New Grant Could Help Fund Pond Monitoring

Cyanobacteria in Peters Pond, Sandwich in August of 2021.

HYANNIS – Local government officials celebrated a positive development for the region’s public health efforts at the Barnstable County Commissioners meeting last week.

Barnstable County Deputy Director of Health and Environment Erika Woods said they are getting a Public Health Excellence Grant Program Award from the state.

Woods said the county will receive $300,000 annually from the grant, potentially through 2033, and spoke about what the funds will help accomplish. 

“It gives us an opportunity to build on the existing infrastructure and work with local boards of health and respect their autonomy to expand and formalize services,” she said.

Additionally, Woods explained each town would have a seat on the governance board to help direct efforts and promote cross-jurisdictional sharing between the different public health departments.

The grant will also give the county a chance to improve regional programs. One potential example Woods provided would be efforts to monitor cyanobacteria in ponds.

“It’s hard because nobody has enough staffing to take that and run with it. This will give us the opportunity to have that person that takes that input from the towns and says, ‘What do you need from us?’” Woods said.

Commissioner Mark Forest congratulated Woods and said the funds were a win for county public health, especially if the pond monitoring program comes together.

“That is just looming as an important public health problem that is screaming out for additional capacity in resources,” Forest said.

Forest said the grant could be a vital component in supporting projects related to the region’s water quality if officials can figure out a way to marry different resources, including potential American Rescue Plan Act money that could fund similar projects on the Cape.

Another program the grant could potentially fund would be related to the ongoing housing crisis.

“Housing is another regional program that I think would really benefit us. You’re talking about housing, you’re talking about people losing their places to live, and that’s another huge issue that we have,” Woods said.

According to the deputy director, the grant will allow the department to hire up to three staff members to focus on regional public health projects and to ensure Barnstable is addressing health equity issues that the pandemic has revealed.

By Brian Engles, NewsCenter

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