Monthly Archives: April 2012

Power to the People

Over the last few weeks, I have toured sites that hold an exciting potential for the next chapter in America’s energy future. Most people don’t look at landfills, contaminated industrial sites, or parking lots with a twinkle in their eyes, but I do. I hope you will too.

Solar Panels

Solar PV array at Brockton Brightfields installation in MA

As a solar person, I am always on the look-out for prime sites for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. In addition to solar resources, I look for a few simple things: clear southern exposures, flat or gentle grades, and close proximity to power lines. In general, I am looking for space, whether it is an open rooftop or an abandoned rail yard.

With over 13,000 sites and nearly 22 million acres of EPA-tracked potentially contaminated and underutilized properties nationwide, I see an untapped potential for large-scale deployment of renewable energy. That acreage receives a whole lot of sunshine and, in some cases, gets its fair share of wind. For communities interested in renewables, these sites offer a unique value proposition.

In many cases, these properties have blighted the community for years. From the perspective of a renewable energy developer, these sites are attractive due to their proximity to existing distribution or transmission lines, favorable zoning, and potentially lower land costs.  With this redevelopment approach, I see the potential to turn these liabilities into community assets by remediating the site and deploying pollution-free energy facilities.

Wind-Turbines-at-Steel-Winds-facility-in-NY

Wind-Turbines-at-Steel-Winds-facility-in-NY

Partnering with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and remediation experts here at EPA, the RE-Powering team converted our collective knowledge into new tools to guide state and local governments, site owners, clean-up project managers, and other stakeholders through a process for screening potentially contaminated sites and landfills for their suitability for future redevelopment with PV or wind energy.

This knowledge is now bundled in a simple decision-tree format to enable communities to screen sites without needing renewable energy expertise. We built the screening tools to provide quick feedback on whether or not a site could be viable based on technical or economic criteria. The tools provide a thorough check than my quick check during a site walk. Throughout the process, we provide context for each of the criteria and point to additional tools and references to work through the evaluation process. Our goal is to empower communities to bring their vision of a solar array or wind farm one step closer.

While site walks at brownfields and landfills don’t always offer inspiring views, they are the next step in an inspired approach to expanding our American-made, renewable energy generation. Screen your sites. Take a walk. RE-Power America’s Land.

About the author: Katie Brown is the AAAS Science & Technology fellow hosted in the Center for Program Analysis in the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. Prior to her fellowship, Katie worked in the solar industry in product development and at NREL on device design and government-industry partnerships.

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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Seis Palabras para el Planeta: ¿Cuáles son las suyas?

Por Jessica Orquina

¿Alguna vez ha escuchado acerca de los ensayos de seis palabras o la ficción flash? Es un género singular de escribir que se enfoca en compartir una historia o idea significativa en tan solo seis palabras.  La idea de historias muy breves comenzó antes de la era digital, sin embargo comenzó a despuntar recientemente a medida que las personas comenzaron a compartir sus vivencias mediante los medios sociales. Los ensayos de seis palabras me llamaron la atención y pensé que sería una gran manera de celebrar el medio ambiente.

En la EPA, estamos lanzando el proyecto de Seis Palabras para el Planeta en consorcio con la revista SMITH . Para comenzar, quisiera compartir algunos de los ensayos de seis palabras escritos por mis colegas aquí en la EPA.

He aquí mis Seis Palabras para el Planeta:

Muchas naciones. Un planeta. Nuestro hogar.

He aquí otros ensayos de seis palabras escritos por mis compañeros de trabajo en EPA:

Familias saludables, comunidades limpias, América fuerte
Lisa P. Jackson, Administradora de EPA

Respire: Momento en la naturaleza. ¡Respire!
Danny

Nuestro único. Nuestro singular. Planeta hogar.
Jeanethe

Ahora es su turno. ¿Cuáles son sus Seis Palabras para el Planeta? Escriba su ensayo de seis palabras y compártalo en: http://www.smithmag.net/planet. Mediante este proyecto, destacaremos sus Seis Palabras para el Planeta en la página de EPA.gov y en los canales de los medios sociales de EPA.

Visite la revista SMITH  Y comparta sus Seis Palabras para el Planeta hoy!

¿Cómo participar?

Para participar en las Seis Palabras para el Planeta, puede ser un ciudadano de cualquier país y vivir en cualquier lugar. Siempre y cuando tenga 18 años de edad o más, es bienvenido para participar. Si es más joven, pida permiso a sus padres o guardián antes de enviar su ensayo.

 Puede entrar sus Seis Palabras para el Planeta en el sitio Web en cualquier momento desde ahora hasta el 30 de junio de 2012.
 Las Seis Palabras para el Planeta deben de ser originales.
 No puede someter un ensayo de seis palabras que pertenezca a otro autor o tenga derechos de autor.
 Sus Seis Palabras para el Planeta no pueden contener lenguaje obsceno, indecente o profano.
 Sus Seis Palabras para el Planeta no pueden contener amenazas ni declaraciones difamatorias.
 Sus Seis Palabras para el Planeta no pueden contener un lenguaje de odio dirigido a una raza, color, género, orientación sexual, origen nacional, etnia, edad, religión ni incapacidad.
 Sus Seis palabras para el Planeta no pueden servir de publicidad, promoción ni auspicio a un producto o servicio.
 El tema de sus Seis Palabras para el Planeta no puede ser la desnudez, las drogas, la violencia, ni símbolos ni actos de odio.

Al someter sus Seis Palabras para el Planeta, usted debe aceptar las condiciones delineadas con anterioridad. EPA y la Revista SMITH se reservan el derecho de descalificar o no considerar cualquier ensayo enviado por cualquier razón.

Acerca del autor: Jessica Orquina trabaja en la Oficina de Asuntos Exteriores y Educación Ambiental como la principal persona encargada de medios sociales para la agencia. Antes de unirse a EPA, trabajó como especialista de relaciones públicas en otra agencia federal y es una ex piloto militar y de aerolíneas comerciales. Vive, trabaja y escribe en Washington, DC.

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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Earth Day

student

Every year, Earth Day is presented in our classrooms as a project and this year my class picked a theme for the entire school.

We thought long and hard about the project and what we could do to make an impact. We thought about recycling, cutting back waste, and using less energy.   Then the idea came to me. What about tree planting?  When I looked out the classroom windows, all I saw was pavement. There was pavement everywhere –the school yard, playground, sidewalks, and roads.  I could only see a handful of trees.  It only makes sense to be just to the environment by making it more GREEN.

Did you know trees should cover at least 40% of city land, but many times all we have is pavement for roads and sidewalks? It’s great to play ball on, but what about fresh air or shade during a hot summer day? Trees help fight off emissions from dirty car exhaust and shade trees save energy by cooling down open spaces.

Trees are as important to human beings as food and water are. They keep the city air cool and clean. They provide oxygen and help us conserve resources.  They keep rainwater from running off the land so that it saturates the earth. They also help control floods and hold soil in place, especially when it is dry.

So this year, we’ll be planting 10 trees for Earth Day near our school campus, which were donated by some of the town’s community council.

trees

What about you? What does Earth Day mean to you?

Danny is a soon to be freshman in one of Peachtree City’s schools. He’s an awesome soccer player and loves driving around the family golf cart.

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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Natuculture: Biomimicry in Urban Landscapes

Editor’s Note: This week we’ve asked members of P3 teams to share information about the sustainable design projects they’ve been working on to showcase at this weekend’s National Sustainable Design Expo.

Thanks to EPA’s People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) student design contest, multigenerational teams of students from different disciplines have been designing and implementing natuculture (pronounced nā-chew-culture) systems on the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (NCA&T) campus since 2008.

Typical college landscape

Before

What’s “natuculture,” you ask? The term, coined here in NCA&T, refers to any human-made system that mimics nature in “human disturbed landscapes,” such as your typical college campus. The term is derived from ‘nature culture.’

For the students’ project, they converted a conventional lawn located on a highly trafficked area in campus near the football stadium, into a natuculture system. Instead of a lawn, it’s now a living display of a vibrant, biologically diverse, multifunctional, and ecologically complex “water and carbon dioxide harvester system” that requires close to zero use of artificial chemicals.

Features of the system include a green roofed porch, a rain garden, a rainwater harvester, a solar powered bird pond, bird feeders, and at least 50 species of flora, including edible fruits such as figs, grapes, and apples.

An array of birds—American gold and red finches, titmice, Carolina chickadees, mourning doves, hawks, downy wood peckers, and cardinals—are frequent visitors. Other fauna, insects and arthropods that feed at the site, include bumblebees, spiders, butterflies, squirrels and a ground hog known as ‘Arnold.’

Natuculture landscape

After

Rainwater from the roof is directed to a rainharvester, which serves as the main source of irrigation for the site. Any overflow is directed to a rain garden that soaks it up before it can turn into runoff, recharging groundwater.

The green roofed porch is illustrating urban heat reduction through the use of such ‘living’ roofs.

In addition, 32 six-by-three-foot raised vegetable beds, which we call “oasis sofas,” were added to the site, part of a replicated scientific study that compares conservation agriculture with conventional methods to produce organic vegetables in urban areas.

Conservation agriculture mimics a forest ecosystem, and the practice has been shown to provide a host of benefits: rainwater harvesting, healthier soil, increased crop yields, carbon sequestration, improve soil and water quality, less erosion, less reliance on fossil fuel and labor, and significant decreases in the use of artificial chemicals by providing natural fertilizers and disease and pest control.

This coming weekend you can come see a demonstration and ask the students about our natuculture project as we join a host of other EPA-supported student P3 teams at the National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall.

About the Author: Guest blogger Manuel R. Reyes is a Professor of Biological Engineering at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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What Environmental Justice in Action is All About

By Mustafa Ali

Nothing brings about change faster than when local communities get involved and organize to improve the conditions in their cities, towns, and neighborhoods.  Over the years, I have travelled to  communities across the country, where the impacts of pollution and public health problems are all too real. On each of these visits, I have been struck by what a difference it makes when residents are involved in the environmental decision-making and have a voice in designing a vision for the future in the places they call home.

Community engagement is a key tenant of environmental justice and why it is so important that we have a place to share our stories, or successes, and our expertise.  It is our hope that this blog will support the online community of advocates working for environmental justice and create a space where we can highlight the positive activities happening in communities to reduce environmental and health disparities. Organizations, businesses and citizens throughout America are trying a wide range of approaches to advance environmental justice. We want to capture these good ideas and connect them to others across the country.

Additionally, many government agencies offer resources for overburdened communities, but it can seem daunting to locate them all. And, since EPA’s Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, promoted environmental justice as one of her top priorities, there has been important progress at EPA and other federal agencies to address environmental justice concerns and expand the benefits of government programs in low-income and minority communities. Environmental Justice in Action! will also serve as a space where we can share information about the resources, tools, and programs available to help achieve healthy and sustainable communities.

My goal for this blog is to make this a resource for you and to provide an opportunity for everyone to join the conversation on environmentalism.  So, it is important that we hear from you! Let us know what types of information would be most useful and interesting to you.What do you want to learn more about? Please post your thoughts and comments here and on future posts to help us better design this blog to meet your needs. While the government can provide support and assist in building capacity in communities, putting environmental justice into action takes you!

About the author: Mustafa Ali currently serves as the Associate Director of Communications for EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. He has been a national speaker, trainer and facilitator on social justice issues for the past 20 years and focused on the issue of environmental justice for the past 19 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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Giving New Life To The Dead Zone

By John Senn

Dead zone. It sounds like something out of a zombie movie, and I wish it was. But dead zones, areas of a water body where aquatic life cannot survive because of low oxygen levels, are very real. Dead zones are generally caused by significant nutrient pollution, and are primarily a problem for bays, lakes and coastal waters since they receive excess nutrients, usually nitrogen and phosphorous, from upstream sources. The largest dead zone in the United States – about 6,500 square miles, or roughly the size of Massachusetts – is in the Gulf of Mexico and occurs every summer because of nutrient pollution from the Mississippi River Basin.

Because the dead zone in the Gulf is such a complex problem, addressing it requires a comprehensive strategy on the part of five federal agencies, the states that comprise the Mississippi River basin, farmers, university scientists and many others. Last week, the group charged with giving new life to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone – the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force – met in Memphis, Tennessee.

This meeting wasn’t your ordinary government get together. Jane Hardisty, who works on agricultural issues for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Indiana, gave a great demonstration – think back to high school earth science classes — about the benefits of leaving soil untilled. Davis Minton, who’s been farming his family’s land in Missouri since he was a boy, talked about how wetlands mitigation can help restore the environment and increase profits. And Suzy Friedman from Environmental Defense Fund discussed how evaluating and adapting land management practices can reduce nutrient pollution.

But my favorite part of the meeting was a trip to Stovall Farms in Clarksdale, Mississippi to see a host of nutrient pollution reduction strategies in action. Stovall Farms, which is also the birthplace of the blues musician Muddy Waters, is a roughly 6,000-acre farm that produces corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat. A number of innovative, cost-effective projects across Stovall Farms, which were partially-funded through EPA’s Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program, are designed to more efficiently use water and prevent nutrient-laden soil from leaving the farm.

Addressing nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin is a tremendous task, but I was heartened by all the hard work that I heard about and saw last week. I’m hopeful that all this great work will someday mean that you’ll only hear the term “dead zone” in zombie movies.

About the author: John Senn is the deputy communications director in EPA’s Office of Water in Washington, D.C. Previously, John was a press officer in EPA’s New York City regional office handling issues related to water and Superfund cleanups. He has also worked in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and is a member of the Agency’s emergency response team.

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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Green Choices Are The Right Choices

By Lina Younes

Environmental protection takes hard work. Doing the right thing for your environment and your health involves tough choices. Whether you want to save water, save energy, protect natural resources, reduce toxic chemicals, all these actions involve making a choice between a greener option or a less environmentally friendly option. Let me explain.

The greenest option is not always the easiest. For example, you want to save water? You can’t let the water faucet run without end. You can’t take a shower mindlessly. Want some suggestions for water conservation?  Turn off the tap while shaving or brushing your teeth. Take showers instead of baths and the shorter the better.

Over the years, many of us have gotten used to recycling used bottles and cans. However, reducing waste from the outset involves a greater effort. What can you save today? For example, instead of using disposable plastic bags for saving food, save leftovers in reusable durable containers. Look for products that have less packaging. These are some suggestions on how to make greener choices for the environment.

Want additional suggestions on how you can help protect natural resources like water, air, land, and energy? Please visit our Website.  The choices may seem simple, but there is no doubt that they require a conscious decision if you want to incorporate these actions into your daily lifestyle. Doing so will go a long way to having a healthier environment. What have you done for the environment lately? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

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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Opciones verdes son mejores para el medio ambiente

Por Lina Younes

La protección ambiental es un trabajo arduo. El tomar la decisión correcta a favor del medio ambiente y su salud requiere tomar decisiones difíciles.  Sea que quiera conservar agua, conservar energía, proteger los recursos naturales, reducir las sustancias químicas, todas estas acciones conllevan hacer una elección entre una opción verde o una menos favorable para el medio ambiente.  Me explicaré.

La opción más verde no siempre es la más fácil.  Por ejemplo, ¿quiere conservar agua? No puede dejar el agua corriendo del grifo sin fin. Tampoco debe tomar una dicha infinitamente sin pensar.  ¿Quiere algunas sugerencias acerca de conservación de agua?  Cierre el grifo mientras se afeita o se cepilla los dientes. Tome duchas en vez de baños de tina y mientras más breves sean mucho mejor.

Durante los años, nos hemos habituado a reciclar las botellas y latas usadas.  Sin embargo, el reducir los desechos desde el inicio definitivamente requiere un esfuerzo mayor. ¿Qué puede ahorrar hoy?  Por ejemplo, en vez de usar bolsas plásticas desechables para conservar comida, conserve las sobras en envases reutilizables y duraderos. Busque productos que tengan menos envolturas. Esto son tan sólo algunas sugerencias de cómo puede tomar decisiones más favorables para el medio ambiente.

¿Busca sugerencias adicionales sobre cómo puede ayudar a proteger los recursos naturales como el agua, el aire, la tierra y la energía? Visite nuestro sitio Web www.epa.gov/pick5.  Las opciones parecerían sencillas, no obstante requieren una decisión consciente si desea incorporar estas acciones en su diario vivir.  El hacerlo hará mucho bien para lograr un medio ambiente más saludable. ¿Qué ha hecho por el medio ambiente últimamente? Nos encantaría escuchar su opinión.
Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como portavoz hispana de la Agencia, así como enlace de asuntos multilingües de EPA. Además, ha laborado como la escritora y editora de los blogs en español de EPA durante los pasados cuatro años. Antes de unirse a la Agencia, dirigió la oficina en Washington, DC de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales a lo largo de su carrera profesional en la Capital Federal.

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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Sustainable Weekend Activities Earth Day Special | NYC

Looking to get involved this Earth Day? Check out the links below for a sample of activities going on in your community. While you’re out and about, take a photo any time during the 24 hour period of April 22 and upload it to your Flickr account to share it with EPA’s State of the Environment group. EPA will be highlighting one photo from each U.S. state or territory and will feature the state with the most participation! Let’s go NY!

A Clearing in the Forest: Earth Day Celebration: Concert and mini-garden planting in Central Park. Sunday, April 22, 12:00 –2:00 p.m.

B’Earthday: Come celebrate Earth Day and the Audubon Center’s 10th Anniversary! Enjoy nature games, tours, lakeshore clean-up, educational activities, performances and crafts.Sunday, April 22, 1:00  –4:00 p.m.

Earth Day 2012 5K Run/Walk and Fair: The celebration includes the Kids’ Earth Day Kingdom featuring environment-themed displays, live entertainment, inflatable rides, face painting, games and contests, arts & crafts activities. The winners of the Annual “Calendar Art Contest” will be recognized and awarded their prizes on the main stage. The Fair is preceded by the HCIA’s Annual 5K Race and the 5K Fitness Walk to benefit the Friends of Liberty State Park. Saturday, April 21, 9:30 a.m. –12:30 p.m. at the Historic CRRNJ Terminal at Liberty State Park.

Earth Day at Grand Central Terminal: The annual New York City EarthFair will be held inside Grand Central Terminal in Vanderbilt Hall from Thursday, April 21- Saturday, April 21 and outside of Grand Central Terminal on Friday, April 20.

Earth Day on the High Line: Celebrate the end of High Line Spring Cutback and the beginning of spring with a day of community festivities at the High Line. Chelsea Market Passage on the High Line at West 15th Street. Sunday, April 22, 10:00 a.m. –4:00 p.m.

Earth Day at the Staten Island Zoo: Celebrate the Earth with the Staten Island Zoo. Stop by an Education Station and learn about composting and how you can do it in your own home! Sunday, April 22, 1:30 –3:30 p.m.

Earth Day Times Square: Stonehenge’s Ritz Plaza Firefighters’ Memorial Park, 235 West 48th Street. Sunday, April 22, 11:00 a.m. –3:00 p.m.

Let’s Watch Movies Outdoors (Earth Day Edition): After you plant a tree or go pick up trash on the beach this Sunday, make sure you save some space in the evening for a special (free) screening from Rooftop Films. Though their summer season doesn’t kick off until Friday, May 11, the veteran outdoor film festival will be hosting an Earth Day screening of the BBC’s Planet Earth. Saturday, April 21, 7:00 p.m.

New York Cares Day: Clean. Plant. Volunteer. Fundraise. Saturday, April 21, 9:30: a.m. –3:00 p.m.

Nourishing Earth Day: Volunteer to help out at this festival, which provides information on healthy eating and protecting the environment. Bread Basket at Woodycrest United 89 West 166th St Bronx, NY, Saturday, April 21, 2012 from 11:00 a.m. –2:00 p.m.

Safe Disposal Event: Union Square, Manhattan. Sunday, April 22, 10:00 a.m. –4:00 p.m.

Let us know how you are celebrating in the comments section!

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 Water Means to You…in just Six Words

By Christina Catanese

Click for how to submit your six words!

I swear that pesky word counter at the bottom of my screen is mocking me.  My wordiness seems to get me in trouble, and my word count is always higher than I want it to be.  700 words when I need it to be 500.  253 when it has to be below 250.  100 words when I need it to be…6?

Six words!  How can you say anything in only six words?

It turns out you can say a lot. Believe it or not, there have been short stories and even memoirs written in just six words.

And now, EPA has teamed up with SMITH Magazine to launch the Six Words for the Planet project, where anyone (you!) can submit a six word essay about our planet.

Since this is the Healthy Waters Blog, we’ve obviously got water on our minds, so I and a few of my fellow EPA employees took a crack at writing our own six words… for water.

Water: could I use less? Yes.

-Christina

Headwaters to Bay, canoe that someday.

-Ken

Water? Almost everywhere; most, alas, undrinkable.

-Larry

Water Needs Energy. Energy Needs Water.

-Walter

Chesapeake and Delaware Bays…Our Legacy.

-Matt

Water. We can’t live without it.

-Nancy

Burdened mind. River walk. Feeling better.

-Alysa

When the currents are swift, portage.

-Brent

Everyone deserves clean water. Get involved.

-Tom

And now it’s your turn!  This Earth Day, take a few minutes to think about what the planet (water or otherwise) means to you, then pen your own six word essay and submit it here.  You might even have your six words featured on EPA websites or social media channels!

Get more information about Six Words for the Planet in this Greenversations Post.

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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