Health and High Water Project

An examination of the relationship between wet weather and the physical and mental health of Black residents in Pittsburgh.

Black Americans are disproportionately affected by the environmental impacts of climate change. Building on the households who are part of the Pittsburgh Hill/Homewood Research on Neighborhood Change and Health (PHRESH) study, the Health and High Water project will examine indoor air quality and basement dust to better understand the relationships between wet weather in our community and the physical and mental health of residents, including asthma, depression, and stress.

About the Project

The Health and High Water research project involves researchers from RAND and the University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, and Outreach and Dr. Sarah Haig’s lab) working hand-in-hand with community partners to understand and find solutions for the environmental injustices experienced by residents living in the Hill District and Homewood—two predominantly Black neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our academic and community-partnered team is working together to ensure that we ask the right questions, disseminate our findings, and use community-based scientific research to come up with effective community and policy-based solutions.

In this study, we will survey Hill District and Homewood residents who are part of the PHRESH study and have basements. We will ask questions about their neighborhood, home, and physical and mental well-being, with a focus on experiences with flooding and basement dampness. We will collect environmental data using air quality sensors installed in the basement as well as by collecting dust from the basement to test for the presence of mold..

Participants will be compensated for being a part of this study and their survey responses will be confidential. Participants will also receive resources to help address the impacts of heavy rain, damp basements, indoor air quality, asthma, and more. Find out more about what it means to be a participant in this study and answers to some frequently asked questions.

Community partners will help disseminate the research findings to participants and the community at large. After data have been collected, resident leaders will use the data to develop community-relevant solutions to the problems the research has identified. Resident leaders will inform providers and policy makers about the prevalence of basement dampness and how to mitigate its negative impacts on well-being, particularly in predominantly Black neighborhoods. The work will fill research gaps and help improve prevention, intervention, and health equity.

Read our FAQs to learn more

Community Partners

Our community partners are critical in making sure that community engagement is a core function of this project. Our partners will help develop the research, leverage existing community-led climate education programming, refine relevant solutions and policy change, and support the clear communication of findings.

Homewood Children’s Village

Believing that factors like a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, or zip code should not determine their fate, Homewood Children’s Village (HCV) began in 2008 as a community-based research cooperative between the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work and Operation Better Block with the mission of improving outcomes for children in Homewood.

Formally launching in 2010 as a 501c3 organization, HCV takes a multigenerational approach, serving children, families, and the community by breaking down the social and economic barriers to success. Through collaboration, engagement, advocacy, and research, HCV offers a continuum of direct services and learning support for children and their families from cradle to career, working diligently to address the complex challenges facing Homewood’s youth.

It is HCV’s vision that together, with a strong village of support, we will transform Homewood to create a community of opportunity—a place where families thrive and children succeed.

Black Environmental Collective

The Black Environmental Collective, an initiative of UrbanKind Institute, is a cross-sectoral regional network of Black leaders, rooted in a commitment to environmental equity and social justice.

The Collective bridges the gap between community experiences, resource and information sharing, regional policy advocacy, mutual learning, and bringing people and ideas together that would not otherwise meet. Their mission is to advance just solutions that support Black communities’ ability to combat environmental threats to quality of life, environment/place, and climate.

Flooding and Air Quality Resources

Preparing for Possible Flooding

Reporting Flooding

  • To report an urgent water or sewer issue (such as low or no water pressure, a suspected water main break, or a sewage backup), call Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s 24/7 Emergency Dispatch at 412-255-2423 (Press 1).
  • Report flooding to the City of Pittsburgh by calling 3-1-1 or visiting the 311 website.

Dealing with Damp Basements and Poor Indoor Air Quality

  • The Environmental Protection Agency has a handout and other resources on how to clean up after a flood to help with indoor air quality.
  • Women for a Healthy Environment has information on support and resources for healthy homes. Call 412-404-2872 or visit their website.
  • ACHD Safe and Healthy Homes Program provides a free home visit to look for health and safety hazards within the home. Requirements include income and having a pregnant woman or person under age 22 often in the home. Call 412-350-5058 to apply and see if you qualify.
  • Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh's Safe and Healthy Homes Program offers free home repairs to income-qualifying homeowners, including seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. Call 412-247-2700 or visit their website.
  • The American Lung Association and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection work together to provide radon test kits to Pennsylvania residents who have not yet tested their homes for dangerous radon gas. Visit their website and and enter your ZIP code to request a free kit.
  • The Community Justice Project provides legal guidance on tenant rights. There are certain standards for habitability that require landlords and property owners to maintain their properties.