The Environmental Quality Institute

WNC Alliance Announces Intent to Resurrect the Environmental Quality Institute

Source: Mountain Xpress by Brian Postelle, 03/09/2010

In 2009, Xpress reported on the closing of the Environmental Quality Institute on the campus of UNC Asheville after statewide a statewide mandate to cut university expenses.

Now, it looks like a local non-profit is stepping up to help secure funds and manage the program, working to round up the $150,000 it will take to get the program back on its feet.

Here is the press release from the Western North Carolina Alliance:

WNCA Helps Re-Establish the Environmental Quality Institute

ASHEVILLE, (March 3, 2010) –The Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA) has stepped up to assist the Environmental Quality Institute (EQI) in re-establishing services that EQI had made available to citizens of the region for more than 20 years until late last year.

In 2009, the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA) decided to no longer house EQI, leaving its programs scrambling to find new homes. One of its signature programs was the Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN), which provided monthly water quality data on more than 200 sites in Western North Carolina. Those services ceased toward the end of 2009 when EQI lost its laboratory on UNCA’s campus. This essentially put its water research and other lab services out of business.

“When UNCA announced the closure of EQI, I was not ready to walk away. We have strong community support, a committed volunteer base, the equipment and knowledge to perform the services, and a solid reputation earned by EQI staff over the past two decades,” EQI Director Ann Marie Traylor explained. “I am determined to keep EQI, and particularly the VWIN program, going.”

WNCA is acting as EQI’s fiscal agent and housing the program as it works to restart VWIN. WNCA will remain in its management role with EQI until EQI becomes a separate non-profit organization.

“We are entirely supportive of EQI continuing its valuable services,” said WNCA Executive Director Julie Mayfield. “Housing EQI during this start up phase and helping get the VWIN program going again is completely consistent with WNCA’s goal of encouraging citizen efforts to protect our local environment. The information generated through the VWIN program is complementary too and helps support our existing land use, public lands and water programs.”

Some nonprofit organizations that are thriving today began as projects of or were initially housed with WNCA, including the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River and the Little Tennessee Watershed Association.

WNCA is currently applying to regional and national funders for the necessary support to successfully re-launch EQI and the VWIN program. The estimated start-up costs and first year expenses are close to $150,000. In addition to Traylor, who was EQI’s head chemist for five years, EQI hopes to employ at least two part time students once a new facility has been secured and adapted to house laboratory equipment.

The VWIN program offers laboratory analysis of river, stream, and lake water samples to stakeholders such as municipalities, water and sewer districts, soil and water districts, and environmental nonprofits. The resulting data analysis and technical reports help these groups focus their efforts to improve water quality.

In addition to the VWIN program, EQI has a long history of conducting research on environmental toxins such as lead and other heavy metals in drinking water, arsenic in CCA-treated lumber, and mercury in human hair. EQI also housed the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (LPPP), which found a new home at Warren Wilson College. Traylor hopes that in time EQI can grow beyond the VWIN program and again contribute knowledge about a range of environmental issues that affect local and national citizens.

“The local nonprofit organizations and municipalities that have worked with EQI over the years have been invaluable to our startup efforts. I am thankful for their dedication to preserving the water quality in Western North Carolina, letters of support that they have provided for EQI, pledges for continued monitoring, and professional advice on establishing and operating a nonprofit organization,” Traylor stressed.

“I’m especially appreciative of the support provided by WNCA, and I think that this temporary partnership will make EQI a stronger organization when we are ready to become an independent nonprofit.”

All contributions to the project are tax deductible, and should be sent to WNCA (29 North Market Street, Suite 610, Asheville, NC 28801), earmarked for EQI.

About Western North Carolina Alliance

Based in Asheville, the Western North Carolina Alliance is a 28-year-old environmental group that empowers citizens to advocate for livable communities and the natural environment of Western North Carolina. For more information on upcoming WNCA activities, call the office at (828) 258-8737 or visit our website at www.wnca.org.

About the Environmental Quality Institute

Based in Asheville, the Environmental Quality Institute is a 20-year-old environmental research laboratory whose mission is to provide objective chemical and biological analyses to help communities, government agencies, and the private sector gain accurate understanding of complex environmental issues. For more information, call (828) 333-0392.

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