Monthly Archives: February 2011

Tankless Water Heaters

When I was doing some renovation in my sister’s small condominium apartment, she needed to design a layout that would create more space. She had a small water heater that was located underneath the left side of her sink. This is an area of the kitchen where most people would put a lazy susan.

She often complained that she could not take long showers or very hot baths during the winter due to her small water heater. I recommended that she look into getting a tankless water heater. I told her that they are commonly used in homes/flats in Europe and that they are great space savers and an energy efficient appliance that saves water, money and time.

Before she renovated her bathroom, she consulted with industry experts about the product. They recommended that she consider getting an additional appliance for the tankless water heater called the point-of-use or booster heater. This piece of equipment will generate a higher level of heat and maintain the heat level consistency during the winter months when the ground and underground pipes are cold.

She decided to purchase the tankless water heater and she has enjoyed it since. She told me that she noticed that her electric bill is about 10% less than she used to pay. She also was satisfied with the space she was able to save because right after she renovated her bathroom, she decided to renovate her kitchen and was able to get a lazy susan for the area of the kitchen where her water tank was previously located.

About the author:  Eric White works in the Office of Web Communications

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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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Where in the world is EPA?

By Christina Catanese

Click here to view a map of EPA projects throughout the worldMost of our activities in EPA Region 3 are focused on just that – our region of Mid-Atlantic states.  But water issues are not confined to one geographic area, and environmental boundaries frequently cross political boundaries – try telling a river it needs a passport to flow from one country to another!  Since water issues are so varied in different areas (and consequently managed much differently), it’s always beneficial to hear about what people are working on in other parts of the country and the world.

On November 4th, a number of EPA representatives attended the 4th annual conference of the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative for that very purpose.  EPA is a collaborator in this network of water professionals in Philadelphia and beyond (including non-governmental organizations, government organizations, universities, and the public) who share a common goal of addressing water, sanitation, and hygiene challenges around the world.  Talk about healthy waters on a large scale!

The theme of this year’s conference was “Managing the Last 1%: Allocating Water to Meet the UN Millennium Development Goals,” a reference to the fact that out of all the water on Earth, only 1% is available for human use and consumption.  I know that seems unbelievable, since we have always learned that the Earth is over 75% water, a characteristic that has earned it the nickname “The Blue Planet.”  But when you consider that oceans are nearly 98% of the Earth’s water resources (which we can’t drink), and about half of the remaining percentage is tied up in glaciers and icecaps, only 1% is left in surface water and groundwater, the only kind we can use for our water supply.  Plus, did you know that 1 billion people in the world don’t have access to clean water, and over 2.5 billion people have inadequate access to improved sanitation facilities?  We don’t often think about it, but there actually is a global shortage of water for people and the environment.

Being aware of this massive water shortage, the participants at the conference discussed the challenges of managing limited water supplies and shared their experiences of success and obstacles.  Speakers talked about their work in diverse places like China, South Africa, Guatemala, Bangladesh, and the Mid-Atlantic’s very own Delaware River Basin.  The work they discussed was fascinating and included:

– installing wells and gardens at schools in developing countries,

-creating basin commissions to manage large interstate watersheds (like the Delaware River Basin Commission)

-evaluating the cost-effectiveness of various water supply and demand measures,

-how water and energy issues are related

-“virtual water” and agricultural water use

-protecting ecosystems and the services they provide us

-corporate strategies to reduce water use

If you missed out on this year’s conference, you can still view the presentations by the speakers.

You might also be surprised to hear that EPA does some international work Presently, a cadre of Mid-Atlantic Region employees is working with the Moroccan Ministry of Environment on developing an enforcement and compliance program whose initial focus has been wastewater discharges.   Phase I of the program saw the development of a wastewater discharge permit application, a basic permit which can be modified based on the permit to be issued, and a permit writers manual.  In addition, the project worked on enforcement by creating an inspection guidance which focused on wastewater dischargers.  Phase II of the project, which has just started, will continue these efforts by developing a permitting and enforcement strategy for wastewater dischargers, address organizational issues, and expand the effort into air and solid waste.   There are also some Mid-Atlantic personnel working with the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua on wastewater permitting issues.  They have provided training and technical assistance to a wide range of stakeholders in various government agencies to help develop a permitting and enforcement system for wastewater dischargers.  Learn about EPA’s water work internationally beyond the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Have you heard of any ways that other countries manage their water resources differently than we do?  What issues are you most interested in on an international scale?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

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

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Finally Had To Buy That Generator

By Lina Younes

During the recent storms, my home was one of the thousands in the Washington, DC metro area that remained without power for several days. For some reason, my home seems to be located in an area that is prone to power outages, whether in the winter or the summer. There have been many occasions in which several streets near my home have endured a blackout while other houses a few streets down in the same neighborhood stay with power at all times. How does that happen? I simply don’t know.

For years, I had resisted purchasing a generator.  My main concern was for environmental reasons. Basically, I didn’t want a gas-based appliance emitting carbon monoxide and other gases close to my house. However, when we called the utility company during this last storm and they informed us that we were probably going to be without electricity for several days, we had no choice. We finally had to purchase one. So, I made sure that the generator was outside, far away from the house to minimize exposure to carbon monoxide.

I must confess that the experience during the recent power outage was not all negative. On the contrary, the first evening of the snowstorm when the power went out, we gather together around the warm chimney, got some flashlights, and started playing card games. It was great family time. When it was time to go to bed, we just snuggled in our beds with some extra blankets. By the second day, in spite of the Energy Star windows, the temperature inside started to drop beyond comfort. In light of the situation, we decided it was time to buy the generator.

After observing the necessary safety measures, at least we know that if we’re left without power again, we’ll be prepared. How was your experience during the recent snow storms? Send us your comments.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Por fin tuvimos que comprar el generador

Por Lina Younes

Durante las recientes tormentas, mi casa fue una de las miles en el área metropolitana de Washington, DC que se quedó sin electricidad por varios días. Por alguna razón, mi hogar parece estar localizada en una zona donde ocurren apagones con frecuencia, sea en el invierno o en el verano. Han habido muchas ocasiones en las cuales varias calles cerca de mi casa han estado sido víctimas de un apagón, mientras otras casas un par de calles más abajo en el mismo vecindario han tenido electricidad a todas horas. ¿Por qué sucede eso? Simplemente no sé.

Por años, me he resistido a comprar un generador.  Mi preocupación ha sido por razones ambientales. Básicamente, no quería tener una maquina que funcionara a base de gas emitiendo monóxido de carbono y otros gases nocivos cerca de mi casa. Sin embargo, después que llamamos a la compañía eléctrica durante la última tormenta y nos informaron que probablemente estaríamos sin electricidad por varios días más, no teníamos otra opción. Finalmente decidimos comprar un generador. Por lo tanto, me aseguré de colocarlo afuera, bastante lejos de la casa para minimizar la exposición al monóxido de carbono.

Tengo que confesar que la experiencia durante el apagón más reciente no fue del todo negativa. Al contrario, la primara noche de la tormenta de nieve cuando se fue la luz, nos reunimos alrededor de la chimenea, trajimos varias linternas, y nos pusimos a jugar cartas. Pasamos un buen rato en familia. Cuando llegó el momento de ir a dormir, buscamos varias mantas adicionales y dormimos muy bien. Para la segunda jornada sin luz, a pesar de las ventanas eficientes Energy Star, la temperatura al interior de la casa había bajado bastante a niveles que no eran muy cómodos. En luz de la situación, decidimos que había llegado el momento de comprar el generador.

Después de observar las medidas de seguridad necesarias, al menos sabemos que si nos quedamos nuevamente sin luz, estaremos preparados. ¿Cuál fue su experiencia durante la reciente tormenta de nieve. Envíenos sus comentarios. Saludos.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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 Science Has an Attitude

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

By Sarah Blau

I was recently asked if I knew EPA conducted research before I came to work here last October. “Yeah, sure…but I guess I never really thought about it,” was my response. So, I started to think about it…

What strikes me more than the fact that EPA does, in fact, perform research, is the attitude with which EPA performs research. In my own work—interviewing scientists, attending presentations, and participating in communications meetings, I have found that almost unfailingly, EPA scientists and staff confront environmental changes and threats with a determinedly optimistic approach.

Climate change, contaminated water and polluted air, oil spills and birds falling dead out of the sky… these things are quite terrifying. Confronted with these eventualities, I find myself wanting to run into the woods, hide in a cave, and pretend it will all go away.

These past few months I have realized that, in stark contrast to my flight instinct, EPA researchers exhibit the exact opposite reaction. EPA employees confront environmental problems with a “let’s tackle this problem, let’s find a solution” type of attitude. Nearly all of the EPA scientists I have been in contact with are motivated and optimistic, searching for the right questions and the right answers to solve environmental problems.

I have found that at EPA, even daunting environmental challenges drive a search for knowledge and foster an impressive attitude that with the right science, all our obstacles can and will be overcome. In a previous “Science Wednesday” post EPA’s Dr. Paul Anastas even introduced himself as a “strategic optimist.” I’m sure this attitude has served him well during his 20-year effort to promote green chemistry, as featured in a “Q&A” section in NatureNews.

Surrounded by this type of optimism, I am encouraged to run away less, to think more, and to attempt to confront more of the problems I encounter.

So, yes, EPA does a lot of important research. EPA research has had great effects on our society in the past, and undoubtedly will have in the future. Just as important as the research itself, however, is the attitude behind the research: that with science, these problems can be solved. Confronted with a daunting possibility? Hold your head high, be proactive, and believe that a solution is out there for us to find…and EPA researchers would bet we will find it.

About the Author: Sarah Blau is a student services contractor working with the science communications team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, the science arm of the Agency.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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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Turn Off The Lights!

By Ameshia Cross

I can still hear my mother screaming at the top of her lungs, “Turn out the lights and unplug that radio!” I couldn’t make it through the day without switching on every light in the house. I had to have my radio playing at all times and went to bed with the TV on. When my mom bought me a computer, I was so excited and showed my elation by never turning it off. My mom was always harping about saving energy. She would reuse grocery bags before it was fashionable to do. As a kid, I thought my mom was crazy for being this way!

Everything changed when I met a man I now call an “Energy Star.” During my sophomore year of high school, a man came to speak at our annual Earth Day assembly. I thought he was a little weird (don’t all adults seem weird to teenagers!) but the passion he had drew me to his message. “Turn out the lights and unplug that radio!” Those words were of course familiar to me but now they were coming from someone who wasn’t my mom, so they carried a greater weight. “Energy Star” went on to talk about the effects that behavior like mine can have on the environment. He even spoke of people who do not have reliable sources of energy at all and how conservation is key in moving forward. It made me appreciate energy so much more and how I take it for granted.

I took a hold of that message and have been changed ever since. Since interning at EPA, I learned about the Energy Star Kids program. This program highlights what young people can do to protect their environment and how a little energy conservation goes a long way. If I’d known about this program as a kid I would have saved both my mom and the environment a lot of trouble.

I also learned that saving energy can be fun and easy. Some examples of how to do it can be found.  Granted I still slip up at times! This morning I probably left a light on before leaving the house, but I have set a goal for myself that includes leading a life of energy conservation and awareness and I am glad I did.

About the author:  Ameshia Cross joined the EPA in December as a STEP intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Chicago. She has worked for numerous community organizations, holds seats on youth education boards, and is active in politics. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration with an emphasis on environmental policy and legislation.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.


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.