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E.P.A. Awards $125,000 to Michigan To Help Reduce Pollutionin Schools

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By Ellen Flax

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $125,000 grant to the Michigan Department of Education to help school districts reduce their pollution and to better manage their hazardous wastes.

The grant, one of 26 pollution-prevention grants made by the agency nationwide this year, is the only one going to the field of K-12 education.

The grant, which will be supplemented by $31,000 in in-kind donations from the state and local school districts, will be used to develop a model pollution-prevention program for schools.

Alice Tomboulian, a consultant to the department who is directing the project, said the primary goal of the grant is to get schools to rethink their patterns of purchasing and using materials in order to prevent pollution.

"There are districts that have made good progress in some areas of pollution prevention," she said, "but nobody has got a whole, complete approach."

She said that pollution is created by virtually every department within a school. Common culprits include paper goods, art supplies, polystyrene lunch trays, hazardous generated by science classes, and the oil spilled during school-bus maintenance, she said.

Two districts--one urban and one rural--in suburban Detroit's Oakland County have volunteered to be model pollution-prevention sites, she said.

Over the next year, school offiand teachers in the two districts will work to develop feasible pollution-prevention goals, Ms. Tomboulian said, and will have a working policy in place by the end of the school year.

The schools will be encouraged to collect and recycle their own wastes, she said. They will also be encouraged to become part of a network of purchasers who buy recycled goods, Ms. Tomboulian said.

The plans will also help schools systematically meet the requirements of federal environmentallaws, she said, such as those governing underground storage tanks and the storage of hazardous materials. Some schools do not know what their obligations are because they lack the technical expertise, Ms. Tomboulian said.

A primary goal of the 18-month grant, she said, is to distribute the model materials to schools across the state next fall. As a result, the model policies will be tested in several districts in addition to the two volunteer school systems before they are distributed, she added.

Although no grant money is earmarked for environmental curricula, Ms. Tomboulian said that teachers inevitably will have to present some material to their students to explain why the districts are changing their policies.

"If you are going to ask the biology students to collect their wastes, then you are going to have to explain why," she said.

Linda Glass, a regional pollution-prevention coordinator in the EPA's Chicago office, said the grants are part of a year-old agency initiative to prevent pollution in a variety of settings. Another round of grants will be awarded next year, she said.

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