Fire-flood environmental monitoring explained in Miami Sept. 22

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After the devastating Telegraph Fire resulted in flash floods one year ago, Miami and Globe residents had concerns about environmental quality: potential contaminants released by the fires and transported by water and wind. On Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Bullion Plaza Cultural Center & Museum in Miami from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., learn more and find out how you can join a community monitoring effort. Light refreshments and food will be served from 5 – 5:30 p.m., followed by a one-hour presentation and discussion starting at 5:30.

Hosted by University of Arizona Department of Environmental Science and Cooperative Extension Gila County, the forum’s goal is to unite local residents concerned about environmental quality related to post-fire flooding, gather to discuss project goals and details, and plan for a two-year project where local residents/community scientists will inform the investigation, participate in the scientific process and co-generate environmental monitoring data to inform action.

“Events as massive and landscape-wide as the Telegraph Fire can alter the physical, chemical and biogeochemical properties of the soil and surface materials,” said Mónica Ramírez-Andreotta, University of Arizona Associate Professor of Environmental Science. “Wildfires can release contaminants into the soil, and resulting dust can change air quality. It is critical to determine whether these activities are presenting exposure pathways to contaminants. This research will help communities prepare for compound events and the public health risks posed by the confluence of climate change and resource extraction.”

This two-year community science effort and study is cooperatively funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and it’s a research project likely to have impacts even beyond our local region. Goals include:

• Surveying families to  identify areas that have been impacted and determine individual- and community-level vulnerabilities and resiliencies

• Building human capacity through empowerment education and community science, and training residents on how to collect environmental samples and interpret datasets

• Characterizing contaminants released during wildfires in soil, sediment, and/or settled dust within and around residential areas over time to prepare for future events

• Sharing and reporting data back to participants and providing intervention/prevention strategies to protect families.

“Activities being planned include building a Community Advisory Board (CAB) to inform research and activities,” said Professor Ramírez-Andreotta. “The CAB will serve as a way for people in the community to actively participate in the decision-making process. Community members who are part of the CAB can learn more about the project and research, get up-to-date information, ask questions, help inform decisions and discuss community concerns. Additional details to be announced and shared. Community trainings on environmental monitoring and sample collection will follow in October. Learn how to properly collect samples and interpret data. Build your capacity and environmental health science skills! Join us for one of our two-hour training events set for October 2022. And one more goal is to hire a Community Outreach Assistant, a community educator to provide information, training and support to residents. We seek applicants, who are trusted within the community, share similar social backgrounds or life experiences with the community, have strong communication skills and are enthusiastic about working with others on environmental health issues. To apply for the position, please see:”

Questions about the project, or the Sept. 22 presentation? Contact Ramírez-Andreotta by phone, 520-621-0091, or email [email protected].

We will be in the field! On Sept. 22, 2022, University of Arizona students and researchers will begin collecting samples in the washes that are close to residential areas. We will also be going door-to-door to provide information about the project, recruit residents, and start our survey administration. We look forward to seeing you all!

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