San Juan, P.R. -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Judith Enck and Lisa Garcia, the Agency’s Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice, today presented an award for outstanding work to further environmental justice to the ENLACE Cano Martin Pena Project. The group was recognized for work developing a comprehensive and environmentally sustainable economic development plan for the Cano Martin Pena, with the full engagement of the communities along the canal.
“ENLACE Cano Martin Pena has done outstanding work to build partnerships and develop a comprehensive redevelopment plan for this beleaguered canal,” said Judith Enck. “Thanks to ENLACE’s land use plan, there is a strategy to improve economic, public health and environmental conditions in the communities along the canal.”
“The recipients of this year’s environmental justice awards have developed projects that empower communities to participate in environmental decision-making and serve as models for other communities working to address environmental justice concerns,” said Lisa Garcia, Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “These types of community driven partnerships help advance efforts to make our most overburdened communities healthier, and more sustainable.”
The mission of ENLACE Cano Martin Pena is to rehabilitate the Martin Pena Canal and its bordering communities by building partnerships between the communities and the public and private sector. ENLACE has established and implemented a land use and comprehensive development plan that works to improve social, economic, and environmental conditions for eight communities in the Cano Martin Pena Special Planning District. The canal is a 3.5-mile long natural tidal channel located in the heart of the San Juan National Estuary. It provides a connection between the San Juan Bay and the San Jose Lagoon. Impoverished residents who migrated to San Juan during the first half of the 20th Century built their houses in the mangroves bordering the canal. For decades, the canal has struggled with urban poverty and environmental degradation.
ENLACE has led and participated in many projects aimed at improving quality of life and environmental conditions in the Martin Pena communities. ENLACE partnered with the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, part of EPA’s national estuary program, to work with a school in the Martin Pena community on a volunteer water quality monitoring program. Recently, ENLACE assisted EPA in water quality sampling along the channel and in areas adjacent to the channel. In addition, ENLACE has compiled information and contracted for studies related to the preparation of a feasibility report and Environmental Impact Statement for the dredging of the channel. ENLACE has also partnered with the Ponce School of Medicine, which is conducting an epidemiological study on the effects of the residents' repeated exposure to water and sediment contaminated by sewage. ENLACE also provides support and guidance to Martin Pena Recycles, a community-based recycling effort run out of a formerly abandoned home that was restored and converted into a community Recycling Center.
Each year, EPA recognizes partnerships that address local environmental justice concerns and result in positive environmental and human health benefits in communities through its National Achievements in Environmental Justice Awards program.