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Grant helps Agawam continue its waste reduction efforts

By Michelle Symington

Staff Writer

AGAWAM Agawam has been chosen to receive a Municipal Waste Reduction grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) that will help the city continue to reduce the amount of waste in the community.

Mayor Richard Cohen recently received the letter notifying the city about the grants. In the letter, Robert W. Golledge, Jr., commissioner of the MassDEP, wrote, "The grant selection process was extremely competitive this year. Agawam was selected for a grant because it has demonstrated a commitment to enhancing its waste reduction initiatives. MassDEP applauds your dedication to pursuing innovative waste reduction strategies and shares your commitment to continuing out work toward a sustainable environment."

The grant will allow the city to make improvements with three projects.

Tracy DeMaio, solid waste coordinator for the Agawam Department of Public Works, explained that one of the projects supported by the grant is the creation of an "Environmental Education Encyclopedia."

The city received $2,862 toward the completion of that project, which DeMaio said would cost an estimated $5,725 for printing and distribution to 8,400 homes.

She explained that the "Environmental Education Encyclopedia" is a guide that will be created and sent to residents to inform them about a variety of ways to properly dispose of waste.

For example, she said the guide will inform residents how to dispose of materials such as engine oil or florescent light bulbs. She also plans to include information about healthy lawn and landscape information as well as bulk pickup and hazardous waste.

"We are not limiting it at this point," she said. "We want to fit as many topics in the encyclopedia that we get questions on."

The "Environmental Education Encyclopedia" will be distributed to every home that participates in the city's curbside pickup.

DeMaio said she hopes to make the project a first phase that will later be expanded to include multi-family units and possibly businesses.

DeMaio said the goal is to have the encyclopedia completed after the new fiscal year begins and should be mailed out in Aug. 2006.

The grant will also support the second phase of the city's Chemical Management program in the schools.

DeMaio said that a DEP representative visited the schools last year to help the schools clean up the chemicals stored there. The second phase of the project, covered by the grant, will help the schools organize the chemicals that are used in the schools.

The grant will give the city 40 hours of assistance from a DEP representative to help with the second phase, which DeMaio said will be completed by the end of the school year.

The third portion of the grant gives the city signs and promotional materials valued at $750 to help with its Idling Reduction Campaign.

DeMaio said that idling vehicles are a problem in every community, especially in the winter, and that Agawam is going to try to reduce the number of idling vehicles in the city.

She said that the initial focus will be on town vehicles, school buses, trash trucks and delivery vehicles.

She added that the campaign will also focus on residential vehicles that may sit idle. For example, she said the campaign will encourage parents who wait for their children outside of a school to shut their car off while they wait.

As part of the anti-idling campaign, city workers will participate in a DEP workshop to receive assistance in planning the campaign.

DeMaio said that she is "thrilled" that the second phase of the Chemical Cleanup will soon be completed and said that the other two projects are "great additions to our community."