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University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core (CEC)

Project Leader: Kathleen Gray
Co-Investigator: Sarah Yelton
Grant Number: P42ES031007
Funding Period: 2020-2025
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Project Summary (2020-2025)

The UNC-SRP Community Engagement Core (CEC) collaborates with two community-serving organizations—Clean Water for North Carolina and the Winyah Rivers Foundation—to understand the needs of well users in four North Carolina counties related to inorganic arsenic (iAs) contamination of well water. The overarching goal of the CEC is to foster environmental health literacy in the context of well water contamination. Drawing on the strengths of all collaborators, the Center jointly develops prevention and intervention strategies that reduce exposure to toxic metals in drinking water. The CEC accomplishes its goal through three aims. First, the CEC facilitates dialogue among UNC-SRP investigators and key NC stakeholders about SRP research and its implications for reducing exposure to iAs in well water by convening a Public Health Action Committee. This committee stimulates bi-directional communication that will inform the development of responsive environmental health sciences research and community problem-solving strategies. Second, the CEC enhances understanding of iAs exposures in high-risk communities and encourage well testing and filter deployment as local strategies to prevent or reduce harmful exposures. Working with investigators in the Geochemical Predictors of Arsenic Contamination project, the CEC and community partners will identify high-risk areas as well as the need for additional sampling. The Center will assist residents in understanding sampling protocols, results, potential risks of exposure, and actions they can take to reduce exposure. The Novel Filtration Devices for Arsenic Reduction project also supports these efforts, with deployment of novel filters. Third, the CEC informs the development of local and state policies that prevent or reduce iAs exposure in private wells used for drinking water. Working with policy experts, including staff of the Center for Environmental Health, and the UNC-SRP Research Translation Coordinator, the CEC will identify policy options for reducing iAs exposure in well water and convene decision makers to discuss implications of recommended policies. Through these aims, CEC activities are directly relevant to the mission of the UNC-SRP and are responsive to the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) Mandate 4, promoting methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances. The bi-directional communication resulting from active engagement of the UNC-SRP researchers with PHAC members and community partners fosters creative thinking that will inform locally relevant solutions to the challenges posed by toxic metals contamination of well water in NC.

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