Monthly Archives: July 2012

Don’t Let Mosquitoes Ruin Your Summer

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By Lina Younes

With this unrelenting heat and dry weather I didn’t think we would have a problem with mosquitoes in our area. However, it seems to me that there are unusual numbers of mosquitoes and other bugs this summer in spite of the limited rainfall in our region.

In fact, you do not need a heavy rainy season for mosquitoes to multiply. Mosquitoes can easily thrive without a nearby lake or pond. They just need stagnant water. Any container will do. Even a cap ful of water left untouched for less than a week can serve as an ideal breeding ground for numerous species of mosquitoes to proliferate. The female mosquito simply lays her eggs in the water that remains untouched in a ditch, a flower pot, a can, a bird bath or an abandoned tire. And in a couple of days, voila! Hundreds of mosquitoes are born to eagerly feast on us.

So what should we do to prevent the proliferation of mosquitoes? The most important thing is to remove any containers where they may live and breed.  Empty and change the water in bird baths, fountains, or wading pools every couple of days to destroy potential breeding areas. Clear rain gutters and eliminate old tires or other containers around the home which can accumulate water.

Once you’ve eliminated any potential habitats for mosquitoes, use insect repellents safely to protect yourself and your family. As with other pesticide products, EPA recommends that you read the label first and follow the directions on the label. Also, by avoiding outdoor activities during the peak hours for mosquito activities (from dusk to dawn), you may reduce the potential for a mosquito bite. These preventive measures will discourage some of these flying pests and creepy crawlers from using you as their next meal.

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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Capturing Every Drop and Every Voice

By Trey Cody

Water is essential to all of us as individuals, a nation, and as a planet, yet there is a finite supply.

As part of EPA’s 40th anniversary celebration of the passage of the Clean Water Act, we want to hear what makes this resource special to you. And, you have an opportunity to tell us with EPA’s “Water is Worth it” video project!

The Clean Water Act was created in response to a national concern about untreated sewage, industrial and toxic discharges, destruction of wetlands, and contaminated runoff. Enacted in 1972, the Act set a national goal “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.” A special part of the Act gave citizens, like you and me, strong roles to play in protecting and restoring our waters.

EPA is hosting a video project asking Americans to send in videos about why water is worth it to them. Each video should be a 15-second clip with the phrase “Water is worth it because…” and your explanation of why. Videos can be serious, funny, or a little in-between. You could show your favorite activity involving water, talk about water, or even drink some water in your video! You are the director and the star so you can be as creative as you want!

To register, visit EPA’s Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary page and fill out the video entry form. Once you make your video, submit your entry as a response to our promotional video. All videos must be received by September 14, 2012. Get all the information on how to submit your video here!

To learn more about the CWA and other anniversary events and show your support for clean water, please visit these helpful sites:

Have you entered your video yet? Do you have an idea for future projects or contests promoting clean water? Leave a comment and let us know!

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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July’s Fun Finish: Weekend Events July 27 – 29

Eco-Art

Kids and their families are invited to Stuyvesant Cove Park for Solar One’s Family Day. Make ecologically sustainable cardboard animal masks, estuary puppets, leaf people, watercolor paintings and more. Saturday, July 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 23rd St and the East River, Manhattan.

Midsummer Night’s Swing Dance

Bring your dancing partner and swing the night away! South Beach, Sand Lane and Capadanno Blvd, Staten Island. Friday, July 27, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Learn How to Build a Rain Harvesting System

If you don’t have one in your garden, you need one! This hands-on workshop will take you through all the steps involved in building a basic rain harvesting system and teach you about the importance of water conservation. Saturday, July 28 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Tranquility Garden, 267 Throop Avenue, Brooklyn.

Summer Reading about Nature

Join the Greenbelt Educators for a read-aloud of a non-fiction and a fiction book about nature. Then join them for a short hike to experience the sights and sounds of the forest. Afterward, enjoy silent reading of a nature book of your own, or borrow one of theirs. Make sure you stick around for an optional run through the lawn sprinklers. The program is geared toward children ages 4-8. Registration required. Friday, July 27 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Greenbelt Nature Center, 700 Rockland Avenue at Brielle Avenue, Staten Island.

Ping Pong in the Park

It’s time to start competing (or just having fun) in the spirit of the Olympics. Think you’re a volleying champion? Put your skills to the test at the Bryant Park Ping Pong Court on Friday, July 27, anytime between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Paddles and balls will be provided free of charge to those of all skill levels. Bryant Park, near 42nd St and 6th Ave, Manhattan.

Community Garden “Each One – Teach One”

Ever wanted to learn about carpentry, gardening, planting or composting? If so, come to Padre Plaza, Success Garden, Bronx on Friday, July 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to learn these skills and more!

Latin Dancing Under the Stars

Not into swing? Try latin-style! Visit Windmuller Playground (in Lawrence Virgilio Playground), Queens, for an evening of music, face painting for children, a raffle drawing, and Latin dance instruction under the stars. Friday, July 27 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Qi Gong

Qi Gong is the philosophy and practice of aligning breath, physical activity and a wide range of exercises developed in China to promote energy circulation in the body. Start your Friday with natural—rather than caffeine induced—energy at Cloisters Lawn in Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan. Friday, July 27, from 9:30 to 10:30 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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The 2012 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: It’s On!

Today, nearly 3,300 buildings are stepping on the scale and kicking off a national competition to see who can reduce their energy waste the most. That’s right – EPA’s ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings is back and bigger than ever! Now in its third year, the competition pits buildings across the country against each other in a “Biggest Loser”-style battle to work off their extra energy and water “weight” through efficiency improvements.

The weight-loss analogy has always worked well for this competition since the steps involved in healthy weight-loss are the same steps as those to strategically work off energy waste. Competitors measure their starting weight, set goals, make improvements following a strategic approach (not a crash diet), regularly weigh-in throughout their journey, and celebrate successes. On average, 30 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted, which leaves plenty of opportunities for savings.

This year’s participants also come in all shapes and sizes. They represent more than 30 different types of buildings — including retail stores, schools, hotels, and even baseball stadiums — and hail from all 50 states, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. This year’s competition includes a strong showing of buildings from the public sector, including nearly 600 federal buildings, nearly 300 state and local government buildings, 225 public schools, and four buildings owned by the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. The competitors also include a Kmart store on the island of St. Thomas and crime lab in Phoenix.

Of the initial pool of nearly 3,300 competitors, the building that demonstrates the greatest percentage-based reduction in energy use intensity will be crowned as the winner in April 2013. In addition, the competition will recognize the top finishers by building type, as well as all buildings that reduce their energy use by more than 20 percent.  And, for the first time, ENERGY STAR is partnering with EPA’s WaterSense program to recognize the buildings that achieve the largest water use reductions. The 245 buildings in the 2011 competition saved a total of more than 240 million kBtus of energy and $5.2 million on annual utility bills. Given that there are 13 times more competitors this year, the final savings should be enormous!

Visit www.energystar.gov/BattleOfTheBuildings to follow the efforts of the buildings throughout the year. The competition site features an interactive map to find buildings near you, a live Twitter feed where competitors will post updates on their progress, and a user-generated photo stream where competitors will upload pictures of their energy- and water-saving efforts.

Good luck to all of the competitors, and may the best building win!

Alena Hutchison works for the Commercial and Industrial Buildings Branch for EPA’s ENERGY STAR 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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You Don’t Need Oz to Give You a Healthy Heart

By Christina Motilall

When the Tin Man went to the Wizard of Oz to get a heart, I am sure he assumed it was a healthy one. But as we all know, hearts are tricky things, affected by any number of stressors—including, EPA scientists are starting to learn, pollutants.

Everything from what we eat to what we breathe influences our heart in some way. That is why the research of EPA’s Dr. Mehdi Hazari analyzing air pollution effects on cardiovascular health is so important.

By researching and developing new methods to assess cardiopulmonary effects of air pollution, Dr. Hazari is working to ensure that we understand all of the cardiovascular effects our air may have on us. Dr. Hazari calls the effects he is studying ‘latent effects’—ones we cannot see the symptoms of right away, but can lead to subsequent adverse responses triggered down the road.

Dr. Hazari stated that his research has “demonstrated that two health-compromised groups might be more susceptible than healthy individuals: those with hypertension and those with heart disease.” It seems these days we all know someone struggling with heart-related problems, and Dr. Hazari’s research is working to understand what long-term role air pollution may play in this.

The big difference between Dr. Hazari’s research and others I have heard of is that he is not necessarily examining air pollution (specifically ground-level ozone and particulate matter) as a toxicant, but rather as a stressor. “Even though we are sometimes faced with these stressors on a daily basis, our bodies compensate for the insult and continue functioning normally. But have we considered the long-term implications? Because as the effects of these stressors accumulate in the body over time, our ability to compensate decreases and we run the risk of something adverse happening,” Dr. Hazari explains.

And the big picture of Dr. Hazari’s work also means he gets a picture with the President. That’s right. This week he was one of two EPA scientists named as recipients of the 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Next week, Dr. Hazari gets to travel to Washington, DC to meet the Commander-in-Chief and accept this prestigious award for innovative and internationally-recognized research. When asked how he felt about meeting the President, Dr. Hazari stated “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a total honor!”

Along with President Obama, I value Dr. Hazari’s future-focused research illuminating risks to protect the heart health of myself and my loved ones. And you know what? I bet if the Tin Man were here, he would wholeheartedly agree.

About the author: Christina Motilall is an intern for the Office of Research and Development’s Science Communications Team.

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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Keep in Touch with Your Past

By Casey McLaughlin

What happens to collected data?  Every day, the world is stockpiling vast amounts of data and often this data has a spatial component tying it to a specific location on the earth.   For environmental data, the spatial location is a fundamental component.  Geospatial defines the context of a single piece of data and the relationship it has with other nearby data. The general growth in data may seem obvious in our increasingly technical world (smart phones are data making machines).  We are very concentrated on collecting data about where we are right now (real time sensors, crowd sourcing, traffic counts).  Historical data can and should place newer data in context.

EPA, formed in the early 1970s has collected and maintained a mountain of environmental data.  I am familiar with our region’s cleanup program records; along with tabular data (sampling dates, results, QA/QC information) we also collect spatial data in the form of latitude/longitudes, addresses, aerial surveys, sampling plans, excavation maps.  Unfortunately, keeping data is not simple.  Technology has continuously improved.

Wikipedia Cassette Tape Image

Tell me about this music? Who recorded it? Where is my favorite song?

Data collection techniques and sensors have advanced.  Systems have changed.  Data and technology have evolved so that retrieving data from an old database technology may not be possible.  How can I get data from a 5 ¼” floppy disk?  Think about having a stack of old cassette tapes.  How would you get songs into your digital library (easily)?  Imagine the label has worn off 100 cassettes – how would you know where a specific song was located on just one of those tapes?

Old data technology is just one of many complications to using historical and modern data.  Over the last 15 years, EPA has put forth a tremendous effort in digitizing reports.  Certainly electronic record-keeping is superior to paper records????  Don’t get me wrong, electronic records are crucial — hello, I’m an information specialist! Not all electronic formats, however, are appropriate for data analysis.  Can you run a correlation between the data in an archived (paper or scanned) report with new data?  What about using a FoxPro database stored on a 3 ½” diskette (this happened to me a few years ago and it took me awhile to FIND a machine with a disk drive).  How can managers compare post-excavation sampling locations (often represented on multiple versions of a map) with a proposed residential development?  What do you do when you encounter an over-sized map which is now in the electronic record as an “Unscanned Item”?

Using data from the past with data from the future is not trivial and geospatial data has some special considerations beyond technology.  Resolution of aerial imagery may be coarse, but without a time machine, we don’t have the option of re-acquiring imagery from 1950 (talk to me later about a T.A.R.D.I.S.)!  Geo-referencing old photos or CAD drawings can be problematic because of projection complications (oh, what a GIS topic!) and lack of reproducible local control points.  Avoiding the gruesome details, properly dealing with old geospatial data requires some thought and expertise.

Keeping data is not the same as being able to use data in the future.

Most every EPA project report has an element of spatial data.   Having a map electronically may not be good enough for using it with new data in the future.  Properly acquiring spatial data helps make informed decisions now.  Properly maintaining and storing spatial data will help make future decisions better.

Casey McLaughlin is a first generation Geospatial Enthusiast who has worked with EPA since 2003 as a contractor and now as the Regional GIS Lead. He currently holds the rank of #1 GISer in EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.

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 New Car

By Amy Miller

I have a headache. I just bought a new car and I tell you, it’s confusing. We have a van and an AWD wagon. We like them both, but as you know the gas is killing us.

Let’s go for one of those 40 mpg and greater cars, I told my husband. After all, we drive 30,000 miles a year. If our old cars got 20 miles to the gallon and these cars get 40, you do the math. I did, and I realized I could save $3,000 a year at $4 a gallon. That is nothing to sneeze at. I’d spend $3,000 instead of $6,000 a year on gas.

Wait a minute. $6,000 a year? Yup. 1,500 gallons of gas. So I bought the shiny little silver subcompact, the one with a good engine and enough room for my kids to be comfortable in back.

OK, so it only gets 33 mpg, but still.

And I no sooner had it home than I started putting things in the trunk and realized I better stop. There wasn’t any more room.

Uh oh.

Can we all four go to NY and still bring clothes? Well, maybe in summer and spring, but never when we need snow pants and boots. Can I pick up my daughter when she has skis? Well yes, as long as there were no other kids but her and her brother.

Maybe I should have read the “what should I consider when buying a new car” hint in EPA’s Tips to Save Gas and Improve Mileage webpage. It says “Buy a fuel efficient model in the size category that meets your needs. (emphasis mine).

So then I redo the math. What if we have to drive the van more often so we can fit luggage or a friend? Suddenly the equation changes. Maybe a mid-size car that gets 28 miles to the gallon would be the perfect in between. But maybe my daughter will not be in the car much, now that she is in high school. Or maybe we will buy a cargo box. Oh, my headache is getting worse.

Maybe next time I’ll just go back to the army tank thing my 10-year-old son wants. He doesn’t see any conflict between loving wildlife and getting 12 miles to the gallon. Oh for the innocence of youth.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

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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It’s The Children Who Will Save the World

By Larry Siegel

Some of the most stirring and moving accounts of efforts I have come across to save the world have been made by children. The sheer goodness of their big hearts can be overwhelming and they don’t let anything stop them. Ever hear of Ryan Hrelijac? This Canadian youth learned in school at age 7 that people were dying in Uganda from the lack of clean drinking water.

This amazing child raised enough money by doing chores at home to build a well in Uganda in 1999. Oh, but that was just the beginning. This child (now a young man) has gone on, through the Ryan’s Well Foundation (a Canadian registered charity), to raise the money to build over 700 wells and 900 latrines bringing safe water and improved sanitation to over 750,900 people. (You can learn about Ryan and his foundation and, if you want, you can obtain a very moving documentary called “Ryan’s Well” through the Video Project that tells the story of what he did as a child. You can Google “Ryan’s Well” and see clips of the documentary on YouTube.

I thought about Ryan when I read about how students from 116 schools in 22 states collectively prevented 1,567,562 pounds of global warming carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere in just four weeks during the 2012 national Green Cup Challenge® (GCC).

The GCC is an inter-school energy conservation challenge for grades K-12 and it is sponsored by the non-profit Green Schools Alliance. The friendly challenge empowers students and staff to conserve electricity, raise environmental awareness and decrease their campus’ carbon footprint. The Green Cup Video Challenge has helped student videos go viral on YouTube. Among the top reducing schools this year were the Buckly School (-8.7%) and the Lycee Francais School (-8.7%) both in New York City.

If anybody is going to save the world it’s going to be the children.

About the Author: Larry Siegel has worked as a writer of corporate policies and procedures and as a technical writer. He currently works as a Pesticide Community Outreach Specialist for the Pesticide and Toxic Substances Branch in Edison, NJ

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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Gracias, Sally, por alcanzar las estrellas

Por Lina Younes


No hay duda que las primicias frecuentemente son motivo de noticia.  Por ejemplo, el ser el primero en alcanzar la meta o ser el primero en establecer un récord mundial es noticioso.  ¿Sin embargo, cúantas veces el ser “el primero” en alcanzar algo es realmente histórico? Pues tal es el caso de algunas mujeres quienes han sido verdaderas pioneras en sus especialidades.

¿Quiénes son algunas de estas mujeres que han hecho historia con sus logros en las ciencias?

¿Qué tal les parece Marie Curie, la primera mujer en ganar un Premio Nobel? De hecho, hasta la fecha, Marie Curie es la única mujer galardonada con dos Premios Nobel, uno en Física en 1903 y otro en Química en 1911.

¿Acaso conocen la vida de Ellen Swallow Richards, una prominente química industrial y medioambiental del siglo 19 en los Estados Unidos? Richards alcanzó muchas primicias en su vida.  Fue la primera mujer en ser admitida para estudiar en el Instituto de Tecnología en Massachusetts (MIT, por sus siglas en inglés), la primera mujer en Estados Unidos en obtener un grado en química y la primera en acuñar el término “ecología” allá en el 1892.

Y, hoy, quisiera mencionar a otra gran mujer que se destaca en los libros de historia por ser la primera mujer estadounidense en volar al espacio en 1983,  Sally K. Ride.  Fue la primera mujer y la más joven en viajar a bordo del transbordador espacial. Después que dejó la NASA en el 1987, fue profesora en física en la Universidad de California y también dirigió el Instituto Espacial de California de la Universidad de California.

Mientras la Dra. Ride recibió numerosos reconocimientos en el sector público y privado, la educación fue uno de los asuntos que más le interesaba. En el 2001, fundó su propia compañía llamada Ciencia Sally Ride (Sally Ride Science) para motivar a las niñas y a las mujeres a cursar estudios para lograr carreras profesionales en las ciencias, las matemáticas y la tecnología.

Justo ayer, esta mujer inspiradora perdió su batalla con el cáncer del páncreas. No obstante, su vida continuará sirviendo de inspiración para muchos en Estados Unidos y el mundo entero.  Gracias, Sally, por enseñarnos a luchar para alcanzar las estrellas. Que descances en paz.

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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Thank You, Sally, For Reaching To The Stars

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By Lina Younes

There is no doubt that being “the first” at something is often newsworthy. For example, being the first to reach the finish line or being the first to set a world record. However, how many times being “the first” is truly historic? Such is the case of some women who were true trailblazers in their fields.

Who are some of these women who made history through their achievements in the sciences? How about Marie Curie, the first woman to earn a Nobel Prize? In fact, to this date Marie Curie is the only woman to have earned two Nobel Prizes, the first in Physics in 1903 and in Chemistry in 1911.

Have you heard of Ellen Swallow Richards, a prominent 19th century industrial and environmental chemist in the United States? Ms. Richards had many firsts throughout her life. She was the first woman admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first woman in America to earn a degree in chemistry and the first to coin the term “ecology” in 1892.

And today, I would like to mention another great woman who made her mark in the history books by becoming the first American women to fly in space in 1983. Sally K. Ride,  she was the first woman and youngest person to fly aboard the space shuttle. After she left NASA in 1987, she became a professor of physics at the University of California and directed the University of California’s California Space Institute.

While Dr. Ride earned numerous accolades in the public and private sector, education was one of her passions. So she founded her own company in 2001, Sally Ride Science,  to motivate girls and women to pursue careers in science, math, and technology.

Just yesterday, this inspiring woman lost a battle to pancreatic cancer. Yet, her life continues to be an inspiration to many in the United States and throughout the world. Thank you, Sally, for teaching us to reach for the stars. May you rest in peace.

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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