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Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance Works with Community Leaders to Promote Healthy Homes

2015 April 23

Introduction by Kathleen Fenton

Environmental Education is important work and the outputs and outcomes of our grantees can make a daily difference. As we continue to celebrate this year’s Environmental Education Week, April 20-24, I want to introduce you to one of our current Environmental Education (EE) grantees who explained how their initial application for funding became a meaningful project on the ground. The Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance received an EE grant in late 2013.

By Kara Henner Eastman

The Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance (OHKA) is proud to partner with the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health, several Omaha community-based organizations, and EPA to launch the Grassroots Latino Environmental Education (GLEE) program. For us, GLEE is about getting critically important information out to an underserved community.

Members of the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance (left to right): President and CEO Kara Henner Eastman, Operations Manager Clayton Evans, Development Coordinator Shannon Melton, Office Manager Nickie Johnson, and Program Director Saul Lopez. (Not pictured: Director of Community Partnerships Nicole Caputo-Rennels, Field Supervisor Kathleen Vinton, and Intern Halie Smith.)

Members of the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance (left to right): President and CEO Kara Henner Eastman, Operations Manager Clayton Evans, Development Coordinator Shannon Melton, Office Manager Nickie Johnson, and Program Director Saul Lopez. (Not pictured: Director of Community Partnerships Nicole Caputo-Rennels, Field Supervisor Kathleen Vinton, and Intern Halie Smith.)

OHKA is a children’s environmental health organization working to promote green, safe, and healthy housing in Omaha. One of our primary areas of focus is environmental education for the entire community. In our experience, we have found that information about environmental hazards is not readily available in Spanish, or when it is, the information is difficult to access.

We created the GLEE program to disseminate information and education to many people in a way that is culturally appropriate and easily replicable. We found that the promotora, or community health worker model, was a very effective means of getting information out to the Latino population, but that promotoras in Omaha were giving information solely on health and not on the connection between housing and health. Thus, GLEE would be an innovative way to build a workforce of promotoras who are trained to deliver education out to their own friends and family members.

The first GLEE promotora training was provided Feb. 28, 2015. OHKA partnered with FRATER, a local church group that primarily serves the Latino community by offering in-home assistance with cleaning and restoration. All attendees were attentive and particularly excited to participate in the various hands-on activities created by the GLEE Program Director, Saul Lopez. One of those activities included using a lead swab test. The promotoras were shocked when the lead swab turned red as they rubbed it on a piece of Mexican pottery.

Reverend Rubén López Paiz (left) and members of his congregation, Iglesia de Dios Fraternidad Cristiana, learn several green cleaning recipes as part of the promotora training.

Reverend Rubén López Paiz (left) and members of his congregation, Iglesia de Dios Fraternidad Cristiana, learn several green cleaning recipes as part of the promotora training.

Two of the promotoras held their first home-based outreach event March 10, 2015. One of the attendees asked if he could use a boot to test for lead since he recently began work building bridges and was going to keep his boots in the living room, which is also where his young children play. Within a few minutes of testing the sole of his boot, a thin line turned red. Everyone inside the room was speechless as they discovered that a lead hazard was now present in this home. The promotoras began to educate the group about the importance of keeping work clothes and boots in plastic bags outside the house and away from children. Saul later told me that he realized the importance of this program on that day, and that if GLEE had not been created, this man might have poisoned his own children with a simple pair of work boots.

Over the next two years, OHKA will expand the GLEE program to educate 30 promotoras who will, in turn, educate over 900 Spanish-speaking individuals about environmental hazards in the home. The College of Public Health is working with OHKA to evaluate the program so we know what is working and how to make improvements along the way. Together, we are creating a program that will be proven to work and to change lives along the way.

 

Kara Henner Eastman is President and CEO of the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Loyola University of Chicago. Kara’s primary experiences have been with start-up nonprofit organizations focusing on social and health issues.

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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Water Wednesday: CREAT Helps Build Resilient Communities

2015 April 22

Introduction by Ken Deason

Extreme weather events, sea-level rise, shifting precipitation patterns, and temperature changes will affect water quality and availability. Managing these events poses significant challenges to water sector utilities in fulfilling their public health and environmental mission.

Creat LogoThe Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool (CREAT), developed under EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities initiative, assists drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utility owners and operators in assessing risks to utility assets and operations. Version 2.0 of CREAT provides access to the most current scientific understanding of climate change, including downscaled climate model projections that will increase user awareness of projected changes in climate, related impacts, and potential adaptation options.

EPA Region 7 has three CREAT pilot projects currently demonstrating the value of the tool in assisting communities to become more resilient. One of the pilot projects is in Blair, Nebraska, northwest of Omaha. EPA is working with Allen Schoemaker with the Blair Public Works Department on the pilot project. We asked Allen to describe the city’s participation in the project:

By Allen Schoemaker

nebraskaIn 2014, the city of Blair was approached by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to participate in the Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool program. The program is designed to help utilities evaluate the impacts of climate change to utilities. The city has had a couple of major weather-related impacts to our potable water treatment plant operations, and was excited to work with the EPA on this venture. In late 2014, Blair began an evaluation of impacts to the city’s potable water treatment plant from climate change, utilizing the CREAT program, which included working with EPA staff. The two main areas of concern being evaluated were flooding and drought.

In 2011, the Missouri River from Gavins Point Dam to Kansas City, Mo., flooded due to excessive snow pack and intense rain events in the Rocky Mountains during the early spring. Those events required the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) to intentionally flood many low-lying areas along the Missouri River. The Blair potable water treatment plant is constructed in the 100-year flood plain and most of the buildings are constructed one foot above the 100-year flood plain. However, the 2011 flooding was a 500-year event requiring the city to provide temporary flood protection to keep the city’s potable water treatment plant protected from the floodwaters. Floodwaters eventually peaked at 4 feet above the existing grounds of the potable water treatment plant. As a follow-up to that event, Blair has applied for and received Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Mitigation Grant funds to permanently construct flood control for the city’s potable water treatment plant. Construction work is currently underway on that project and it should be completed by spring 2016.

Because Blair had dealt with a major flood event and has a plan in place to deal with similar events, our focus of CREAT evaluations turned to drought.

In 2012, the USACE notified Blair, along with all water intake owners, that they needed to plan for an eventual release of only 9,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) of water from the Gavins Point Dam. A normal release is between 13,000 and 20,000 CFS. Blair needed to know the exact impact of the USACE’s proposed 9,000 CFS release, so we hired HDR Engineering of Omaha to conduct a study of the impacts associated with the city’s existing water intake structure due to the 9,000 CFS release. HDR reported that the city’s intake structure would be high and dry.

At this point, we started looking at options to deal with the low water releases. Through the CREAT program, we evaluated the past and future projected trends of temperatures and annual rainfall to help us determine the future demands for water and the overall impact of the USACE’s proposed low releases. Temperature patterns, both past and future, were showing a significant increase by CREAT and the annual rainfall was trending downward, compounding the challenges for our potable water treatment plant. Basically, demand is projected to increase and supply is projected to decrease.

Downtown Blair, Nebraska

Downtown Blair, Nebraska

We used CREAT to help us evaluate the different options for obtaining source water for our water intake during a drought. We looked at shallow wells, horizontal wells, submersible pumps that could be lowered into river water away from the city’s intake structure, a new intake structure constructed at a lower elevation, and external pumps installed on a barge located along the riverbank. We took into consideration capital costs, amount of source water obtained, environmental/permitting concerns and reliability.

Using these considerations, we evaluated each option through the CREAT program and rated their impacts, both in providing source water and budget. When the evaluation was completed, the two best options that we identified were installing external pumps onto the existing water intake structure that would be lowered into the source water at a lower elevation, and installing external pumps mounted on a barge that could be located at the water intake structure. The cost estimate for both of these options is $1 million.

There will be other considerations that will need to be evaluated, such as permits from the USACE and U.S. Coast Guard to allow a barge to be located along the riverfront at the city’s property, and an USACE permit for the external pumps that would be lowered into the Missouri River at low release. We also need to evaluate the structural integrity of the existing water intake structure to see if it is capable to support the external pumps and elevator system. If it is structurally able to support the external loads, we will need to construct a separate structure to support the system. These are all hurdles we still must clear before either of these two options is able to be put into action. In both options, these pumps would be used for a temporary time (1-2 months), providing source water to the city’s water intake structure. For longer periods of time, construction of a new water intake or horizontal wells were a better option.

To date, the EPA and I have held two phone conferences and one all-day workshop session to work on the CREAT program, conduct evaluations for the Blair potable water treatment plant, and identify impacts on source water as a result of climate changes for our area. The experience has been enlightening and thought-provoking as we look at all of the possible impacts to our source water for our water system, both now and into the future. I look forward to future conferences with the EPA and their staff to complete the review and evaluation of the impacts to the city’s source water for our water utility.

Benefits of CREAT

CREAT helps utilities organize and communicate risks from climate impacts and potential gains from adaptation to decision makers, stakeholders and citizens. Incorporating CREAT results with overall utility planning builds customer confidence that a utility is being proactive in identifying significant risks or gaps where additional planning may be needed. EPA Region 7 is also working with drinking water utilities in Hillsboro, Kan., and Fredericktown, Mo., to complete their own Climate Resilience Evaluation pilot projects in an effort to be better prepared for extreme weather events.

For more information on the Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool, see EPA’s CREAT website.

 

Ken Deason is an Environmental Scientist who has worked for EPA since 1992. He currently is working in the Drinking Water Management Branch within Region 7’s Water, Wetland, and Pesticides Division. Prior to joining EPA, Ken worked as a geologist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Geological Survey. He graduated from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in geology in 1980.

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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From the President’s Environmental Youth Award to Making a Global Impact

2015 April 20

Introduction by Kathleen Fenton

Human health and the environment literally make up our world, which Pavane Gorrepati knows very well. While not all of us have won the President’s Environmental Youth Award, written a children’s book on climate change, or received the World Food Prize’s Elaine Szymoniak Award, we all have a part to play. My dream has involved working with the Environmental Education Program at EPA, which is how I came to know Pavane Gorrepati.

The Environmental Education Program crosses political and cultural boundaries by opening minds to the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science. To be stewards of the environment, children must learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as well as community planning, business and socioeconomic issues. Pavane has certainly made the effort and knows how to connect the issues with her generation. It is important that we empower children early so they have the intellectual tools to build resilient communities and communicate that need to their peers in a way that resonates.

As we celebrate this year’s Environmental Education Week, April 20-24, I wanted to touch base with past winners of the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) to see where their paths had taken them. Pavane won the 2009 award through EPA Region 7 for her work on a project involving fuel cells. She was gracious enough to send us her thoughts and describe her journey so far:

PavaneBy Pavane Gorrepati

If I had not had such a strong environmental curriculum in middle and high school, I never would have pursued or accomplished some of the most amazing experiences in my life. An environmental education has played such a big part of my life in terms of discovering my interests and passions. One of the best parts of having an environmental education is being able to connect with kids and adults all across the country around a common interest and passion.

Since I received EPA’s PEYA award at a 2010 ceremony as a high school freshman, I’ve continued my efforts in educating my peers in my community and nationally by presenting my research on alternative energy and climate change on local, national, and international platforms. In order to engage all age groups and help kids develop an interest in the environment at an early age, I published a children’s book, “A Buzzie Bee Tale”.

My initial interests in climate change, however, were transformed throughout my high school career. I began to research and understand the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations, specifically in terms of food security. Learning how drought can devastate entire communities by wiping out food supply became an eye-opening experience. I became very interested in the relationship climate change has on global populations in terms of food supply and health.

To further explore this interest and gain experience, I conducted research in Changsha, China, on hybrid rice and the relationship of climate change, infrastructure, and socioeconomic factors on agriculture in rural China, for which I received the 2012 World Food Prize’s Elaine Szymoniak Award. As a result of that experience, I saw a need for education in this area among my peers. I started a nonprofit called Feeding Inspiration, which focuses on educating youth on the devastating effects hunger has on limiting the potential of future generations and deterring economic growth and future development. I continue my work and interests in this field at Yale University.

To say that an environmental education played a part in what I have done and who I am is an understatement. It helped shape almost every aspect of who I am today. It helped me to understand the world in a new light, pursue dreams I never thought were possible, and deepen my understanding of how interconnected the environment is with some of the world’s most challenging problems. An environmental education has meant the world to me.

 

Kathleen Fenton serves as the Environmental Education Program Coordinator in EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs in Lenexa, Kansas. She has worked with communities on environmental health issues, environmental education grants, and Healthy Schools projects for over 20 years.

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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Region 7 Earns LEED Platinum: Walking the Walk

2015 April 13

By Chris Taylor

R7_RO

Regional Office building in Lenexa, Kansas

After years of hard work by a lot of environmental stewards, EPA Region 7’s Regional Office building is now certified as LEED Platinum. This certification falls under the Existing Building Operations and Maintenance (EB O+M) standard of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program (LEED). It is the highest level awarded under LEED. The LEED rating system is the nationally accepted benchmark for recognizing high-performance green buildings and uses a whole-building, sustainability approach to operations. There are five different program areas that include requirements in two broad categories: those based on the building and surrounding land, and others focusing on achieving performance goals associated with how you “live and work” in the building.

This is a very important accomplishment for EPA Region 7. First, it builds on the LEED Gold certification we previously received for the building under the New Construction/Major Renovation standard. Second, we’ve worked hard within our environmental management system (EMS) over many years to achieve these types of sustainability performance goals, so having these efforts validated by the LEED process is very rewarding. Finally, achieving this type of recognition demonstrates to the public that we are serious about environmental sustainability and do our very best to “walk the walk.”

A great deal of effort goes into submitting a LEED EB O+M application. In addition to developing and implementing policies and procedures, we collected and analyzed volumes of performance data, provided training for most everyone who works in the building, and worked to fine tune the building’s operating parameters to optimize its energy and water efficiency. Our team of representatives from the building’s architectural firm, mechanical system design contractors, the building owner’s property management company (PMC), and EPA employees completed these tasks over a period of about 2½ years.

Our building is truly amazing. Its highly efficient mechanical systems and extensive use of daylighting require about 25 percent less energy than our previous building, while the low-flow fixtures and efficient cooling tower design/operation combine to consume 56 percent less water. The PMC and its support contractors maintain several activities that tie directly into the LEED award. For example, the housekeeping staff adheres to a stringent Green Cleaning program that uses special vacuum systems with HEPA filters along with bio-based & fragrant/dye-free cleaning products, and the pest management contractors employ Integrated Pest Management practices that maximize the use of non-toxic trapping and elimination methods.

Most of EPA’s efforts are focused on supply purchasing, employee commuting, waste management, and indoor environmental quality. Achieving success in these areas required the participation of everyone who works in the building, along with strong support from management and our union partners. It was great to see everyone come together around this common goal – all the while strengthening the ethic of environmental stewardship and sustainability that has long characterized Region 7.

In the end, we diverted more than 73 percent of our waste from local landfills, eliminated nearly a quarter of the single-occupant commuting trips (driving to and from work alone), and ensured that 86 percent of our purchases were made from recycled/bio-based materials. We also developed a Native Grasslands Environmental Learning Center (NGELC) on the property that showcases several of the distinct ecosystems found here in the Heartland. The NGELC is one of the cornerstones of our Building Education Program that teaches our colleagues the benefits of high-performance green buildings and how organizations can achieve them.  For more information about our Building Education Program, please contact Chris Taylor at taylor.christopher@epa.gov.

The LEED EB O+M certification is valid for three years through February 2018. Much of what was needed for the initial certification has simply become “the way we do business” and we continue to collect data and monitor our progress on an ongoing basis. We’re very confident that our recertification will be successful!

Chris Taylor is the Region 7 Environmental Management System (EMS) Coordinator and is responsible for the Region’s internally focused sustainability programs. A native Michigander (Go Spartans!) and Air Force retiree, Chris is delighted to be living and working in America’s Heartland.

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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Water Wednesday: Thank a Chemist (or a Microbiologist)

2015 April 8

By Jeffery Robichaud

Region 7 Science and Technology Center

Region 7 Science and Technology Center

If you religiously follow The Big Blue Thread – or more accurately, my pun-laden blog entries – you might have noticed that I switched from Deputy Director of our Environmental Sciences and Technology Division to Deputy Director of our Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. My former group is responsible for numerous cutting-edge scientific endeavors, especially the cool work that goes on in our Region 7 Science and Technology Center, one of 10 EPA regional labs across the country.

So I wanted to give my former colleagues a shout-out and long overdue thanks ahead of time. April 19-25 is National Environmental Laboratory Professionals Week. This week was established by the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) to celebrate environmental and public health labs that are responsible for protecting our health by analyzing water, soil and air, as well as contaminants in people, through chemical, biological or radiological testing.

In my new job, we rely heavily on the work of all the folks at our laboratory, who ensure that we receive timely and accurate analytical results regarding the quality of our waters. These results form the basis of numerous decisions, support our understanding of environmental conditions, and are used to bolster enforcement actions. We benefit from the hard work and talents of many professionals who serve the public behind the doors of our laboratory. However, because of shows like “NCIS” and “Bones,” the public gets a really skewed image of how these labs operate.

You don’t waltz in off the street, drop off a sample in a plastic baggie, and pop back 24 hours later to get your answer. In reality, laboratories function through an intricate dance of numerous staff involved in sample and container preparation, shipping and receiving, quality assurance, chain of custody, health and safety, data systems, and countless other tasks before the first sample is even brought to the chemists or microbiologists to begin their analysis.

So a hearty “thank you” goes out to the professionals at 300 Minnesota Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. Keep up the fantastic work! We couldn’t do our own work without you.

Be sure to take some time April 19-25 to send your own shout-out to your state or local environmental laboratory, whether by setting up a tour or simply sending a tweet. (Let’s help APHL get #LabWeek trending.)

Jeffery Robichaud is a second-generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. If you attended the University of Pennsylvania and took Inorganic Chemistry Lab during the early 1990s, you probably checked out an Erlenmeyer flask from him. (And he’s sorry about having to charge you for that lost thermometer!)

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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Protecting the Environment for Today and the Future

2015 April 6

By Karen Flournoy

We all have the responsibility to protect the environment for today and the future. For some of us, we have the honor every day of protecting the environment – working for EPA, state environmental agencies, other federal or state agencies, businesses, or legal or technical firms. I was in high school when President Nixon signed the order to create the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I didn’t imagine that someday I would work for the EPA!

As a kid, I was interested in science, loved being outdoors, and had a rock collection built by family and friends who brought me rocks when they traveled. I was determined in 4th grade to go to college because I wanted to study science or be an astronaut, as the space program was just beginning. In college in the 1970s, I studied civil engineering at the encouragement of my Dad. While many of my male classmates were interested in structures or transportation, I pursued my interest in wastewater. After almost one year at a consulting firm working on wastewater treatment plant projects, I was offered a job at EPA Region 7.

I’ve served in many roles throughout my career in EPA Region 7. I began as an engineer in the construction grants program reviewing wastewater treatment plant projects for funding, then moved to the site cleanup (Superfund) program, and later spent six years advising the Region 7 Administrator on environmental issues in agriculture. Now I serve as the Director of the Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. We are responsible for safe drinking water, wastewater permitting and storm water management, watershed projects, pesticides, and lead-based paint. We also manage the wastewater and drinking water state revolving loan funds, working with states to fund projects for drinking water and wastewater treatment.

What does protecting the environment really mean? For those of us who work at EPA, it means:

  • Making sure the laws passed by Congress are carried out through regulations and voluntary programs.
  • Providing information to students, the public, and regulated facilities.
  • Finding answers to environmental challenges through research.
  • Working with federal, state, local, and tribal partners to carry out environmental programs.

What does protecting the environment for today and the future mean for you?

  • Consider a career in environmental protection or encourage students to pursue careers in the environment, science, engineering, and math.
  • Purchase Energy Star and WaterSense labeled products to save energy and conserve water. Fix leaks in your toilets, faucets, and irrigation systems.
  • Be an example for children, including how to recycle, compost or properly dispose of items that cannot be recycled or composted.
  • Learn about your community’s wastewater and drinking water systems. The pipes under the ground that we don’t see every day carry safe drinking water to homes and businesses and wastewater to treatment plants.
  • Keep trash out of lawns and storm drains, and pick up pet waste.
  • Don’t rinse grease down your kitchen sink.
  • If you have a septic system, pump out the contents to ensure proper operation and protect nearby streams and groundwater.
  • Keep drinking water supplies safe by not disposing of chemicals on the ground and by applying the proper rate of fertilizer to your lawn.
  • Install a rain garden to keep rainwater on the property and rain barrels to catch rainwater for watering plants and lawns.
  • If you farm, install and maintain best management practices to minimize runoff of fertilizers and nutrients from farm fields, and keep livestock and manure from animal feeding operations out of streams.

If you already are a protector of the environment, that’s great! Keep up the good work! If you would like to learn more about what you can do to protect the environment for today and the future, please visit www.epa.gov for more information.

Karen Flournoy serves as the Director of EPA Region 7’s Water, Wetlands and Pesticides Division. She has a degree in civil engineering and has served in a number of positions in Region 7. Karen is a native Kansan with a lifelong interest in science and water.

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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Water Wednesday: Wichita State Edition

2015 April 1

By Jeffery Robichaud

Do you know what day March 22nd was (besides the day that the Kansas Jayhawks suffered defeat at the hands of the Wichita State Shockers in the NCAA tournament)? It was World Water Day! Established in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, it was created as a day to highlight water-related issues throughout the global community, and to prepare for the management of water in the future. Each year, a new issue is spotlighted. This year’s theme is Water and Sustainable Development.

Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure: A guide to Help Communities

Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Help Communities

Here in the United States, cities want to protect water quality while also receiving the greatest possible benefit from investments. Many communities are conserving, restoring, or enhancing natural locations while incorporating trees, rain gardens, vegetated roofs, and other practices into developed areas to manage rainwater. These types of approaches are known as Green Infrastructure. When incorporated into development and redevelopment activities, Green Infrastructure can be an integral component of sustainable communities because it protects the environment, while still providing other social and economic benefits.

Green Infrastructure isn’t “green” in the sense that it is new to development. It has a long history rooted in the concept of low-impact development, which came about in the early 1990s as part of a more cost-effective approach to dealing with storm water and minimizing its impacts on water quality.

Last fall, EPA completed “Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure: A guide to help communities better manage storm water while achieving other environmental, public health, social, and economic benefits”. This document is aimed at helping integrate Green Infrastructure strategies into planning so that communities can be transformed. One of the key components of this report is the emphasis placed on developing a plan that can overcome some of the obstacles (technical, regulatory, financial, and institutional) that often limit widespread implementation.

Now you may ask yourself, “What does this have to do with Wichita State?” Well, EPA awarded a grant to Wichita State University’s Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs to establish an Environmental Finance Center to promote the development of financially and environmentally sustainable communities. This center provides services to state, local, and tribal governments in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. These efforts bolster the work of numerous communities, both big and small, which have undertaken some groundbreaking work in the area of Green Infrastructure.

Over the coming months, Region 7’s Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division will highlight these success stories and continue to share the benefits of incorporating green into design. To learn more, check out EPA’s Green Infrastructure website. You can also sign up to join GreenStream, an EPA listserv featuring updates on Green Infrastructure publications, training, and funding opportunities. Send an email to join-greenstream@lists.epa.gov.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second-generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. Although he teaches at KU, his Penn Quakers failed to make the NCAA tournament this year.

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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“To Thine Own Self Be True” – Building a Life of Purpose

2015 March 27

By Mary Peterson

Mary Peterson

Mary Peterson

That is the challenge indeed, as Shakespeare writes in Hamlet. Down through the ages, men and women alike have wrestled with this challenge and others that deal with the purpose and meaning of life. At some point, each of us must decide who and what we will become, and then set ourselves on a path to becoming a person of purpose.

For me, the journey began in 8th grade when my father said to me, “You should be a chemical engineer.” At the time, I had no idea what a chemical engineer was, but if my father thought I should be one, it must be a good idea. Looking back, I hope his advice was based on my proficiency in math and science and not on starting salary statistics. Whatever his motivation, I set myself on the path to engineering school.

The reality of being one of few women studying chemical engineering did not strike me until I got to college in 1983. In my engineering classes, women were outnumbered by a ratio of 6 to 1. This did not particularly bother or deter me, and my male classmates treated me with respect. The biggest hurdle I faced was male professors who simply did not believe that girls could be or should be engineers. During my first semester, it was apparent that my work was far more scrutinized and harshly graded than the work of my male colleagues, and I was rarely called upon in class to share my solutions.

This challenge only served to strengthen my resolve to succeed. While I certainly recognized the unfairness of their scrutiny, I chose to use it to my advantage. Through hard work and determination, I raised the bar of performance and ultimately won the respect of even my harshest critics. I truly believe that I benefited from this experience and probably got a much better education than most of my male colleagues.

So here is the message: In every hardship, there is opportunity for growth. Sometimes it is buried beneath deep layers of ideology and prejudice, but it’s always worth the dig. Each of us will face challenges and fight battles along our journey to become people of purpose. You won’t win every battle along the way, but with perseverance and steadfast resolve to do good, you will win the war.

I began this blog with the words of Shakespeare; I will end it with my own:

The only journey wasted is the journey not begun. 

The only races lost are the races never run.

Through the journeys and the races, we become.

 

Mary Peterson is the acting deputy director of EPA Region 7’s Superfund Division. She has also served as a Superfund project manager and public affairs deputy director.

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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Water Wednesday – Fix a Leak

2015 March 18

By Jeffery Robichaud

watersense

Drip, drip, drip…hear that? It’s the sound of your money escaping through a leaky faucet. This week is Fix a Leak Week. (It’s also National Salt Awareness Week in the UK so be sure to watch your salt intake, too.) I thought I would put together a quick blog entry to cover relevant information about Fix a Leak Week here in Region 7, but our Headquarters office had already turned the tap:

Household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually nationwide, so each year we hunt down the drips during Fix a Leak Week. However, remember that you can race over to your plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems, fix the leaks, and save valuable water and money all year long. From family fun runs to leak detection contests to WaterSense demonstrations, Fix a Leak Week events are happening from coast to coast and are all geared to teach you how to find and fix household leaks. For more information, visit EPA’s Fix a Leak website and EPA’s WaterSense website. If you have any questions, contact the WaterSense Helpline at (866) WTR-SENS (987-7367) or send an email to watersense@epa.gov.

Last year, I finally got off the dime and took care of some things around my house. I fixed one of our toilets that would occasionally run because of a loose seal between the stopper and the opening, expending what little handyman skills I possess. I also put several aerators (small replacement pieces for faucets that minimize water flow) on sinks that my boys tend to let run longer than they should. Finally, I called my sprinkler company to have them look at what I thought might be a leak. Sure enough, they were able to make a quick fix to one of the pipes. These quick fixes saved me significant money, as I noticed about an 8-10% reduction in my water use from the previous year.

This year, we sprung for a new dishwasher, since our old builder’s model was on its last legs. Besides being an Energy Star product, it uses considerably less water than our 10-year-old model. In April, I’ll be able to compare our bill to last year’s and see how much we saved. Next up is the washer and dryer (although I’m sure my wife and I will want to finish off the rest of the kitchen appliances first). Maybe I’ll save that for next year and can knock some more off my water usage.

So get out there and Fix a Leak. It just makes good (Water)Sense! Check out the Fix a Leak Week 2015 Event Map to find out what’s going on near you!


Fix A Leak app on Facebook
Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. He has saved considerable water this month by not washing his exceptionally dirty truck.

 

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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What Does a Tribal Liaison Do in Region 7?

2015 March 13

By Heather Duncan, Region 7 Tribal Liaison

The relationship between a federal employee and a Tribal representative is based on the same tenets as any other: respect, trust, and lots of honest communication. A large collection of history, policy, and case law defines the relationship between the federal government and Tribal governments. Because each Tribe’s interests and concerns are unique, I have no typical days – and that’s one of my favorite things about my job.

Tribal flags logoSince November 2014, I’ve been serving in a temporary position filling a vacancy in our Region 7 Office of Tribal Affairs. As part of these duties, I serve as a liaison between EPA and five of the nine Tribal nations in our Region. I also negotiate and manage several financial agreements with our Tribal partners.

To an outsider looking in, my day may look calm, spent sitting in a meeting room or in front of a computer. Behind the scenes, most of my day as a liaison is spent translating. I translate the opportunities, needs, and requirements of the federal government into actionable goals and tasks for the Tribes to consider. Likewise, I work to understand and translate the needs and priorities of the Tribes to create better opportunities and policies at EPA.

Outside of my Agency work, I do not have a background or experience with Tribal governments or cultures. I grew up an Iowa farm girl in an agricultural community inherently skeptical of the federal government. Neighbors may disagree with one another but are quick to unite to improve their community’s resilience. At home, handshakes are binding agreements and individuals are judged by their honesty and ability to follow through on their commitments. Growing up in an agricultural community has been excellent training for my experiences in our Office of Tribal Affairs. In many ways, working with the Tribes feels like home.

In my role as a Tribal liaison, it’s important to recognize the cultural and economic influences in scientific conversations and to share those insights as EPA discusses new policies and programs.

I have about two months left in my temporary assignment. In those remaining days, my desire is to do the right thing – one day at a time.

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.