Monthly Archives: July 2011

Surf’s Up

Great-Lakes-Beach-MeasureThe summer beach season is in full swing!

Although we’re not buff lifeguards perched on lookout stands, EPA and the coastal states play a critical role in making your day at the beach a safe one.

There are three basic ways EPA and the states keep you safe from pollution at the beach:

 1.    preventing pollution from getting on the sand and in the water,

2.    measuring beach water to learn how clean it is, and

3.    telling people about actual beach conditions.

The U.S. enjoys some of the world’s best beach quality.  For the past six years, America’s beaches have been open and safe for swimming more than 95 percent of the time.

For that other 5 percent, EPA provides the states with beach grants to monitor beach water and make sure to notify you if conditions are unsafe for swimming.

In a single year, an estimated 96 million people visited a U.S. beach. Are you among that group?  How many times do you visit a beach during the summer?  What’s your favorite stretch of sand?

For more information, visit our site about Mid Atlantic beaches, oceans, and estuaries.  You can also listen to this recent Environment Matters Podcast to learn more about the deep blue sea and the ways it’s being protected.

And check out these posts we had earlier this summer about Adopt-A-Beach programs and BEACON notifications.  And finally, make sure you don’t fry at the beach – for ways to protect yourself from the sun, check out EPA’s SunWise tips.

See you at the beach!

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.

Coming Home

By Rob Goulding

A few months ago I emerged from the Holland Tunnel on a still cold spring day prepared for my initial drive into Brooklyn as a lease holding resident. While I grew up in the center of the greater NYC metropolitan area in a small city called West New York, NJ, I’ve been nothing more than an occasional tourist since 2004.  Since then, the changes in the area and our Agency’s role in shaping a sustainable region serve as remarkable testaments to the intersection of environmental protection, community involvement and redevelopment.

I’ve had the good fortune over the last six years to bounce from Trenton to Washington, DC to San Francisco and observe, as a citizen and government employee, the ongoing work of civic engagement and redevelopment. NYC may be the city that never sleeps, but I’ve learned that no city stays dormant for long.

I am excited to come back home and help work on issues that will change this area for the better. I see this region as both the boy who grew up here, when things always seemed dormant, and as someone who’s now able to see the cornerstones and the construction zones as the fluid building blocks of a changing urban landscape. . More

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.

Science Wednesday: Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop, Day #1

By Dr. Joel Hoffman

Science Workshop, Day#1.

In July 2011, scientists and educators from around the Great Lakes will be aboard EPA’s Lake Guardian research vessel to research environmental conditions in Lake Superior, and share their stories.

I am amazed and excited that the workshop is commencing. How do you prepare to take 15 educators for a week on a large, oceanographic vessel?

Our preparations started this past winter. Initial discussion about the theme for the research cruise (human interactions with the coast) led to many more about the appropriate science activities which then led to me calling around the Great Lakes for scientists to participate. We wanted top-notch scientists, for sure. We also wanted the research to mean something—the projects had to be interesting, cutting-edge science to which the teachers could add their effort.

Three months out, we called for applications and were flooded with interest. This is fantastic, of course, but tough, too. We could only take 15. This motivated us to find new ways to expand the reach of the program and so we doubled-down on our outreach efforts. The result was that we will have two first-ever collaborations. One—we will hold a class by satellite from the middle of Lake Superior in collaboration with the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as part of their “Great Lakes Rocks” program. Two—the new Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve will host 6 teachers in a related COSEE program and join us on the research vessel for the last day of the workshop.

Today, we introduce the teachers to the lake, the vessel, the cruise theme, and their new (temporary) job as a Great Lakes scientist. We will visit the Great Lakes Aquarium this afternoon to see up-close what life in the lake is all about. Then, we will explain the teachers’ mission to them: to be scientists, to participate in ongoing Great Lakes research, to be up in the middle of the night as the research commands (the boat runs 24/7), and to approach their days with a sense of inquiry and curiosity.
What better way to experience Great Lakes science than to stand on the deck in the middle of the night, under the stars, staring over the horizon, as a sampling net is towed quietly behind the vessel, so you can simply ask “What’s out there?.”
Here we go.

About the author: Dr. Joel Hoffman is a research biologist in EPA’s Mid-Continent Ecology division, and. the head scientist for the 2011 Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline workshop on Lake Superior.

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.

From the City to the Suburbs, and Back

Crowds in SoHo reduce their carbon footprints as they walk along Spring Street and Broadway.

By Pooja Shah

I was born in Queens, New York and lived there for the first decade of my life. Although there are many things I have forgotten, one vivid picture remains in my mind: walking everywhere. I remember walking to school, to my friend’s house, to the grocery store, to the movies, and so on. I loved walking with my family: my brother and I always raced on the sidewalk and walking outside was an incredible joy.

Then we moved to Parsippany, New Jersey- as suburban a place as you can get. I mean, people drive everywhere. Many roads don’t even have sidewalks or some have sidewalks that just stop in the middle of grass. I had to beg my parents to drive me anywhere I wanted to go and it was a hassle. I missed being able to walk everywhere.

Last year, I started school in Washington D.C., and I loved being able to walk anywhere I wanted to again, without having to ask for permission or wait for a ride. The city is beautiful: full of people and life.

After interning at the EPA back in Manhattan for almost a month now, I’ve come to realize that there are even more benefits to walking. Aside from the great exercise, walking also significantly reduces our carbon footprint. So here’s my challenge to you: walk to at least one nearby place that you normally drive to and tell us about it below!

About the Author: Pooja Shah is a Public Affairs Summer Intern for EPA Region 2. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Economics at George Washington University.

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.

Passing the Winding Stream Forward- More Than Just a Pretty Day in the Park

By Andrea Bolks

The big yellow bus pulls up with heads looking in every direction, excited students ready for a morning in the Indiana Dunes with us. They are Julian Middle School 6th graders, from a suburb of Chicago. I am an ORISE fellow, here with some EPA staff along with my mentor, who has been such an amazing teacher to me.  Watching from a bit of a distance as they unload I wonder, will we be able to get across the seemingly complex ideas of stream evolution, health and monitoring to them?

When I was a senior in high school, I switched to an environmental magnet school. I felt like my world opened as I was exposed to important, complex, even life changing environmental concepts. I was touched then; today, it has made me a huge believer in environmental education. This learning process not only fosters positive environmental attitudes, it also motivates and engrains a feeling of commitment to make informed decisions and take responsible action. I really wanted these children to walk away having learned concepts that they could share and that would stick with them as they grew. I hoped today would be more than just a pretty day in the park.

The children’s big smiles and energy filled the air as each of us from EPA went to our stations to teach them about dune formation, the daylighting restoration project, and many types of monitoring including macroinvertebrate, chemistry and habitat. I was absolutely amazed when they connected the eroding stream bank to the beginnings of the formations of an oxbow, when they understood why the winding of the stream slowed its flow and helped create a healthier system, or when they could piece together the linkages between the macroinvertebrate communities they had just learned about and habitat quality.  And they were in awe when they looked along this beautiful stream as we told them a few short years ago this land was a parking lot.

These children were sponges; they took what they had learned in the classroom and what they saw and their wheels started turning.  They didn’t just memorize some facts, they understood concepts, and these concepts might just stick with them, like they did with me.  Stick with them enough so that they too can pass the winding stream forward.

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.

About the author: Andrea Bolks is a fellow from the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Postgraduate Research Participation Program working in the Water Division at Region 5 in Chicago, IL.

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.

Safe Use of Pesticides and Alternatives to Pesticides

By Alex Gorsky

Growing up, I spent a majority of my time playing outside. On the weekends, my parents would join me in their garden. Sometimes they would spray pesticides on the garden and tell my friends and me to stay away. They didn’t tell me then, but if you do get exposed to pesticides you can have headaches, dizziness, muscle twitching, weakness, and nausea. Long-term or excessive exposure has been linked to cancer and reproductive & central nervous system effects. In the United States, eight out of ten households use pesticides both inside and outside of their homes.

Grandparents play a key role in keeping children safe by placing pesticides out of reach. Emergency room surveys suggest that children are more likely to be poisoned while visiting their grandparents, since pesticides and other poisons are less likely to be out of reach or have child-resistant closures.
Pesticides are not just dangerous for children. While older adults only account for 2.8% of reported poisoning incidents, they account for 5.9% of all cases with moderate to major medical outcomes and 28% of deaths.

There are some easy ways to reduce your exposure to pesticide hazards. The best guide for safe use of pesticides is to read the label. The label will have instructions for proper use of the pesticide, as well as tell how long you should stay away from the area. Another way to easily protect yourself is by never using pesticide containers to store other things. Once a container is empty, give the container to your community’s disposal program. They can properly dispose of the hazardous waste. Furthermore, avoid treating entire floors, walls or ceilings, and avoid spraying where you prepare or store your food.

To avoid getting overexposed to pesticides, the EPA recommends using a pest management strategy called “integrated pest management” or (IPM). IPM combines non-chemical control strategies with less toxic pesticide to minimize the risk to human health and the environment. For example, you can use traps or baits instead of sprays to control pests. By doing this, you can control pests while not causing harm to humans or the environment.

About the author: Alex Gorsky is an intern in the Office of Public Engagement at the EPA. He is a senior at Beloit College majoring in Environmental Studies.

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.

The State of Our Environment: You Have to Look to See It

New Bedford Harbor

New Bedford Harbor, MA

I don’t know about you, but the state of my environment is constantly on my mind. I’ve been told I was born with the condition. While this photo endeavor isn’t the only project I work on, it sure seems to hold relevance everywhere I turn.

Just recently, I’ve been working a few days a week out of a construction trailer alongside one of our country’s largest Superfund cleanup sites. As a community involvement coordinator for this project, I saw potential for holding walk-in office hours to answer questions and help community members learn a little more about what we’ve been doing here since 1983. Indeed, you read the year correctly.

Short of giving out free doughnuts, I’m not sure how to draw in the crowds. We’ve sent out e-mails, tweets, a news release, and left flyers for the 400+ employees at the new grocery store across the street (you wouldn’t have to throw a rock to hit it).

Buying a coffee there, I asked one of the girls behind the counter who looked to be about my age, if she knew about the cleanup activity across the way and if she knew it had to do with the harbor at the end of the parking lot.

Perplexed she replied, “Oh, not really, is THAT why all those people in the yellow vests are always coming and going?”

“Yes! Exactly!” I replied and proceeded to try and explain a little bit, but then I realized I was holding up the line.

I left some flyers hoping some might drop in after a shift, after which one of the store managers told me: “thanks for the effort, I doubt many will be taken though, mostly kids” with a sympathetic look.

Walking back across the street, listening to our equipment pumping away, I picked up yet another plastic bag tumble weeding out of the parking lot (as new a development as the market) and couldn’t help but think of the irony of it all.

At least I can say we’re doing our best to be transparent and accountable to the work we’re doing. All to give a clean harbor back to the four communities that surround it, but who is going to keep it clean when we’re done?

Jeanethe Falvey, State of the Environment project lead in EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education

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.

Composting 101: Putting Kitchen Scraps to Good Use


By Kasia Broussalian

Two women empty out their recent food scraps, plant remains, wood chips, etc, into compost bins outside of the Greenmarket at Union Square in New York City. Hosted by the Lower East Side Ecology Center, volunteers place compost bins on the northeast side of the market every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The decomposition of these biodegradable materials creates a nutrient-rich soil that is excellent to use in household plants and gardens.  On average, New Yorkers throw out two pounds of food per day, amounting to over 3,000 pounds that then must be trucked to landfills. Once at the landfill, biodegradable materials breakdown in the absence of oxygen to create methane. Methane gas, along with the transportation, impacts climate change. Do you compost? If not, what would it take to get you started?

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.

July 4th Rehoboth Beach

By Nancy Stoner

This year, I had the pleasure of celebrating the 4th of July with my family at Rehoboth Beach, Deleware The weather was beautiful, and the beach was alive with children, teenagers, and families of all kinds of backgrounds, speaking all kinds of languages enjoying themselves in the cool, clean water.

I loved watching everyone have a good time body surfing, kayaking, wading, watching the dolphins, and running back and forth with the waves—a favorite activity of the 5-and-under crowd. In this struggling economy, it was also reassuring to see hotels, motels, restaurants, and shops bustling with activity from tourists like me. In fact, beach tourism pumps more than $300 billion into the U.S. economy every year.

For me, what also makes visiting beaches so great is that they are a free resource, available to everyone and easily accessible via train, plane, car, bus, bike, or foot. As a mother and a beach goer, I understand the importance of clean water as a resource that is vital to our communities and our health. That’s why EPA has been working closely with state and local officials to reduce pollution at local beaches. This year alone, the agency has provided nearly $10 million in beach monitoring grants.

Still, we can only continue to protect our beaches if we also protect the upstream waters, including small streams and wetlands, from pollution that would otherwise flow to the beaches. To achieve that goal, on April 27, 2011, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed for public comment, a guidance document that reaffirms protection for critical waters and provides clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act.

This “Waters of the United States” guidance is based on science and makes common sense: Protecting the smallest water sources is the best and most cost-effective way to protect the larger bodies of waters that they flow into.

Do your part to ensure the protection of our waters for future generations: Submit your comments on our draft guidance between now and July 31st. And when you’ve done that, visit the EPA’s beach page for updates on your local beaches so you can enjoy a healthy and safe summer!

For more information on EPA Beach Grants, please visit

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water and grew up in the flood plain of the South River, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.

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.

Upcoming Weekend Activities: Because Sitting in 3 hours of Traffic Outside of the City is so Overrated!

Looking for weekend plans? Dare to change up your old routine and take part in some of the many Green activities happening this weekend in NYC.

Check out a list of them below and feel free to add your own in the comments section.

Explore Pelham Bay Park –  You don’t need to leave the city to get a taste of the wilderness. Open to the public every Saturday & Sunday through Labor Day from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Free Kayaking and Boating — No reservations necessary to experience free boating and kayaking on the East River with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse. Saturday, July 16 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Green Food and Drink Forum — Learn how local breweries can lead the movement to develop a regional sustainable industry at the Brooklyn Brewery. Saturday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m.

Make N6 Green — Our friends on North 6th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn will be handing out buckets to water the new street trees, providing herbs and flowers to plant, and having a N6th Street improvement party with a DJ and free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Saturday, July 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s 4th Annual City of Water Day – Free boat rides, activities and workshops on Governor’s Island, Liberty State Park, and other neighborhoods near you. Saturday, July 16, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Roe Family Singers — Join the Roe Family Singers on the Flatbush Farm patio for an afternoon of bluegrass, roots and folk music – all while enjoying some locally grown produce. Sunday, July 17 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Waterfront Workouts: Zumba with Dodge YMCA at Brooklyn Bridge Park – Sunday, July 17 from4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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.