Monthly Archives: September 2011

After the Storm

By Denise Owens

After the departure of Hurricane Irene, I was left with tons of damage and cleanup. My basement was my first concern. I couldn’t believe the amount of water I was seeing, but with the electricity off, I had to wait until the morning to actually see what was damaged.

I knew my first priority was to get the water out as quickly as possible because of the danger of mold . The electricity being out for a week made it harder, but I just had to get it done.

With the water gone, the next step was to remove the carpet to get the basement dry. Then I realized the walls were damaged. Since my home is older, I had paneling instead of drywall; it also had to be removed. Proper clean-up was necessary to avoid mold showing up later.

After I cleaned the basement, I just didn’t feel safe or comfortable with my results, so I hired a professional company to come out and do a thorough cleaning. After the company cleaned for hours, they assured me that I wouldn’t have any further problems and my basement was mold-free.

I didn’t realize it would take me so long to get things back to normal, but I’m so happy that my basement is mold free!

About the author: Denise Owens has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency for over 20 years.

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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Hispanic Heritage Month:Raul Soto

By Raul Soto

Looking back at the last eighteen months since my appointment at EPA, I am struck by the incredible passion I have been exposed to during my interactions with both region and program offices alike. During this Hispanic Heritage month, I can honestly say that I have been privileged to work alongside individuals that wear the agency on their sleeves and open their hearts to the needs of the American public. Interfacing with dedicated professionals throughout the agency has solidified my appreciation for the deep resolve I see manifested when I gaze upon individuals seeking to assist communities in need.

When I consider the theme of Jobs & the Economy, I consider a personal hero – my dad. Here is a man that I can honestly say never groused about getting up and going to work. He loved his job and it showed. It might never have paid much, but it was enough to raise a family of six and allow for some discretionary spending like a bike or a football to while the time away on hot Saturday afternoons growing up in South Texas. His oft-quoted phrase to us was: “Your work ethic is a reflection of your personal character”. “Mijo”, he would tell me, “Con ganas, todo es possible”. With effort, anything is possible.
In the 1990’s, Hispanics were heavily reliant on employment as a main component to personal income. Close to 70% of adult Hispanics were in the labor force by necessity. In recent years, with the great recession in full swing, many Hispanics/Latinos struggle to maintain and preserve their households. Still, they remain resilient.

Education continues to be a major contributor to economic fortunes for Latinos. Its positive effects were in evidence during a summer EPA-sponsored interns networking event. During the course of the morning I came across a young man and woman from Texas A&M- Kingsville. The young man declared he was going to take his younger brother under his wing and educate him about the mission he had been a part of. The young lady was so thoroughly committed to the role of Latinos in environmental justice, she is considering the possibility of a graduate degree. Their unbridled enthusiasm and appreciative demeanor so motivated me, that I feel rejuvenated and resolved to keep mentoring those who strive to be good role models and stewards of our environment. Con ganas, si se puede!

About the author: Raul Soto is the Associated Assistant Administrator for Office of Diversity, Outreach and Collaboration

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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Great Chemistry

By Tom Damm

operator1Leslie Gryder of Lynchburg, Va., told her local paper she “felt like crawling under a rock” upon learning she was receiving EPA’s Mid-Atlantic award for excellence in operating a large public drinking water system.

But the spotlight-shy chemist was center stage when Bill Arguto, our region’s Drinking Water Branch Chief, presented her with the award during a ceremony attended by more than 30 people, including city and state officials.

Though largely unsung, water treatment plant operators are on the front lines in preventing waterborne diseases and protecting public health.   You can take this virtual tour of a drinking water plant to see how water is treated and sent to your home or business.  And kids can follow a drop of water from the source through the treatment process at this site.

Leslie Gryder has taken the job to a new level at Lynchburg’s water treatment plant.

“We don’t make this award every year.  If we didn’t think we had a candidate who was deserving, we wouldn’t give it,” Arguto said.

Leslie implemented new processes and procedures to keep the city’s drinking water safe and clean – even assisting neighboring systems in preventing and removing microbial contamination.

If you’re aware of steps your water treatment plant has taken to improve its operations, we’d like to hear about them.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

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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Digging the Earth

By Kathy Sykes

When I think about my Grandpa Lars, I always remember him digging in his garden, harvesting new red potatoes, and dill, as a good Swede, as well as lettuce, tomatoes, raspberries, and many other fruits and vegetables. His green thumb was inherited by my mother, Marguerite, who mastered the art of gardening vegetables, herbs and flowers. She not only inspired our family to love gardening, but also neighbors, who soon were planting their gardens too.

People on foot, bike or in cars often stopped, smiled and thanked us for our garden. Occasionally we received anonymous notes addressed to the “Residents of 2100 Rowley” thanking us for the beautifully cared for plants. We took pride in our mom’s treasure and in our small family contributions of weeding and watering the garden. Getting my hands dirty from digging in the ground was almost as much fun as using the hose to water seedlings and my siblings.

I also remember stepping outside to cut fresh flowers for the dinner table or sprigs of parsley, or basil that added the final touch and fragrance to her delicious dishes. I especially recall the crabapple tree that mom’s co-workers bought for her when my Grandfather died. Now the tree stands tall and provides much appreciated shade on hot and humid summer days.

The demands and distractions of modern society deter too many of us from digging in the ground. Time constraints and other dangers keep us indoors. Nowadays, children spend less time outside in unstructured play, while adults spend more time commuting in our sprawling cities.

This weekend we have the opportunity to share our knowledge of gardening and love of trees with youth and reminisce about the changes that have occurred during our lifetime. Getting off the couch, away from our blackberries and TVs and outside to appreciate our parks, local woods and green space is a worthy endeavor. Saturday, September 24th is National Public Lands Day. This event is celebrated annually and was conceived of by the National Environmental Education Foundation. EPA is one many sponsoring agencies. Volunteer to plant a tree and bring along your camera to capture the fun of digging in the dirt.

You can enter the Volunteers in Action Photo Contest.

Plant a tree. Dig the Earth! She will thank you.

About the author: Kathy Sykes began working for the U.S. EPA in 1998. Since 2002, she has served as the Senior Advisor for the Aging Initiative.

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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Upcoming Weekend Activities: Grab your Galoshes and Get off the Couch

If you want some motivation to brave the rain, take a look at our listings below. Though you may need an umbrella, there’s plenty going on this weekend. Please add your own ideas in the comments section if we missed something fun.

Birding on Staten Island: Take a guided walk with a naturalist and spot migratory bird species on Staten Island. Saturday, September 24, 8-10 a.m.

Building a Community-Supported Kitchen: Learn about local initiatives to provide healthy, community-supported meals in local neighborhoods. Friday, September 23, 1-3 p.m.

Climate Week NYC: Don’t miss the final few days of events for Climate Week! From volunteering to panel discussions, you can still catch some of the excitement around town.  

Fall Festival at Soundview Park: Participate in a puppet-making workshop, health and fitness events, and a coastal cleanup with the Bronx River Alliance. Saturday, September 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fitness Hike in Queens:  Enjoy the outdoors with a vigorous, guided hike through Forest Park in Queens. Saturday, September 24, 9 a.m.

New York Bike Jumble: Check out bikes, parts, and accessories or bring your bike to get it inspected. Got an old clunker collecting dust? Recycle-a-bicycle will be on hand to accept donations. Saturday, September 24, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Reflecting the Stars: Come view an LED recreation of our night sky set up on decaying posts of the Hudson River. Visitors on shore can press buttons which highlight constellations that are no longer seen in urban centers because of air and light pollution. Every night, beginning at sunset, until October 25.

Time/Bank:Time/Food: Artist Rirkrit Tiravanija will be the guest chef for a special lunch event. Time/Food is a temporary eatery that operates on the Time/Bank economic system — a platform where individuals can pool time and skills, bypassing money as a means of value — allowing visitors to pay for their meals through the alternative currency of time spent performing a skill, service, or trade. Sunday, September 25, 2-3 p.m.

Watch “The Whale”: Come to the New York premiere of the film about an orphaned orca whale, based on the award-winning documentary, “Saving Luna.” Friday, September 23, various show times.

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:Rising STARs

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

By Aaron Ferster

This week, I had the pleasure of joining a few colleagues to talk about science communication at the 2011 EPA STAR Graduate Fellowship Conference here in Washington, DC. “STAR” stands for Science To Achieve Results, a competitive grant program EPA administers to advance human health and environmental science in support of its mission.

The conference brought together STAR grantees and STAR graduate fellows from colleges and universities across the country to talk shop about their research and learn about how their particular work fits into EPA’s commitment to science and engineering.

“The competitive STAR Fellowship prides itself for attracting, supporting and bolstering the next generation of environmental scientists, engineers and policy makers. In doing so, the program enhances the environmental research and development enterprise, advances green principles and bridges diverse communities that help EPA better meet its mission,” wrote EPA’s William Sanders III, Dr. P.H. in the Awardees Research Portfolio. Dr. Sanders is the Director of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research, which administers STAR and other EPA grant and awards programs.

Conference attendees included STAR fellow graduate students conducting work in one of eight broad research categories important to EPA: global change, clean air, water quality, human health, ecosystem services, pesticides and toxic substances, science and technology for sustainability, and emerging environmental approaches.

As the editor—and chief cheerleader—for Science Wednesday, I am always thrilled to have the opportunity to meet EPA and partner scientists who are eager to share their work. The conference did not disappoint! While all the students’ topics have intimidating-sounding titles, (here’s one picked entirely at random: Novel Molecular Methods for Probing Ancient Climate Impacts on Plant Communities and Ecosystem Functioning: Implications for the Future), as a group, the STARs were eager to learn about opportunities for sharing their work. Please stayed tuned for updates here on Science Wednesday.

It’s great to see that EPA is supporting the next generation of scientists and engineers while it meets its own mission to protect human health and the environment. Cleary, the STARs are rising.

About the Author: Aaron Ferster is the lead science writer for EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the editor of Science Wednesday.

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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Pollution Prevention: Green Chemistry Stops Pollution at the Source

By Randi Chmielewski

Ever hear the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” The EPA is putting this wisdom to work with a workshop called “Unleashing Green Chemistry and Engineering in Service of a Sustainable Future.” The event, scheduled for September 23rd, is open to everyone and will bring together diverse stakeholders from industry, academia, government, and the community to encourage pollution prevention through green chemistry and engineering.

What is green chemistry and engineering? Green chemistry is “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances.” Similarly, green engineering is “the design, commercialization and use of processes and products that are feasible and economical while: reducing the generation of pollution at the source; minimizing the risk to human health and the environment.”  Both these approaches when applied in a consistent and integrated fashion can encourage advances toward sustainability in our society.

Innovators have created plastic bottles and protective foam packaging made from renewable resources and have designed chemicals and manufacturing processes that take efficiency and sustainability down to the atomic level.  Pretty cool stuff.   Each year, the EPA recognizes top innovations like these with the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge.

To sign up for email alerts about the NYC green chemistry and engineering workshop, email Randi Chmielewski .

Randi is an intern with the Pollution Prevention Team in New York City. She is pursuing an MPA in public and non-profit management and policy at the NYU Wagner School. Before joining EPA, Randi worked in local government in her home state of New Jersey and at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics. Her interests include environmental policy, public finance, and women’s leadership.

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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An Artistic Spin on Climate Science

By Sophia Kelley

Whether you are passionate about science or about art, New York Academy of Sciences was the place to be last night. As part of the first day of Climate Week NYC, Science & the City hosted a unique hybrid event about communicating the science of climate change through various artistic media. Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) kicked off the evening by talking about his own experiences in the Arctic regions of our planet and how he has translated them through recordings and visual images into art.

Photo Credit: Nadja Popovich/New York Academy of Sciences

Miller explained his belief that art and science are inseparable and demonstrated the power of their relationship by explaining the natural inspiration for his musical compositions, then performing the pieces live with a trio of string musicians. The music was written to explore ways of communicating the complexity of our planet such as investigating mathematical relationships that reflect the geometrical phenomena that can be found in nature when ice forms.

Exploring new ways to tell scientific stories was the theme of the evening even after the musicians took their bows and the panelists replaced them to answer questions from the crowd. Andrew Revkin from the New York Times blog, Dot Earth, moderated and panelists included EPA’s own climate expert, Irene Nielson and Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at NASA’s Goddard Institute. 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.

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Empowered C3 Volunteers Work to Improve Chicago’s Environment

By Karen Mark

I am usually known as the “environmentalist” in many of my graduate classes. Recently, a classmate invited me to attend an informational meeting about becoming a “C3.” My immediate reaction was “Sure, but what does C3 mean?” Turns out this is a group of dedicated Chicago volunteers tackling the city’s environmental issues.

The Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) is an environmental volunteer program of Chicago’s Department of Environment. It recruits, trains and supports a network of volunteers who work together to conduct environmental service projects that improve local surroundings and the quality of life.

I attended an informational meeting about the Environmental Leadership Training program and was incredibly impressed by the comprehensiveness of the program and the knowledgeable staff. Any resident of the city can apply for the training. Those accepted attend five courses that cover conservation principles and skills in water, land, air and energy, community organizing and project development. The word is out about this opportunity! Residents from many Chicago neighborhoods come to C3 meetings with ideas, environmental questions, or simply to look for ways to make a difference in their communities.

To complete the training program, participants carry out an environmental service project with support from C3 that includes project development guidance, mentoring on community outreach, and up to $400 worth of materials and supplies for the project. Graduates of the training program can continue environmental service projects with guidance from C3 leaders and funding. The opportunities to give back are endless!

Trainees gain a wealth of knowledge and skills but even those with an in-depth knowledge of environmental issues learn community organizing skills and build connections within the city. Additionally, the C3 Student Club program enables teachers and students in grades 8-12 to become involved in C3 efforts.

True to their motto, “You Care. Do Something. We’ll Help!” C3 gives the knowledge, skills and resources for Chicago residents to make a direct impact in local communities.

Are you interested in doing an environmental or community project? Your first step is to find similar organizations in your community. Try contacting your local (town, city, county or state) environmental agency.

I am really into this program and I know I will be applying this October for the next training series. I encourage you to find a similar opportunity wherever you live!

About the author: Karen Mark is a Student Temporary Employment Program intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Environmental Management and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Public Service Management.

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.

Pollution Prevention Week Starts Today

By John Martin

The EPA works hard to clean up pollution through various initiatives, including our Superfund, Brownfields and RCRA programs. What people might not always see are the ways we work to stop pollution from being produced in the first place. By partnering with other organizations to stop pollution at its source, we save considerable time, money and effort, while helping keep the nation clean.

Today kicks off Pollution Prevention (P2) Week here at EPA. From now until Friday, EPA’s New York City office will be working to educate the public on policies and initiatives that help keep our communities clean and build a more sustainable economy.

Throughout the week, across the street from our offices over at 26 Federal Plaza, experts from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) Water Resources Program, as well as our own experts, will take over a little bit of city sidwalk. They’ll be answering questions from passers by, and talking about P2 programs such as WaterSense and EnergyStar– both great programs for anyone interested in helping save our natural resources and keeping the environment clean.

Rutgers University has also been kind enough to send a local artist, who will be painting a rain barrel this Thursday in front of 26 Federal Plaza. She’ll be incorporating some of EPA’s most successful P2 programs into her work. If you’ve never seen a rain barrel or want to know how they help keep our waterways clean, and you’re in the area, stop by to say hello!

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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