UH nets grant for environmental training

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $196,800 grant to the University of Hawaii (UH) to provide environmental health and safety job training for students in Kalihi and other Honolulu neighborhoods.

“This program will provide quality job training to the students who will make up the environmental work force of the future,” said EPA regional Superfund director Keith Takata.

UH plans to train 60 students, achieve a 75 percent job placement rate, and track students for one year. Following 240 hours of instruction, students will have 120 hours of on-the-job training, then be placed in environmental jobs through the university’s partnerships with environmental, construction, and other industries.

Nationally, more than 60 percent of people completing Brownfields training programs have obtained employment in the environmental field with an average hourly wage of $12.84.

The grant is part of the EPA’s Brownfields Cleanup and Redevelopment program, which targets abandoned, idled or underused industrial and community property where development is complicated by real or perceived contamination.

This latest round of grants aims to teach environmental cleanup job skills to 1,080 individuals living in low-income areas near Brownfields sites in 16 communities nationwide. There are dozens of Browsfield sites identified in Hawaii, but two of five remaining “priority sites” are located in the Kalihi area: Kuhio Park Terrace, and the Kalihi-Kai baseyard. The Iwilei-Oahu Rail and Land site located at the corner of North King and Iwilei streets was also a priority site.

Since last year, the EPA has provided more than $75 million in Brownfields grants to states, local governments and non-profits. The program has allowed the agency to leverage more than $5 billion in funds from nearly $800 million in increased value from redeveloped property. According to the EPA, every acre of reclaimed Brownfields land saves 4.5 acres of greenspace such as park and recreation areas.

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