Monthly Archives: June 2013

Un verano más verde

Por Lina Younes

Estaba revisando la factura de la electricidad en casa recientemente. Noté un aumento en el consumo de energía en nuestro hogar en comparación con el año pasado. Mientras hemos tomado varios pasos para hacer nuestro hogar más eficiente energéticamente hablando, todavía hay mucho más que podemos hacer para ahorrar energía y dinero en el hogar.  Entonces, decidí compartir algunos consejos para que usted también pueda disfrutar de un verano más verde.

  • Apague las luces cuando salga de la habitación. ¿Parece sencillo, verdad? Sin embargo, tengo que recordarles a mi hija y mis familiares con demasiada frecuencia de este detalle.
  • Desenchufe los cargadores de los teléfonos móviles y computadoras cuando no los esté usando.
  • Cambie los filtros del aire acondicionado y calefacción con regularidad. Esto mejora el rendimiento del sist ema de aire acondicionado y la ahorra dinero a corto plazo y costosas reparaciones a largo plazo.
  • También considere usar abanicos de techo. Con los abanicos puede subir la temperatura del A/C y todavía sentirse cómodo durante el calor veraniego en su casa.
  • Selle las grietas y coloque el aislamiento adecuado en su hogar.
  • ¿Está considerando comprar nuevos enseres eléctricos? Compre aquellos con la etiqueta Energy Star [http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home.resources_espanol&s=f] para su hogar.
  • ¿Tiene goteos en su hogar? Repárelos. Sabía que un millón de millones de galones de agua se desperdician mediante goteos en los hogares en EE.UU. cada año?
  • Si está pensando en remodelar su cocina o baño, compre efectos de plomería con la etiqueta WaterSense para ahorrar agua y dinero.
  • ¿Usa sistemas de riego en su jardín? Inspecciónelos para asegurarse de que no tengan goteos ni los cabezales de riego rotos. Rocíe las plantas temprano en la mañana y definitivamente no haga riegue las plantas alrededor de su casa si ha llovido.
  • ¿Está planificando un pasadía con su familia este fin de semana? Asegúrese de usar platos, utensilios, y contenedores reutilizables. Acuérdese de las tres Rs (—reducir, reciclar y reutilizar,, durante los meses de verano.
  • ¿Piensa tomar unas vacaciones y viajar en su auto? Asegúrese de tener el auto listo—para la travesía. Un automóvil bien afinado y que haya recibido el mantenimiento con regularidad con las llantas infladas adecuadamente le ahorra dinero en gastos de combustible y mantenimiento, mientras a la misma vez también reducirá las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero.

¿Tiene otras sugerencias para hacer su verano más verde? Como siempre, apreciamos su insumo. Queremos saber su opinión al respecto.

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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Research Partnership Advancing the Science of Organic Aerosols

By Sherri Hunt

Air monitoring research site with sensors and towers

Air monitoring research site with sensors and towers

Why is there so much interest in weather forecasts, maps, smoke, planes, balloons, towers, filters, instruments, cities, and trees in Alabama this summer? At this very moment, more than 100 scientists are making measurements at multiple locations in the Southeastern U.S. to investigate a number of challenging research questions related to organic aerosols—small particles suspended in the atmosphere. These particles contribute to concentrations of particulate matter (PM), which can influence both climate and people’s health.

The Southeastern U.S. is an ideal location to study the formation and physical properties of organic aerosol since it is hot, sunny, forested, and impacted by pollution from cities. In a coordinated research effort, scientists have converged at the primary surface site in Brent, AL. They are working there throughout June and July 2013 as part of the Southern Oxidant and Aerosol Study (SOAS) and other related field campaigns, all coordinated under the Southern Atmosphere Study (SAS). Additional measurements are being made on the ground at sites in Research Triangle Park, NC, the Duke Forest, NC, and Look Rock, TN.

By using research towers, balloons, and several aircraft flying above the ground sites, scientists are taking measurements at multiple heights, making this the most detailed characterization of the southeastern atmosphere since the 1990s.

The planning for this campaign began more than two years ago as the scientific community identified the need for a rich data set in order to address pressing research questions related to how organic aerosol is formed and its impact on regional climate.  Improving the understanding of these physical and chemical properties will enable the development of more accurate models of air pollution and climate, which in turn will make more effective plans to improve air quality possible. Such scientific discoveries may enable us to better understand the atmosphere across the country and ultimately determine ways to enable more people to breathe cleaner air. They will also allow scientists to understand, anticipate, and prepare for potential future climate changes.

In order to accomplish a study of this magnitude, EPA is working together with the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others.

EPA is also funding 13 research institutions to participate through the Agency’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant program. The STAR funded researchers will leverage the measurements and equipment provided by the other partners and conduct analyses of the rich data sets collected. Funded projects include work investigating each part of the organic aerosol system, from measuring emissions and formation products, to cloud-aerosol interactions, to climate impacts of aerosols.

In addition to field measurements, laboratory experiments and modeling studies are also planned that include EPA researchers. As part of EPA’s involvement, Agency scientists are using a novel tracer method that will allow them to differentiate between man-made and natural sources of organic aerosols. The data and results will help improve our understanding of organic aerosol formation and will also be shared with other researchers.

Public open houses at the Alabama and Tennessee sites on June 19 and 21, 2013 will allow the surrounding communities an opportunity to see the state-of-the-art measurement instruments and meet researchers. Interested?  If you are in the area, please consider coming by to see what all the interest is about.

About the Author

EPA researcher Dr. Sherri Hunt

EPA researcher Dr. Sherri Hunt

Sherri Hunt, Ph.D. is the Assistant Center Director for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy research program. Read more about Sherri and her work on her “EPA Science Matters” interview: Meet EPA Scientist Sherri Hunt, Ph.D.

 

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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Come Celebrate, Learn, and—Sit on the Village Green Project!

By Katie Lubinsky

Village Green graphic identifierMark your calendars, bring your kids and prepare to learn about some cool, new science! Open to the public, EPA will unveil a prototype air monitoring system on Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to noon. The celebration will take place at the air monitoring system’s first home – Durham County South Regional Library, located at 4505 S. Alston Ave. in Durham, North Carolina.

It’s all part of the Village Green Project, a study to develop a self-powered, low-maintenance monitoring system to measure air quality. The system is built into a park bench made from recycled milk jugs. Testing in a community environment is being made possible through a partnership with Durham County.

EPA scientists and local officials will participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which includes the raising of a flag as part of EPA’s School Flag program to increase awareness of air quality conditions.  Afterwards, booths and activities will be available for adults and children of all ages.

The Village Green park bench

The Village Green park bench

You will be able to connect with the real-time data collected from the system through your smartphone, or other internet devices, either right beside the air sensor or even at home! This nifty project will measure fine particles and ozone minute by minute, which are all known to impact human health.  It will also measure local weather stats such as wind speed and humidity.  The platform provides an opportunity to test new low maintenance air quality sensors.

Being a local resident myself, I am proud to see the Raleigh-Durham area hosting such innovative science projects and events.

With great efforts from EPA, Durham County government and Durham County Library officials, this research project will be a wonderful educational and informative experience. It will help to develop the next generation of air quality monitors for use by this and other communities interested in learning more about their air quality.

I visited the library numerous times during this collaboration and found out its theme is ‘Air,’ so Village Green will fit right in! Now after checking out books at the library, you can sit on the bench, read and check out the local air quality and weather trends with a simple scan of your smartphone!

  • What: Village Green Project Celebration
  • When:  Saturday, June 22, 2013, from 10 a.m. to noon
  • Where: Durham County South Regional Library, 4505 S. Alston Ave., Durham, N.C.

About the Author: Katie Lubinsky is a student contractor working with EPA’s Office of Research and Development on communicating new and engaging science and research topics.

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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Our Built and Natural Environments

By Melissa Kramer

I remember like it was yesterday the first solo drive I took with my newly minted drivers’ license. Being able to drive myself where I wanted to go meant so much to me as a 16-year old who had no real alternatives to a car for meeting up with friends, getting to my first job, or going shopping. Somewhere along the way though the freedom and excitement that I felt behind the wheel was replaced with frustration as I sat in traffic, anxiety any time I had to drive unfamiliar roads, and stress about the cost of keeping my old clunker running.

As a resident of Washington, D.C., I have left behind the life where a car is necessary for most things. I live in a vibrant, bustling neighborhood within walking distance of downtown. Most days I walk to work, but I can also bike or take the bus. My husband commutes 8 miles by bike to work in Arlington, Virginia, and is happier and healthier for it. There are at least a half dozen grocery stores, a couple of hardware stores, countless restaurants, and just about anything I need close by. Several major bus lines run within two blocks of my house, and the Metro is just a 10 minute walk away when we need it.

EPA’s new report Our Built and Natural Environments helps explain how the kind of places where I live can minimize the environmental impacts of development. While the population of the United States roughly doubled between 1950 and 2011, the number of miles traveled increased nearly six-fold, and with it air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and stormwater runoff from roads have increased. Choosing where to build our communities to safeguard sensitive ecological areas; redeveloping already developed places; and putting homes, workplaces, and services close together near transit can help preserve natural areas that provide many ecosystem services. Beyond where we build, how we build is also important. Building compact neighborhoods, mixing uses to reduce travel distances, designing streets to make walking and biking safer, and using better building practices also help protect the environment and human health. This report describes the research documenting these environmental benefits and helps explain why neighborhoods like mine are not just great places to live, but also help minimize residents’ environmental footprints.

Find the report .  Learn about the Our Built and Natural Environments webinar on July 24.

About the author: Melissa Kramer, Ph.D., is a biologist working in EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities. She likes biking, cooking, and tending to her native plant garden

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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Recognizing Students for Innovative Environmental Solutions

By Bob  Perciasepe

How would you change the world with $90,000? That’s what we asked students from colleges and universities across the country as part of an annual competition to come up with innovative solutions to some of today’s toughest public health and environmental challenges. And the responses we received were remarkable.

EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award competition was held this past spring at the 9th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo. Three hundred student innovators from 45 teams convened on the National Mall in Washington, DC to showcase sustainable projects to protect people’s health and the environment, encourage economic growth, and use natural resources more efficiently.

Each award winning team will receive a grant of up to $90,000 to further develop their design and potentially bring it to the marketplace. About a quarter of P3 award winners have started new companies or nonprofit organizations, and many have used their P3 grant funds to attract investment capital, additional grants and competitive awards.

A panel of expert judges convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science helped select the winners following two days of judging. It is my honor to announce this year’s winners:

  • Loyola University of Chicago for developing a greener way, through a wetland and a distillation process, to treat and reuse byproducts of biodiesel.
  • University of Massachusetts, Lowell for creating nontoxic, biodegradable surfactants from fruit peels and algae, and seeing how they are effective.
  • Radford University for designing a naturally-occurring coating that would allow sand to absorb water pollutants, such as arsenic and cadmium.
  • San Jose State University for using saw dust instead of plastic to create inexpensive building materials, customized for local climates, with 3D printer technology.
  • Georgia Southern University for further innovating the Low Temperature Combustion diesel engine, to operate on locally sourced n-buthanol and cottonseed oil; thus designing a diesel engine that could create even lower NOx and soot emissions.
  • Cornell University for designing a simple, low-cost, lower-maintenance water filtration device for Honduras communities, using a stacked-rapid sand filter.
  • Cornell University for evaluating and improving cookstove fuel resources in Kenyan communities, by burning solid fuel without oxygen, which can create biochar for soil enrichment.

The students that participated in this competition – and young people across the country – continue to give me confidence that our next generation of American scientists and engineers are up to the task of solving the world’s most pressing environmental problems.

About the author: Bob Perciasepe is acting administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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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An Annual Recurrence of Avian Chlordane Poisoning in one NJ Town

By Marcia Anderson

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

(Part two of a series on chlordane poisonings)

Residents reported finding dead starlings, grackles and robins in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, as long ago as July 1977; and, more recently, in July of 1996, New Jersey Fish &Wildlife (F&W) investigated a report of a large number of these dead birds. During an inspection of the area, 75 birds, including 18 grackles and six starlings were recovered from one property adjacent to a local golf course and dead birds were visible on adjacent lawns and streets. The following year, over a three-week period in July, F&W visited a residential area adjacent to a local golf course and recovered a total of 425 dead or sick birds including 307 grackles, 104 starlings and 14 American robins. Thirty-five more debilitated birds were captured alive. Many of these birds were uncoordinated, sometimes flying into stationary objects, while others were seen falling from trees or falling to the ground in midflight

Although birds can fly great distances, sick and debilitated birds seek the comfort of their homes, or roosts, and do not travel far from them, so F&W knew that the source of the poison was nearby. Chlordane poisoning was diagnosed as the primary cause of death in all of the 1997 birds analyzed. In a published paper, F&W believed this to be the largest avian chlordane poisoning incident reported in the United States.

Just last July (2012), confirmed chlordane poisonings occurred in Summit,(approximately eight km from Scotch Plains), Parsippany, Maplewood, and Gibbsboro, N.J.; and on Western Long Island.

Raptor Poisonings

Confirmed and documented cases of lethal chlordane poisoning were found in nine Cooper’s hawks and other raptors. Raptors are secondarily poisoned by consuming contaminated songbirds. Approximately 80 percent of the prey taken by Coopers hawks in the eastern U.S. is avian; so the consumption of chlordane-contaminated birds is the most probable cause of most Cooper’s hawks poisoning cases. The incidence of chlordane poisonings in all raptors, including Cooper’s hawks, peaked in July, coinciding with the peak period of chlordane poisoning of songbirds from eating chlordane-contaminated beetles and grubs.  Poisonings of Cooper’s hawks are of particular concern, because this species is listed as endangered by the state of New Jersey. 

From 1999-2000, 95 raptors were found dead throughout N.J., and were submitted for examination as part of the Fish &Wildlife’s West Nile Virus monitoring program. Chlordane poisoning was found to be the major cause of Cooper’s hawks’ mortality. The incidence of chlordane poisoning in other hawks was lower due to differences in feeding habits.

Take Home Message

Many commonly used insect sprays, weed killers and rodenticides are highly toxic to birds.

Don’t be fooled by chemical products as being touted as “organic.” Many environmentally destructive chemicals are organic. Residues of these compounds remain in soils, sediment, and biota levels sufficient to cause death in some bird species. Also be wary of products with the prefix “eco”, “environ”, or allegedly “green.” Always read the product label first for proper use instructions, use restrictions, and environmental effects, for a truer sense of its impact. In many cases there are less dangerous alternatives to chemical pest control and lawn care. For example, grub control could be pursued with biological methods such as the use of Bacillus popilliae (Milky Spore), or nematodes.

Human safety concerns

As long as you or your children do not munch on grubs, beetles, or birds you should be fine. Make sure your pets do not eat dead or debilitated birds. Wash your hands thoroughly after digging in the garden and before touching food. If you find a sick or injured bird in New York City contact the Wild Bird Foundation: www.wildbirdfund.org. In New Jersey contact the Raptor Trust: info@raptortrust.org .

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 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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Creating a Haven for the Creatures of the Florida Keys

 

Taken by: John D. Ivanko/ecopreneuring.biz

Taken by: John D. Ivanko/ecopreneuring.biz

As my family drove our rental car along the unfamiliar Florida highways, I looked out the window. When we arrived where we staying, I got out of the car.  I stood still and the animals popped out. It revealed to me that you have to slow down to truly see nature at it’s fullest. You see more of nature in the middle of a hiking trail, standing still, than driving by.  What really struck me when I got out of the car was the sheer diversity of the plants and animals surrounding me. In the marina behind our rental house, there were pelicans, cormorants, anoles and so much more. It was not only the diversity of animals but also the diversity of plants that amazed me. I saw everything from coconut trees to mangroves (and in the rental next to us they even had a cactus).  Filled with this wonder of the nature surrounding me, I slept that night with my dreams filled with amazing plants and animals. The next morning my parents woke me up and we went out to an island. As we sped our boat out to the island, I looked in the water and I saw nothing. As I looked at the island from a distance, I saw no living animals. But as soon as I got off our boat and slowed down, it was like my vision had changed.  There were pelicans in the mangroves and anoles climbing around and little Sergeant Major fish swimming around the shallows of our island.  I learned from my trip to Florida that to enjoy something to its fullest, you have to slow down.  Just like eating chocolate bars, you slow down to get the deep flavors.

 

Unfortunately, some animals in this amazing ecosystem have problems:

• Turtles

The turtles have problems because a large part of a turtle’s diet is jelly fish. A turtle can very easily mistake a plastic bag for a jelly fish and eat the bag and then have stomach problems and possibly die.

• Cormorants

Cormorants are a small, one-and-a-half-foot tall bird (only slightly larger that a duck) . It waddles along road in search of food.  A hungry cormorant is a determined one. If it spots a fish in a pond across the road, the cormorant will waddle across the road only to be hit by a car.  Since cormorants are so short, drivers can’t see them and accidentally hit them.  I learned a lot about what I know about cormorants from Kelly Grinter, founder of the Marathon Wild Bird Center.

• Gulls

Gulls are a nuisance to fisherman because they eat the bait off of their fishing poles. Some fishermen get mad and throw rocks at the gulls. The stone could cause serious damage. Gulls also swallow hooks and fishing line from fishing poles when they steal the fish.

But there are people and organizations out there that are working to help these poor injured animals.  The Marathon Turtle Hospital is located on Marathon Key in Florida.  They work to help turtles that have been injured in the wild.  They have an operating room, a physical therapy room and even a lab. They save over a hundred turtles every year. Not content with just saving turtles, they also give lots of educational programs to help people understand how to protect turtles.

It’s not just turtles that people are working to help. The Marathon Wild Bird Center is working to help heal injured birds. Kelly Grinter and her volunteer staff are constantly working to help get these injured birds back into the wild.

But you can also help make life a safer place for these animals!  Just doing simple things like picking up trash and using reusable water bottles can save an amazing animal’s life.  If you are a fisherman, and you have broken fishing line, be sure to dispose of the line properly so it does not end up in the water.

If we all work together we can create a safe haven for the amazing creatures of the Florida Keys and animals everywhere!

Liam is eleven years old and lives in Wisconsin. He likes to read books and go on adventures with his friends. He also likes to have fun with his family. Liam enjoys exploring nature, writing about it and, most of all, helping protect it.

 

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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Liquids, Fumigants, or Foggers: Decontaminating Ricin

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

Line of police tape with emergency responders in the far backgroundYou can’t watch the news lately and not hear the word “ricin.” Letters laced with ricin have been sent to the President, other federal officials, and New York City’s Mayor. And while the letters have not reached their intended recipients, ricin can contaminate mail sorters and buildings.

What is ricin? Where do you even find it? These were the questions I asked when I first heard a letter addressed to the President was contaminated with ricin. From an intensive google search, I learned ricin comes from castor beans. It is extremely toxic (a few particles the size of table salt grains can kill a human) and the effects depend on whether it is inhaled, ingested, or injected.  The ricin that contaminated the letters, in these cases, was in the form of a powder, but ricin can also be used by terrorists as mist, a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid, too.

While everyone is deemed safe at this point, an element I wondered about was who decontaminates the mail sorters and equipment the letters came into contact with, or the buildings where it was produced, and how? This is where EPA’s homeland security research comes into play.

While the “who” part depends on where the incident happens, the “how” is being researched day in and day out – looking for the best sampling methods and decontamination techniques.

One focus of homeland security research at EPA examines the efficacy of different decontamination methods, for example, using liquids, fumigants, or foggers. Scientists and engineers have identified ways to contain decontaminants and ways to dispose of the waste after decontamination. Hydrogen peroxide, pH-adjusted bleach, and chlorine-dioxide fumigation decontamination technologies are techniques researchers have tested and found to be successful decontaminants in different scenarios.

Researchers here have also developed a suite of decision support tools to assist in the safe disposal of waste and debris that might be generated during a contamination incident. The research helps decision-makers make the most appropriate choices for each situation and gives them the tools to make sure the environment is safe following an event.

While the health of those who may have been exposed is always first and foremost during a situation like this, responders also want to make sure they can decontaminate effected buildings, rooms, and equipment and mitigate any subsequent exposures. To learn more about EPA’s homeland security indoor and outdoor cleanup research,  please visit: http://www.epa.gov/nhsrc/aboutdecon.html

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry is a frequent blogger covering water issues, but has recently expanded to share how researchers and engineers keep us safe from all the bad stuff, specifically in events of terrorism – chemical, biological, or radiological – or natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes and nuclear accidents.

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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Missing: One Smelly Old Garbage Gremlin

By Felicia Chou

Today, I found out that our office’s beloved Garbage Gremlin costume is M.I.A, after being “borrowed” by someone from another office. While I’m sure it’ll turn up somewhere soon, its disappearance eerily coincides with the release of our new report that tells us what our nation’s recycling rate is, what is in our trash, how much of it ends up in landfills and incinerators, and how we’re doing compared to previous years.

Perhaps the missing Garbage Gremlin (a grumpy monster that hates recycling) is a sign of how far we’ve come as a nation when it comes to recycling. Maybe we’ve moved past needing a grumpy, stinky ol’ monster to remind us that most of what we throw away is actually recyclable, and that creating less waste in the first place is really the way to go. On average, Americans create 4.4 pounds of trash per day, and we’ve kept 87 million tons of garbage from landfills and incinerators, compared to 85 million tons in 2010 by recycling and composting. But even so, more than 60% of our trash still ends up in landfills. So while we might not need the Gremlin as much as we used to, we’ve got some work ahead of us.

This infographic gives us a general overview of our nation’s progress, the environmental impact we’ve made through recycling, and what we can do to continue to make a difference.

There’s also the new report, along with the fact sheet, where you can learn all sorts of other neat things.

Learn more about the stuff we throw away, how it impacts climate change, and what you can do to make a difference.

About the Author: Felicia Chou is a Program Analyst in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. She is currently organizing a manhunt in search of the missing Garbage Gremlin, and is considering offering a reward of eternal gratitude with a three-month expiration date.

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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Innovative Technology for Water

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer
By Nancy Stoner

In March, I released a Water Technology Innovation Blueprint while visiting the University of South Florida’s (USF) College of Global Sustainability in partnership with the Water Environment Federation (WEF).  This Blueprint promotes technology innovation across the national water program as a means to speed progress toward clean and safe water.

Why is technology innovation so important?  With the challenges facing our water resources, it presents opportunities to fix these challenges faster, with significantly less cost and energy consumption. During this visit I toured USF laboratories where new technologies are already addressing some of the top ten issues mentioned in the Blueprint.  It is easy to see a paradigm shift is occurring across the water sector.

In May, I visited Clemson University’s Water Institute to learn about the Intelligent River project, which was awarded $3 million in 2011 by the National Science Foundation. Clemson is developing methods of harnessing information technology to improve decision making for river systems, like the Savannah River Basin, into which the streams near Clemson flow. Clemson is focused on collecting data from all kinds of water monitoring equipment and developing programs that will analyze all of that data to assist in river management.  It can be used not only to provide continual feedback on water pollution, flow levels, aquatic life issues and temperature, but also predict how those water quality and quantity conditions will change based on the decisions made by government, utilities, industry, and watershed groups.  This information could potentially be available to all of those groups to achieve goals like ensuring that there is more water to use during a drought, or better habitat for fish, and cleaner source water for drinking.

Next I went to Oakland, California to the East Bay Municipal Utilities District.  This wastewater facility has implemented a series of projects to produce energy, including generation of methane from waste that in turn powers generators to run a renewable energy system. This is the first of its kind in North America to be a net-energy producer. With 150,000 drinking water and 15,000 wastewater facilities nationwide accounting for 4% of the national electricity consumption, equivalent to about 56 billion kilowatt hours and costing around $4 billion dollars, a facility that not only conserves energy but generates it holds significant promise.

I plan to continue visiting innovative technology projects around the country to show their tremendous potential for solving our water challenges

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water.

 

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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