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EPA In Your Community (Pedal Away!)

2014 July 11

By Brendan Corazzin
Region 7′s EJ Grants Coordinator

While biking may be an excellent way to exercise, it can also serve as a viable and inexpensive form of transportation that has many environmental and health benefits. Joe Edgell tells us it is easier than you think. Let me tell you about one of EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grant awardees and the work they are doing in St. Louis to address the inequitable distribution of biking infrastructure in the city.

Example of a shared traffic lane. This picture was taken in Arlington, Virginia. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

Example of a shared traffic lane. This picture was taken in Arlington, Virginia. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

Often times, transportation is an overlooked environmental justice issue. It is not uncommon for low-income households to lack access to a personal vehicle and many low-income urban neighborhoods have poor access to public transportation.  Entire communities are cut off from valuable public services and amenities. Lack of transportation means a lack of access to fresh foods, a lack of access to medical facilities, and poor access to jobs. In St. Louis, Missouri, a small non-profit organization, Trailnet, is working to reverse this trend by promoting bicycling as a viable mode of transit.

St. Louis Rain Garden Stop

During a bike ride with Trailnet staff and project partners, we stopped at a rain garden at 14th and Clinton Street in the Old North Neighborhood of St. Louis. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

In 2013, Trailnet, Inc. was awarded an EJ Small Grant to work with low-income neighborhoods across St. Louis on bicycle planning and advocacy. Historically, planning activities related to bicycle infrastructure have left out low-income and minority communities. As a result, the existing infrastructure does not serve the needs of these communities. Through a series of educational activities, planning workshops, and community events, Trailnet will encourage bicycling as a mode of transportation and bring community members to the table so they can be involved in the planning process. This past May, I was in St. Louis to visit with Trailnet regarding their project. Rather than driving a car from Kansas City to St. Louis, I decided to use alternative modes of transportation starting with a bike ride from my home in midtown Kansas City to the train station downtown. After a 5 hour train ride, I arrived in St. Louis at the downtown train station and over the next two days I experienced St. Louis’ biking infrastructure first hand.

I will admit, my experience lead me to the conclusion that St. Louis and Kansas City (where I live) have pretty similar biking infrastructure…which is less than impressive. Don’t get me wrong, both cities have invested quite a bit in bicycle planning and both cities support bicycling, but they’re still early in the process. Getting around the downtown area, where most of my activities were, was fairly easy. There are a few dedicated bike lanes in downtown and few more “shared traffic lanes”. A shared lane is really just a regular traffic lane with a bicycle emblem painted on it, alerting drives to the possibility that there may be a cyclist in the lane. I also rode in west St. Louis and on the south side of town, where again there were a few dedicated bike lanes and some shared traffic lanes. In North St. Louis, however, travel was a bit more difficult because there are only shared traffic lanes.

Scheomehl Pots

“Schoemehl Pots” are frequently found at the intersections of neighborhood streets in St. Louis. The pots were originally installed to divert traffic from residential streets and could be reused to improve biking routes. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

North St. Louis is predominately African American and low-income. This is where one could witness the historical presence of environmental injustice in transportation planning. While other parts of town are accessible by bike lanes and downtown has its fantastic bicycle station, a public bicycle storage and maintenance facility, North St. Louis is left with only shared traffic lanes. This problem is compounded by the fact that beginner riders typically lack the skill and confidence to ride in traffic. As a result, you have a community where bicycling could serve as a viable form of personal transportation – taking people to work, the grocery store, school, or church – yet ridership remains low. Admittedly, there are many reasons for low ridership, but better infrastructure is an important part of increasing bike usage and our grant to Trailnet will help!

By working with residents, city staff, and elected officials, Trailnet hopes to break down the barriers that are preventing the community from utilizing bicycles as a cheap, efficient, effective and safe means of getting around St. Louis. By bringing community members to the table, Trailnet has been able to gather important information about community needs and wants. This input will inform transportation planning in St. Louis and help shape a future that supports bicycling by establishing safe, low stress routes that connect points of interest important to the community. Environmental Justice is all about supporting communities so that they can use their voice and knowledge to create positive changes and improve their environment. The Environmental Justice Small Grants Program has a long history of supporting communities in their fight to improve their environment. To learn more about environmental justice and EPA’s EJ grant programs, check out EPA’s website.

This map was used during a public meeting in North St. Louis. Residents were asked to identify points of interest, streets they bike or walk on, and streets that they would bike on if conditions were more inviting. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

This map was used during a public meeting in North St. Louis. Residents were asked to identify points of interest, streets they bike or walk on, and streets that they would bike on if conditions were more inviting. Image by Brendan Corazzin.

Brendan Corazzin works in the Environmental Justice Program at EPA’s Region 7 office. He serves as the regional EJ grants coordinator. He lives in Kansas City’s Volker neighborhood and prefers to leave his car at home. He is an avid supporter of alternative transportation including walking, biking, and riding to work in a vanpool.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Helping Them Breathe More Freely

2014 May 29

By Karl Brooks
EPA Region 7 Administrator

brooksAsthma and its triggers constitute a real public health threat.  The almost 25 million Americans who suffer from this serious, sometimes life-threatening disease already know what triggers their disease and have a plan of action.  At EPA, controlling these triggers is part of our mission to protect human health and the environment.

EPA has joined with federal, state and local partners to build the nation’s capacity to control asthma and manage exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants linked to asthma.

Throughout the month of May, EPA Region 7’s inside look into the lives of an asthmatic child and her parents (one an EPA scientist) starkly, personally reminds us of this devastating disease’s toll.

Asthma awareness should begin with a discussion on indoor asthma triggers.  Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, where indoor allergens and irritants play a significant role in triggering asthma attacks. Triggers can cause asthma symptoms, an episode or attack, or make asthma worse. Persons with asthma may react to one or more triggers.

kids

Outdoor triggers have also been a focus of EPA’s outdoor air pollution programs throughout the years. Air pollution can trigger your child’s asthma. Even healthy people can have trouble breathing on high air pollution days.  Asthma attacks can occur the same day, but may also occur the day AFTER outdoor pollution levels are high. Air Quality Index (AQI) reports help to alert people to unhealthy levels.

For most people, the main air pollution triggers are small particles—also known as particulate pollution—and ozone. These pollutants come from smoke, road dust, and emissions from cars, factories and power plants. In general, ozone levels are highest in the summer, but levels of particle pollution can be high any time of year. They tend to be higher near busy roads and where people burn wood.

These challenges will build because the recently released National Climate Assessment (NCA3) tells us that we are faced with increased heat wave intensity and frequency, increased humidity, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality will increase.

Protecting health is one of our primary goals, so EPA must create real solutions for these very real problems.  Just one wheezing, coughing, struggling-to-breathe child in the Heartland epitomizes the millions who suffer from asthma. Helping them breathe more freely is cause enough.  EPA remains diligent in our efforts to educate and resolute in our actions to clean the air we breathe.

Dr. Karl Brooks is the Regional Administrator for USEPA Region 7.  Brooks earned a Ph.D in History and Environmental Studies from the University of Kansas, and served as Associate Professor at KU until joining EPA in 2010.  For his full bio visit EPA Region 7.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Earth Day Festivities…Waterfowl, Stream Impairment & Smokey The Bear…Oh My!

2014 May 28

By Amber Tucker

Earth Day was last month but since we like to tout that every day is Earth Day here at EPA, I am safe in posting this now.  We also love it when the “official” Earth Day rolls around.  Each year on April 22nd, people across the globe participate in various events and activities to raise awareness and promote the environmental movement.  2014 marks the 44th Earth Day Observance.

Prior to the first Earth Day in 1970, there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment.  It was legal and even common for black plumes of toxins to fill the sky, and tons of hazardous waste to be dumped directly into waterways.  These practices had gone on for so long, that finally the detrimental effects on environmental resources could no longer go unnoticed, and concerned citizens felt compelled to take action to protect their environment. In spring 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda. Twenty million Americans demonstrated in different U.S. cities, and their efforts paid off tremendously!  In December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

earthday

In response to the expanding public demand for cleaner air, water, and land, President Richard Nixon and Congress established the U.S. EPA.  EPA was tasked with the challenging goal of repairing the damage already done to the environment and to establish guidelines to help Americans in making a cleaner and safer environment a reality.

Fast forward 44 years to today…from its 20 million strong 1970 roots, more than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world, according to the Earth Day Network (http://www.earthday.org).  On a local scale, EPA is fortunate to be able to participate in local community events each year.

julia

Julia helping out with the Impaired Waterways activity

The Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska held their 2014 annual Earth Day event on Tuesday, April 22nd at their community building in Reserve, KS.  The Sac & Fox Environmental Department has hosted this event for several years in an effort to actively engage children of various ages in learning about the environment.  They have worked closely with and invited outside agencies to participate in this important event.

On Tuesday April 22nd, approximately 90 children ranging from 1st through 3rd grades came to the Sac & Fox community building to celebrate Earth Day.  Three staff members from EPA Region 7, Julia Cacho, Heather Duncan, and Amber Tucker, were privileged to be able to attend and take part in these festivities.  The Sac & Fox Environmental Department secured presenters on a variety of environmental topics such as surface water quality, air quality, Brownfields, recycling, Squaw Creek Waterfowl, and the water cycle.  Environmental Department staff also developed program specific presentations to showcase the Sac and Fox Nation Environmental Department and its functions. All of the attendees were able to soak up some Vitamin D out on the lawn during lunch, where lunch was served (in recyclable brown boxes). The day was topped off by crafts activities and a very welcomed appearance from Smokey the Bear.  Smokey was a big hit, and took pictures with the children, which were printed and incorporated into one of the crafts for the children to take home.  At the end of the day, 90 happy kiddos and several tired presenters were evidence of a successful Earth Day event!

Smokey

Julia, Heather, Smokey & Amber

For additional information about Earth Day, please visit http://www.epa.gov/earthday/index.html.

Amber Tucker is an Environmental Scientist who serves as a NEPA reviewer for EPA Region 7.  She is a graduate of Haskell University and serves as Region 7′s Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native American Employment Programs.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Ashlynn’s Plan

2014 May 12

By Heather Duncan, Region 7 Water, Waste & Pesticides

asthma

My daughter Ashlynn is seven years old. She loves the color pink. She enjoys reading but she would rather play outside. She is a daddy’s girl. Her favorite school subject is math. She dreams of being a spy someday.

And, my daughter has asthma.

Ashlynn’s asthma is triggered by sudden changes in the weather (otherwise known as spring and fall in the Midwest), respiratory viruses, acid reflux, poor air quality, and by dry ice at high school theatrical productions. (You can imagine how “fun” it was to discover that last one…)

No matter how well controlled it is, asthma redefines a family’s version of normal routine. Our family has had five years to adjust to our version of normal. It currently includes:

  • An asthma action plan involving a full rainbow of colored inhalers and nebulizer treatments with names like Dulera®, Flovent®, albuterol, and DuoNeb®;
  • A calendar on the kitchen counter, where we track Ashlynn’s asthma symptoms and her yellow and red zone medication doses;
  • Family budget line items for co-pays, annual family flu shots, monthly prescription refills, and caffeine (that last one is for me, not for Ashlynn);
  • A roll of quarters in the glove box of my vehicle, for the vending machines during an unexpected journey to the emergency room; and
  • A thankfulness for our employers who understand when our family’s schedule changes suddenly – and for the medical insurance they provide.

In other words, our routine involves accepting that from August to April, normal is just a setting on the dryer. The goal of Ashlynn’s asthma action plan is to prevent asthma from being her limiting factor. That goal is a family goal, and most days, we accept whatever version of normal comes with it.

And, we hope for a better day tomorrow.

Implementing The Plan

3:07 p.m.        Just as the meeting conversation picks up, my cell phone buzzes. Caller ID says “Pathfinder Elementary”. I duck into the hallway to answer the call before it goes to voicemail.

3:11 p.m.        I thank Nurse Brooke and hang up the phone, sighing with relief. Thank goodness for amazing school nurses, I think. I step back into the room and reengage with the meeting.

5:35 p.m.        Ashlynn tells me about her day as we walk out of after school club. “I was squeezy after recess. Nurse Brooke gave me my rescue inhaler,” she relays. “How are you feeling now?” I ask. “A little better,” she says hesitantly. Probably time for the yellow zone of her asthma action plan, I remind myself.

5:40 p.m.        I set out the yellow zone inhaler when we get home. Ashlynn takes a daily controller medication in her green zone, and she adds a second controller medication during her yellow zone. There is also a red zone. The red zone is not fun. We hope it doesn’t come to that this time.

6:45 p.m.        Was that a cough I heard? I glance at the clock. It’s been less than four hours since her last asthma treatment. After my not-so-subtle Mom stare, Ashlynn gives in. “Four puffs of your red albuterol inhaler…,” I remind her. Dulera®, Flovent®, albuterol, prednisone… Asthma is a language all its own!

7:15 p.m.        “Mommy, I’m still squeezy,” Ashlynn says, wearily. Her hands jitter from the side effects of the albuterol. I begin to think through our asthma action plan options. Do we try an albuterol stack? “Let’s get your nebulizer and the iPad. You can watch a movie while you take your next treatment.” Ever the daddy’s girl, Ashlynn climbs on her father’s lap to finish her treatment.

8:30 p.m.        Ashlynn’s bedtime. As I tuck her in, I wonder how long the medicine will hold her. Asthma is usually worse at night than during the day, and well, today wasn’t that great. Best get to bed early yourself, Heather. Get some sleep while you can. Meanwhile, I ponder what may have triggered this attack. Was there a big weather change? Is she coming down with a cold? How was Kansas City’s air quality today? Most times, we can point to something.

9:22 p.m.        “I’ll take the first shift,” Jason says. My husband and I have learned to subdivide the night during asthma flares. First shift means asthma duty from bedtime until 1am; second shift involves from 1am to wakeup. This way, we’re both guaranteed a few hours of sleep and someone is fresh enough to help the rest of the family get ready in the morning.

5:15am           I turn off my alarm clock and wander to the kitchen. Ashlynn’s asthma calendar – the calendar where we track her asthma symptoms and her yellow and red zone medication doses – sits on the kitchen table. Only one treatment after bedtime... Not too bad!

6:35am           Ashlynn is not a morning person.

6:40am           Ashlynn begrudgingly gets out of bed, and trudges to her closet to pick and accessorize her outfit. Odds are, she’s wearing something pink.

6:52am           Cough.

6:54am           Cough. Coughcoughcough.  Sometimes, getting out of bed is too much activity for an already irritated airway. I instinctively load another DuoNeb® treatment in the nebulizer.

7:15am           After the treatment, the coughs have subsided, and Ashlynn’s takes her daily and yellow zone medications. I leave a voicemail for Ashlynn’s asthma coordinator at the pediatrician’s office – they will want to know we’ve used four treatments in the past 24 hours.

7:25am           Jason and I agree Ashlynn should go to school today. I shoot a quick email to Nurse Brooke and Mrs. McCall, letting them know how the overnight went and when Ashlynn’s last treatment was. The goal of Ashlynn’s asthma action plan is to prevent asthma from being her limiting factor. Most days, we succeed. Today, even as her asthma flares, Ashlynn will get to be a first grader who loves math class. We hope for an uneventful day today, a restful night tonight, and a better day tomorrow.

Heather Duncan has been with EPA Region 7 since 2006. Since 2006, Heather has also married her husband, purchased a house, gave birth to three children (one with special medical needs), and unsuccessfully attempted to give up caffeine three times.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

March Madness and Dancing… Did you know……?

2014 April 16

By Jim Callier

The NCAA basketball tournaments just concluded.  None of our local schools made it very far in the “big” dance, although a shout-out does need to go to the Central Missouri State University Mules men’s team for winning the NCAA Division II Championship.  In this spirit, I want to pose a couple of interesting intercollegiate sports questions to introduce one of our Region’s noteworthy institutions.  Below are three questions relevant to the geographic area of EPA Region 7.

1) Player and Coach, Chauncey E.  Archiquette, is credited by Dr. James A. Naismith, originator of basketball, for introducing the zone defense into the game.  Can you tell me the school associated with Mr. Archiquette?

2) Milton P. Allen, the son of Forrest C. (Phog) Allen, famous University of Kansas basketball coach, coached basketball at what school in EPA Region 7?

3) Can you name the school whose gridiron team lost only 3 homes games in a 34 year period of time? (Hint:  approximately 1898 to 1932).

So, how did you do with these three questions?  The answer to the questions is “Haskell”, currently referred to as “Haskell Indian Nations University.”

EPA and Haskell have a special relationship dating back a number of years.

Since its inception, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mission has been focused on the protection of human health and the environment.  The EPA Region 7 (EPA R7) recognizes that participation from all citizens is essential to support effective environmental policies, problem solving, and sustainable practices. In an effort to encourage student participation and study in the field of environmental science, a partnership was established, in the form of Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between EPA R7 and Haskell.  The purpose of this MOA is to formalize and strengthen the relationship between EPA and Haskell while enhancing their educational programs/activities and increasing their institutional awareness of the environment through training and consultation.  Through this partnership, students from Haskell have worked at EPA R7 as part of the intern program, and many of these students have gone on to become employees of the agency after graduation.

Last year, Amber Tucker blogged twice about a special environmental conference at Haskell focused on mercury deposition and mercury in fish tissue, where students and scientists learned about these issues facing their communities.

For more than 130 years, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been sending their children to Haskell, and Haskell has responded by offering innovative curricula oriented toward Native American cultures.  Today, Haskell has an average enrollment of over 1000 students each semester, with multi-tribal student representation from rural, reservation, ranchero, village, pueblo, and urban settings.  The Haskell campus spans over 320 acres in Southeast Lawrence, KS, and is home to 12 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Haskell Memorial Football Stadium.  Haskell offers baccalaureate degrees in Indigenous and American Indian Studies, Business Administration, Elementary Education and Environmental Science.

We feel that minority colleges serve an integral part to their specific cultures and communities. They fulfill a vital role in maintaining and preserving irreplaceable languages and cultural traditions, in offering a high-quality college education to younger students, and in providing job training and other career-building programs to adults and senior citizens. Haskell clearly offers a rich resource to provide the required institutional framework to address the problem of under representation of American Indians/Alaska Natives in science, technologies, engineering and mathematics fields. Additionally, it provides a platform for EPA to aid in the development of an environmentally-conscious campus through direct consultation and training.

haskell

Haskell University, Lawrence, KS

 

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Where Do Plastic Bags Go?

2014 March 6

By Shannon Bond

Each season has its unique traits. Some are good, some are not so good. This depends upon who you talk to of course. One of the benefits of winter is the view, which brings a barren type of beauty. There is no doubt that leaves and green landscapes are appealing, but as an outdoor enthusiast and trail junky (both on foot and on wheels), I can appreciate the outdoors in every variation. There is a lot to be said for increased visibility too. When the trees are bare, you can see the contour of the land and the flow of the trail.

Sadly, I can also see litter; particularly, plastic bags. When you are hiking down a trail it’s easy to reach down and pick that trash or stray bag up. The easy cleanup opportunity is lost when you are barreling down the highway on the way to work though. It is especially discouraging to see hordes of plastic bags clinging to the tops of trees. These bags have obviously been ejected from passing vehicles to be carried by the wind to their final resting place. I’m sure they are present all year, but the winter draws back the veil of leaves to reveal just how much wasted plastic we generate.

What happens to the rest of the plastic bags that don’t get stuck in our suburban forests? And, what can we do to mitigate our waste? For years I was under the impression that we could not recycle these plastic grocery haulers. I’ve reused them as trash bags, lunch bags and anything else I could think of, but ultimately that just prolongs their life before they end up in the landfill. Luckily, just like a lot of our modern day materials, these can be recycled. So plastic bags really end up in three places (like everything else really).

The landfill

In 2011, Americans produced around 250 million tons of waste, 32 million tons of that solid waste was plastic. That’s 4.4 pounds of waste per person per day! It’s up to you to help keep plastic bags and other waste out of landfills.  (http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/MSWcharacterization_508_053113_fs.pdf)

landfill

Recycled into other goods

There is hope because recycling and composting helped prevent 87 million tons of material from reaching the landfills that year. That gives us an average of about 1.53 pounds of recycled and composted waste out of our 4.4 pounds per person per day. About 11 percent of the recycled waste from the overall count was the category of plastics that include plastic bags. Unfortunately, only 8 percent of the total plastic waste generated was recycled in 2011. We can change this. There are more than 1,800 businesses in the U.S. that handle or reclaim post-consumer plastics. Put simply, bring your used plastic bags to the grocery store when you shop and drop them at the bag recycle bin. If your store doesn’t have a recycle service for plastic bags, ask the store manager why not or what the alternatives are. You can also find a curbside drop off. http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/plastics.htm.

Buy Recycled

Where does recycled plastic go? You handle it all the time and probably don’t realize it. Products include bottles, carpet, textiles, paper coating and even clothes.

In the trees (or anywhere else as litter)

Don’t let your bags end up here. It’s an eyesore for your community, dangerous for the animals in your environment and doesn’t contribute to the reduction of source materials needed for plastic manufacturing.

Plastic Bags

What’s the bottom line? Recycle your plastic bags, it’s easy. Why? It helps keep trash off the streets. It helps reduce the need for raw resources in manufacturing and it reduces the amount of waste that goes to the landfill; it even helps generate power. Did you know that you can save enough energy to power your laptop for 3.4 hours by recycling 10 plastic bags? You can find these fun facts and other great information here: http://www2.epa.gov/recycle.

 

Shannon Bond  is a multimedia production specialist with EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs. He has served in a host of roles including military policeman, corrections officer, network operations specialist, photojournalist, broadcast specialist and public affairs superintendant.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Are you hungry? I think Missouri is.

2014 February 26

By Jim Callier

I grew up in Missouri, and Missouri was always known as the “Show Me State”. You know, show me the money, show me the goods, etc. Well, times may be a changing. This time I see Missouri stepping out front and not waiting for the “show”.

You may be wondering; what’s up with this title about Missouri being hungry? No, it’s got nothing to do with sports teams, even though they did better this past year. It has to do with food. “How is that you say?” Let me tell you and I’ll keep it brief.

First, food manufacturing is the #1 economic sector in Missouri, employing nearly 40,000 workers, according to the 2012 “Missouri Economic Indicator Brief: Manufacturing Industries” (compiled by the Missouri Economic and Research and Information Center). Food also represents the #3 export from Missouri with sales more than $1.5 billion in 2012.

Now, let me tell you more about why I say “Missouri is hungry”. On February 19, 2014, I attended a meeting in Columbia, Missouri, hosted by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. At this meeting, representatives from at least 11 different federal, state, local, and non-governmental entities agreed to the “Food Production” would be the focus for Missouri’s E3 program. Here food production has the scope from “farm to table.”

MOE3

Missouri’s E3 team deliberates the E3 opportunities in a Food Production effort.

You say, “What’s E3? And why is this important?” Just read below for a description of E3.

E3 (Economy, Energy and the Environment) is a national initiative that promoting sustainable manufacturing and economic growth throughout the United States. E3 brings together federal agencies, states and local communities for a broad discussion on how to connect respective programs to deliver responsive, coordinated manufacturing solutions The E3 Framework facilitates collaboration among groups with common interests and a common agenda. Because the E3 initiative brings together interests on people, planet and profits it is at the core a collaborative SUSTAINBILITY effort.

E3 is a federal technical assistance framework helping communities, manufacturers and manufacturing supply chains adapt and thrive in today’s economy. EPA, five other federal agencies and their state/local partners pooled their resources to support communities across the country reduce pollution and energy use while increasing profits and creating new job opportunities. See http://www2.epa.gov/e3 for more information on the national program.

I’m excited about this. The profit margin in food production is thin. With the support of E3, the food production sector should not only be economically sustainable, but also be able to grow. Both rural and metropolitan areas in Missouri should benefit.

Stay tuned and follow this blog for updates on E3 in Missouri. Thanks, and have a nice day.

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Gleaning Gourds

2014 January 31

By Jim Callier

Last month I shared with you about noteworthy efforts to feed the poor here in Kansas City by “gleaning.”  I wanted to follow up by sharing the conclusion to this story and the positive impact this experience had on me, the community, and the environment.

Food is Too Good To Waste!

One of the reasons for my enthusiasm about the gleaning effort is that EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, places feeding hungry people near the top in terms of preferred alternatives to wasting.  Considering higher uses of food is important because in addition to the social and economic benefits of not wasting food, alternatives to landfilling are important for the planet.

Food waste, especially when disposed of in a landfill, is a significant contributor of greenhouse gases through the production and release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change.  In the US, a significant amount of food waste is disposed of in landfills every day – more than 34.5 million tons in 2011.  This is enough food waste to fill the Rose Bowl each day!  What’s more, many in the US do not have enough to eat.  Hunger is a serious problem in the US – with 1 in 5 children going to bed hungry.

The gleaning effort organized by SoSA West that took place in Kansas City this past November was one of many notable efforts to take food that otherwise would be wasted and get it to those in need. I was honored to be a part of this effort and am glad to be able to share my account.

Getting Squash to Those in Need

A couple of days following the gleaning event, squash1I met up with volunteers to make deliveries of gleaned squash to pantries and shelters.  I met Scott, a volunteer for Operation Breakthrough who would drive the truck and Jesse, another volunteer who would sack and deliver the squash.  Scott and Jesse were interested in my involvement in the project so I explained EPA’s food recovery program and the importance of food recovery to the economy and environment.  When I mentioned feeding people as a beneficial alternative to wasting and our partnership with USDA, they were enthusiastic and better understood the bigger picture of food waste in the US.

We began our journey for the day with an initial list of 6-7 stops and loaded with 4 full skid boxes — over 4000 pounds of squash, and numerous bushel-sized sacks to fill.   At every stop, we met incredible people.  Some were chefs that would prepare the squash and some were people in need.  Everyone we met was incredibly appreciative, but I felt the most privileged, having the opportunity to be part of the effort.

squash22One of the stops that had a particular impact on me was a men’s shelter.  While we were there a number of men came over to our truck to help unload a couple hundred pounds of squash.  Although the honor was ours, they were truly grateful.  As we prepared to leave the shelter, a couple of men who were in a van leaving for an errand backed up, stopped, rolled the window down, and called us over to once again express appreciation.  This totally unexpected, additional act of gratitude really hit home for me on the value of the effort made by all of the organizations and volunteers.

As I walked back to the delivery truck, I noticed a black POW MIA flag.   Subsequently, I did a little research and learned that this organization’s mission includes helping veterans and houses close to 200 veterans.  This really made a mark on me because Veterans and active duty service personnel have a special meaning for me.  One reason is that my father and eldest brother were veterans; my father served as a Navy pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II and my brother served in the Army during the Vietnam era.  Also, I have met numerous veterans and service members throughout my work at EPA.  While working in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands assessing and cleaning up WWII sites, I met current and former Navy Explosive Ordnance Detachment Officers, also known as “bomb techs.”  squash3

Meeting these appreciative vets and others on our journey that day was a fantastic experience.  In all, we made about 13 stops and delivered most of the squash that day.   I felt uplifted to meet the generous volunteers and grateful recipients.  It is encouraging to know that efforts like this are going on and that what we do at EPA through the Food Recovery Challenge is necessary and important.  As I witnessed by participating in this gleaning effort, the work of many at food waste reduction is turning what would have been left behind as waste into an opportunity to make lives a little better.

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Put Down the Tablet and Listen

2014 January 27

By Shannon Bond

I sit in my share of meetings, and it has been a privilege to sit in on several public meetings at the EPA. Typically, my work involves integrating technology and social media into human workflows. What I have learned over time, however, is that there is no substitute for direct human interaction. Even if  we develop incredibly sophisticated virtual reality spaces, we will still have the need to meet face to face.

 
I admit that I was skeptical at my first large EPA listening session. What possible value could come from so many people sharing their opinions? That’s not to say that each person’s opinion doesn’t count; it does. We all have a voice and a need to be heard. But, my usual mindset is to focus on small productive teams that get things done. I shy away from committees and large working groups. I prefer deadlines and focus with specialized team members serving in meaningful roles.
The listening session had over 200 people in attendance. Each person was given several minutes to talk while a panel of EPA specialists listened. There were note takers, microphones, and sign language interpreters. Everyone in the crowd could hear; nobody was left out. The only rule was that the speakers were restrained to the same issue. The crowd was full of specialists, scientists, mothers, fathers, grandparents, kids and even a politician or two. Each person brought a strong belief or personal experience to the table.

 
When we watch the media, we are exposed to the simplification of these issues. When we do our own research and listen to the stakeholders involved, we find out that most issues are very complex. Climate change, sustainability, renewable energy and water conservation cannot be boiled down to a “for or against” mindset. There are too many affected parties, with varying if not competing interests. Solutions are complicated.

 
So how can this meeting possibly be productive, and not dissolve into a shouting match? The staff at the EPA showed me how. They put a lot of time into planning, and focused on listening instead of telling. I put aside my gadgets and focused. No Twitter reports, Facebook updates, news apps or RSS feeds. I simply watched the speakers sit down in front of the microphone, one after another. Through all of the personal stories, belief and scientific testimony given by real people, a complete picture of the issue began to take shape in front of me. I began to believe in the process.

 
At the end of the meeting, with my skepticism set aside, I had a clear idea of where I stood on the issue. I understood multiple sides, and respected them, even if I didn’t agree. More importantly, I remembered the value of direct experience through human interaction. As public servants, it’s important for us to interact with our stakeholders and the communities we strive to protect. By considering everyone’s point of view, we are better equipped to deal with both the ideological and practical challenges we are faced with. I will always be a technology advocate, but technology can never  replace the direct experience of human interaction.

 
Shannon Bond  is a multimedia production specialist with EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs. He has served in a host of roles including military policeman, corrections officer, network operations specialist, photojournalist, broadcast specialist and public affairs superintendant.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Mussels in the Blue III – Water Quality and Threats

2013 December 26

By Craig Thompson

Over the past two weeks I’ve told you about  one of my favorite rivers (the Blue River) and favorite aquatic species (Mussels).  Although the Blue River currently supports nearly 17 mussel species, habitat alteration, pollution, and the introduction and spread of non-native clams (Corbicula) have led to the extinction of some species from the river.  More than half the surviving native mussel species at 159th exhibit declining populations.  Mussels as a group are considered one of the most imperiled freshwater organisms in North America.  Mussels are in serious danger and many of the declines in mussel populations at 159th and other sites on the river can be attributed to flood-control and urbanization projects.

Many of the lower reaches of the Blue River have been channelized.  In fact, when we arrived last summer (2012) to sample the Byram’s Ford site, we found the river had been altered and straightened.  Flood-control projects like the one at Byram’s Ford result in the loss of habitat for mussels and other aquatic life.  The original habitat at this site was riffles, runs, and some backwaters with a medium bend in the river.  Now, the river is deep and straightened, and it is hard to get in to sample.  Riffles aerate the river and provide essential dissolved oxygen for many aquatic organisms.  Bass, sunfish, madtoms, darters, and many minnow species use riffles for food, reproduction and shelter.  Riffles are important for mussels as well.  In 2009, this site had a productive mussel community including one SINC species, the Yellow sandshell (See the Table below).

159table

The original riffles, gravel bars, and adjacent backwaters also were important feeding areas for waterfowl and herons.  Ultimately, with the loss of riffle habitat and the increase in water depth, we may see a decline in the diversity and abundance of some mussel species at this site.  The following picture of the Blue River at Coalmine Road (not far from the Stadiums) gives you an idea of what the river looks like lower in the watershed.

blueatcoalmine

Since coming on board with EPA, I have observed a number of changes to the upper Blue River basin.  When I was enrolled in classes in the 1970s at Johnson County Community College, Antioch Road was just two lanes and the land south of the college was mostly farmland and pastureland.  Over the years, construction crews have widened many of these roads to accommodate the accelerated growth moving into south Johnson County.  On my field trips to stream monitoring sites in the county, I have observed many water quality problems associated with all this new growth.  I am usually disgusted by the way construction crews build silt fences and how these fences never do their intended job of preventing exposed dirt from running off into waterways.  These types of activities contribute to the runoff of sediments into streams which can bury mussels.  Also, mussels are very sensitive to many other types of pollution as a result of stormwater runoff from parking lots and residential lawns.  Heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides are some of the constant water quality problems mussels must face in the Blue.  In the future, the conservation of native mussels will depend upon how well we protect the land from soil erosion and stormwater runoff.  Basically, we need to take care of our watersheds.

Blueriver

Over the years I have been collecting and observing freshwater mussels from streams throughout Kansas and Missouri.  The Blue River at 159th (shown above during high water) is a gem of a site.  At this time, I believe that the physical, chemical and biological attributes are very good at this site.  Every time I have sampled this urban stream site, there is good flowing, permanent water, which most mussel species require.  It will be interesting to discover in the coming years what aquatic species are able to live and tolerate the rapid environmental changes that are occurring in the Blue River basin.  And, this is especially true for the mussels in the Blue at 159th.

Craig Thompson lives near the mussel-less (except for Asian clams) Brush Creek, a tributary of the Blue River.  He is a Life Scientist with the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch (EAMB).  Craig joined EPA in 2009 after spending thirteen years with Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  He assists EAMB staff with water quality and biological sampling surveys throughout the Region 7 area.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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