Monthly Archives: February 2009

Elimine las plagas sin usar venenos

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Mientras me preparaba para ir al trabajo, escuchaba el segmento de jardinería en la estación de radio noticiosa local. El locutor estaba dando consejos sobre cómo eliminar esos animalitos indeseados que suelen invadir su casa para escaparse del frío invernal sin tener que usar sustancias tóxicas. Recomendaba usar ratoneras, por ejemplo, en lugar de fumigar o usar veneno de ratas.

Al escuchar sus conejos útiles, me di cuenta que básicamente estaba abogando a favor del plan para el Manejo Integrado de Plagas, una práctica que aquí en la EPA recomendamos firmemente.

Sin tener que usar sustancias químicas tóxicas, usted puede evitar que las plagas busquen refugio en su hogar al crea un entorno que no sea agradable para ellas. ¿Y, cómo lo haría? Pues, básicamente, sea un anfitrión inhospitalario. ¿Y, a qué me refiero? Bueno, no le dé ni una miga que comer, ni una gota de beber ni le provea albergue! Sé que normalmente no le brindamos la bienvenida a estas plagas a sabiendas, pero francamente, cuando dejamos los trastes sucios en el fregadero por la noche, cuando dejamos el agua para las mascotas por extensas horas disponible, o dejamos que el agua se acumule en los tiestos o alrededor del hogar, o si tenemos muchos papeles amontonados, estamos llamando a gritos a las plagas e invitando estos animales no deseados! ¿Por qué menciono los periódicos, cajas, bolsas amontonadas en particular? Porque usted no quiere crear el refugio perfecto para que las plagas vengan con sus familiares…

Por ende, si sigue estos consejos y todavía recibe una vista de una de estas plagas no deseadas, considere usar cebos y trampas para mantener las sustancias tóxicas fuera del hogar. La protección de su familia está en sus manos. Tampoco se olvide de las mascotas. Hay que cuidarlas también.

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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On Board the OSV BOLD: Back to the Science

For more than a month, EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold is studying the health of the waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. EPA scientists and non-scientists will blog about their research and what it’s like to live and work at sea.

February 11, 2009 – 1:20 pm (Day 3)

About the Author: Beth Totman is a press officer in Region 2, New York City. She covers Superfund, Emergency Response and Pesticides. She’s been with EPA since June 2007.

After a crazy and turbulent day at sea yesterday, this morning brought in sun and blue skies…a calm after our day long search, which ended well past midnight in 60mph winds and over 15 foot waves. Despite the conditions yesterday, EPA was able to composite crucial data and information that Doug will use to report back to the Puerto Rico Search and Rescue squad and the U.S. Coast Guard. Without the OSV BOLD’s side scan sonar capabilities, the search and recovery divers would search the ocean floor, as if they were searching for a needle in a haystack. Today, armed with the information that was acquired by the side scan sonar technology on the OSV BOLD, those divers now have an extra pair of eyes to search for the plane debris in the depths of the Caribbean Sea.

It was incredible to witness how quickly and effectively Doug and his team worked to get EPA’s search and recovery mission underway. Morale was high as the ship left San Juan harbor at 06:00 and charged on to the west. Doug had put together a grid of where the OSV BOLD would be searching and he did so through information from the Coast Guard and eyewitness accounts of where the plane went down. I tried to help in whatever way I could, but mainly just tried not to get in the way. The scientists and crew worked around the clock to visually search the side scan sonar that came in in real-time in the lab for anything that looked man-made on the bottom of the ocean floor.

As a result of yesterday’s work, Doug and his team of scientists have put together an extensive report that spells out what the side scan sonar found yesterday, and EPA is aware that if the weather continues to improve, making for better conditions for the side scan sonar technology to run at full capacity, we may have to return to the northwest coast of Puerto Rico. EPA has made it well-known that the OSV BOLD is on call. But until that call, we will continue on with our initial itinerary.

 Screenshot of side scan sonar and map indicating possible man-made targets (red dots) EPA found and passed on to US Coast Guard and authorities in Puerto Rice Screenshot of side scan sonar and map indicating possible man-made targets (red dots) EPA found and passed on to US Coast Guard and authorities in Puerto Rico.

Tomorrow, the OSV BOLD will be on open display to the public and the press. EPA will be giving tours of the ship to better communicate how important this incredible ship is in reaching EPA’s goals of protecting our oceans—and in using Her state-of-the-art technology to help out in impromptu search and rescue missions. With such an interesting start to our trip, it will be nice to open the ship up to outsiders who only have a vague idea of what She is all about. The press down here have reported on EPA’s role in yesterday’s search and recovery efforts, and we are ready to showcase the technology and importance of this ship to the public that we serve.

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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Science Wednesday – EPA:The Go-To Agency on Sustainability

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the author: Alan D. Hecht is the Director for Sustainable Development in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He has also served as the Associate Director for Sustainable Development, White House Council on Environmental Quality (2002-2003), and the Director of International Environmental Affairs for the National Security Council (2001-2002).

Three Star Clusters Shine in the Night Sky

The brightest one is “Academiasta,” a cluster of colleges and university committed to running their institutions and educating their students on sustainability principles and practices. Not very distant from Academiasta is “Industrina”, a growing group of energy and manufacturing companies working to turn their landscapes green. Further away is “Neuvo Federalvo,” a cluster of dim stars, flickering on and off in the night sky.

In the Neuvo Federalvo cluster sits one sleeping giant whose internal energy has been growing and who is now ready to shower the night sky with a new light. All eyes are on EPA watching for a super nova sustainability explosion in the days ahead.

EPA and the Office of Research and Development (ORD) showed remarkable foresight and leadership in developed a Sustainable Research Strategy (2007) emphasizing a systems approach to dealing with environmental issues. The Strategy has been influential in affecting the direction of a number of EPA policy and research programs:

  • our Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation’s Sector Reports on Energy and Manufacturing include sustainability measures
  • the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances’ Pollution Prevention Program is reassessing its long-term goals bases on the Sustainability Strategy
  • an interoffice Vision 2020 working group is currently revising the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response’s RCRA 2020 report with a major focus on shifting from waste to materials management
  • the Office of Water has developed a strategy for Sustainable Water Infrastructure.

The need to focus on sustainable outcomes and implement sustainable management practices is more urgent today than ever before.

ORD created a sustainability Web site to advance EPA as a GoTo Agency on sustainability. The site is a onestop source for hundreds of EPA sustainability and research programs.

The site has just been updated and new sections have been added in four cross-cutting EPA program areas: urban sustainability and green building, water and ecosystem services, energy, climate and biofuels, and materials, toxics and human health.

The three clusters in the sky—Academiasta, Industrina and Neuvo Federalvo—could create a new constellation larger and more impressions than anything that has been seen before. In this constellation, EPA can be one of the brightest stars.

All astronomers are welcome to navigate the EPA cluster.

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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On Board the OSV BOLD: Setting Sail in the Name of Science

For more than a month, EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold is studying the health of the waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. EPA scientists and non-scientists will blog about their research and what it’s like to live and work at sea.

February 9, 2009 – 9:00 am (Day 1)

About the author: Doug Pabst is the chief scientist for the OSV BOLD’s Puerto Rico voyage. He leads the dredging, sediments and oceans team in EPA Region 2, comprising New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

After weeks of arduous planning, we are excited to be kicking off our Caribbean voyage on EPA’s ocean-going vessel, the OSV BOLD. We’ve got a full boat, no pun intended, of people – University of Puerto Rico researchers, teachers, students and EPA scientists – and several missions.

Our adventure begins today in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we will be towing nets offshore during the day to collect marine debris (basically anything that floats or remains suspended in the water near the surface). At night, we will switch operations to collect side scan sonar data from the seafloor offshore of San Juan Harbor. The side scan sonar survey will produce detailed images of the sediment that covers the sea bottom.

We will be back in port on February 12 and open for public and school group tours. Survey operations begin again on February 13, as we resume marine debris sampling enroute to Jobos Bay on the south side of Puerto Rico. We will again conduct side scan sonar during the evening off Jobos Bay as part of a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On February 15 and 16, we will be conducting water quality measurements with the University of Puerto Rico offshore of La Parguera. On the 17th and 18th, we will be collecting bottom samples around the coral reefs of La Parguera to catalog the types and number of living organisms. We are scheduled to arrive next in Mayaguez on February 19 for public and school group tours. The last leg of the mission has us leaving Mayaguez on the evening of the 19th to conduct more marine debris investigations on our way back to San Juan.

Hoping for fair winds and following seas!

February 10, 2009 – 1:00 pm (Day 2)

About the Author: Beth Totman is a press officer in Region 2, New York City. She covers Superfund, Emergency Response and Pesticides. She’s been with EPA since June 2007.

As you can see from Doug’s blog post above, we were hoping for smooth sailing…but that all changed when EPA got a call from the office of the Governor of Puerto Rico yesterday asking for assistance after a small plane went down off the northwest coast of Puerto Rico. It has been reported that six passengers were on that plane, and now EPA has been asked to utilize the state-of-the-art technology that we have on The OSV BOLD to help in search and recovery efforts. This is by all means a major tragedy, and EPA is here to help in whatever way we can. The OSV BOLD has side scan sonar technology that will be employed to scan the bottom of the ocean floor for plane debris.

When I woke up yesterday in my small apartment in the East Village in New York City, I knew that I was in for a life experience that would open my eyes to areas of the Agency that I have not been privy to in my year and a half with EPA. Twenty four hours later, I woke up on a 224 foot long ship, The OSV BOLD, and already our mission has morphed from conducting a series of scientific studies aimed at protecting and improving the Caribbean environment, to aiding local, state and federal agencies in this search and recovery mission. Staff from the BOLD will provide updates on the search and recovery operations on this blog as they become available.

The seas are anything but smooth, and the weather is not ideal for what we were tasked to do. I was told when I first got on board that we are beholden to the desires of the sea. Anything can happen and I need to keep an open mind on this ship. Just because the itinerary is air tight, doesn’t mean unexpected changes won’t occur. At a time like this, those words cannot be truer.

Editor’s note:  Click here to read an interesting news article describing the OSV Bold mission in the Caribbean Sea.

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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Climate for Action: Give CDs a Listen, then Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

About the Author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA

With the convenience that we have with our computers to buy music and burn CDs off the internet, it makes it so easy to get copies of the latest albums and movies. One of my good friends is always downloading movies. She now has shelves stocked with all types of CDs and DVDs. It amazes me and makes me wish that I had better computer skills because she can easily have any CD or DVD that she wants in just a few minutes.

This is so easy to do, but do the benefits outweigh the environmental consequences? If you read about the Life Cycle of a CD or DVD, you will see that CDs are made with many materials and a lot of energy is used to produce them. When a CD is thrown away, potentially toxic materials can transfer into the ground. But when is the end of your CD’s life? My friend has a library by now and saves all of the discs that she has created. However, the EPA estimates that every month approximately 10,000 pounds of CDs become outdated and unwanted.

So, what is everyone doing with their CDs that they no longer want? They could swap them with friends, turn them into art or recycle them. I’m interested in what you do with your unwanted CDs — or if you can think of ways that we can avoid throwing them away. How can we educate our friends about other options? This month at the EPA in Philadelphia, we are holding a used book, DVD and video collection. When it is over, we will donate them to local organizations that could benefit from their use.

I definitely feel like this is an area where teenagers can make a difference. Let me know how you and your classmates can make changes to prevent waste.

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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Question of the Week: Which presidents do you think did the most to protect the environment, and why?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

From Thomas Jefferson to Theodore Roosevelt to today, American presidents have worked, with considerable power and influence, to preserve and protect America’s environment and natural resources. February 16 is Presidents Day.

Which presidents do you think did the most to protect the environment, and why?

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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Pregunta de la semana: ¿Cuál presidente piensa que hizo más para proteger el medio ambiente, y por qué?

Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Desde Tomás Jefferson a Teodoro Roosevelt hasta hoy, los presidentes estadounidenses han trabajado, con considerable poder e influencia, por preservar y proteger el medio ambiente y recursos naturales de Estados Unidos. El 16 de febrero es el Día de los Presidentes.

¿Cuál presidente piensa que hizo más para proteger el medio ambiente, y por qué?

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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Designing This Building, and the Next

About the author: Saskia van Gendt works on green building and resource conservation for EPA’s Region 9 office in San Francisco, CA. She has helped run the Lifecycle Building Challenge since its first launch in 2006.

Rejecting dolls as a child, I preferred building blocks. I favored blocks that locked together, allowing endless reconfigurations and providing the durability that a rambunctious child requires. My childhood hobbies provided a foundation for my work on deconstruction, or taking buildings apart to preserve the materials for reuse.

The competition I help run, the Lifecycle Building Challenge, seeks to move deconstruction into mainstream practice. Each year, the United States landfills over 100 million tons of construction-related materials. In its second year, the Challenge continues to reverse that trend by developing buildings that facilitate recovery and reuse of construction materials.

I will highlight a few of the judges’ top entries, but the ideas speak for themselves. You can check out all of the submittals from the past two years at http://www.lifecyclebuilding.org/index.php.

Winning designs allow for adaptability, creating plans where occupants can convert single-family dwellings into offices or retail. Schemata Workshop’s The Workshop employs a flexible live/work space with plumbing and electrical systems delivered separately in prefabricated pods, allowing future owners to reconfigure the existing layout to suits their needs.

Lifecycle building entries provide innovative alternatives within conventional patterns of use. Carnegie Mellon University’s TriPod is a residence that adapts to a growing family by enabling residents to add or swap rooms with a neighbor.

As a new focus to this year’s competition, the Challenge asked the contestants to quantify the embodied energy related to materials reuse. Embodied energy is the total energy from a material’s lifecycle including extraction, manufacturing, and disposal. To combat climate change, green builders must reduce not only operational energy, but also embodied energy. KieranTimberlake Associates’ Loblolly House calculated that through the easy disassembly and reassembly of the building core, the House conserves 93.4 metric tons of greenhouse gases.

Lifecycle buildings also serve as educational tools. Bolts and connector systems remain exposed, demonstrating how a building could be deconstructed. HOK Intern Program’s Trans/Spot Awareness Center serves as a mobile tool for educating the City of Chicago.

In the Innovation category, contestants strived to close the loop on reusing building materials by designing processes, tools, or policies to facilitate deconstruction. The winning entry PlanetReuse.com provides an on-line platform for connecting reclaimed building materials with buyers.

Drawing from contestants’ innovative and creative entries, the permanent library on http://www.lifecyclebuilding.org/index.php will inspire. I am even inspired to revisit my childhood building blocks to test out some of the ideas myself.

 

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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Year of Science Question of the Month

For each month in 2009, the Year Of Science, we will pose a question related to science. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas.

Ponder. Observe and discover. We are all born scientists, naturally curious to figure out more about the world around us: how we affect the environment, and how the environment affects us.
2009 is the Year Of Science, the Year of Science theme for February is evolution.

How do you think environmental science is related to evolution?

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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Sushi and Mercury

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

The other day I was working on some multilingual materials designed to increase awareness on the high levels of mercury in certain types of fish. My family likes to eat fish especially when we eat out. Given that fish is low in saturated fat and an excellent source of protein, I was not overly concerned. However, when I started to review the EPA-FDA fish advisories more closely, I saw the information from another perspective given our family’s eating habits.

First of all, we often go to a sushi restaurant near home. It’s one of the few restaurants we all agree upon. My three older daughters “of child-bearing age” all love to eat sushi and my youngest’s favorite dish is ikuradon, a bowl of rice topped with salmon roe. While I knew we were not regularly consuming fish in the high-mercury category—king mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish, the advisories do not make special reference to mercury levels in fish eggs. Exposure to mercury at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidney, lungs, and immune systems of people of all ages. Yet, fetuses, infants, and children are at a greater risk of impaired neurological development given the fact that their internal organs and systems are developing at full swing.

Was I subjecting my daughters, especially my youngest, to an unhealthy diet? I did some Web surfing to find specific info on mercury in fish eggs. Not much luck. I decided to consult one of my EPA colleagues who helped allay my concerns. I want to share the information with my fellow bloggers. I was happy to find out that fish eggs don’t have particularly high levels of mercury. In general, fully grown fish higher in the food chain are the prime suspects when it comes to bioaccumulative contaminants. Some of these contaminants like PCBs and DDT tend to settle in the fatty areas of the fish (like the liver), but mercury is found throughout the fish. Salmon fish roe, Ikura, (イクラ) in Japanese, shouldn’t be a problem. To be on the safe side, I’ll encourage her to eat more grilled salmon which she also enjoys. In the meantime, I’ll have some more wasabi and picked ginger. Arigato.

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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