Monthly Archives: April 2011

SuperFun on the Gowanus Canal


By Kasia Broussalian

The Gowanus Dredgers, a small volunteer organization that is dedicated to providing the public information and access to the Gowanus Canal waterfront, canoe downstream the Gowanus Canal. Running a stretch of 1.8 miles through Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, New York, the canal was recently added to the National Priorities List and officially became an EPA Superfund site in March 2010. This has paved the way for a scheduled cleanup process of the decades-old contamination. This picture was taken during the Gowanus community’s “SuperFUN Party,” an awareness event hosted by the Dredgers in order to stir up support for the cleanup of the canal. I shot this picture on top of a bridge, near sunset. The juxtaposition between the beauty of the light reflecting off the water, and the old factory buildings, gave me a feeling of nostalgia; of grit and grime from decades past, beautiful despite their neglect. The Gowanus Canal Superfund site is unique because of its level of community involvement and support for the cleanup. Specifically, the Gowanus Dredgers have logged over 2,000 canoe trips throughout the past season, and hope that an increase in the waterfront’s popularity will prompt the local community to become advocates for the canal’s revitalization and cleanup.

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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SuperFun on the Gowanus Canal


By Kasia Broussalian

The Gowanus Dredgers, a small volunteer organization that is dedicated to providing the public information and access to the Gowanus Canal waterfront, canoe downstream the Gowanus Canal. Running a stretch of 1.8 miles through Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, New York, the canal was recently added to the National Priorities List and officially became an EPA Superfund site in March 2010. This has paved the way for a scheduled cleanup process of the decades-old contamination. This picture was taken during the Gowanus community’s “SuperFUN Party,” an awareness event hosted by the Dredgers in order to stir up support for the cleanup of the canal. I shot this picture on top of a bridge, near sunset. The juxtaposition between the beauty of the light reflecting off the water, and the old factory buildings, gave me a feeling of nostalgia; of grit and grime from decades past, beautiful despite their neglect. The Gowanus Canal Superfund site is unique because of its level of community involvement and support for the cleanup. Specifically, the Gowanus Dredgers have logged over 2,000 canoe trips throughout the past season, and hope that an increase in the waterfront’s popularity will prompt the local community to become advocates for the canal’s revitalization and cleanup.

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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Talkin’ Trash

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel being constructedOne Mid-Atlantic community has a “trashy” idea. Salisbury, a small city located in eastern Maryland, recently installed netting devices designed to prevent debris from flowing into the Wicomico River. The Wicomico flows through the city and has had an issue with excessive trash. When rainfall occurs, trash and other debris is flushed into the city storm drains, which carries storm water and trash to streams, rivers, lakes and other water bodies. To resolve this problem, the trash nets fit over the end of the pipes, catching garbage before it flows into the river. They are tended by city crews and emptied periodically. The nets even have an overflow release function, which allows the nets to break away from the pipe if it starts to obstruct water flow. The net still remains tethered to the pipe so it doesn’t float away while water flow is restored. Salisbury was very pleased with the netting devices, and is planning to install more in the near future. Read more about this great way to limit trash flowing into the Wicomico River!

Other cities are getting even more innovative with their trash collection prevention.  The city of Baltimore installed a Water Wheel Powered Trash Inceptor which lifts the trash out of the water and deposits it into a dumpster. After heavy rains, the city noticed huge amounts of garbage floating into the inner harbor area which is a popular tourist destination. As was the case in Salisbury, the trash got there through storm drains causing an unsightly scene. The wheel is propelled by the current of the water body.  In the case of the Inner Harbor, the current was not strong enough to drive the wheel all the time, so solar and wind energy were employed to make the Water Wheel an even greener solution. The dumpster the trash is deposited into is enclosed in a shed which keeps trash out of view. Instead of having a long boom stretch across an area where trash gets stacked up, trash is filtered into the wheel where it is continuously lifted out of the water and into the dumpster.  Crews periodically empty the dumpster. The Water Wheel has been known to collect up to 7 tons of trash after one storm!

Trash in rivers and water bodies is becoming a bigger issue among communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region. EPA worked with communities in the Anacostia River watershed to establish the first interstate trash pollution diet. The diet consists of limiting the amount of trash that can flow into the river. Click here to learn more about the trash pollution diet for the Anacostia River. Do any water bodies near you have an issue with trash buildup? What are some ways you can prevent garbage from getting into the water? Share your thoughts and ideas below!

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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Healthy Communities Are No Accident

By John W. Frece

Would you simply like to be able to walk from your home to the store? Or, to the doctor’s office? Is it easy – or difficult — to cross busy streets in your neighborhood? Are there sidewalks where you live? Or, do you have to rely on a car to go anywhere?

A recent report by AARP found that 40% of persons 50 and older say their neighborhoods lack adequate sidewalks. Nearly half — 47% — feel it is unsafe to cross streets near their homes. And about half of those who reported problems in their neighborhoods said if these safety factors were fixed, they would bike, walk or take the bus to meet their needs.

The good news is that many of the obstacles to creating more walkable communities can be fixed.

I have been working for more than a decade on public policy at the state and federal level to help local governments build infrastructure so that our streets, sidewalks, homes and transportation projects do a better job protecting public health and the environment. As Director of EPA’s the Office of Sustainable Communities — part of the President’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities — we have learned that healthy communities do not happen by accident, but are designed intentionally. In partnership with DOT and HUD, our three agencies have adopted a set of principles that specifically support existing communities, in part by providing them with more choices in transportation and housing. Our office offers a wealth of publications to help communities become smarter about how – and where – they build.

A growing number of communities have begun to adopt complete street policies. Transportation planners and engineers employ complete streets policies to ensure that roadways are designed in ways that support all potential users — bicyclists, pedestrians of all ages and abilities, public transportation riders, as well as cars.

That’s because there is a direct correlation between how we design the transportation networks in our communities and public health and safety. This year’s theme for National Public Health week — “Safety is no Accident” – recognizes the importance of designing options into the built environment.

Designing our built environment with a focus on connecting us with the places we frequent – shops, health care, parks, grocers, entertainment — can make it easier for us to make the healthy choice of getting around by foot or bike. And this can make all the difference.

About the author: John W. Frece is the Director of the Office of Sustainable Communities, within the Office of Policy at EPA. The Office of Sustainable Communities represents EPA in its Partnership for Sustainable Communities with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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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Pedaling Into Spring

By Elizabeth Myer

The severe winter conditions we’ve endured have at long last subsided, leaving us yearning for spring weather. The snow has melted, the ice has thawed and the sunlight is sticking around deeper into each evening as the days progress, infinitely raising the spirits of outdoor enthusiasts everywhere. Residents of the concrete jungle are no exception, though long as we might for those warm and sunny days, the Big Apple is not always the obvious choice for an outdoorsy venture. Fear not, fellow New Yorkers; your thirst for a spring time lift has been answered– this time in the form of city cycling maps.

The biking trend is quickly taking hold of city folks across the globe — much to the delight of the eco-conscious, might I add – and the city has taken notice. Linked below you will find a gift from the NYC Department of City Planning that will lead you to a completely new way to explore each of the five boroughs, all while staying fit and healthy even as you reduce your carbon footprint. The 2010 Cycling Map is available on the main page in PDF format, and if you’re a beginner to cycling (like me) you’ll find a few sections particularly helpful, like the links to safety tips, bike laws and bike signage.

Here’s to a “green” spring. Happy cycling, New York!

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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Pedaling Into Spring

By Elizabeth Myer

The severe winter conditions we’ve endured have at long last subsided, leaving us yearning for spring weather. The snow has melted, the ice has thawed and the sunlight is sticking around deeper into each evening as the days progress, infinitely raising the spirits of outdoor enthusiasts everywhere. Residents of the concrete jungle are no exception, though long as we might for those warm and sunny days, the Big Apple is not always the obvious choice for an outdoorsy venture. Fear not, fellow New Yorkers; your thirst for a spring time lift has been answered– this time in the form of city cycling maps.

The biking trend is quickly taking hold of city folks across the globe — much to the delight of the eco-conscious, might I add – and the city has taken notice. Linked below you will find a gift from the NYC Department of City Planning that will lead you to a completely new way to explore each of the five boroughs, all while staying fit and healthy even as you reduce your carbon footprint. The 2010 Cycling Map is available on the main page in PDF format, and if you’re a beginner to cycling (like me) you’ll find a few sections particularly helpful, like the links to safety tips, bike laws and bike signage.

Here’s to a “green” spring. Happy cycling, New York!

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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Girlfriends Talking: Lead Renovations in Older Homes

By Darlene Watford

A girlfriend of mine decided to have some additional work done this spring on her home. It’s a spacious, old home build in the 1950s with lots of charm and plenty of things that need to be updated and repaired. Last year, they updated the kitchen. This year, they plan to expand her twins’ bedrooms by combining them into one large room. She had heard something about the dangers of lead poisoning in older homes and the risks of renovating pre-1978 homes with lead paint. She asked, “What should I do to make sure the children are not harmed when the renovations are done?”

  • Should I search on the internet to learn more about EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, or
  • Should I look for a contractor, but make sure to ask them if they are EPA Lead-Safe Certified?

My answer to her was, “Do both.”

I told her that learning about lead-safe renovations is one of the many actions she can take to prevent exposing her children to harmful lead dust when the renovations are done in her home.

It is important to hire only contractors who have been trained and work for a lead-safe certified firm. Since April 2010, EPA requires contractors working on homes built before 1978 to be trained and firms to be lead-safe certified. Because other work was done on her home last year, I suggested that she follow EPA’s advice on lead-based paint to protect her family:

  1. Get Your Home Tested. Ask for a lead inspection since it was built before 1978.
  2. Get Your Child Tested. Ask your pediatrician to test young children for lead even if they seem healthy.
  3. Get the Facts. Read more information about steps you can take to prevent childhood lead poisoning.

Are you planning renovations on your older home? If so, just like my girlfriend, be sure to demand that your contractor be lead-safe certified.

About the author: Darlene Watford has worked to protect kids from lead paint poisoning for over 18 years in EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in the National Program Chemicals 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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Amigas hablando sobre reparaciones en casas antiguas

Una amiga decidió remodelar su hogar esta primavera. Es una casa espaciosa construida en los años 50 con mucho encanto y muchas cosas por reparar. El año pasado, remodelaron la cocina. Este año, planean expandir las habitaciones de los gemelos para combinarlas en una sola habitación bien grande. Ella había escuchado acerca de los peligros del envenenamiento por el plomo en casas antiguas y los riesgos de renovar casas construidas antes de 1978 que podrían tener pintura a base de plomo. Ella preguntó “¿Qué tengo que hacer para asegurarme que los niños no sean lesionados durante las renovaciones?”

  • ¿Debo buscar en el internet para aprender más acerca de la regulación de EPA sobre las renovaciones, reparaciones y actividades de pintura a base de plomo? O,
  • ¿Debo buscar un contratista, pero debo asegurarme que esté certificado para el manejo seguro del plomo?

Mi respuesta, fue afirmativa en ambos casos.

Le dije que el aprender acerca de las renovaciones seguras para el manejo seguro del plomo es una de las muchas acciones que debe tomar para evitar la exposición de sus niños al dañino polvo de plomo cuando se realicen renovaciones en su hogar.

Es importante contratar solamente a aquellos contratistas que estén entrenados y trabajen para una firma certificada para el manejo seguro de plomo. Desde abril de 2010, EPA requiere que aquellos contratistas que trabajen en hogares construidos antes de 1978 estén debidamente entrenados y trabajen para firmas certificadas para el manejo seguro de plomo. Debido a todo el trabajo realizado en su casa el año pasado, le sugerí que ella siguiera los consejos de EPA sobre la pintura a base de plomo para proteger a su familia.

  1. Realice la prueba en su hogar. Pida una inspección de plomo ya que su casa fue construida antes de 1978.
  2. Realice la prueba en su niño. Pida a su pediatra realizar la prueba de plomo en sus niños pequeños aún si están saludables.
  3. Obtenga los datos. Lea más información acerca de los pasos que debe tomar para prevenir el envenenamiento del plomo en los niños.

¿Está planeando realizar renovaciones en su casa antigua? De ser así, como le dije a mi amiga, asegúrese de exigir que su contratista esté certificado para el manejo seguro del plomo.

Acerca de la autora: Darlene Watford ha trabajado para proteger a los niños del envenenamiento por plomo en la pintura por más de 18 años en la División del Programa Nacional de Sustancias Químicas la Oficina de Prevención de Contaminación y Tóxicos de EPA.

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 Safer Products is No Accident

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

By David DiFiore

I am the grandchild of an Italian immigrant, Olimpia Viglione, who, as a young woman keeping house for a living, severely damaged her lungs cleaning floors with harsh chemicals. As a result, she spent most of her life suffering with lung congestion and chronic bronchitis, often struggling to breathe.

EPA’s public health mission is something that strongly attracted me to the Agency. After learning the ropes of chemical evaluation and management in EPA’s New Chemicals Program, two colleagues and I had an idea: Why not evaluate chemicals we use every day, like those in cleaning products, as we do new chemicals?…and why not partner with companies interested in innovation and offer them recognition in exchange for making safer products? That idea had traction and eventually grew into the Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product Labeling Program.

Do you recognize this symbol?

It is EPA’s label for safer chemical-based products. Products that carry the label must perform well and contain the safest possible ingredients, advancing EPA’s public health and environmental mission. DfE carefully reviews all products submitted for this special recognition against the stringent human and environmental health requirements in its Standard for Safer Products. Once a product passes the test and bears the label, consumers and institutional purchasers are empowered to select products that are safer for their families and pets, clients and co-workers, and the planet.

DfE-labeled products contain no carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants or chemicals that cause other harmful effects, including, close to my heart, lung effects and asthma. It’s comforting to know that because of labeled products other housekeepers and custodial workers need not suffer as my grandmother did. By replacing chemicals of concern with safer ingredients, labeled products reduce human and environmental exposures to potentially hazardous chemicals by hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

Close to 2500 products now carry the DfE label in an array of sectors, from all-purpose cleaners and laundry detergents to floor, carpet, car and boat care products. You can find a complete list of DfE-labeled products.

About the author: David DiFiore is a senior project manager in the Design for the Environment Program. He is a founder of the Safer Product Labeling Program and passionate about the potential of green chemistry to drive product innovation.

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 Public from Power Plant Air Toxics

By Ellen Kurlansky

I will admit that there were times in the past decade and one-half that I feared we would never reduce toxic emissions from power plants . Last month, EPA proposed a regulation to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants. These plants are a very large source of these pollutants, which along with mercury include other metals such as arsenic and cadmium, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride and hydrogen cyanide. The regulation, called the Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will have tremendous benefits for public health. It is expected to prevent between 6,800 and 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, 120,000 asthma attacks, and 850,000 lost work days every year beginning in 2016.

The regulations had been long delayed, first because the studies that were required by the Clean Air Act took us longer than Congress had envisioned and then because the EPA took a tack during the last administration that was resoundingly rejected by the Court. But finally, in 2009 we set out to develop the regulation. One of our managers’ guiding principles was that the regulations adhere closely to the requirements of the Clean Air Act so that if it is challenged in the courts we will prevail and the benefits to public health will not be further delayed.

Many power plants in the US operate today with modern pollution controls. But many do not. Cost effective technology to control air pollution is available and proven. The Mercury and Air Toxics standard will mean that all coal- and oil-fired plants will need to limit their air emissions.

Developing this proposal was a massive undertaking involving staff from many offices at EPA. It required teams of engineers, economists, lawyers, and scientists. We had a hard deadline of March 16 ordered by the Court and so toward the end everyone was working evenings, weekends, pretty much all the time. I was struck, however, by the good humor and even excitement exhibited by most of the staff throughout those last busy days. I think people felt really good knowing that the regulation would be so important to improving public health. I personally felt very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of that.

About the author: Ms. Kurlansky is a policy analyst in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.  She has broad experience in environmental and energy policy gained from work at other EPA offices and at other government agencies, non-profit organizations, and as a consultant.  Ms. Kurlansky, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, has a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in Economics.

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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