Dr. Beti Thompson, head of the Public Health Sciences Division's Thompson Studies group, and her project manager, Elizabeth Carosso, received a Civil Rights and Environmental Justice award from the Environmental Protection Agency for their recruitment efforts for a groundwater contamination study in the Lower Yakima Valley.
The honor, presented Nov. 29 at the annual award ceremony for EPA Region 10, lauded the work of the staff at the Hutchinson Center for Hispanic Health Promotion in Sunnyside, Wash., the remote study site for Thompson's research in the region.
Thompson, Carosso credit 'unstoppable' team
"We have wonderful staff who are dedicated to working with people in the Yakima Valley," Thompson said. "They go above and beyond expectations for all of the projects they undertake and this is an outstanding example. The awards are in recognition of their efforts."
Many Lower Yakima Valley families use private wells to get drinking water. Data suggests many of these wells may be contaminated with bacteria and nitrates from residential septic systems, irrigated crop lands and/or dairies and feedlots. The EPA identified about 525 homes for potential sampling.
The Hutchinson Center staff, working in collaboration with the EPA, was charged with recruiting at least 150 participants for the project. Thanks to their efforts and Thompson's long-standing pesticide exposure research in the region, the agency was able to collect water samples from 430 homes, almost three times as many as expected.
"Our staff, specifically Rafael Hernandez and Ilda Islas, were unstoppable in finding the addresses specified by the EPA and consenting the homeowners," Carosso said.