Monthly Archives: September 2012

Thank You, We Couldn’t Do It Without You

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Lina Younes

Science is at the heart of everything we do at EPA. That’s basically our mantra. Scientific research provides us with the key information we need to fulfill our mission of protecting human health and the environment. Furthermore it gives us the knowledge to better understand the risks to human health and ecosystems and the means to develop innovative solutions to prevent pollution in order to achieve a healthier world. In sum, science is essential to the Agency’s decision-making process.

However, science is not this abstract theory that exists in a vacuum. It is part of our daily lives.  Scientific knowledge does not just happen by osmosis. Scientific research is done by individuals, men and women scientists and engineers who are the true drivers of the Agency. In order to recognize their contributions, we have featured some of our researchers on our English and Spanish web pages. I highly recommend that you visit these pages to learn how they got started in their careers and their important contributions to environmental protection.

Personally, I hope the profiles of our scientists will inspire the next generation of professionals who will dedicate their lives to careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). In reading their profiles, we see diverse individuals with varied backgrounds who shared many common interests and goals. It is never too late to start.

And once again, to our scientists, thank you for what you do to make this a healthier and greener world.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 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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Embarking into the Christina River Basin

By Andrea Bennett

Flowing through rolling hills, forests and farms, small and big towns, the Brandywine, White Clay and Red Clay Creeks, and the Christina River constitute the watershed of the Christina River Basin, which then empties into the Delaware River. This beautiful watershed is historically significant as a site where Revolutionary battles were fought, as well as the area where one of America’s most famous painters, Andrew Wyeth, flourished.  This watershed also provides over 100 million gallons of drinking water per day for over 500,000 people in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Barclay Hoopes Dairy Farm Before and After Restoration

Barclay Hoopes Dairy Farm Before and After Restoration

Many nonprofit and governmental organizations are implementing projects and programs to protect the watershed and its sources of drinking water.  Several years ago, these groups received an EPA Targeted Watershed Grant of $1 million to support the health of the watershed by restoring streams and installing agricultural and stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce runoff flowing into streams and groundwater.

I had the opportunity to see some of these BMPs in action recently on the annual Christina River Basin Bus Tour, sponsored by the Chester County Conservation District (CCCD), the Brandywine Valley Association, the Water  Resources Agency at the University of Delaware, and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. As we traveled through the watershed, Bob Struble, executive director of the Brandywine Valley Association, pointed out stream restoration and watershed protection projects.

At the Barclay Hoopes dairy farm, Mr. Hoopes showed us 1,500 feet of stream bank fencing installed to reduce manure loading to White Clay Creek. United Water Delaware and the City of Newark worked with the CCCD to install these fences to help prevent Cryptosporidium (a protozoan that can cause gastrointestinal illness) from entering the water.

We also stopped at the Stroud Water Research Center where we saw a brand new LEED-certified education building – the Moorhead Environmental Complex. The Center manages stormwater run-off through natural landscaping with porous surfaces, a green roof, and rain gardens with native vegetation.  The new building has a plethora of energy efficient technologies, including radiant heating, natural ventilation, solar power, and high efficiency windows.  Wherever possible, the center uses materials that were found locally, sustainably harvested, reclaimed, or recycled, and have low emissions of pollutants.

Kennett Square Golf Course Before and After Restoration

Kennett Square Golf Course Before and After Restoration

We visited the Kennett Square Golf Course and Country Club where Paul Stead,  the Superintendent, gave us a tour of the stream bank and flood plain restoration of the section of Red Clay Creek, which flows through the golf course. Because Mr. Stead educated the club membership about the importance of protecting the watershed, this project was funded not only by a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener Grant, but also by members of the golf club itself. The result is improved flood control, less impact to Red Clay Creek during storm events, and a more scenic golf course.

These are just some of the projects going on right now in the beautiful Christina River Basin.  Not only do they help to protect sources of drinking water, they also ensure that the basin remains a wonderful place to visit. The basin is one of my favorite places to go kayaking, hiking, and birding, and it’s easy to see how the White Clay Creek was designated as a National Wild and Scenic River in 2000.

As I left Myrick Conservation Center that day, it was fitting that I saw a Bald Eagle, a national symbol of America’s environmental treasures.  It’s one more reason to protect the waters of the Christina River Basin, so that eagles, as well as humans, have a clean and safe water resource today and in the future.

About the Author: Andrea Bennett has been with EPA for over twenty years as an Environmental Scientist in the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, she conducted ornithological research and produced films. When outside of the office Andrea enjoys birding and playing the mandolin.

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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There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on across all five boroughs this weekend, so grab that Metrocard and get to it!

Autumn Moon Festival – This annual event celebrates the Chinese Festival of the Autumn Moon, when the full moon is at its fullest and brightest. This year’s event will also recognize other Asian harvest festivals such as Japan’s Fukushima Autumn, Thailand’s Loy Krathong Festival and Vietnam’s Tet Trung Thu. Admission: $10 for adults, $6 for seniors & students. Children five and under are admitted free. Saturday, September 29, 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Electronic Waste Recycling Day at Coop City – The Lower East Side Ecology Center is holding an electronic waste recycling event in Coop City this Saturday to help all New Yorkers recycle all their unwanted or broken gadgets. Help spread the word! Saturday, September 29, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Fall 2012 Overlook Concerts: Blues – Come enjoy an afternoon in Riverside Park and enjoy talent from the Columbia University Music Performance Department, the Manhattan School of Music Community Partnerships Program, and French Cookin’ Blues Band. Sunday, September 30, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Introduction to Birdwatching – Always wanted to learn more about bird watching, but aren’t sure about how to get started? Now’s your chance! The Prospect Park Alliance is hosting a free tour that will teach you about the 250 species of birds that call Prospect Park home. Saturday, September 29, 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Maker Faire – Enjoy technology and doing things your own way? If so, Maker Faire is for you! This two-day, family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, is an all-out celebration of the Maker movement. Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30

National Drug Take-Back Day – Before you hit the town on Saturday, make sure your unwanted, unused prescription drugs are properly disposed of. You’ll be helping keep your family and your environment safe. Saturday, September 29, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

National Estuary Day – Come enjoy the Hudson River and learn how you can give back to this invaluable ecosystem! Take part in catch and release fishing and kid-friendly experiments that will help you learn about the Hudson Estuary and the animals that call it home. Saturday, September 29, 11:00 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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¡Empiece el año escolar con un comienzo saludable – Cree un Plan de Gestión de Calidad del Aire Interior (CAI) para su escuela!

Por Carmen Torrent
¡Nuevas caras, horarios ocupados y el inicio de la temporada de fútbol estadounidense sólo pueden significar una cosa: es tiempo de volver a la escuela! Ayude a mejorar la salud de los estudiantes y el personal docente y la productividad mediante el establecimiento de un Plan de Gestión de Calidad del Aire Interior (CAI)  en su escuela.

La creación de un plan de gestión de calidad del aire interior requiere el apoyo de todos los miembros de la comunidad escolar, incluyendo a los maestros, administradores, personal de mantenimiento, y padres de familia. Sin embargo, no se requiere una gran cantidad de dinero. De hecho, un plan de gestión de calidad del aire interior puede ayudar a ahorrar dinero, mejorar la salud y reducir el ausentismo a través de acciones simples y de bajo costo.

Revise algunos de los recursos de la EPA para tener un buen comienzo del año escolar y aprender más acerca del mejoramiento de la calidad del aire interior en su escuela.
• Herramientas de Calidad del Aire Interior para las Escuelas Marco Operativo para la Gestión Efectiva de la Calidad del Aire Interior Escolar detalla paso a paso las acciones para ayudar a desarrollar y mantener un programa de gestión de calidad del aire interior. Esta guía ha ayudado a miles de escuelas en todo el país crear ambientes de aprendizaje saludables para los estudiantes y el personal.
• El Marco operativo incluye los Seis Impulsores Claves  que identifican las principales estrategias programáticas que  un plan de gestión de calidad del aire interior exitoso debe contener. Estas estrategias ponen énfasis en la comunicación efectiva entre todos los miembros  involucrados y aseguran que mediciones correctas estén en el lugar para ayudar a evaluar su programa.
• Las Seis Soluciones Técnicas del Marco Operativo ofrecen estrategias sencillas y consejos que le ayudarán a controlar los problemas de la calidad del aire interior más comunes en su escuela, incluyendo el control del moho y la humedad, la gestión del control de origen  de los contaminantes y el uso de prácticas de limpieza ecológicas y saludables.

• El Paquete de Acción Herramientas para la Calidad del Aire Interior para las Escuelas de la EPA incluye listas de comprobación que ayudan a evaluar la escuela y poner el marco operativo en acción. Descargue las listas en formatos PDF o Word, y adáptelos a las necesidades de su escuela. Cuatro de estas listas se encuentran en español: Mantenimiento del Edificio y SuelosServicio de AlimentosManejo Integrado de Plagas (MIP)  y Manejo de Deshechos.

Estos son sólo algunos de los recursos que la EPA ofrece para ayudarle a crear un ambiente escolar sano. Los recursos están disponibles en español para ayudarle a aprender más acerca de la importancia de la calidad del aire interior y buen manejo efectivo del asma en su escuela. Visite el sitio web de la Calidad del Aire Interior de la EPA en español y revise los recursos en español de la EPA para obtener más información y consejos que puede utilizar para asegurar que el ambiente escolar sea saludable y seguro.

Sobre la autora: Carmen Torrent es especialista de relaciones públicas en la Oficina de Aire Interior de EPA.

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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Happy Belated World Water Monitoring Day

By Jeffery Robichaud

If you missed it last week, September 18th was World Water Monitoring Day.  Well, actually several years ago the day morphed into a whole month long affair.  This past year the World Water Monitoring Day program also morphed into the World Water Monitoring Challenge.  From the website, the World Water Monitoring Challenge:

 …is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies.

In 2011, approximately 340,000 people in 77 countries monitored their local waterways. We challenge you to test the quality of your waterways, share your findings, and protect our most precious resource!

My first World Water Monitoring Day was back in 2002.  I dragged my then nine month old son out as a prop for a photo of me sampling our local stream.   There wasn’t much he could do at that age to help, and honestly I have no idea what I was thinking bringing him out anyway.  I do remember back to how nice a Fall day it was and my wife’s excitement at using this relatively new thing called a “digital camera.”

Over the years I have had the opportunity to get involved with a number of outreach events in the Kansas City area revolving around World Water Monitoring Day.  It is fun to get out with teachers and students to explain the importance of water quality and how what we measure in the water gives us information about its health, yet there is still something really special about going out just with my own boys.  If you are like me and missed September 18th this year you still have time.  In fact you can find out about local watershed groups and stream teams in your area by clicking on the following link.    You can learn how to start your own voluntary monitoring group here.  It’s been a hot one this year so it might still be a couple of weeks before it is brisk enough to wear long sleeve shirts.  I will be sure to take my guys back out to the same spot for our perfect fall day.

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of 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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Got Drugs? Make the Connection!

By Kelly Dulka

This Saturday, September 29th, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.  What does this have to do with the environment you ask? Well, let me tell you about a discussion I had with some friends last week.

I live in a little, rural community that happens to be a peninsula surrounded by water.  I was mentioning to a couple of my friends who have a waterfront home about the take-back day coming up.  I was surprised to hear them say that they just flush their expired prescription meds.  The homes in our little community rely on wells for our water and septic tanks/fields for waste disposal.  I explained to them how whatever we flush passes through our septic fields, into the ground, and will very likely end up in our rivers.

Prescription medications fall under the category of pharmaceuticals and personal care product pollutants (PPCPs). Even in other, less rural communities there are no municipal water treatment plants equipped to remove PPCPs from water.

So what’s the big deal? Although we aren’t exactly certain yet what the effects of these pollutants are, one thing is for sure, it can’t be helping the aquatic wildlife and ecosystems, many of which are struggling even without this additional burden.

I know my friends love the river; and enjoy both the recreational fun, and the fish and seafood it provides for us. Sometimes I think people do things because that’s the way they’ve always done things. It’s important for all of us to learn about the issue, and make the connection between our actions and the consequences on our environment.

So in the next few days, gather up those old, expired prescription medications, and on Saturday take them to a drop off center near you for proper disposal.

About the author: Kelly Dulka works in the Office of Web Communications.

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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Sensors and Sensibility

By Vasu Kilaru

Around us every day are technologies that give us access to more information at our fingertips than any generation has ever had.  As an EPA scientist, I’m pretty thrilled about these innovations and what they mean for environmental protection.

One exciting new initiative in that realm here at EPA is called Apps and Sensors for Air Pollution or ASAP. This new aspect of our research came out of the recognition that the advances in sensor technologies are unfolding at the same amazing pace that we all see with new cellphone and smartphone technologies.

Cellphones already have a variety of sensors built in:  light sensors and proximity sensors to manage display brightness, accelerometers used as switches or to characterize motion, GPS to provide mapping and locational services, compass and gyroscope to provide direction and orientation, microphones for audio, and a camera for video/photography.

These capabilities have led to the logical coupling of other sensors, such as for air pollution monitoring or biometric measurements, with smartphones.

Traditionally, air monitoring technologies were costly to setup and maintain, and therefore the purview of governments (federal and state). Now, new miniaturized sensor technologies are approaching consumer budgets and have the advantage of being highly portable. These developments in sensor technology present an exciting new frontier where monitoring will be more democratized and available much more widely. Parallel to these developments are sensors that measure physiological conditions such as heart rate or blood oxygen levels.

Pairing environmental sensors with ones that measure biological conditions could herald a new era for both environmental protection as well as healthcare. Future developments in these sensor technologies ultimately have the capacity to help people make better decisions regarding their environment and their own health.

So we are excited to do our part in bring new technologies to you.  If you’re going to the World Maker Faire in New York this weekend (September 29-30), stop by our EPA booth, we’d love to talk about how DIYers, makers, inventors can help make a greener future.

About the Author: Vasu Kilaru works in EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). He is currently working on the apps and sensors for air pollution initiative (ASAP) helping the Agency develop its strategic role and response to new sensor technology developments.


Enjoyed reading about the scientific pursuits at the EPA? Then consider checking out our  It All Starts with Science blog regularly.

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.

Sensors and Sensibility

By Vasu Kilaru

Around us every day are technologies that give us access to more information at our fingertips than any generation has ever had.  As an EPA scientist, I’m pretty thrilled about these innovations and what they mean for environmental protection.

One exciting new initiative in that realm here at EPA is called Apps and Sensors for Air Pollution or ASAP. This new aspect of our research came out of the recognition that the advances in sensor technologies are unfolding at the same amazing pace that we all see with new cellphone and smartphone technologies.

Cellphones already have a variety of sensors built in:  light sensors and proximity sensors to manage display brightness, accelerometers used as switches or to characterize motion, GPS to provide mapping and locational services, compass and gyroscope to provide direction and orientation, microphones for audio, and a camera for video/photography.

These capabilities have led to the logical coupling of other sensors, such as for air pollution monitoring or biometric measurements, with smartphones.

Traditionally, air monitoring technologies were costly to setup and maintain, and therefore were put under the purview of governments (federal and state). Now, new miniature sensor technologies are more affordable and have the advantage of being highly portable. These developments in sensor technology present an exciting new frontier where monitoring will be more democratic and available much more widely. Parallel to these developments are sensors that measure physiological conditions such as heart rate or blood oxygen levels.

Pairing environmental sensors with ones that measure biological conditions could herald a new era for both environmental protection as well as healthcare. Future developments in these sensor technologies ultimately have the capacity to help people make better decisions regarding their environment and their own health.

So we are excited to do our part in bringing new technologies to you.  If you’re going to the World Maker Faire in New York this weekend (September 29-30), stop by our EPA booth, we’d love to talk about how DIYers, makers, inventors can help make a greener future.

About the Author: Vasu Kilaru works in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He is currently working on the apps and sensors for air pollution initiative (ASAP) helping the Agency develop its strategic role and response to new sensor technology developments.

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

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.

Running to a New Playground

Like your room, we should keep the Earth clean, right?  Every little bit counts, which is why this is the perfect time to talk about your running, basketball, athletic shoes and how they can make a difference in your home, your community and your planet.

Every year, my girl classmates and I run a spring 5K run for Girls on the Run.  We prepare for the run/walk by training. It feels like thousands of miles on our feet, but it’s probably a couple of miles every week till the Sunday before the run. My dad does it with me.

This had us thinking about what to do with our shoes after the run. Some of us keep them and the rest of us wear them out, so we need new ones. We jump, splash mud, race through dirt and they hit hot summer pavements all the time and the soles wear down after a while.  What do we do with the used ones? What will you do with them once you’re done with them?

When it comes to shoes, it’s easy – you can donate lightly worn running shoes to shoe donation programs that might use them in their communities.  They can also be donated to recycling programs that use old athletic shoes as material to build new courts, tracks, fields and playgrounds.  That’s what we did.  After the run/walk was over, some of the 4th and 5th graders donated their running shoes to a local group to recycle.

Ok, so my dad wasn’t happy with having to buy me new running shoes, but he understands that by recycling them we’re creating less of an impact on the environment.

Now, every time I walk onto a new playground that feels bouncy or run on a school track, I’ll wonder if my shoes helped make that happen.

Jessica and Ellery are 5th graders that participate in Girls on the Run and are looking forward to making the volleyball team this year.

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 las ciencias ofrecen un placer visual en el otoño y más allá

Por Luz v Garcia, MS, ME

Siempre me ha gustado ver los cambios del follaje en otoño. Recuerdo cuando en mi terruño natal en Puerto Rico, me fascinaba  mirar las fotografías del color naranja en el otoño. Y recuerdo mi primera experiencia como inspectora de la EPA viajando en octubre por el norte de Nueva York y disfrutando el hermoso cambio de la temporada

El otoño siempre me trae recuerdos de mi niñez, cuando en la escuela intermedia se discutía el efecto del pigmento de clorofila en el proceso de fotosíntesis. Gracias a dicho proceso, con la ayuda de los rayos del sol, la naturaleza manifiesta esa hermosa gama de colores.  

Aún ahora, como científica de la  EPA, reconozco la importancia del proceso de fotosíntesis en al preservación del ecosistema. Lo que visualizamos superficialmente como la manifestación de un color en la naturaleza, tiene un valor más intrínseco. ¿Por ejemplo, sabía usted que los ríos manifiestan su estado con un cambio  en su color, entre otros factores?  Un indicador físico y biológico para determinar la calidad del un cuerpo de agua se puede observer visualmente antes de que se confirme a través de un análisis de muestreo. Por ejemplo, el color azul en el agua puede ser además de un reflejo del color del cielo, un indicador de la presencia de algas verdes o azules. El color rojo puede ser causado por la abundancia de algas rojas. También el color verde puede ser causado por  “fitoplancton” que utiliza el pigmento verde de la clorofila.

La turbidez, siendo una prueba importante que mide la transparencia del agua, se considera como uno de los métodos de medir las características físicas y químicas de los cuerpos del agua. Por ejemplo, una medida de “alta” turbidez puede causar un brote de algas rojas en los estuarios. Nosotros los científicos podemos ver un color marrón o negro en las aguas y saber inmediatamente que hay presencia de substancias orgánicas  y que el color indica descomposición biológica.

Aún en la naturaleza, las especies despliegan colores preciosos que algunas veces son particulares en cada género de sexo.  Recientemente leí un estudio donde se condujeron experimentos genéticos con un pez de aguas dulces, donde se encontró una relación directa entre el sexo de la especie y el factor hereditario del color.

Por lo tanto, cuando la EPA conduce investigaciones y monitoreo para determinar indicadores de disturbios adversos a los ecosistemas, debemos considerar que detrás de la belleza en los colores de las estaciones, existen elementos intrínsecos que aparte del despliegue visual  indican una complejidad biótica causada por cambios físicos o químicos en la naturaleza.

Por lo tanto, la próxima vez que observe los bellos colores en el otoño, trate de mirar con los ojos de un científico y celebrar la belleza de la naturaleza.

Acerca del autor: Ms. Luz V. García es una científica que tiene una maestría y pos-grados en ingeniería ambiental que ha trabajado en los programas de RCRA, Superfund,, Pesticidas y Sustancias Tóxicas. Actualmente  trabaja en la división de acatamiento y cumplimiento del derecho ambiental en la Región 2 de EPA en Nueva York.

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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