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Biking for Sustainability

2013 August 20

By Shannon Bond

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I strap on my helmet, slip into my gloves, and sling my hydration pack across my shoulders. It’s time to find adventure. I swing my leg over the saddle and click my right shoe into the peddle. A lot of the time I find my adventure on the back of a mountain bike, flying down all of the single track dirt trails I can find. Rocky climbs, fast descents, quick and flowing terrain, it’s all meditative.

I’ve ridden for years, but since coming to the EPA a few thoughts have lodged themselves into my consciousness. One of those thoughts creeps into my mind on every ride; as my muscles are screaming and I’m focusing on, well, my focus, I think about sustainability.

Merriam-Webster defines sustainable as, “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustainable)

Trails and parks are a perfect example of sustainability. They not only provide a refuge for wildlife, they also provide a refuge for people. These areas work well as an escape from the daily barrage of work and technology, a personal connection with nature, or a great way to exercise. Sustainability isn’t just about our physical environment, though; it’s about us, too. On the EPA website, it describes sustainability in the following way:

“Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.” (http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/)

I would say that these trail systems definitely promote that productive harmony, as well as fulfill some of our social needs. I’ve come to understand that these trails don’t happen by themselves though. Parks don’t just sprout up for people to hike and explore, and bike-friendly urban environments don’t just happen, they are built. A lot of planning goes into public use areas, and a lot of maintenance is required to keep them going.

You don’t generally think about Kansas City and biking, especially mountain biking, but the scene has grown. It’s an exciting time for the bike community in Kansas City. According to the Earth Riders Trail Association (http://www.earthriders.org/) we have at least thirteen maintained trail systems in the K.C. metro area. I know from talking to some of these dedicated individuals that there are even more planned.

 

ERTA Trails

Now that I realize what it takes to maintain these trails, I appreciate them even more, and the folks who get out and work on them. Initially, there has to be an agreement with the land owners. Those owners can be county, federal, or state. Then it takes coordination with the land managers to plan the trail system in an environmentally-sustainable way. After that, a host of volunteers spend countless hours on trail work days. Even after the trails are built, those work days keep coming. All of this behind-the-scenes work is hidden from the everyday user. To lend a hand, though, you can check the group’s websites and pick any number of maintenance days to show up at:

http://earthriders.com
http://www.earnyourdirt.org/
http://www.kansascyclist.com/links/TrailMasonsAssociation.html
http://www.kansascyclist.com/

 

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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Cultivate KC

2013 August 6

By Holly Mehl

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Earlier this year I had the opportunity to create maps for a project I felt proud to help out with, the Urban Grown Farms and Gardens Tour in Kansas City.  Every other June, Cultivate Kansas City hosts the tour, which showcases urban agriculture across the metro area via a full week of events. The organization’s mission is to be “a catalyst for the production and consumption of locally grown food in Kansas City neighborhoods.”   This year’s event was the fifth biennial tour. Every tour has gotten better and every time more farms have joined in, showing a refreshing, tasty and sustainable trend happening in our area.

Cultivate Kansas City’s website is colorful and informative and is a feast for the visual senses, as you will see by going here.

Part of Cultivate Kansas City’s vision is to turn unused spaces into food producing farms and gardens, which not only provide sustainable, community engaged places to buy healthy food, but also beautifies neighborhoods by often redeveloping blighted areas.  This is something I can get behind and I’ve already recommended that my church’s garden – from which vegetables are donated to local pantries – become a part of the tour in 2015.

EPA actively promotes Urban agriculture as part of our Brownfields program.  Urban agriculture projects can help bind contaminants while providing further benefits to the property and surrounding community. An urban farm or community garden can improve the environment, reduce greenhouse emissions, and improve access to healthy, locally grown food. Other possible benefits include promoting health and physical activity, increasing community connections, and attracting economic activity.  You can check out more by visiting EPA’s website, read our Interim Guidelines for Safe Gardening Practices.

The tour maps are no longer posted on the website since the tour is now over, but synopses and pictures of the tour’s farms and gardens are still highlighted there, as is a little video that uses the tour’s primary map as background.

Below is the map handed out to tour participants who arrived at any of the hub locations to buy tour tickets.  Nearly 60 farms and gardens on the tour are shown in four different geographic areas called Veggie Zones.  The vegetable symbols on the map represent the farm/garden locations.

This was a fun map to make, but even more fun was visiting these vibrant, beautiful places (run by vibrant and beautiful people), all of which help to make Kansas City’s future much more promising for all of us.

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About the Author: Holly Mehl is an ecologist for EPA Region 7 who helps with water monitoring in the field and performs mapping for EPA Region 7’s program offices when in the office.

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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Thanks Rich

2013 July 19

By Jeffery Robichaud

If you are like me, you often get so busy you sometimes overlook thanking folks at work. I’m not talking about the day-to-day thanks but the big heartfelt, “no particular thing” thanks.   These thank-yous seem to generally occur at retirement and going away parties, so I wanted to make sure that I got a chance to thank someone before he leaves (even if it is only a couple weeks before).

Rich Hood serves as EPA Region 7’s Associate Administrator for Media and Intergovernmental Relations, and has worked with EPA for nine years, the last six in Kansas City.  His journalism career spans more than 30 years with over 15 years in government public affairs, and he will be leaving us at the end of the month to join the ranks of the newly retired.

I’ve worked with Rich on all manner of activities throughout the years, from public meetings and presentations, to visits from Administrators, and press releases.  I remember one of my first interactions with Rich was working with Casey to pitch the idea of News Where you Live, an approach to providing citizens a simple and easy way to view their news geospatially.  He fully supported moving forward with our idea rather than waiting for the Agency to devise a similar approach. He felt it was important for EPA Region 7 to tell its story of accomplishments to the public we serve in as transparent and accessible manner as we could.

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Rich was also there for the launch of KCWaterBug and helped us to spread the word throughout the Kansas City metro area.  In fact we have been successful over the years in making sure we place information in the hands of the public to inform them of issues and concerns that are important for them to know, whether air quality on ozone alert days, emergencies, or even plain old good news.

 

Rich was the one who encouraged me to write as one of the two Region 7 bloggers of EPA’s original Greenversations  back in 2008 (we have subsequently switched from wind to solar).  His edits always added clarity and a level of succinctness which my writing generally lacks (I’m a bit of a meanderer as you can tell).  Although my contributions to Greenversations tapered off over the years, he again supported the efforts of Casey and me to launch the Big Blue Thread a little less than a year ago.  It was also gracious that he allowed us to write our blog using a geospatial lens and include both general science posts and highly technical GIS-related posts.

Rich and his deputy, Hattie Thomas, have assembled a fantastic team over the past few years and I look forward to continuing my work with them to “publish” the Big Blue Thread.  I’m sure Rich will be quite happy to pass his red pen to someone else and rid himself of my alliteration and bad puns.  Thank you, Rich! Spend your retirement reading the news instead of making it, and if you need a map, give Casey or me a call.

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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 Environmental Services Division.

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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Flat Stanley and Stella Visit Kansas City!

2013 July 12

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Here they are visiting EPA Region 7’s Headquarters in Lenexa, KS.  Be sure your children become part of their adventure by visiting the Stanley and Stella Explore the Environment Blog.

 

 

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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Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

2013 July 11

By Jeffery Robichaud

Sorry loyal readers for our lack of posts for the last couple of weeks.  Mashing up my love of Sergio Leone films and Nat King Cole tunes, I give you the The Lazy, the Hazy and the Crazy (or how I spent my summer vacation).

The Lazy

No this won’t be a treatise on our lack of success in motivating the kids to drop their devices anicon_footd pick up books.  We did a stay-cation this year.  Instead of heading off to the beach to visit my folks, they visited us in Kansas City.  We spent lots of time at the pool, checked out a couple of movies, hit a ball-game, basically beach bums without the beach. This laziness paid off (not just in our wallets) but also on our impact on the environment, most notably carbon emissions.  I used a Carbon Footprint Calculator to figure out what effect our stay-cation decision had on the environment.   My folks flying to Kansas City instead of the four of us flying to North Carolina saved 2.18 metric tons of CO2.  Travel from the airport to just north of Myrtle Beach plus all of our daily trips to and from the beach saved us an estimated additional 1.53 metric tons (unfortunately we use two vehicles because of all of the beach paraphernalia).   We saved almost four metric tons of carbon dioxide!  I’m not sure I can get away with that excuse next year so to make it back to the beach I’ll have to find some other ways to minimize my family’s footprint so we stay at least neutral if not reduce it once again.

 

The Hazy

We happened to attend our local minor league ball club’s game on the 4th of July and had the misfortune of driving back home at night through the haze of spent fireworks which settle in our valley.  Hard to believe that the haze through which we drove was once the type of air quality that some parts of our country experienced  even into late last century.  The early part of the summer has been relatively mild for us in Kansas City and throughout most of the Midwest, but it just started to heat up over the last two weeks.  As we approach the end of July and August, air quality is likely to become more of an issue. and those with respiratory conditions may need to take precautions.  You can find out about the current Air Quality in your area by visiting Airnow.gov.AQI

The Crazy

I also got to spend alot of quality time with Red and the Big M our crazy dogs (well only Red is crazy).  Both are pound puppies who around this time each year get to spend a couple weeks at the wonderful Elkhound Ranch.  With my folks in town they got to stay home with us which was great for them except on the 4th of July (which I am convinced they believe must be the Apocalypse every year).  Unfortunately there is something crazier than the colorful pictures on the fountains and mortars at the fireworks tents…I’m talking about irresponsible dog owners.  We have all seen a crazy individual, leaving their poor pooch locked in a hot box of a car while they hit the grocery store.  Hopefully this becomes less and less prevalent, but check out some other heat-related tips from the Dog Whisperer himself:

Running or hiking is great exercise for dogs, and they love it. If you treat your dog the same way that you treat yourself, it should also be safe. If you are wearing light clothes, keep your dog shaved. If you need to stop to take a drink, so does your dog. If you are feeling hot, your dog probably is also, so pour some water on their head and neck. (The best places to cool a dog down are on the neck, pads of the feet, and belly.)

If your dog wants to slow down, assume that there is a reason and allow it. Try to hike where there are streams along the way to jump in. You know your dogs; if they are the types to keep going and never stop, be sure that they jump in that stream. Remember you are the human, so you need to be the one to anticipate the dangers and not take a chance. If you are far away from help, the results can be tragic.

Smushed-faced dogs, such as bulldogs, should not exercise or be left out in hot weather without the permission of a veterinarian. These dogs often have small tracheas and long soft palates, which decrease their ability to cool themselves. You can also ask your vet about surgeries that can shorten the soft palate and increase the ability to exercise.

All muzzles other than greyhound muzzles are not acceptable on a dog that is hot or exercising. Much of a dog’s ability to cool down is based on panting, so eliminating panting can have disastrous consequences.

Dogs left in the yard need shade and preferably a small wading pool filled with cool water. Dog houses do not usually provide true shade, as they are often made to prevent air movement and can get very hot. Outdoor dogs will often rest under the house or deck, enjoy the shade of a large tree, or dig into the cool earth in shaded areas with air blowing through. A simple wood roof on four legs will also provide adequate shade. Again, I would say that if you are not comfortable in your yard, your dog won’t be either.

So that’s how I spent my uneventful summer vacation, keeping the dogs cool, driving through a fireworks fog, and laying on the couch.  Share with us your stories of the Lazy, Hazy, and Crazy this summer, especially as they relate to the Environment in the Midwest.

 

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 Environmental Services Division.  His dogs long for winter’s cold embrace.

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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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Mapping Weeds – Experiences from the National Park Service

2013 June 24

By Kristina Stine

I work in the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch of EPA here in Region 7, home to our Geospatial program and GIS!I spent a wonderful summer as an intern for the National Park Service eradicating noxious weed in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  Our team   was tasked with managing leafy spurge (euphorbia esula), Russian Knapweed (Rhaponticum repens (L.) Hidalgo), and Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop).

University of Wyoming Extension Sustainable Management of Rangeland Resources Initiative Team – Leafy Spruge

We used biological control, pesticides, goats, and prescribed burns to control the spread and eradicate the plants.   For our summer project, we extensively used GPS/GIS to track yearly progress and eventually determine when the plants were contained and ultimately destroyed.

Non-Federal rangeland where non-native species make up at least 50% of the plant cover (USDA)

One of the tools I became familiar with during our excursions, the Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver (PLGR), was known as the “plugger” or better known as a GPS (see “Happy Belated Veterans Day: GIs and GPS” by Joe Summerlin).  After picking out our site, we’d enter in our coordinates and set our way in the wilderness to find a patch of leafy spurge or other targeted weed.  Once we made our way to the exact coordinates, we would verify the actual plant locations and then make corrections as necessary.  If we had our Trimble unit, we would take a continuous track of the infested areas.  Depending on our control measure, we would also records the data for each of the different control strategies we employed.   After collecting data and managing the site with pest control (depending on the site and weed variety) we would take the plugger to the GIS Specialists and they would create a map summarizing our summer efforts.   Every year this is done until the site is restored back to its natural, native state.

Controlling noxious weeds take time and a measured approach.  The map below shows polygons defined by GPS in red while the black blocks represent areas overrun with leafy spurge. Without breaking into the details (see the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Invasive Leafy Spurge Remote Sensing Research ) one can see that a combination of GPS and remotely sensed data can really help with monitoring and controlling noxious weed populations – and determining the effectiveness of various control strategies.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Invasive Leafy Spurge Remote Sensing Research

My summers out in the field as an intern for the National Park service has really helped me appreciate the power of location and GIS in caring for our environment.  The infected sites were managed yearly and the data recorded so that we could see what practices were most effective. Similar maps like the previous one were made on a regular basis to monitor the increase/decrease of noxious and invasive species of plants.  It helped give us, decision makers, and the general public a visual understanding of noxious weeds in our National Parks.  Please remember to be careful what you plant in your yard!

Kristina Stine is a first generation Environmental Biologist who has worked with the federal government since 1997. She is currently working for the U.S. EPA Region 7 as a secretary. Some of her most memorable jobs were working as an intern for the National Park Service as a Biological Technician (and Wildland Firefighter) at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota.

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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Day of Caring

2013 June 17

Each year EPA Region 7 staff come together to make a valuable impact in the community.  This special day is known as “Day of Caring.”  This year marked the 19th annual Day of Caring which took place on Saturday, June 1, 2013. Our volunteer team consisted of 17 people including staff, spouses and kids.

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(Back Row, left-to-right): Toni Castro, Bob Wilson, Chris Lubbe, Dan Garvey, Jan Simpson, Fatimou Ndiaye, Marcus Rivas, LaTonya Sanders
(Front Row, left-to-right): Mary Peterson, Wendy Lubbe, Colleen Wilson, Shanice Castro, Steve Herndon, Kerry Herndon
Not Pictured: Karen Garvey, Jim Stevens, Paige Stevens
Special volunteers were the Lubbe twins, Caroline and Rose (pictured on front row)

 

Coordinated by the Heart of America United Way and the Heartland Combined Federal Campaign, Day of Caring is a community-wide service event that connects volunteers with nonprofit organizations to address social needs through special projects or events in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

EPA Region 7 has supported and participated in Day of Caring since the very beginning.  Each year, our staff look forward to spending a day together outside of the office, in the community, cleaning, painting, gardening, and helping with other projects at nonprofit organizations.  At the end of the day, it always feels great giving of ourselves to these organizations that make huge impacts in the communities that we live in and serve.

The EPA Region 7 team volunteered for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas at their Central Avenue facility in Kansas City, Kansas.  On the surface, we knew of some of the services and programs that Catholic Charities provided.  But, we learned so much more about the organization and their impact in the community, helping families and individuals in need, and their extensive programs to help refugees.  The EPA Region 7 volunteer team worked on five projects.

Bagging Canned Goods for Distribution 

Catholic Charities has several programs where they distribute donated food to homebound individuals.  Volunteers bagged canned goods for distribution.doc2

Restocking the Food Pantry

Catholic Charities has a food pantry where families and individuals in need can “shop” for grocery and personal items.  Volunteers restocked the shelves in the food pantry with donated items.

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Organizing the Clothing Closet

Catholic Charities has a clothing closet where families and individuals in need can “shop” for clothing, shoes and other items.  Volunteers helped to sort and hang up clothes and organize the closet.

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Beautification of the Garden

The Catholic Charities Central Avenue location has a beautiful garden and picnic area.  Volunteers helped to weed, clean up and plant flowers and shrubbery.

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Grounds Cleanup

Volunteers helped to clean up around the parking area by weeding and raking leaves and debris.

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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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The Biggest News in Omaha (‘Til the College World Series Later this Week)

2013 June 12

If you have read the Big Blue Thread over the last year, you know our blog articles and topics don’t necessarily always focus on press worthy events of the Region.  We mostly focus on day to day things, geo-spatially interesting topics, and  some off the beaten path stories.  However, this past week something really, really big happened in Region 7, more, specifically in the City of Omaha.

Since 1999, EPA has been working with the City of Omaha, Nebraska to identify and remove lead from residential properties , as well as public parks, playgrounds, and child care facilities.  In 2003, the Omaha Lead Site was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL), designating it as one of the nation’s most serious hazardous waste sites.  If you are familiar with clean-up at hazardous waste sites, you know that the process can often take many years to define the nature and extent of contamination, evaluate the risks to human health and the environment, select and install remedies that will be protective, and finally remove contamination to safe levels.  This makes what our Regional Administrator, Dr. Karl Brooks had to say last week in Omaha, just 10 years later, truly impressive.  He announced our intention to delist the first 1,154 parcels within the Omaha Lead Superfund site.

Today’s action is a significant milestone, the first in what will be a series of similar actions by EPA in the coming years to conclude our work at this site.  This step in the Superfund process begins the culmination of nearly 15 years of cooperation by EPA, contractors, the City of Omaha, Douglas County, the State of Nebraska, neighborhood organizations and local residents, to clean up toxic lead from this community.

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From left to right: Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle, EPA Region 7 Administrator Dr. Karl Brooks; and assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) Mathy Stanislaus.

Last weeks announcement, which was outlined in a notice published in the Federal Register, formally proposed the delisting from the NPL of 1,154 of the 11,425 properties within the Omaha Lead Site that have been cleaned up, to date. Under the National Contingency Plan, such properties that have undergone cleanup may be deleted from the NPL if it is determined that all appropriate response and remedial actions have been taken and the prior hazardous releases on those properties pose no significant threats to public health or the environment.

The use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was instrumental in identifying, tracking, and maintaining information regarding the over 41,000 separate properties that were sampled, as well as the nearly 11,500 yards which have been cleaned up to date (check out the map below to get some sense of the scale). Currently there are still roughly 2,000 sampled properties with elevated levels of lead in soils remain to be cleaned up, and the Agency is working to obtain access to sample soils at another 2,300 properties.

OLS_2012Delsiting

In addition to the environmental benefits, the cleanup is also paying significant economic benefits. To date, EPA’s total investments of $279.5 million at the Omaha Lead Site have contributed to community revitalization and redevelopment, improvement of property values, local employment and economic growth.  Through EPA contracts that are competed, contractors have provided more than $127 million in spending so far on local materials and local labor, adding about 300 high-paying ($23 to $30 per hour) seasonal jobs to the local economy for each of the past five years. EPA has also awarded $142,890 through a cooperative agreement to the Omaha Metropolitan Community College to provide job training and certifications to local workers, helping to build a skilled labor force to assist in the cleanup, and for future employment beyond the site.

EPA’s related investments in Omaha’s public health education and protection include cooperative agreements of $9.2 million to the City of Omaha for paint stabilization and database development, $4.5 million to the Douglas County Health Department for interior home assessments, $205,000 to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) to support its work at the Omaha Lead Site, and a $50,000 technical assistance grant to the Lead Safe Omaha Coalition.  All of this work has realized real, measurable improvements in public health, with the percentage of children in eastern Omaha tested with elevated blood lead levels  reduced from nearly 33 percent prior to 1998, to less than two percent today.

You can read more about the Omaha Lead Site here.

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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Imagining the Earth through Art

2013 June 4
By Casey J. McLaughlin

Written descriptions of the earth can be quite informative, but all good Geographers (in my opinion) know and love pictures and maps of the earth.  National Geographic is an incredibly successful example of the visual appeal of our planet.  I am not a huge art connoisseur, but Conversations XIV: Water hosted by the Spencer Art Museum at the University of Kansas had a few pieces that really jumped out at me and that I find relevant to human health and the environment.

The Big Blue Thread is rooted in the idea that the Missouri River ties the four states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska) of Region 7 together.  Water is critical for our region’s population and agriculture.  The Spencer Art Museum introduces their water exhibit:

Water is timeless… or is it? This installation of works from the Spencer’s permanent collection explores contemporary artists’ perspectives on the elixir of life: H20. Many of the works assembled for this installation take an eco-critical approach to the subject matter, exploring pollution and scarcity, whereas others address water less literally and more symbolically, as a cleansing or destructive force. From this selection of 20th- and 21st-century works, a subtle visual dialogue emerges between the Kaw River of Kansas and the Yangtze of China.

Maple Tree and Stream

Maple Tree and Stream at the Spencer Art Museum (KU). Credit: Casey J. McLaughlin

Many maps depict water with various shades and hues of blue.  It seems universal from my bubble perspective, but Maple Tree and Stream from the Japanese Edo Time period (1600-1868) reminded me of the swirling muddy waters of the Missouri River. The piece is a folding screen, ink, color, and gold on paper — that’s the description provided by the museum anyway.  I have a personal affinity for nature scenes and I felt an emotional bond to this specific piece given my work with the Big Blue Thread.  Seeing the brown stream reminded me of the swirling waters where rivers meet (Kaw Point) and the green trees of the spring.

Bridge over the Yangtze River. (2001)

Bridge over the Yangtze River (2001). Credit: Casey J. McLaughlin

More poignant to Region 7 and protecting human health and the environment is the exhibit by Chinese artist Chen Zhiyuan, Changjiangg Xingzou—Jingti (Yangtze River Walk – Crystals).  I remember visiting the Yangtze River in graduate school and have studied the river a bit – plus my kids and I love The Story of Ping.  I can hardly imagine the journey that took Chen from Shanghai to Qinghai along the Yangtze River (also known as the Chang Jiang).   For 21 days he walked and drank river water.  At the end of each day he distilled the salt from his intake.  As noted in the Museum’s description, he was hospitalized at the end of his excursion.  The piece was behind some shiny plexiglass so I couldn’t get a good picture with my cell phone.  I was first drawn to the huge wall map with a simple blue stream winding on a white background broken by pictures of each stop he made.  In front of the wall map, Chen has displayed his collection of dark colored salt crystals in glass beakers.

I am unsure where in the museum my appreciation of the art moved into concern for the water quality, but it did.  EPA does a lot with water monitoring and you can find out more from the Big Blue Thread ( PAHs in the Water, What’s in Your Water, and most recently in Gone Fishin).  I really wonder what a trip from the upper reaches of the Missouri to St. Louis would look like both from a naturalist (Lewis and Clark) perspective (can it even be walked?) and from a water quality one.  How many salt crystals or other materials would be distilled every day?  Would 21 days of drinking Missouri River water necessitate hospitalization?

Casey McLaughlin is a first generation Geospatial Enthusiast who has worked with EPA since 2003 as a contractor and now as the Regional GIS Lead. He currently holds the rank of #1 GISer in EPA Region 7’s Environmental Services Division.

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.

Gone Fishin’

2013 May 31

By Jeffery Robichaud

My boys have been bugging me to go fishing and I just haven’t gotten around to taking them (gotta get some licenses first).  Also our fishing hole (the creek down the hill) used to have a nice big pool at the bottom of a low water crossing but when they fixed it up for a new trail, the pool disappeared.  Now that they are older they probably wouldn’t be satisfied with the smallish sunfish we used to catch anyway.  Maybe I will take them down to the Missouri River to get a look at some Asian Carp.

With the weather finally warming up you might be taking your kids out for this annual rite of passage.  Each of our four states (Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska) have wonderful programs to encourage and safeguard this fun pastime for the enjoyment of all.

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet, since they are a lean, low-calorie source of protein.  However some caught in lakes and rivers throughout the Midwest (as well as throughout the country) may contain chemicals that could pose health risks if these fish are eaten in large amounts.  EPA maintains a system that provides you information about Fish consumption advisories.

fishtissue

There are also a couple of easy things you can do to ensure fish are safe to eat.  It’s always a good idea to remove the skin, fat, and internal organs before you cook the fish (since this is where contaminants often accumulate).  As added precautions; make sure to remove and throw away the head, guts, kidneys, and the liver; fillet fish and cut away the fat and skin before you cook it; and clean and dress fish as soon as possible.  You can find EPA’s guide about eating the fish you catch here.

In future blog articles we hope to share with you information about Regions 7’s Ambient Fish Tissue (RAFT) Program, one of the longest running in the country.   Until then, Happy Fishing.

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 Environmental Services Division.  His prize catch was a a 6am catfish as a youngster at a campground in Illinois (unfortunately he woke up everyone in the camp screaming for his father since it bent his pole in half).

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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