EPA to Help Pima County Schools Create Cleaner Air and Cooling Centers

The schools will receive technical assistance through a new demonstration program called Schools as Community Cleaner Air and Cooling Centers.

November 1, 2021

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SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will use American Rescue Plan Act funding to help schools nationwide retrofit their heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems to create cleaner air and neighborhood cooling centers in vulnerable communities. In Arizona, EPA will provide technical assistance to develop these cleaner air and cooling centers in Pima County.

“This assistance will help schools keep their students safer every day with healthier air,” said Administrator Michael S. Regan. “In addition, as we see increasing impacts from climate change, this approach can be a model for how other communities can create safer gathering places during dangerous heat waves and smoke events.”

The announcement comes at the launch of the White House Extreme Heat Interagency Working Group, which is co-chaired by EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. EPA will bring together partners, including public health agencies, community-based organizations, school districts, and emergency response experts, to ensure schools are safe places for kids to learn and for neighbors to gather, especially during wildfire smoke and extreme heat events.

“We are delighted to be able to partner with EPA on this exciting project. The collaboration between team members and the community will result in a wealth of environmental and public health benefits and be a model for others to follow” said Ursula Nelson, director of the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality.

EPA and its consultant team, which will include experts in community engagement, disaster policy, and HVAC engineering, will host workshops with local partners to create an action plan to retrofit the schools. The action plan, developed with community input, will include goals such as:

  • Improving ventilation and filtration systems in public school facilities to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and other airborne illnesses.
  • Creating healthy learning environments through improved indoor air quality in schools.
  • Keeping schools open in the face of more frequent and severe extreme heat and wildfire smoke events.
  • Establishing cleaner air shelters and cooling centers in areas known to have more residents susceptible to serious health impacts from extreme heat and wildfire smoke.

Pima County Project

Pima County is the third-fastest-warming urban area in the country, with prolonged periods of summer temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the County population experiences high rates of social vulnerability. Through this project, the Pima County Health Department will leverage strong partnerships with community stakeholders and build upon existing climate change initiatives already underway to further address the impacts of extreme heat.

For more information on the American Rescue Plan, please visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/american-rescue-plan/

Learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. Connect with us on Facebook and on Twitter.

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