Elevated lead levels in the soil of specific neighborhoods, such as Homewood, may indicate how economically, politically, and culturally marginalized communities endure a disproportionate burden of the environmental harm that we face as a city. Despite well-deserved attention to the water contamination, the highest lead readings come from vacant lots with residual lead-based paint used in homes built prior to the 1970s. Homewood currently has Pittsburgh’s largest number of vacant and abandoned properties. Lead in soil does not biodegrade or disappear; it remains in soil for thousands of years and can cause several development problems in children. The environment is a community’s foundation and its health is crucial to the well-being of its residents. Contentious environmental issues will make headlines during the early days of the Trump administration.
We have a responsibility to equip the next generation of youth with the tools necessary to encourage green advocacy. This project will make an important contribution to Homewood-Brushton in three ways: Firstly, it will engage Operation Better Block’s Junior Green Corp (Homewood youth ages 14-19) in structured activities that educate them about lead contamination in soil in parts of their own community, equip them for leadership roles and prepare the next generation of green-thinking Homewood leaders. Secondly, the project will enable Junior Green Corp to revitalize the Homewood community by determining locations to collect soil tests based on land vacancy. Then, Junior Green Corp will gather and analyze soil samples with assistance from The Citizen Science Lab. Thirdly, the project will research and act on ways to reduce dangerous lead levels in the community. The Junior Green Corp will promote environmentally responsible land use through creating and maintaining safe urban gardens, planting lead remediating sunflower gardens and educating peers on environmental impacts of elevated lead levels.