Portland’s Initiative to Protect Environmental Resources (PIPER)
In 2010, Portland was the first community in Maine, and one of a few in the nation, to be awarded the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) grant by the Environmental Protection Agency. This funding supported a 2-year community assessment to identify the most pressing environmental health risks for Portland residents. This challenging task required input from many key partners, including residents, and was named Portland’s Initiative to Protect Environmental Resources (PIPER).
PIPER explored residents’ concerns through five focus groups with representation from a variety of neighborhoods and population groups, including: High school students, non-English- speaking Somali and Sudanese, and public housing residents. This early effort resulted in the identification of 45 environmental health risks covering air, water, and land.
These risks were evaluated for action by collecting available data and completing a risk ranking and prioritization process with the community partnership. The outcome of this work is a focus on the following four risks:
Exposure to chemicals
Household and consumer item safety
Lead paint and soil contamination
Illegal dumping into sewers
Next steps will include public education and targeted interventions on prevention and risk reduction behaviors.