February saw positive developments in Winston-Salem on several important environmental and human health issues.
Transit Authority goes green: On February 15, the Winston-Salem Transit Authority rolled out the first 10 of 20 diesel-electric hybrid buses the city is scheduled to receive this year. The new buses are expected to get as much as almost double the fuel efficiency compared to regular diesel buses. That's a big environmental and financial gain for the city.
The buses being retired from the city transit fleet were past due for replacement in any event, and 90% of the cost of the new buses is being covered by federal and state transportation program grants. Moreover, because the new buses should save so much fuel, we expect to completely recoup the city's part of their purchase price in reduced operating costs in three to four years.
I love those environmental-economic win-wins.
Help available for lead paint removal: Winston-Salem's Neighborhood Services department announced this month that grants are now available to help the owners of housing occupied by lower-income families clean up dangerous lead-based paint.
Lead was banned from house paint in 1978, but many older houses still contain lead paint. Unfortunately, the remaining paint over time becomes an increasing hazard to young children who may ingest peeling paint chips or lead-contaminated dust. Small children are especially vulnerable to brain and nervous system damage from lead.
Winston-Salem has accepted a $2 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development to help get the lead out of older homes. Assistance is available for housing (both owner-occupied and rental) whose occupants have an income of less than 80 percent of the area's average median income. Residents interested in getting help through this program should contact the Neighborhood Services department by calling CityLink at 727-8000.
City sedimentation control program recognized: Winston-Salem's Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program has been recognized as the 2010 Large Local Program of the Year by the N.C. Sedimentation Control Commission and N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources. The award came in particular recognition of our development of an effective inspection program to deal with problems caused by mud running off of single-lot construction sites.
This recognition represents a real turnaround from the state of our local program just five years ago, when it was briefly put on probation by the state over enforcement shortcomings. Since then, we have added inspectors, implemented new more effective procedures, and passed an updated overhaul of our local erosion control ordinance. Our local program is operated by the City-County Inspections Division for both the City of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.
Sustainability action plan: The City Council in February also approved the initial action plan of the Community Sustainability Program Committee (CSPC). The CSPC was established by the city in August 2008, and charged with developing a comprehensive plan for the city's environmental sustainability efforts. The 15 members of the CSPC, representing a broad range of community interests, have worked hard since then to develop a plan for realistic, effective community actions. The initial plan lays out actions in improving community fuel efficiency, expanding participation in recycling, expanding use of more efficient lighting, and starting community gardening programs. Details of the plan can be reviewed at http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/PropertyMaintenance/Sustainability/Articles/Winston-SalemIsAGreenCity.
Ardmore sewer line repairs: Winston-Salem is in a multi-year process of fixing up the older, often undersized and sometimes leaking sewage lines of our older neighborhoods. It's not glamorous work, but it's important to protecting public health and continuing cleanup of our environment. This spring, it's Ardmore's turn. A comprehensive review and repair project for the sewer lines in the Ardmore neighborhood is scheduled to begin March 1. Over the next six months, crews will work block by block. While no lengthy street closures are expected, when a section of pipe must be replaced that block will typically be closed to through traffic for a day to a week. Please be patient with this important work!