Monthly Archives: October 2011

A Community’s Calm, A Mother’s Fury

By David Kluesner 

Pompton Lakes: slammed consecutively by Hurricane Irene/Tropical Storm Lee

Late August and early September usually epitomize the lazy days of doing nothing or heading to the beach, barbecues and family get-togethers over Labor Day.  Not this summer. Not for North Jersey after Hurricane Irene hit and then a sucker punch landed in the form of Tropical Storm Lee.  Mother Nature attacked furiously on August 28, sending the waters of the Ramapo, Passaic and Pequannock Rivers over their banks to record levels.  All the networks and CNN carried as their top story a flooded home ablaze in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, where firefighters had to swim to the house to respond. 

Pompton Lakes is a community I know so well through my work on the DuPont Pompton Lakes Works site cleanup.  I was part of an EPA team deployed to help with the U.S. government’s response and recovery efforts.  FEMA’s mission assignment for us was to collect household hazardous waste, retrieve displaced drums and containers of hazardous chemicals, and to help residents remove oils and chemicals from their flooded basements.  Paterson, Lake Hiawatha, Wayne, Pompton Lakes and so many other North Jersey communities calmly, with strength and resolve, rose to the challenge to respond, unite, once again, to rebuild and move on.  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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A Week for Happy, Lead-Free Kids

By Esther Kwon

Among the long list of things my parents told me to be afraid of when I was a child, lead-based paint was never one of them. Perhaps the reason why I was able to grow up without worrying about what was coating the swing set I played on and what kind of paint was on the walls in my room was because of the federal regulations and efforts made since the late 1970s to prevent children and adults from being affected by lead-based paint poisoning. However, it saddens me to know that there are still so many children who are exposed to lead-based paint hazards in and near our homes.

I came to the EPA as an intern to learn about the Agency’s regulatory rulemaking process for six months, but I did not expect to gain so much knowledge about lead hazards and safety practices. For example, I found out about the types of cognitive disorders that could occur in children from lead poisoning, and learned that even a few particles of lead in the dust are enough to poison a child. More than 1 million children are affected by lead poisoning today, and this is especially troublesome, in my opinion, because lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable. Although, as an intern, the scope of power I have at the EPA is extremely limited, I am thankful that I can assist in any way that furthers the Agency’s public health protection and education goals for lead poisoning prevention, including reaching you through this blog.

This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, a week dedicated to educating parents and children on the dangers of lead-based paint exposure and the importance of the health and safety of our homes. To participate, you do not have to donate money or start a march for the cause. You can help by simply spreading the knowledge to your friends and family that lead in paint is still a problem in the US and that lead-based paint exposure can be prevented. Send an E-card on lead-safe work practices or print out a poster and hang it at your work place or at school. You can also find great prevention information and a neat web tool to help parents identify common danger zones for lead in older homes built before 1978. Check it out. Read about the facts and act on them.

About the author: Esther Kwon is an intern for the Lead, Heavy Metals & Inorganics Branch in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. She will be returning to Smith College in December, where she will be graduating in the spring.

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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Kicking off Emergency Response Week

Welcome to Emergency Response Week at Greening the Apple! We are thrilled to be able to highlight the work of our On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) and Community Involvement Coordinators who work on the ground in communities while emergencies are happening. All week we are going to be featuring some of the hard working people from our region who have responded to a variety of emergencies from 9/11 to an oil refinery explosion in Puerto Rico. During the recent flooding from Hurricane Irene, we caught up with Christopher Jimenez and he gave us a few minutes of his precious time to describe his work.

[flv width=”360″ height=”240″]http://www.epa.gov/region02/mediacenter/video/anosccoordinator.flv[/flv]

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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Celebrating 25 Years of Community Right-to-Know

By Bill Finan

In the mid-1980s, I was surprised to hear stories about firefighters being injured and sometimes killed when they entered a fire scene that included chemicals. Those firefighters were brave and wanted to save lives, but they had not been trained to understand chemical hazards.

Just as firefighters often did not know what chemicals were in a burning building, or how the chemicals could harm them, it would have been difficult for the average person to know what toxic chemicals were in their neighborhoods. But after a series of deaths and injuries because of accidental chemical releases, Americans demanded to have information about chemicals in their community. EPA’s Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the motto, “If you don’t know, you don’t go,” adopted by firefighters in 1986 resulted from that public outcry.

I was part of EPA’s initial implementation of EPCRA. I understood and championed its main goal that would allow average citizens and experts in the community aware of nearby toxic chemicals to analyze how great the chemical risk is and what to do about it. EPCRA provides information about what chemicals are stored, used, and made in your community and what toxic chemicals are being released in your community too. It also helps emergency responders, like police and firefighters, plan for events where there may be life and death decisions based on the information provided by EPCRA.

EPCRA requires the establishment of state and local planning organizations made up of environmental, public health, transportation, and emergency management experts; as well as industry, police and fire departments, elected officials, news media and concerned citizens. Plus facilities must notify to local, state and EPA officials on where and how chemicals are stored and in what quantities, and if there is a chemical accident. Lastly, many facilities must report every year to EPA on releases of close to 600 toxic chemicals. These requirements empower you and your community to make informed decisions to better protect your health and your environment.

Over the last 25 years, I have been proud to continue to work on EPCRA issues and watch it evolve to help raise toxic chemical awareness and improve planning efforts. I believe that EPCRA has made American’s safer from toxic chemical accidents and I look forward to another 25 years of EPCRA.

Learn more about what we have accomplished with EPCRA

About the author: Bill Finan has been working for EPA since 1986 and helped write many of the EPA documents related to EPCRA.

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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Improving Air Quality in Schools to Celebrate Children’s Health Month 2011

By Lou Witt, Indoor Environments Division and Kathy Seikel, Office of Children’s Health Protection

With an emphasis on healthy schools, this year’s Children’s Health Month brings back memories of life as a student. When we were children, not many people focused on indoor air quality in schools. Until fairly recently, few made removing asthma triggers a priority. Industrial strength pesticides and cleaners were used liberally, and teachers smoked in their own separate lounge. Times have changed. Now we understand how important a healthy environment is to the learning process.

Children are uniquely affected by environmental hazards due to their body size and their immune and respiratory systems not being fully developed. A well located, thoughtfully designed, soundly built and efficiently operated school can help ensure a safer, healthier learning environment for children, allowing them to thrive and succeed.

Join EPA this October and throughout the year as we work with partners to promote healthy environments where children live, learn and play. Proven, cost-effective and often simple actions can directly benefit everyone’s health. Indoors, testing for radon, removing furry pets and stuffed animals from classrooms, using low/no VOC products and going smoke-free are common. The physical location of a school also can affect students. A properly located building can help reduce children’s exposure to harmful pollutants by ensuring a potential school site is safe from contaminants and environmental hazards.

If your community is renovating a school, building a new one or wanting to improve the health and performance of students, Children’s Health Month is the perfect time to get involved. Two great places to visit that will get you started are EPA’s new School Siting Guidelines, which can help mitigate outdoor environmental risks; and the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit, which provides guidance and helpful instructions for teachers, staff, students and the community.

Better indoor air quality protects children’s health. To see how you can help create a healthier school environment for youth in your community, visit www.epa.gov/schools/ and www.epa.gov/iaq/schools

Learn more and tell us how you celebrated Children’s Health Month by promoting green, clean and healthy schools!

About the authors:

Kathy Seikel, a senior policy analyst with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection, has worked for EPA since 1984 and remembers when, as a college student in the 70s, smoking by students and teachers was allowed in all classrooms.

Lou Witt, a Program Analyst in EPA’s Office of Radiation and Indoor Air, is promoting indoor air quality risk reduction

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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Balm Before the Storm

By Tom Damm
Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

When it comes to efforts to keep sewage, polluted stormwater and trash from reaching District of Columbia waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay, the past few weeks in the nation’s capital have been quite eventful.

EPA was on stage for two major announcements in the District that will have a big impact in cleaning up the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and Rock Creek, and improving the health of the downstream Bay.

The first event marked the signing of an EPA Clean Water Act permit that includes green infrastructure features designed to make the city more absorbent to rainwater – or “spongier” in the words of District Department of the Environment Director Christophe Tulou.

The second event signaled the start of DC Water’s massive series of underground tunnels that when complete will capture nearly all of the sewage overflows from the sewer system during heavy rains.  The project was prompted by a federal consent decree.

Both initiatives will not only promote clean water, they’ll also create jobs and improve the quality of life in the District.

With efforts like these, we’re looking forward to the day when one of the biggest concerns posed by a storm in D.C. is whether the Nationals game is played or not.

Stay tuned.

Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

Click here to view the DC Water project press release

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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Upcoming Weekend Activities: ’Tis the Season for Pumpkins, Scarecrows, and Bats!

Time is running out to enjoy October activities in New York. Take advantage of the fun fall offerings before it gets too cold! Did we leave something out? Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section.

Bats at the Belvedere: Learn about the bats native to Central Park in this interactive lecture. Friday, October 21, 5-6:30 p.m.

Carve for Farms: Head to Brooklyn for a pumpkin carving contest and fall food fest to benefit farms affected by Hurricane Irene. Sunday, October 23, 4-8 p.m.

Common Ground Festival: Fun activities for the whole family in Morningside Park. Sunday, October 23, 1-5 p.m.

Enchanted Wave Hill: Head to the Bronx for some magical woodland adventures at Wave Hill Gardens. Saturday, October 22, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Green City Challenge: Free family event encourages teams to challenge their knowledge of how to eat, work, and live green. Sunday, October 23, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Halloween Parades: Kids in costumes can participate twice daily in the New York Botanical Garden’s Halloween Parades. Saturday and Sunday, October 22-23,  noon and 2 p.m.

Harvest Festival: Visit the Brooklyn Bridge Park and celebrate the season in a picturesque location. Saturday, October 22, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Perennials Giveaway: Registered gardens can come pick up free perennials in Queens while supplies last. Saturday, October 22, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Pumpkin Picking on Historic Farm: Head to Staten Island and visit a farm dating from the 1800s. Friday and Saturday, October 22-23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Scarecrow Making: Make your own scarecrow with the Urban Park Rangers in Van Cortland Park. All supplies provided! Sunday, October 23, 11 a.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.

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Liberty Island goes Super-Green

By Elizabeth Myer

Liberty Island, sister to Ellis Island, the historical point of entry to our country for millions of immigrants, is making more history of its own. The home of the Statue of Liberty is now also sporting a new sleek pavilion that is New York City’s fifth building — and only the fifth structure in a national park in the country — to receive LEED Platinum status.

The pavilion, designed by Acheson Doyle Architects, is encased in a sturdy steel frame as a means to withstand the weather elements and the heavy visitor traffic on the small island. The frame itself can even be easily disassembled and recycled should the building be deemed obsolete, an effort that signifies Liberty Island’s ties to the past and thoughts towards the future. The building is equipped with state of the art green features, and scored a whopping 55 “green” points, three points higher than the 52 points required to gain a building LEED Platinum status. An advanced geothermal heating and cooling system heats the building from 1,500 feet underground and to control energy consumption, the interior and exterior lights use LED lighting, which ultimately reduces consumption by 65 percent. A rooftop system collects and filters rainwater, diverting it for the pavilion’s usage, reducing the overall water usage by 40 percent. Even the café is “green”! Once used, the kitchen oil is recycled and used to feed a generator that powers a portion of the pavilion’s energy needs. 

Will you be one of nearly 3 million people who make the annual trip out to Liberty Island? If you’ve visited since construction ended in June 2010, share your thoughts on the new pavilion with the rest of us.

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 – Modeling Matters: See Mack Run the Half-Marathon

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

By Tanya Otte

Lots of people like running. I’m not one of them…unless it involves running models! Since I was hired, I’ve been a part of a team that develops and runs models to help understand interactions between meteorology, natural and anthropogenic (“human-caused”) emissions, and air quality. The heartbeat of the air quality model development occurs in EPA’s Atmospheric Modeling and Analysis Division and with the Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling (CMAQ) system, the Nation’s premier air quality simulation model.

CMAQ (pronounced “see mack”), a state-of-the-science tool for air quality modeling, was first publically released in 1998 by the EPA, and it now boasts a worldwide community of more than 3,700 users in 95 countries. CMAQ has been used by the EPA and by state environmental agencies to support air quality policy decisions. Nations around the world use CMAQ to study air pollution issues and create air quality management strategies. CMAQ provides daily ozone forecast guidance issued by the National Weather Service. The CMAQ user community spectrum spans academia, government, and private industry. CMAQ is one of the most widely respected modeling tools of its genre.

This month, EPA is releasing CMAQ 5.0. Major updates to CMAQ, like this, occur about every three years. CMAQ 5.0 incorporates the latest developments in air quality science, and it can be used to examine the interactions between air quality and climate. One of the biggest advances in CMAQ 5.0 is a comprehensive and synchronized coupling of meteorology and air chemistry to more accurately simulate the feedbacks between weather and air pollution.

This month, EPA also celebrates the 10th anniversary of its partnership with the Community Modeling and Analysis System (CMAS) Center. CMAS has been the conduit for public releases of CMAQ, and they have been instrumental in brokering international scientific contributions to CMAQ. CMAS has provided training and online support for the CMAQ community, and they host an annual workshop dedicated to exchanging the most updated scientific findings. This year’s workshop takes place October 24-26, and more than 250 participants have registered.

CMAQ just completed the half-marathon (measured in years, not miles). With a strong team at the EPA and a diverse and growing community of international collaborators, CMAQ will be running the race for many years to come!

About the author: Tanya Otte, a research physical scientist, has worked at EPA in atmospheric modeling and analysis since 1998.

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.

"Fall into Winter Savings and Comfort"

By Doug Anderson

It’s October and here comes the cold weather and the high winter energy bills. I am in the middle of raking leaves and cleaning the gutters at my house and wanted to remind my fellow homeowners about other important projects to do in the fall to help keep your home comfortable and improve energy bills before the really cold weather hits. If you have not looked into your attic for a few years, then consider putting this near the top of your to-do list: check out what the insulation on your attic floor looks like.

There are two basic problems to look for: Air leaks and low levels of insulation. Why are these important? Holes that lead from your home up into your attic allow air to rise out the top of your house in the winter, wasting heat and energy. When it is cold outside, warm air in your house rises just like hot air in a hot air balloon. Sealing the leaks in the attic floor holds the warm air in, reduces cold drafts in the lower part of your house, and saves energy. Next, good levels of insulation prevent heat loss directly through the ceiling of your house into your attic.

Sealing air leaks and adding insulation in the attic is something I did a few years ago that really helped my energy bills and improved the comfort of my home, not to mention lowered my carbon foot print. Finding air leaks in your attic can be tricky, unless you know what to look for. ENERGY STAR has a Sealing and Insulating DIY Guide to help you available for free.

You also need to check how much attic insulation you have. Get a tape measure or yardstick and measure the depth of the insulation on your attic floor. Some home improvement stores actually give away cardboard rulers you can use in the insulation aisle. See the ENERGY STAR website or the side of an insulation bag or roll for details on how much insulation you should have for your part of the country.

The next question to ask is “should I fix this myself or hire a contractor?” If you do decide to do-it-yourself, you can save up to one-half to one-third in contractor costs. However, hiring a contractor is a great way to complete this project. Professionals have special tools to help spot problems you might miss, materials to seal holes quickly and completely, and equipment to install the insulation in a fraction of the time it would take you.

Again, to learn more about this project, to to www.energystar.gov under the home improvement topic “Air Seal and Insulate.”

About the author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 11 years. He works on issues related to energy efficient residential windows and insulation products.

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.