In 1995, the Corpus Christi Ozone Task Force noted that small businesses in the area were becoming a large source of air pollution. Jim Needham, TEEX coordinator of the Corpus Christi Regional Training Center, decided to do something about it — and his actions paid off.
Needham and Gretchen Arnold of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi received a Texas Environmental Excellence Award from Gov. George W. Bush and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission for their Pollution Prevention Partnership.
Needham received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and formed the Pollution Prevention Partnership, which is made up of numerous programs that help educate different groups on the dangers of pollution and ways to manage it. Arnold was hired later to manage the program, which is now funded by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.
“My original goal was to involve small business in improving air quality in the Coastal Bend area,” Needham said.
The Partnership for Environmental Safety Outreach has worked with consultants, government agencies, environmental groups and universities to build programs to help small business in Corpus Christi, such as auto shops, dry cleaners and printers, become compliant with pollution-prevention guidelines. Needham said the amount of gasoline vapor in the city’s air has decreased by 700 tons each year since 1995, when the program started.
The partnership has also worked with the North American Association of Environmental Education Urban Leadership Collaborative to provide low-income and urban minority communities with information about preserving the environment. The program works with schools and youth groups in Corpus Christi to educate them on environmental issues.
Needham and Arnold’s program is the first from higher education to win the award in the education category, and the first group from Corpus Christi.
“For the last eight years, school districts, high schools and middle schools have won the award,” Needham said. “I was really excited we won this award, but I was surprised, too. Other larger groups that were good contenders were finalists and it was very competitive.”
Needham said the award will be helpful in getting grants from other sources. He said it gives the program a high level of credibility. The Pollution Prevention Partnership recently received grants from the Texas Land Office to start a new program focusing on reduction of non-point source pollution, also known as storm-water runoff. This is litter, oil and other pollutants that are washed into rivers, lakes and bays through storm-water drainage systems.