought of as a state player. Working with Dr. Sutherlin on the SSRL is a pleasure for various reasons, including his passion for Brownfields and, more generally, global ecology.”

A new cycle of Brownfields grant applications are available beginning this fall.

“The SSRL will work with any community that has a good project and needs our assistance,” Sutherlin commented.

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