Monthly Archives: January 2012

Surfin’ Your Watershed

By Christina Catanese

For those who many not have the opportunity, or the ability to surf the big waves, there is an EPA website that allows you to do a slightly different type of surfing.  The website gives you the tools you need to easily Surf Your Watershed!

Find your nearby watershed by using the simple form located on the page.  Once you locate your watershed, there are many links filled with information for you to search.  For example, I searched the Wissahickon Creek that I bike and hike near on the weekends. Then I followed the first link, “Citizen-based Groups at Work in this Watershed,” and found out that there were 36 different organizations that are working to protect its water quality.  Now I can contact one of these groups to find out about cleanups, monitoring activities, restoration projects and other activities!  This was only one example of the thousands of surfable watersheds in the country.  You can surf until your legs…well, hand… gets tired!  And there’s no risk of getting water up your nose or embarrassing yourself in front of a beach full of people.

Tell us what you find when you Surf YOUR Watershed!


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

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

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A Healthier You In 2012

By Lina Younes

At the beginning of the year, I decided that 2012 was going to be the year for me to get healthier. I thought that if I used that as my guiding light for the months ahead, this resolution would likely survive beyond the month of January.

Granted that in order to get healthier, I needed to make some changes to my daily habits. Lifestyle changes and making better choices are definitely required to be successful in reaching my goal. There is no doubt that losing weight seems to be in everyone’s top five New Year resolutions. However when the pounds don’t come off as fast as we like, we are likely to be disillusioned and return to our unhealthy practices. So, what are some of the lifestyle changes that I’ve made to achieve my healthier goal? Well, I’ve started by making healthier eating choices. How about eating more fruits and vegetables? How about looking at our  old cookbooks for creative recipes that not only include healthier foods, but add some variety to the menu? How about exercising more? I’m not talking necessarily about going on the treadmill that has been collecting dust in the basement. I mean we can take longer walks even when we walk our dog. That’s a nice way of getting some fresh air and getting some exercise without really trying. Also, don’t forget the sun block even if it’s wintertime.

What other choices can we make to have a healthier lifestyle?

  • Well, reducing the amount of clutter around the home is a great start to get in the right state of mind.
  • Increasing our recycling rate is another good habit at home and at work.
  • Testing your home for radon will also help you to have a healthier home.
  • Reading the label first before using household chemical products and pesticides

These are just a few of  the healthy habits that should lead to a healthier 2012. Why don’t you commit to taking action for a healthier you and a healthier environment? Visit EPA’s Pick 5 for some suggestions.

As always, we would like to hear from you. What have you done to make 2012 a healthier year for you and your family?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as EPA’s Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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

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

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Cómo ser más saludable en el 2012

Por Lina Younes

A principios del año, decidí que el 2012 sería el año en el cual me dedicaría a ser más saludable. Pensé que si fijaba esa meta como mi norte para los meses venideros, esta resolución tendría mejores posibilidades de sobrevivir más allá de enero.

Admito que para lograr ser más saludable, tendría que hacer algunos cambios en mis hábitos cotidianos. Cambios de estilo de vida y mejores selecciones definitivamente son requeridas para tener éxito en esta tarea. No hay duda que perder peso siempre encabeza la lista de las cinco resoluciones del Nuevo Año más populares. Sin embargo, cuando no vemos que las libras desaparecen al ritmo deseado, nos desilusionamos y regresamos a nuestras prácticas habituales que suelen ser nocivas a la salud. Entonces, ¿cuáles son algunos de los cambios en estilo de vida que necesitamos para alcanzar nuestra meta de ser más saludable? Bueno, yo comencé por hacer mejores selecciones al momento de comer. Por ejemplo, ¿qué tal le parece comer más frutas y vegetales? ¿Qué tal le parece consultar los viejos libros de cocina en busca de recetas creativas que sean no tan sólo más saludables sino también ofrezcan mayor variedad para el menú? Otro buen hábito—hacer más ejercicios. No estoy hablando necesariamente de buscar la trotadora que ha estado cogiendo polvo en el sótano, recomiendo el salir a caminar. Tomar caminatas más largas cuando saca el perro a pasear, por ejemplo. Es una buena manera de respirar aire fresco y hacer ejercicios sin un esfuerzo mayor. Y no se olvide de usar la crema para protegerse del sol aún en el invierno.

¿Quiere otras sugerencias para adoptar un estilo de vida más saludable? He aquí algunas:

  • Bueno, el reducir el exceso de papeleo y cosas amontonadas en el hogar es una buena manera de poner orden y crear un ambiente más sano y un estilo de vida más saludable.
  • El reciclar más es también un buen hábito en el hogar y en el trabajo.
  • Hacer la prueba del radón le ayudará.
  • El leer la etiqueta de productos químicos caseros antes de utilizarlos es esencial para proteger a su familia.

Estos son tan sólo algunos buenos hábitos para logar un 2012 más saludable. ¿Por qué no se compromete a tomar acción para ser más saludable y proteger el medio ambiente también? Visite la página de Pick5 de EPA (Elija 5) para ver algunas sugerencias.

Como siempre, nos encantaría escuchar su sentir sobre este tema. ¿Qué está haciendo para lograr un año más saludable para usted y su familia en el 2012?

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña la persona encargada de alcance público y comunicaciones multilingües en la Oficina de Asuntos Externos y Educación Ambiental de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. Antes de integrarse a la labor de la EPA, trabajó como periodista dirigiendo la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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

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Upcoming Weekend Activities: January 28th and 29th

Take advantage of the mild winter temps by getting out and doing something different this weekend. Naturally, we’ve helped to get you started with a list of great suggestions of free events taking place across the boroughs. 

13th Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival: Ring in the year of the Dragon with the Better Chinatown Society’s parade, which starts in Little Italy and goes through Chinatown. Sunday, January 29, 1:00 p.m. 

Beginning Beekeeping at Wave Hill: Thriving beehives exist in community gardens, backyards and on rooftops throughout NYC. Share the joys and challenges of urban beekeeping with Bronx beekeepers Roger Repohl and Sara Katz. Learn what you need to start a hive – including equipment, start-up costs, and where to obtain bees – to help you decide if urban beekeeping is for you.  Registration required, online at www.wavehill.org, by calling (718) 549-3200 x305 or at the Perkins Visitor Center. Saturday, January 28, 1:30 p.m. –4:30 p.m.

Comedy Night @ The Knit w/ Hannibal Buress: Hannibal Buress is a standup comedian from Chicago who has appeared on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen, and Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham. See him for free at the Knitting Factory on Sunday, January 29, 9:00 p.m. (ages 21+). 

Fitness & Nutrition Boot Camp: Learn how to make smart food choices, and eat healthy at this instructional Fitness & Nutritional Boot Camp.  The class will include yoga, low-impact fitness, stretching, 1 on 1 Monitoring, and much more! The best part? It’s free with an NYC Parks recreation center membership. Takes place every Saturday through 3/24/12, 9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m. 

Kickoff Celebration: Paint Tom’s Fence: Head over to the Richmondtown branch of the New York Public Library to celebrate Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer in a variety of fun and crafty ways. Saturday, January 28, 1:30 p.m.

Seal Exploration:  New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to deer and seals, wildlife viewing opportunities exist year-round in all of our parks and beaches. Head to Orchard Beach Nature Center for some seal exploration this Saturday, January 28, 10:00 a.m.   

Urban Tango Trio at the Queens Library: Three awesomely talented virtuoso musicians (Latin Grammy winner Octavio Brunetti, piano; Pedro Giraudo, bass; Machiko Ozawa, violin) capture the beauty, passion and excitement of Argentine tango in a repertoire ranging from traditional favorites to contemporary interpretations. Broadway location, Saturday, January 28, 2:00 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.

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The Mullen Monument – Not What It Used To Be

By Nancy Grundahl

I won’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of the Philadelphia sculptor, Daniel Kornbau. I hadn’t either until I began researching my ancestry. I learned that Daniel was the brother of my great grandmother Emma. His most famous work is the Mullen Monument, which was commissioned by the millionaire William James Mullen. It was, in fact, on display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park. You can see it today in Laurel Hill Cemetery, where its location is marked on the visitors’ map. For Rocky fans, Laurel Hill is the cemetery where Adrian Balboa was buried.

After seeing many photos of the Mullen Monument on the web, I was surprised to see how weathered it was “in person.” Sharp edges were rounded. You can barely read Daniel’s name and address under the seated woman. Years of acid rain have not been kind to my great uncle’s work of art.

Philadelphia is downwind of many industrial sources of sulfur dioxides (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, particularly power plants that burn fossil fuels. These pollutants combine with moisture in the air to form the acid rain that reacts with the calcite in marble and limestone, causing the calcite to dissolve, destroying the fine details that Daniel worked so well to create.

The good news is that in the last few years, pollutants causing acid rain in the Philadelphia area have been reduced by actions including installing additional controls on power plants and burning cleaner coal. And, it was a pleasure to see Administrator Jackson’s recent announcement about requiring significant new reductions in power plant mercury and toxic emissions.

What can we do to help? Conserve energy, since energy production causes the largest portion of the acid rain problem. In this way we can help preserve fine works of art for future generations.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently works in Program Support for the Water Protection Division. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.

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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Gowanus Cleanup – EPA Lays the Gauntlet

By Sophia Kelley and Elias Rodriguez

Everyone who’s ever seen the patches of rainbow-hued slicks on its surface or taken a whiff after a heavy rain knows that Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal is filthy. The canal is so filthy, in fact, that it was added to the Superfund list of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. Earlier this month, EPA released a study of the options for cleaning up the chemical contamination and last night a public meeting was held to discuss the investigation.

The newly completed feasibility study evaluates the technologies that could be used to clean up the canal, and will be used to develop a cleanup plan for the Gowanus. Last night, nearly 200 people attended a public meeting at the stuffy auditorium of Brooklyn’s P.S. 58. ATSDR, State, City and local officials also participated. The good seats filled early. A background discussion was followed by a comprehensive presentation of the seven remedial alternatives laid out in the study. The goal was not to choose a cleanup plan (that step will come later in 2012), but rather to discuss the “array of technologies” and options that are available to address the contaminated sediment in the canal. Slide after slide of charts, tables and graphs of information were punctuated by the occasional photograph of the canal and technologies that have worked at similar sites across the nation. The crowd gasped when a close up shot of a floating fish carcass popped up as a graphic reminder of what’s at stake. “Is that a whale?” asked a front bencher. “Disgusting,” proclaimed another audience member. 

EPA’s Walter Mugdan answers questions at last night's Gowanus Canal meeting.

EPA’s Walter Mugdan, the director of the Superfund program and Christos Tsiamis, the project manager patiently answered all the questions posed during the lively question and answer session.  “Who’s going to pay for all of this?” A: the parties responsible (24 entities and counting) for the pollution will pay. “What about water quality?” A: It’s important, but being addressed under the Clean Water Act, not primarily Superfund. “Will the City government live up to its obligations as a responsible party?” A: ‘We expect the City to do the right thing’ said EPA.  

After more than two hours the debate was concluded. Public participation is a vital part of the Superfund process and last night’s well informed and actively engaged crowd was proof positive that the EPA welcomes community involvement as part of the multimillion dollar cleanup of the Gowanus Canal.

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: Riding in Style

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

By Katie Lubinsky

Imagine the swooshing sound of air being vacuumed. This is what I heard the second I stepped into the car. As I looked inside, I noticed the jungle of wires, plugs and Back to the Future-like machines. While maybe not as cool as a DeLorean, the vehicle I just stepped into might just be a clean air scientist’s dream ride.

Lucky for me I was riding with one—EPA’s own Gayle Hagler (someone I’ve blogged about previously). Gayle invited me to ride along with her in EPA’s tripped out science vehicle, so I could learn more about the Geospatial Mapping of Air Pollutants (GMAP) project.

Through the project, Gayle and other researchers are designing, developing and utilizing state-of-the-art mobile measurement systems to gain insights into the sources of air pollution and the impacts emissions have on public health.

This isn’t your ordinary car. What started out as an everyday, economy-sized, gasoline-powered vehicle was transformed into an electric-powered, zero emissions, air quality ‘sniffing’ machine that can travel up to 100 miles, give or take depending on the speed. Gayle and her EPA colleagues use it to measure air pollution on and near highways.

From the outside, the car looks normal except for a small sphere-like ‘hat’ on top. This is where the high-tech GPS antenna sits and gives the car’s location by the second. Inside is where you really notice the differences. Here, there are many machines that take in outside air as the car drives, which analyze the amount and types of pollutants being emitted by other vehicles.

I’ve never ridden in an electric car before and especially one with top-of-the-line air pollution monitoring equipment in it. I felt as if I were a character in Back to the Future with all the science going on but relieved to notice Gayle was way more down to earth than crazed “Doc Brown.” As we rolled, she explained some of the data activities going on around us like how she and her colleagues collect measurements on pollutants important to the Agency, including black carbon, carbon monoxide and fine particles.

I felt very privileged to ride in such style—an innovative EPA vehicle that measures air quality as part of our effort to inform policy from a local to national level.

About the author: Katie Lubinsky is a student contractor working with EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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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Winning with Radon

My name is Hayden.  I am a sixth grader from Athens, GA.  I entered a poster contest about testing your home for radon and won first place in the state and second place for the nation. I learned a lot about radon and how each year it kills more people than drunk driving.  Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Also, if you smoke, it can further increase your chances of getting lung cancer.

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas that can be found all over the United States.  It is a natural occurring element that comes from the ground.  Radon can seep through cracks or pipes and get into your home.  The odorless, invisible gas gets trapped inside buildings and houses which can be dangerous to your health.

Testing is the only way to determine the level of radon in your home, school or building. Radon detection kits are not very expensive and can be purchased online, as well as at hardware stores and other retail outlets.  The kits come with instructions that are easy to follow and should only take a few minutes of your time.

If you discover your home has high levels of radon, professionals can help reduce the amount of trapped radon and help you lower the risk of radon-induced lung cancer.  You can also build new homes that are equipped to be radon-resistant.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sponsors a national poster contest each year for children between the ages of 9 and 14. The radon specialists need your help in spreading facts about radon.  So get busy and spread the word that radon kills!   Visit www.sosradon.org to learn more about radon and to gather information about the annual poster contest.

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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Radon: A Leading Environmental Cause of Cancer Mortality

By Dr Susan Conrath

Throughout my career as a Public Health Service Officer and EPA employee, I have always been surprised by the relatively low level of radon awareness throughout the country. Radon is a Class A carcinogen- we know that it causes cancer in humans. But, this huge environmental risk is not on most individuals’ “radar screens.” Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil. Since it is a gas it can easily move through spaces in the soil and escape into the air where it is diluted. However, when radon enters a home through cracks in the foundation or other openings, it becomes trapped inside and can accumulate. You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but it’s there. In fact, its discovery as an indoor air issue occurred when an individual, Stanley Watras, set off radiation alarms in a nuclear power plant because his home’s levels were so high.

Many people do not realize that radon is the number two cause of lung cancer in the U.S.; exceeded only by smoking. For never-smokers radon is the number one cause of lung cancer. Scientific studies have confirmed the risk and show no evidence that there is any “safe” level of radon.

As shown on our Health Risks Page radon-induced lung cancer deaths [at the U.S. average indoor air concentration of 1.3 picocuries/Liter of air [1.3pCi/L]] are in the same general range as deaths from leukemia and lymphoma and are greater than a number of selected cancers that we currently spend large amounts of money to research and/or combat.

Protect your family! The only way to know if you have radon in your home is to test. Testing is easy and inexpensive. If your level is high fix the problem. It’s one of the best investments you can make for your family’s health and it will enhance the future sales potential of your home by making it a healthier place to live. Learn more about how to test and fix for radon.

If you are building a house or having one built, radon-resistant new construction [RRNC] techniques can be used to avoid having to deal with high radon concentrations. It’s less expensive to install RRNC during construction than to have to fix a radon problem at a later date.

About the author: Dr Susan Conrath is a CAPTAIN with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She works in the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air as an epidemiologist and international expert on radon risk.

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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Who Should We Honor on Earth Day?

By Todd Calongne

Calling all environmental do-gooders! We need your help to find New Yorkers who are making a positive impact on health and the environment.  Each year EPA seeks candidates for its annual Environmental Quality Awards and nominations are now invited.  Hopefully, you’ll take a few minutes and nominate friends, neighbors, colleagues, officials and organizations who are making a difference for the environment!

How about recommending a company that puts the environment above sales goals?  Do you know someone who started a community recycling program? Or someone who teaches youngsters how to be green? Or when a friend who volunteers for a green cause rather than sitting home on Saturday clearing off a week’s worth of recorded TV programs.  You know what I mean. While clearing your DVR doesn’t classify as a green initiative, it’s a better alternative than buying than buying DVDs and VHS tapes only to have them end up in a landfill. 

I personally see so many acts of environmental activism here at EPA’s New York City offices.  Regional Administrator Judith Enck is active in assuring we all “walk the walk” with better recycling, double sided printing and reusable materials in the office to name a few.  Kudos to the EPA Region 2 employees who are fighting the environmental fight daily.

Please tell us about your favorite environmentalist.  The awards recognize achievements in six categories:

  • An Individual Citizen with an impact on the environment
  • Non-Profit Environmental Organization or a Community Group
  • Environmental Educators
  • Green Business and Industry making strides to make our surroundings safer and better
  • Federal, State, Local or Tribal Government or Agency who can show excellence in environmental management or environmentally minded thinking
  • Press and Media who cover or uncover important issues assuring the public is aware of concerns in their area and of course shine a light on key issues serving as a check on government organizations

Nominations are due February 21st and can be submitted at: http://www.epa.gov/region2/eqa.

About the Author: Todd Calongne serves as the Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Branch Chief for EPA’s Region 2.  New to EPA, Todd spent years working on community outreach for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International 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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