Monthly Archives: March 2012

“Green” Weekend Activities: March 16-18 | NYC

Whether you choose to spend St. Patty’s day outdoors partaking in the festivities, or indoors catching a show or making free art, this promises to be a great weekend filled with a diverse range of new things to try!

31st Annual Making Brooklyn Bloom: Kick off the spring gardening season at Brooklyn Botanic Garden with this daylong conference exploring the many ways we can cultivate and celebrate sustainable innovation in the face of environmental degradation, climate change, and making do with less. This free event features exhibits and workshops on the cutting edge of sustainable urban gardening—from growing food on roofs and windowsills to reducing your garden’s carbon footprint. No preregistration is required, but you must arrive at 10 a.m. to register for the day’s workshops. Saturday, March 17, 10:00 a.m. –4:00 p.m.

Adult Art Workshop — Botanical Paper Making: Join Greenbelt resident artist Kathy Trimarco for a relaxing afternoon of the ancient art of papermaking using a variety of botanical accents. Participants will learn how to make several sheets of paper and create a decorative date book cover embellished with pressed leaf specimens. Saturday, March 17, 1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.

Generation to Generation—BombaYo: Head to the BronxWorks Heights Senior Center at 200 West Tremont Avenue for an intergenerational community project designed for preserving cultural traditions through song, drums and dance. Sunday, March 18, 10:00 a.m. –12:00 p.m.

Greening from the Ground Up: Pratt Center for Community Development in partnership with Brooklyn Community Foundation, LISC NYC and State Farm is pleased to present this free event, featuring EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck as the keynote speaker. Registration is required. Friday, March 16, 9:30 a.m. –4:00 p.m.

NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade: Go green – literally – at the St. Patty’s Day Parade. The parade marches north on Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 50th Street all the way up past the American Irish Historical Society at 83rd and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 83rd Street to 86th Street. March 17, 11:00 a.m. –5:00 p.m.

SPRING ALIVE! – Dixon Place: A world premiere interactive theatrical experience starring Broadway performer and recording artist Spring Groove. SPRING ALIVE! uniquely combines the Folk, Pop, Ecstatic and Meditative Mantra music genres into an entertaining and humorous journey as Spring travels the globe in search of everything from glowsticks to gurus. Sunday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m.

St. Patrick’s Day Eco-Crafts: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in an alternative way by bringing your children to learn about conservation through eco-crafts. Urban Park Rangers offers this program to encourage children to let their imaginations run wild in a safe and supportive atmosphere. All supplies will be provided, and the event is free of charge. Saturday, March 17, at 1:00 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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What Lurks Beneath

By Lee Murphy

WaterSupply_059They’re underground, out of sight, and generally out of mind.

Many of us take for granted the systems that bring water to our homes and take it away when we’re done with it.  That is, until something goes wrong.  Water main breaks and sewage backups are becoming more common.  They offer stark reminders that the network of pipes and other water-related hardware in many communities is getting old.

Studies like one done in Pennsylvania in 2008 identify just how serious the problem is, and the challenges of financing needed infrastructure repairs.

So what can you do about it?  If your water and wastewater system is publicly owned (by a local government) you can get involved by:

  • Attending local meetings: Ask about the condition of the system. The best systems maintain an inventory of their physical assets, know the condition of those assets, know the risk and impact of failures, and have a plan for the eventual replacements. If the managers of your system cannot provide the information, suggest they do Asset Management Planning.
  • Learning more: You can find more information on public water and wastewater systems here, here, and here

Out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind when it comes to our water infrastructure!  Do you know anything about the condition of the water infrastructure in your community and what’s being done about it?  What is water worth to you?

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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Controlling Mold Growth Indoors During Spring Cleaning and the Rest of the Year

By Laureen Burton

Spring is around the corner and with the season’s warming weather we often open up our windows and take on the task of spring cleaning. As a toxicologist for EPA’s Indoor Environments Division, I’m often asked if I have any indoor air quality tips that people might use during spring cleaning.  One step people might not think of  is to check for excess moisture that could lead to mold growth and take steps to prevent mold from becoming a problem in the home.

Remember, the key to mold control is moisture control.

Molds are everywhere in the environment and can grow on virtually any organic substance where moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, carpet and insulation. Mold growth will often occur when excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials.  If the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed, not only can the damage from mold growth be costly, but it can affect your home’s indoor air quality and the health of people sensitive to mold, too. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposure include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.

To avoid that, here are some tips you can use:

  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.
  • Identify and fix plumbing leaks and other water problems immediately.
  • If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes dry the wet surface and reduce the moisture/water source.
  • When water leaks or spills occur indoors – ACT QUICKLY.  If wet or damp materials or areas are dried 24 to 48 hours after a leak or spill, in many cases, mold will not grow.
  • Scrub any visible mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water and dry the area completely.
  • Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
  • Keep indoor humidity low.  If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60 percent  — ideally between 30 and 50 percent — relative humidity.  Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, a small, inexpensive instrument available at many hardware stores.

For more information and links to EPA mold guidance, please visit our mold website. Happy spring cleaning!

About the author: Laureen Burton is a chemist/toxicologist with EPA’s Indoor Environments Division where her work for the last 15 years has addressed pollutants and sources in indoor air.

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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Science Wednesday: Big Ideas in Tiny Particles

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.
By Phil Sayre
You may have heard of nanotechnology, but then again, maybe you haven’t.  Despite the ubiquity of nanotechnology—it is now widely used in products ranging from clothing (which incorporates bacteria-fighting nano silver) and sunscreen, to nanoengineered batteries, fuel cells and catalytic converters—many people don’t know what it is or why it’s important.

It’s easy to discount the impacts of nanotechnology because we don’t see nanoparticles.  They are really small.  In fact, a nanometer is a mere one billionth of a meter.  If that doesn’t give you a visual, here are some examples of what I mean:
•    A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick
•    There are 25,400,000 nanometers in one inch
•    A human hair is approximately 80,000 nanometers wide.

Despite their diminutive nature, nanomaterials have global impact.  Research funds for nanotechnology have steadily increased over the past decade to over $10 Billion USD per year worldwide!

The U.S. government’s efforts to assess the potential risks of nanotechnology are coordinated by the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a collaborative project comprised of 25 agencies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Environment and Health Sciences, National Institute of Health, and others. The NNI is also cooperating with the European Commission to conduct environmental, health and safety research (for more, see: http://us-eu.org).
The big question about nanotechnology is not whether we can benefit from the technology, but whether we can ensure the technology is as safe as possible.

Over the next three years, the EPA will be working to design a number of new tools that will make it much easier for manufacturers and consumers to recognize the safety or danger of certain nanomaterials.  We also plan to provide solutions and alternatives to the way nanomaterials are produced in order to make their production greener in the near future.
As we collect more data on nanoparticles, we can better understand how to use nanotechnology in sustainable, healthy ways.  Nanomaterials are excellent tools for efficiency and sustainability, and every year we become more and more adept at using those tools to make our world a better place.

Attending the Society of Toxicology Conference in San Francisco this week?  Be sure to attend the Nano Workshop on March 13 (2:45pm – 3:45pm) that will summarize U.S and E.U. Nanotechnology research programs.

About the author: Phil Sayre is the Deputy National Program Director for the Chemical Safety for Sustainability Research Program.

Editors 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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Science Wednesday: EPA Teams Up with L’Oréal to Advance Research

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

By Monica Linnenbrink

Now I can look great and feel good about using my favorite mascara. Why? Because EPA researchers are collaborating with L’Oréal to help end the need for animal testing. EPA is using its ToxCast program to screen chemicals to understand their potential impact on biological processes that may lead to adverse health effects.

EPA’s ToxCast program screens chemicals using state-of-the-art scientific methods (including robots!) to learn how these chemicals affect the human body. We’ve never tested chemicals found in cosmetics before, so this partnership with L’Oréal will expand the types of chemicals that ToxCast screens.

L’Oréal is providing EPA $1.2 million in collaborative research funding plus safety data from a set of representative substances used in cosmetics, which will expand the types of chemical use groups assessed by ToxCast. EPA will then compare its ToxCast results to L’Oréal’s data to determine if ToxCast is appropriate for use in assessing the safety of chemicals used in cosmetics.

Traditional chemical toxicity testing is very expensive and time consuming, so many chemicals in use today have not been thoroughly evaluated for potential toxicity. ToxCast, on the other hand, is able to rapidly screen thousands of chemicals via hundreds of tests and provide results that are relevant to various types of toxicity.

As someone who uses L’Oréal products, I’m excited that they are taking the initiative to better understand how chemicals in their cosmetics might interact with my body’s natural processes. I’m also excited to hear that they are exploring new ways of testing that could end the need for animal testing. Since I use their products on my face, it’s nice to know that L’Oréal is working to ensure their products are safe to use and are working to do this in an animal friendly way.

About the author: Monica Linnenbrink is a Public Affairs Specialist in 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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Where Were You in 1917? | The History of EPA’s Edison Environmental Center

By Kevin Kubik

When I was growing up in Hopelawn, NJ only three miles from the Edison Facility, my parents, who grew up in nearby Perth Amboy, would tell stories from their childhood, of soldiers marching over the Raritan River Bridge on their way to Europe to fight in World War II.  Little did I know at that time that I would spend 30 years of my adult life working in the very facility that those soldiers departed from on their way to war.

Google Maps view of ammunition bunkers along the Raritan River

EPA’s Edison Environmental Center, located in what was once known as the Raritan Arsenal, has a storied past. It was commissioned in 1917 as the Raritan Arsenal and contained 275 buildings, most of which were ammunition magazines.  Its location next to the Raritan River made it an ideal ammunition facility as ships could easily be loaded and sent to points east during both World Wars. Many of the ammunition bunkers are still visible on Google Maps.

In its glory days, the facility occupied more than 3,000 acres and included what is today known as the Raritan Center Industrial Park, Middlesex County College, Edison County Park, 300 housing units developed into the College park Complex and the remaining facility belonging to EPA and the Government Services Administration (GSA).

Right before WWII, several warehouses were built on the facility and the Army started to assemble tanks and small arms.

Jeeps getting ready to be shipped.

They also began test firing machine guns and calibrated bomb sites utilized by the Army Air Corps (as the Air Force was called back then) in their bombers.

When WWII ended, several more warehouses were built to store the leftover military equipment until it was determined how to dispose of it.  In the 1960’s, the Army closed the arsenal and started selling off the property.  More than 2,300 acres were sold to developers for the Raritan Center Industrial Park.  Middlesex County College was opened in 1964 on a parcel of the property.  Thomas A. Edison Park was constructed next to the college on a piece of the former arsenal. GSA bought the rest of the land and used it for various purposes.  An environmental presence (a small laboratory and a mobile laboratory) has been on-site since 1966 and was known as the Hudson -Delaware Valley Federal Water Pollution Control Administration.

Federal water Pollution Control Administration mobile laboratory. (Photos c/o EPA’s Joseph Pernice)

In 1970, as part of the birth of EPA, several buildings housed many of the organizations that still exist today on the facility.  In 1986 EPA bought a total of 205 acres which included more than 40 buildings.  Over the years since 1986, many of the older buildings were either renovated or demolished and EPA now occupies 5 buildings and more than 50 trailers and modular structures.

So if you’ve ever wondered what you parents or grandparents know, now is the time to ask them and you’ll discover that they are a wealth of information.

About the Author: Kevin Kubik serves as the region’s Deputy Director for the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment out of EPA’s Edison Environmental Center.  He has worked as a chemist for the Region for more than 29 years in the laboratory and in the quality assurance program.

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 Competition Gets Green!

A few weeks ago, I heard “Class, we’re going green for the rest of the year!”

I lifted my head up from my morning desk nap, thinking that I’d see the entire class turn into the Incredible Hulk or maybe leprechauns since it is March and St. Patty’s day is right around the corner.  How cool would that be?  I was a little sad to find out my teacher was talking about doing stuff like recycling, emailing homework, and using water bottles instead of paper cups to cut down waste.

This was going to be boring and cause more work for us. But the teachers were sneaky and said it was a competition between classrooms. The goal: Whichever class cuts down the most waste in their room wins a pizza party at the end of the school year. Excited we wanted to learn more.  This is where we had our “learning lesson”.  Sneaky teachers always have lessons to teach.

My 7th grade class learned that many things we use everyday can be made from recycled materials.  Cereal boxes, soda bottles, paint, tissue paper and homework paper after we turned in homework (not before, I tried) are examples of stuff that can be used as recycled material.  Recycled materials also turn up in products that are very different from what you thought they’d be used for.  New playgrounds use recycled rubber as part of the ground underneath the swings.  You’ll know what I mean if you ever walk on a new playground. It’s bouncy. No more gravel or rocks like our parents had when they walked 5 miles to the playground!

For February, my class has recycled over 250 cans of aluminum and 100 pounds of paper. The classroom doesn’t look as dirty either because we try not to use a lot of paper and instead email our homework to our teacher.  We also made one student each week responsible for shutting the lights off when the class leaves the room, to cut down on electricity waste. We’ll find out how my class does against the other grades at the end of the school year in July.

Some basic information on recycling helped us get creative with what we can and cannot recycle.  Want to know more about all the benefits of recycling and what you can do, click on the link:  http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/recycle.htm

Brandon’s a middle school student on Chicago’s Southwest side.  He enjoys filmmaking and Whirlyball.

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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Wake-Up Call

By Stephanie Thornton

It’s never a good feeling to wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of rushing water. First, my foggy brain thought a neighbor might be taking an oddly-timed shower. Then I considered whether it was possible for a toilet to suddenly be that loud. As I groggily made my way to the source, I realized it was actually the sound of a broken faucet supply line spraying water all over the bathroom…and into the hallway. After a frantic few seconds, I was able turn the shut off valve to stop the tidal wave.

This is an example of a sudden–and very obvious–leak, but the average household is losing 10,000 gallons per year in more subtle ways. In fact, easy-to-fix household leaks add up to more than 1 trillion gallons of water lost annually nationwide. These leaks can rob homeowners of 12 percent of their water bill.

That’s why we are encouraging homeowners to find and fix leaks during the fourth annual Fix a Leak Week, March 12-18, 2012. Sponsored by EPA’s WaterSense® program, Fix a Leak Week reminds homeowners of the steps they can take to save water.

1. Check
First, check your home for leaks. You can detect silent toilet leaks, a common water-wasting culprit, by adding food coloring to the toilet tank and waiting 10 minutes before flushing. If color appears in the bowl, your toilet has a leak. Visit for do-it-yourself toilet repair tips and videos.

2. Twist
Give leaking faucet and showerhead connections a firm twist with a wrench or apply pipe tape to ensure that pipe connections are sealed tight. If you can’t stop those drops yourself, contact a plumbing professional. For additional savings, twist WaterSense labeled aerators onto bathroom faucets to use 30 percent less water without noticing a difference in flow.

3. Replace
If you just can’t nip that drip, it may be time to replace the fixture. Look for WaterSense labeled models, which use at least 20 percent less water and are independently certified to perform as well as or better than standard models.

By checking more carefully under the sink, I might have spotted the worn hose and replaced it before my mini-flood. Want to do more? Join EPA and thousands of your neighbors by supporting the We’re for Water campaign, organized by WaterSense. Visit to take the I’m for Water pledge.

About the author: Stephanie Thornton has worked at EPA for nearly 10 years and manages marketing and partner relationships for WaterSense’s residential plumbing program.

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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Integrated Pest Management | Working with Schools

South 17th Street Elementary School in the Ironbound District of Newark, NJ

By Adrian Enache

Integrated Pest Management – is that a euphemism for whipping pests into shape? Well, that’s one way to look at it. But it’s so much more…

IPM is a system for reducing pesticide risk and exposure to humans, particularly children. Put simply, IPM is a safer and usually less costly option for effective pest management in a school community.

Two years ago, EPA launched an effort to highlight the nationwide adoption and implementation of IPM in Schools.  The focus: to expand protection for a vulnerable population – school age children. Here, in New York City and the region, we embarked on developing and implementing a robust School IPM program.  One of the main features of an effective IPM program is to monitor the pest population and determine the best pest control methods, using pesticides only and only if all other methods failed.

The first step consists of assessing the existing, if any, pest control practices in our schools. While some schools have IPM, others don’t.   Working together with our state and local pesticide regulatory and education department partners, we developed letters signed by all these agencies outlining the importance of IPM  in school settings and urging school administrators to consider adoption of IPM, as the not only environmentally sound pest control alternative, but also the economically advantageous alternative. In New York State, our letters reached 3,300 public schools attended by more than 1,782,000 students.  In New York City alone, we reached 1,700 schools attended by more than 1,100,000 children.

Naturally, our outreach efforts don’t stop here. We recently reached agreements with the New York State Pest Management Association (NYSPMA) and the New York City Pest Management Association (NYCPMA) to have these organizations promote to their membership adoption of IPM as the day to day operational method. The same is also talking place in other EPA Region 2 states.

Also as part of the regional School IPM efforts, we planned pilot projects in selected areas in New York City and Newark, New Jersey, targeting several environmental justice communities located in Staten Island, Brooklyn, West Harlem and Washington Heights.

About the Author: Dr. Enache is the Manager of Pesticides Program out of EPA Region 2’s office in Edison, New Jersey.  In this capacity, he is responsible for the implementation of pesticide regulations throughout the region.  He feels that strongly that the safe use of pesticides is one of the most important missions of the EPA’s Pesticides Program.  Dr. Enache and his team are focusing their outreach efforts towards schools and child care facilities, considering that children may potentially be exposed to harmful pesticides if misused or overused.

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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Federal EJ Strategies Mark a Major Development in the Advancement of Environmental Justice

By Lisa Garcia

Since the start of the Obama Administration, we at EPA and other federal agencies have made tremendous strides toward addressing the public health and environmental problems that exist in many low-income, minority, and tribal communities across the country.

Ever since the EPA and the White House reconvened the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) for the first time in 10 years, we are collaboratively and comprehensively bolstering environmental justice efforts across federal programs, policies and activities.

Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than our recent release of federal agency environmental justice strategies. More than 10 EJ IWG agencies released or updated their strategies which include efforts to, monitor pollution, provide grants and technical assistance to stakeholders, and improve job training. For example, the Department of Commerce is providing competitive grants to support workforce development in economically distressed and underserved communities. I often hear when I am out in communities, that efforts like these make a real difference, both for the participants who receive job training and the neighborhoods they serve. Find out more about the efforts EPA has planned in our strategy, Plan EJ 2014.

These strategies also encourage agencies to work together to ensure the necessary resources and expertise are available to address challenging environmental justice issues. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is an excellent illustration of how, by working together, the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Transportation (DOT) and EPA are helping to improve access to affordable housing, provide more transportation options at lower costs, and protect the environment in communities nationwide. This partnership is making a big difference in communities, including Bridgeport, Conn, where more than 90% of the population is low-income or minority.

In 2010, Bridgeport was chosen to be one of EPA’s EJ Showcase Communities, a project that seeks to bring together government and other organizations to improve the delivery of services in communities with environmental justice concerns. Now, through improved collaboration between federal agencies, Bridgeport community leaders are leveraging more than $25 million to advance environmental justice—including a $14 million Department of Education grant that is helping low-income and minority students become college ready and an $11 million grant from DOT to support infrastructure improvements including creating bikeways and connections between the waterfront and surrounding neighborhoods.

Through continued collaboration, like the effort in Bridgeport, EPA, federal agencies, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia, can each play a role in ensuring that all communities are protected from environmental harm and benefit from important federal government activities.

About the author: Lisa Garcia is the Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice to Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

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.