Service Training for Environmental Progress

STEP Timeline


Student Environmental Health Project evolves out of the Occupational Health Project.  Offers occupational health course in conjunction with the Preventive Medicine Department at Vanderbilt University.  Offers a brown lung disease screening clinic in LaFollette, TN.  Hires ten graduate and undergraduate students to work with community environmental groups.


STEHP hires 12 students to work with community environmental groups including the Tennessee Brown Lung Association in LaFollette, TN; Yellow Creek Concerned Citizens in Middlesboro, KY; and Tennesseeans against chemical hazards in Nashville, TN.  Two students worked in the STEHP lab.


STEHP hires 13 students to help citizens in Middlesboro, TN conduct a health survey, documenting pollution along the Loosahatchie River in Shelby County.  The students also research chemical and hazardous waste laws and organize a health fair for workers in Chattanooga.


STEHP concentrates on establishing itself as a resource of environmental information for community groups, continues work with Yellow Creek Concerned Citizens, and provides year round assistance to communities through its laboratory which analyzes soil and water samples on a sliding scale fee basis.


STEHP students work at 8 different sites during the summer.  The 5 long-term sites include:


  • Virginia Citizens for Better Reclamation in Wise, VA.
  • Activists Concerned with Toxics in Our Neighborhood (ACTION) in Circleville, OH.
  • Western Northy Carolina Alliance in Murphy, NC.
  • Alabamians For a Clean Environment (AFACE) in Emelle, AL.
  • Nashville Communities Organized for Progress (NCOP) in Nashville, TN.


  • Year-round program analyzes 1300 water and soil samples for 35 communities at a minimal cost.  Citizens are taught proper soil and water sampling techniques.
  • STEHP invited to speak at national conference of the American Medical Student Association, whic his working on a similar program.
  • Summer program places 12 students in sites in Alabama, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
  • Former STEHP intern sets up STEHP at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.



  • Six communities and 10 students are involved in summer internship programs in Alabama, West Virginia, and Tennessee.
  • Ten students spend Alternative Spring Break in Roses Creek Hollow, TN.
  • Five sampling workshops done for rural communities.


STEHP provides low-cost screening for heavy metals and halogenated organics.  In addition, twelve interns and six communities in Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi participate in the summer program focusing on economic alternatives to dependence on income from hazardous waste, investigating effects of a massive PCB spill on the Mud and Green Rivers, and investigating water in Holmes county via bacterial sampling, respectively.


Summer interns conduct the following research:


  • Project on drinking water systems with a community resources group.
  • Investigate drinking water quality with Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste in New Orleans, LA.
  • Examine hazardous waste facilities with Alabamians for a Clean Environment in Emelle, AL.
  • Project on landfill regulation with Bordeaux Action Committee in Nashville, TN.
  • Recycling efforts with Lauderdale Citizens for a Clean Environmentl in Zip City, AL.


Louisiana Environmental Action Network and Gulf Coast Tenants Organization document potential water quality problems in a community with industrial pollution.  Interns taught members of Ocoee River Alliance to sample water and soil while developing a six-week applied science curriculum to involve African-American students in scientific environmental work.


Interns work with United Paperworkers International Union to form a workers' coalition to combat the paper industry's disregard for the environment, Gulf Coast Tenants Organization to create public awareness of environmental justice, and Save our Counties to stop creation of a hazardous waste incinerator and landfill in Florida wetlands.


STEHP renamed STEP (Service Training for Environmental Progress) and works in inner-city Atlanta to document series lead contamination and poor water quality.  Summer interns examine policies and procedures of the Tennessee Division of Solid Waste Management and document health effects due to radioactive and hazardous waste in Knoxville, TN.


Summer interns work with five separate communities, including:


  • Analyzing soil for toxic contamination in Gainsville, GA.
  • Evaluating the effects of sugar cane production on health in Belle Glade, FL.
  • Working with Bring Urban Recycling to Nashville Today (BURNT) to investigate a local hazardous waste plant.
  • Assisting Citizens for Better Health in Oak Ridge, TN to investigate the health effects of incineration of nuclear wastes.
  • Working with homeless men to plant an organic garden for homeless and low-income families in Atlanta, GA.


Interns work with Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) to research timbering laws and forestry practices and analyze water quality while providing community education with Save Atlanta's Fragile Environment (SAFE) and Safely Treating Our Pollution (STOP).


Interns assess solid waste landfills in Tennessee with Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), educate citizens on the health effects of aerial herbicide spraying in cooperation with the Friends of the Clinch and Powell Rivers and develop a resource and information directory to be used to encourage recycling industries to locate in Nashville.


STEP partners with the Americorps VISTA program to provide year-round volunteers to six community-based environmental organizations in Tennessee and Mississippi.  In addition, interns conducted a door-to-door health survey in two Chattanooga Creek neighborhoods to determine contaminated water's effect on health and assisted community organizations in Nashville in investigating policies and investment practices of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Association.


The STEP program sponsored eight VISTA volunteers in environmental organizations within Davidson, Knox, Hamilton, and Shelby counties in Tennessee.  Organizational partners included the Foundation for Global Sustainability, The Riverkeepers Project, Reachout Inc., Tennessee Environmental Council, and Vollintine-Evergreen Community Association.


STEP continued its partnership with the Americorps VISTA program and sponsored additional interns throughout Tennessee.  Interns worked with community-based organizations to develop models of community environmental education, compile fact sheets on specific environmental health issues, publish articles in local newspapers and recuit local volunteers to join in the work of host organizations.


Interns redesigned STEP's "Citizens Introduction to Water Quality in Tennessee" for a school-age audience.  The brochure, renamed "Watershed Wonders," includes a map of local watersheds and was distributed at MIHOW sites and middle schools throughout Davidson County to educate families about water quality.


STEP partnered with Friends of the Nolichucky River and the Sierra Club, in Washington County, TN regarding the county's twenty-year growth plan that included major land use shifts from agricultural to manufacturing.  An intern researched the plan to identify possible risks to water quality, endangered species, public land, or open space.  Residents were educated about sprawl and utility extensions while an ongoing partnership between the local community and professors at Tusculum College was formed.


STEP interns worked to raise awareness about the dangers of lead poisoning in a primarily-Hispanic community in Nashville.  STEP interns trained school-age volunteers on the hazards, testing methods, and reduction techniques associated with high-lead amount in homes.


STEP partnered with local community organizations in western Tennessee to research and educate the community on the effects of aerial spraying aspect of the Boll Weevil Eradication Program.

STEP partnered with the Nashville Metro Recycling program to conduct waste audits of local businesses interested in minimizing their waste streams and increase their recycling.


STEP continued its work with Metro Recycling in conducting waste audits of local businesses.  STEP volunteers made recommendations to the businesses regarding waste minimization and recycling.

This page was last updated December 2, 2003 and is maintained by