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CHEC's Awards & Honors


Deans Day Award for Shale Gas Waste Water Research

Congratulations to CHEC's Kyle Ferrar, MPH for receiving a Dean's Day EOH Keleti Award for excellence in environmental health for his poster titled, "Where the flowback flows; assessments of effluent contaminants from facilities discharging Marcellus Shale wastewater to surface waters in Pennsylvania."


2011 Deans Day Award Winners & Presenters from CHEC

  • Samantha Malone, BCHS - "Implementation of A GeoWeb platform to manage & communicate shale gas information" - Received the Rosenkranz Award for the project judged to be the most significant contribution to the public health field, as well as the overall Dean's Day third place award in the doctoral category. Poster | PowerPoint
  • Drew Michanowicz, EOH - "Temporal Trends & Spatial Distribution of Air Quality in Western Pennsylvania in the 2000s" - Received EOH Keleti Award for environmental excellence. Poster
  • Kyle Ferrar, EOH - "Natural Gas Wastewater Treatment: Effluent characterization" - The case study mentioned in Dr. Volz's recent Senate Hearing Committee presentation | Poster

Learn more»

CHEC's Sam Malone awarded Duquesne's "Emerging Leaders' Extraction and Environment" travel grant

Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH, communications specialist for CHEC and doctoral student at GSPH, is a recipient of a travel grant from Duquesne University to participate in their Emerging Leaders' Extraction and Environment (E-LEEP) program. E-LEEP will take approximately 22 people from across the United States to Accra, Ghana this summer. There they will examine the effects of extractive industries on populations, economics, and the environment and share their experiences from working on similar issues in the U.S.  Read more from Sam's perspective.

CHEC Staff Members Honored at the 35th Annual Honors Convocation

The University of Pittsburgh will hold its 35th Annual Honors Convocation on Friday, February 25, 2011 at the Carnegie Music Hall. Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH, CHEC's director and GSPH faculty member, will be honored as an Environmental Hero. Shannon Kearney, MPH, CPH, CHEC's Project Manager and GSPH doctoral student, will be honored as an outstanding student.

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Kyle & Shannon, Student Leadership Award Recipients!

May 1, 2010 — University Club, Pittsburgh, PA

CHEC would like to congratulate Kyle Ferrar & Shannon Kearney, ARSP participants, for recognition in service to the students of the Graduate School of Pulic Health (GSPH), for which they have received Student Leadership awards. Kyle also received the Outstanding Student Award for academic achievement. Kyle & Shannon will be presented with their awards at the annual Alumni Dinner taking place May 1, 2010, at the University Club.

Drew Michanowicz, Vespucci Initiative Award Recipient!

June 14-18, 2010 — Fiesole & Florence, Italy

CHEC's Drew Michanowicz, MPH, CPH received a scholarship from The Buffalo IGERT program in Geographic Information Science (GIS) to attend the 2010 Vespucci Summer Institute on "Interfacing social & environmental modeling." Workshop Info | What's GIS?

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Clean Water Action Reaches Settlement with Horsehead Corp. over Clean Water Act Violations

December 29, 2009

(Pittsburgh) – A federal judge in U.S. District Court has approved a settlement between Clean Water Action & Horsehead Corp. concerning Clean Water Action’s lawsuit alleging violations of the Clean Water Act at the company’s zinc smelter in Monaca, PA on the Ohio River outside of Pittsburgh.Key elements of the proposed settlement include:
  • Horsehead will pay a penalty of $15,000 for past Clean Water Act violations. As additional mitigation for past violations, Horsehead will contribute to two local environmental projects.
  • The first project involves a donation by Horsehead of 15 acres of ecologically significant land along Raccoon Creek in Beaver County to the Independence Conservancy & a $15,000 donation to the Conservancy for maintenance & preservation of the land.
  • The second project consists of a $10,000 donation to the Center for Healthy Environments & Communities at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. The Center will utilize the funds for water quality research & public education in the Pittsburgh area.
  • Horsehead has agreed to automatic fines to be paid in the event of future violations at the Monaca plant & has agreed to undertake a corrective action plan if there is a significant level of violations in the future.
  • Horsehead has agreed to continue enhanced maintenance procedures that have yielded improved performance during the past year.
“We are pleased to be able to reach this settlement with Horsehead Corporation,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action. “The company was willing to sit down in good faith & provide both compensation for past violations as well as establish a clear mechanism to deal with any future violations at their plant.”
Michael Fiorentino, an attorney who represented Clean Water Action through the Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center stated, “There are clear water quality benefits to this agreement, as well as benefits to local residents. When incidents of water discharge permit violations can be reduced to this extent, we see an example of the considerable public value of citizen suit litigation.”
One area that the parties could not reach agreement on concerned a fly ash landfill that Horsehead operates which continues to have violations of selenium discharges. The parties agreed to set aside this issue until DEP finalizes Horsehead’s application for renewal of their Clean Water Act permit. Nevertheless, under the settlement, Horsehead will be required to pay fines for future violations from the fly ash landfill.
The settlement between Clean Water Action & Horsehead Corp. resulted from negotiations initiated following the filing of a citizen suit under the Clean Water Act in December, 2008 by Clean Water Action. The suit alleged that Horsehead’s zinc smelter, the largest in the U.S., had committed 135 violations of their water discharge permit into the Ohio River & Raccoon Creek between 2004 & 2008.

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Clean Water Action is an environmental organization with over 150,000 members in Pennsylvania. Clean Water Action works to empower residents to take action to protect our waters, build healthy communities, & make democrary work for all of us.
Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center is a not-for-profit environmental law firm that provides legal services to organizations in environmental matters. The Center works to ensure that environmental requirements are met, & that legislation & regulations are adequately implemented by responsible federal, state & local agencies. The Center is located at Widener University School of Law.
Contact Name:  Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania State Director, 412-592-1283

GASP Environmental Hero Award

September 18, 2009

This year the Group Against Smog & Pollution (GASP) celebrates their 40th year of working to clean up the air & improve the environment in southwestern Pennsylvania by recognizing 40 “Environmental Heroes” for the good work they have done for the environment in the greater Pittsburgh area. The director of CHEC, Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH, was chosen from a pool of nominees by a panel of judges. The judges strove to identify individuals from an array of backgrounds who have worked to improve our environment.
The Environmental Heroes were recognized at GASP's 40th Anniversary celebration on Friday, October 23, 2009, from 6 to 9 PM at the Union Project, 801 N. Negley Avenue in Highland Park (Pgh 15206). Who else was honored? (PDF)

CHEC Awarded Grant for Program Evaluation of Childhood Environmental Asthma Control Project

September 1, 2009

The Center for Healthy Environments & Communities has been awarded a $30,000 grant from Healthy Home Resources (HHR) of Pittsburgh. HHR provides assessment & remediation services to remove asthma triggers from the homes of children, living in Pittsburgh & the surrounding area, diagnosed with asthma & is expanding its services as a result of being the recipient of a stimulus grant from the Department of Housing & Urban Development. Learn more about environmental asthma»
The HHR AT HOMe Program is designed to identify & remediate a variety of exposures that can trigger asthma attacks including; dust mite & cockroach infestation; rat & mouse droppings & hair/skin scale; cat & dog allergens; mold; pollen; & dust. The six-month program includes five in-home visits, where Healthy Home Resources monitors allergen trigger levels, provides personalized education to the child with asthma & his/her family, & provides the family with supplies & services valued at over $1,000 which can include a HEPA vacuum cleaner, HEPA air purifier, cleaning supplies, allergen bed covers, & professional services such as pest management & air duct & carpet cleaning. This program is currently available to those families with children with asthma between the ages of 4-17 living in certified eligible areas. For more information on the HHR AT HOMe program & to see if your child qualifies for the program call them at 412.965.8119 or email them at
Under the terms of the grant CHEC will provide environmental program evaluation (PDF) to insure that the AT HOMe program is having a significant impact on important childhood asthma health endpoints through quarterly & final data assessments & reports. The asthma health endoints to be evaluated include reducing emergency use of rescue inhalers, symptom & lost school days, & emergency room visits as well as increasing the knowledge, attidudes & beliefs (KAB's) of parents regarding thier ability to care for their asthmatic child. Important public health behavior change models suggest that increasing parental KAB's will lead to positive behavior change & better coping skills in parents.
The Principal Investigator for the project is Conrad (Dan) Volz DrPH, MPH. He will be assisted in data aquisition & analysis by Mr. Charles Christen MEd, LPC, DrPH cand., CHEC Director of Operations & Mr. Drew Michanowicz, MPH. First quarterly evaluation results for this new project are expected to be posted to the CHEC website in November of 2009. Evaluations of concluded AT HOMe projects by CHEC show that the program has had a statisticlly significant effect on lowering rescue medication usage & the number of symptom days experienced by participants & in raising the KAB of caretakers. There is also evidence of persistence of effect of these measures to 6-month post-intervention follow-up. The HHR AT HOME program has also been successful at raising the consciousness of the region regarding environmental causes of asthma & has become an important & well-known community resource (see Final HUD Evaluation Report, 2007, The Healthy Home Resources AT HOME Environmental Asthma Intervention). For information regarding the programs past KAB impact on selected important subgroups of parents, such as those that smoke, have asthma themselves or are under 30 years of age please read:
Learn more» Assessing Effectiveness of Educational Interventions on Subpopulations of Primary Caretakers from Pittsburgh Environmental Asthma Study Based on KAB Survey Scores, by Suzanne Mamrose-Hunt, MPH — Thesis (PDF) | Poster (PDF)

Heinz Endowments Renews Funding for CHEC

August 25, 2009

To expand environmental public health efforts at the University Of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public (GSPH), the Heinz Endowments has awarded $250,000 to the school’s Center for Healthy Environments & Communities (CHEC). The grant will help support the mission of the CHEC, which is to improve environmental health in Western Pennsylvania through the merging of community concerns with; ecological research targeting assessment of exposure to environmental contaminants; assessment of human health risks to these exposures; environmental monitoring; & the modeling of contaminant exposures in order to visually describe & predict their movement through environmental media (air, water, groundwater) to both human populations & ecological receptors.
The Center was founded with initial funding by the Heinz Endowments in 2004, & has successfully completed two major projects on the rivers of Pittsburgh, analyzing fish in these rivers for bioaccumulation of heavy metals, toxic elements & endocrine disrupting chemicals (PDF) (EDC’s), with an emphasis on those EDC’s that are estrogen receptor agonists.  Fish are “the canaries in the coal mine” for human exposure & give important information on the sources of water pollution from both air pollution deposition & industrial & municipal wastewater effluent discharges. The renewed funding will allow the CHEC to focus on key goals developed from its previous work. These goals are:
  • Modeling local deposition of particulates & other criteria pollutants from coal fired power plants (CFPP), assessment of accompanying health risks posed to human populations throughout Southwestern PA, & investigations of potential correlations of modeled CFPP particulate deposition with heavy metal & toxic element bioaccumulation patterns in fish using geostatistical methodologies.
  • A geographic assessment of coal combustion waste (PDF) (CCW) & flyash pile placement & determination of heavy metals & toxic elements in groundwater potentially leached from these sites. The initial phase of this work will be an assessment of groundwater levels of these contaminants at the Little Blue CCW Impoundment, which has no liner, near Shippingsport PA, from PA DEP records. From this assessment a sampling strategy will be established to determine concentrations of these contaminants in drinking water wells of residents living near the impoundment.
  • Determine the levels of specific estrogen mimicking chemicals - called xenoestrogens - in local rivers, fish & selected water distribution systems & assess the level of risk posed to humans & aquatic organisms.
  • Perform an environmental health threat analysis for the region by reviewing available air & water contaminant databases, benchmarking to other metropolitan areas, & convening a series of focus group meetings with area governmental, institutional, foundation & environmental & community groups.
“One of the things we strive to do within the center is to understand exposure to contaminants in the environment & assess the risk to individuals & communities by engaging them in the process of research consequently empowering them to develop their own action plans for healthy living,” said Conrad D. Volz, DrPH, MPH, Principal Investigator for & Director of CHEC & Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh GSPH.  “We are extremely grateful to the Heinz Endowments for their continued & sustained support of this mission.”
According to Dr. Volz, CHEC employs a community-based participatory research model based on an equal partnership between traditionally trained experts & members of the community. “We believe that it is vital to involve community members in research projects so that they have a stake in the health & well-being of their own communities,” said Dr. Volz.
Other CHEC faculty & staff are Ravi Sharma, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Behavioral & Community Health Sciences, GSPH, & Charles Christian, MEd, DrPH Cand., CHEC Director of Operations, Andrew Michanowicz, MPH, Research Assistant & GIS Specialist, Samantha Malone, MPH, Research Assistant & Communications Specialist, & Kyle Ferrar, Laura Hyler, Ryan Buttons, Jason Mayfield, & Shannon Kearney, Graduate Student Assistants. For more information on CHEC, visit
The Heinz Endowment supports efforts to make Southwestern PA a premier place to live & work, a center of learning & educational excellence, & a home to diversity & inclusion. Committed to helping its region to thrive as a whole community- economically, ecologically, educationally & culturally-the foundation works within PA & elsewhere in the nation to develop solutions to challenges that are national & even international in scope. One of the largest & most innovative independent philanthropic foundations in the country, the Endowments awarded more than $75 million in grants in 2008.

Learn more about the project»

James L. Craig Award for Excellence in Teaching

April 25, 2009

CHEC is pleased to announce that  Assistant Professor Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH, Director of CHEC has been awarded the James L. Craig Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Graduate School of Public Health. The Craig Award was established through the generosity of GSPH alumnus James Craig, MD, MPH (’63), to  recognize GSPH faculty who have excelled in teaching & mentoring of students.

Craig awardees are nominated annually by GSPH students & selected by a committee of GSPH students & past Craig awardees. The Craig awardee receives a plaque, & his or her department receives $5,000, which the awardees can use for teaching-related activities.

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Heinz Endowments Funds Center for Healthy Environments & Communities at GSPH

September 29, 2008 — Pitt Chronicle

In an effort to expand environmental public health efforts in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), the Heinz Endowments has awarded $200,000 to the school’s Center for Healthy Environments & Communities (CHEC). The grant will help support the Allegheny River Stewardship Project – a community-based environmental health project exploring water contamination in the Allegheny River, one of CHEC’s flagship programs. Read article»

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Page last updated:
May 10, 2012