Coalition of Communities for Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is our Goal

Barry Gray

Joined Mar 1 2011
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General Info

54 years old
Sylvania Heights & WE Combs (Lovejoy Communities), Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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Coalition of Communities for Environmental Justice

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About Me

Sylvania Heights and WE Combs Community

(Lovejoy Area)

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

(850) 642-0133

Environment Issues

Toxic Chemicals Released by Factories, Power Plants and Other Industrial Companies

Inadequate storm water system

Clean Water

Clean Air

Safe Drinking Water

Pollution Prevention

Endangered Species

Environment and public health

Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know

Toxic Substances Control

Lead Agency

Greater Sylvania Heights Front Porch, Inc., (GSHFP), a designated Front Porch Florida Community. The Governor’s Front Porch Florida Initiative is a community revitalization and development initiative used as a means to rebuild distressed communities. Front Porch Florida takes up this challenge to revitalize underserved communities that are dedicated to positive cooperation and communication to make their community a better place to live, work and play. As a designated Front Porch Community, the GSHFP is working to improve environmental, housing and other living conditions within the Sylvania Heights and neighboring communities, including the greater “Lovejoy” community. The GSHFP is an organization comprised of neighbors in a low-income, predominantly African American area of Okaloosa County and Ft. Walton Beach which has manufacturing facilities and a large industrial park directly adjacent to a residential neighborhood. . We are an innovative community development corporation engaged in the comprehensive revitalization of Sylvania Heights and WE Combs (Lovejoy Communities) low-income, historic, and environmentally challenged Lovejoy community and Gap Creek watershed.

The Lovejoy community faces a number of environmental issues. Located immediately adjacent to the residential neighborhood are an industrial park and several manufacturing and waste management sites. Because the community suffers from nonexistent or inadequate stormwater facilities, heavy floodwaters wash through adjacent contaminated industrial areas and carry pollutants through residential neighborhoods, where floodwaters ultimately collect and settle. The lack of an adequate stormwater system also causes severe flooding of the bordering Gap Creek which, when it overflows, presents a threat to both the health and property of the Lovejoy residents. It has become obvious in the Lovejoy community that a whole host of environmental issues exist, some of which have not been fully discovered or investigated. Some of those issues include alleged former dumpsites being used as stormwater retention ponds, former contaminated landfills further polluting stormwater runoff and perhaps the residential community, and neighboring sites known to have leaked petroleum or other harmful chemicals into the neighborhood and stormwater system. In addition to these very substantial environmental issues, the community also faces abandoned or substandard housing and other problems.

Under a grant and partnership with Florida A&M University, the GSHFP and WildLaw initiated a community health assessment study working with an intern from FAMU who has a public health education and background. The purpose of this assessment was to assist in determining the specific health and environmental issues facing the community. As evidenced by these and other surveys, the community is suffering from an alarmingly high cancer rate, and other very serious health problems. The community needs action now.

Sylvania Heights Front Porch, Inc: The Sylvania Heights community establishing itself as a Brownfields Redevelopment Area in 2010. Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands. Since its inception in 1995, EPA's Brownfields Program has grown into a proven, results-oriented program that has changed the way contaminated property is perceived, addressed, and managed. EPA's Brownfields Program is designed to empower states, communities, and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment.

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