Environmental Design to Address Air Pollution and Equity in Southwestern Detroit

EPA Grant Number: SU833950
Title: Environmental Design to Address Air Pollution and Equity in Southwestern Detroit
Investigators: Larsen, Larissa
Institution: University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2008 through August 14, 2009
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Although much of the American landscape is now categorized as post-industrial, pockets of intense industrial activity remain. One of the most concentrated pockets of heavy industrial manufacturing in the United States exists in Southeastern Michigan at the confluence of Southwest Detroit and Southeast Dearborn. Contrary to other industrial pockets, facilities in this area are expanding. From an air quality perspective, these stationary sources of air pollution are compounded by mobile source pollution from vehicles crossing the busiest international bridge in the country. Fugitive dust is the third source of ambient air pollution in this area and it emanates from numerous unpaved lots, storage piles, and rail yards. In 2004, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the seven-county Southeast Michigan region as a non-attainment area for the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) standard. The two air monitors measuring PM2.5 above the standard are located within our project area. Not only are employees of the industrial facilities exposed to elevated fine particulate levels but so are nearly 150,000 residents. Public health studies increasingly warn that exposure to ambient fine particulate matter has significant health implications. Federal and state authorities are working with the largest industries to implement technical solutions to mitigate stationary stack emissions and initiate fugitive dust management strategies. However, within the project area there are many smaller industries and transportation companies that contribute to the fugitive dust problem but are not regularly monitored. The goal of this project is to identify interventions that will reduce ambient fine particulate matter and initiate an implementation project. This interdisciplinary project involves university students and faculty working with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, a local grassroots environmental justice organization.


This environmental planning project has six components. The first involves a review of academic literature from plant physiology, bioremediation techniques, public health, and epidemiology to synthesize current scientific knowledge related to air particulate pollution. The second component involves translating best management practices from other locations and determining their relevance to our project area. A third component involves establishing a baseline for current and anticipated fine particulate sources in the project area. The fourth component involves prioritizing sites for intervention strategies. The fifth component involves implementing a small planted demonstration area. The sixth component involves identifying community partners who are likely to fund, install, and maintain these initiatives and disseminating information to residents and business owners.

Expected Results:

This project supplements current regulations with creative mitigation strategies, and requires interdisciplinary thinking in order to achieve a balance between local economic, social, and environmental needs by combining scientific knowledge, community engagement and education with innovative design.

Supplemental Keywords:

trees, environmental justice, mitigation,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report