Atma Connect, a Puerto Rico and U.S. non-profit public interest organization, will work with community leaders and residents to improve water quality and health in Puerto Rico via an innovative new project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The project, Grassroots Leadership, Education, and a Safe Water Quality Network in Puerto Rico, will be undertaken through the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Cooperative Agreement (EJCPS) program.
“We all look forward to the fruits of this effort in a better quality of life for our residents,” said Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, in the EPA’s announcement regarding Atma’s grant and other organizations participating in the EJCPS program.
Atma CEO Meena Palaniappan said, “This project is an important step towards achieving safer water and greater climate resilience in Puerto Rico. We are honored to embark on this vital environmental justice work in partnership with residents and leaders on the island.” Atma has worked in Puerto Rico since 2017 on food security and climate resilience, and for this project Atma is partnering with Asociación Enlace Asuntos Comunitarios de Sabana Seca, Finca Higuaca, SaniPlant, University of Puerto Rico, Northwestern University, and the Environmental Protection Network, along with the over 50 community-based organizations in its network.
Luz I. Ortiz Barrientos, the President of Asociación Enlace, shared: “We are excited to work together to address a key unmet need in Puerto Rico to build awareness of water quality issues. We plan to engage residents in septic system testing, and improve water quality through helping residents and small water systems identify threats to water quality and implement solutions, including helping people obtain the resources needed to upgrade septic systems.”
The project’s goals are fivefold:
- To expand and strengthen a Safe Water Quality Network of residents, community organizations, private sector entities, and health and environmental agencies as the engine to conduct a massive education campaign that mobilizes Puerto Ricans to come together and collaborate towards short and long-term solutions;
- To disseminate to residents guidance, tools, and affordable and no-cost options for testing water and septic systems;
- To assist homeowners and building owners in accessing public funding programs for septic system upgrades;
- To engage academics and health professionals to collaborate on data gathering to assess the health impact of contaminated water; and
- To collect lessons learned from the project to facilitate the engagement of residents, especially from disadvantaged communities, in promoting impactful solutions that will ensure safe drinking water throughout the island.
Atma has worked with communities in Puerto Rico since 2017 on disaster resilience, food security, community building, and more through community events and Atma’s award-winning AtmaGo mobile app.
In other environmental justice work, Atma Connect, in partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), will establish infrastructure and support for locally led change across the United States, via the EPA’s Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs).
Atma Connect is an award-winning global nonprofit technology organization that creates platforms to connect people so they can report problems, share solutions, and improve their communities from the ground up. Atma is dedicated to the idea that no one understands the challenges of low-income communities better than the people who live in them. Atma and our mobile app, AtmaGo, have reached over 12 million people, and we have won international recognition for the importance of our work. Numerous awards including the Zurich Innovation Award, Tech for Good’s Startup Weekend, the IDEO/Amplify Urban Resilience Challenge, and the Global Resilience Partnership Innovation Challenge, and Atma is a Vanguard member of the Million Lives Collective, recognizing innovations that have improved the lives of over 1 million people living on less than $5 per day. For more information, visit atmaconnect.org.