UW receives $1.2M climate change research grant from EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday announced nearly $4 million in grant funding for universities—including University of Washington—to research impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities.

The University of Washington (UW), University of Alaska and Iowa State University are the beneficiaries of this recent slate of federal funding.

Specifically, UW will receive $1,267,559 for a community-based project researching ways to preserve water, soil and sediment along the Duwamish River, famously polluted by decades of industrial contamination. Flanking the river are underserved communities like Georgetown and South Park, according to the City of Seattle's Duwamish Valley Action Plan. Locals are forced to handle frequent flooding, and the contaminants are killing off wildlife in the river.


An EPA report from 2021 found that while climate change is a global problem, many of its acute issues disproportionately affect vulnerable populations and underserved communities.

"We’re excited to support projects that empower underserved communities with science-based resilience-building solutions to protect our most vulnerable residents," said Casey Sixkiller, EPA Region 10 Regional Administrator. "We’re proud to work together with our university researchers, state and tribal partners, and the local communities to understand how to reduce the burden of these impacts in Alaska, Washington, and beyond."

UW's Duwamish Valley Research Coordination Network aims to bolster the communities' water and soil testing programs, working to identify contaminants like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), metals, dioxins and furans swept into the Duwamish River Watershed during events like floods and storm water surges. The program also aims to better inform decision-making for future cleanup and storm water management.

University of Alaska will receive $1.3 million, and Iowa State $1.3 million, for their own local projects.

According to the EPA, this $3.9 million grant is the latest in more than $21 million awarded to institutions around the U.S.

"As the impacts of climate change become more frequent and severe, it’s very important to center community voice. We are fortunate to be working with many community leaders and advocates to address and mitigate contaminant concerns in a watershed that is increasingly impacted by flooding and industrial pollution," said Melanie Malone, University of Washington Principal Investigator. "We look forward to co-creating inclusive and equitable solutions with our community partners about environmental justice concerns that most impact them."

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You can learn more about the EPA's Cumulative Impacts Research project on the EPA website.