Monthly Archives: September 2013

My Community Is Going Green

By Lina Younes

Recently I was reading a weekly paper that covers community events in neighborhoods in Prince George’s County, Maryland where I live. I was very happy to see four articles on four totally separate issues that point to the county’s latest sustainability efforts. Let me explain.

The first article mentioned that Prince George’s County now has its first sustainability planner to encourage residents and small businesses to save energy, adopt sustainable practices, organize environmental events and outreach. The purpose is not only to encourage business leaders to go green, but individuals as well.

The second article mentioned how one of the pools in Prince George’s County is trying to make an environmental splash by installing a solar panel system. Installing this renewable energy system is only one of the green initiatives adopted in that community. They also have several rain barrels which collect and store rainwater runoff. Hopefully this green initiative extends to other pools and sports installations in the area. One of the community leaders is quoted as saying that “the fact that we’re actually saving money, that’s just a bonus”. Nice attitude!

The third news item reported on a recent survey that ranked the University of Maryland-College Park, one of the universities two of my children studied at, as the 13th greenest in the Nation. And the fourth article dealt with a major mass transit project envisioned for 2020 which will lead to far-reaching environmental and economic benefits for generations to come.

As administrator Gina McCarthy outlined EPA’s themes recently, the Agency is working hand in hand with its federal partners, states, tribes, AND local communities “to improve the health of American families and protect the environment one community at a time, all across the country.” EPA has a variety of programs that encourage sustainability and green practices in communities from the Urban Waters Initiative, to EPA’s Brownfields program which encourages communities and key stakeholders to work together to prevent contamination, safely cleanup communities and promote sustainable land use, and its environmental justice program.

Bottom line: the actions we take at home, at school, at the office, in our communities, have an impact on our community and our environment as a whole. Going green is not just a fad, but an imperative for us all. That’s my humble opinion. What do you think?

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual 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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A Bike-Friendly EPA Headquarters

By Ed Fendley

It’s awesome to be part of an agency that’s helped clean America’s air and water and is working to reduce emissions of deadly mercury. Now I’ve got a new – and local – reason to appreciate the EPA: outdoor bicycle racks here at our headquarters buildings.

Recently, four sets of modern bike racks were installed outside at the Federal Triangle campus in Washington, D.C., as part of a broader EPA plan to welcome bicycling by employees and visitors. (We already have bike parking in our basement garages.)

Giving people choices in how to get around is a great thing. Studies show that if people can conveniently walk, bike, or take transit, many of them will choose to drive less – reducing traffic and cleaning the air.

And that fits neatly into our mission at EPA. According to EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009 (April 2011), roughly 17 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from passenger vehicles. Investing in public transit and other transportation options, like biking, make it easier for people to drive less, lowering greenhouse gas emissions. These approaches can also help reduce carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and other pollutants emitted by motor vehicles.

As EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld recently wrote, there are lots of good reasons to ride a bike – including pure joy. I can relate: my kids and I ride a lot. They bike to school and we often tool around on the weekends together. I’ve also ridden to work for 20 years now. It’s exciting to see that bicycling rates are increasing rapidly across the country.

Building design is part of that. Convenient bike parking, as well as showers and lockers, get more people riding. Placing racks within 50 feet of building entrances is recommended as it helps visitors who may not have access to the parking garage. It also helps employees like me who bike during the day to meetings around town.

As more employees and visitors choose to ride, EPA will need to make further improvements. But for the moment, I’ll pause to celebrate as I park my bike and stroll into my office.

About the author: Ed Fendley is a senior policy analyst with the Office of Sustainable Communities.

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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A New Approach to Protecting Drinking Water

Sometimes the best enforcement is the promise of enforcement.

This is the thinking behind a key element of Next Generation Compliance: Developing innovative enforcement strategies. The clear expectation of enforcement, combined with the commitment to follow-through, motivates compliance with rules that protect America’s air, water and land. We’ve known this for a while, but recently we’ve created new systems that allow us to prioritize the worst offenders and target our efforts, saving time and money, while becoming a more effective and transparent agency.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A New Vision for a Storied NYC Location

By Elias Rodriguez

Williamsburg Bridge

Williamsburg Bridge

Real estate is kind of valuable in Manhattan. It is noteworthy that, at long last, New York City has decided on a path forward for an area that is near and dear to my heart. In this week’s New York Times,  it was reported that a hotly contested piece of prime real estate will finally be developed.

The area is on Delancey Street, which was my old stomping ground as a kid.  The Lower East Side neighborhood is a microcosm that magnifies the marvelous mayhem of metropolitan life. The Williamsburg Bridge (WillyB) spills an incessant mass of trucks, cars and bicycles into the area to and from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Delancey St. has a movie named after it, Crossing Delancey, a nice “chick flick,” but not my cup of tea. The bustling thoroughfare is famous or infamous, depending on your desire   to shop, eat, haggle for a bargain or soak up the local ambiance.

Delancey has always been a kind of “Anti-Times Square.” A place where locals go to escape the tourists, immigrant families come to get their kids a new pair of sneakers and where only saps pay retail for purchases.  It is the kind of place where you have a bialy for breakfast, an egg roll for lunch and a bistec en salsa for dinner. A neighborhood alumnus was Jack Kirby, who immortalized the strip as Yancy Street in his beloved comic books. If ever in the ‘hood,” I recommend a visit to the Essex Street Market, which crosses Delancey. If you recall the movie, Marty, he was portrayed as a butcher at the market.

This is a major project within the hottest real estate market on Earth. I am glad that the coveted property, long an eyesore and underutilized parking lot, is now moving toward becoming a community asset; but I hope it is developed in a sustainable way. What considerations will be given to air quality? The constant traffic on Delancey from the WillyB generates tons of diesel emissions. Emissions from diesel engines are a primary source of air pollution in the northeastern United States. The planned on-site Andy Warhol Museum sounds novel, but will the children within the planned 1,000 apartments be provided with green spaces to play and recreate? What are your thoughts about urban planning and the balance between competing interests?

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

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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Village Green Project Helps Library by Inspiring Young Students

By Jennifer Brannen (Guest Blogger)

 

Library Partners (left to right):  Jennifer Brannen (Teen and Adult Services Librarian),  Kathleen Hayes (Children’s Services Library Associate), and Sandra Lovely (South Regional Library Manager)

Library Partners (left to right): Jennifer Brannen (Teen and Adult Services Librarian), Kathleen Hayes (Children’s Services Library Associate), and Sandra Lovely (South Regional Library Manager)

Durham County South Regional Library and Durham County are collaborating with EPA on the Village Green Project air monitoring station.  A new sort of partnership for all, the Village Green is an air quality project that invites neighbors, students and community members of all sorts to learn and become involved.

Already, the Village Green Project is generating interest in our community and reflecting the missions of both the EPA and the library; the bench integrated into the monitoring station is being used by library patrons curious about air quality or the design of the air-monitoring station itself. It is also proving popular with families looking for a nice shady spot to sit and read to their children.

We librarians have particularly enjoyed the outreach events already associated with the Village Green and are looking forward to the future programming and outreach for the upcoming school year. Our community has demonstrated a strong interest in science and environmental topics, which isn’t a surprise given our proximity to Research Triangle Park, home to some of the nation’s top science and research and development organizations.

As the school year starts, we are looking forward to new opportunities for outreach at local schools that this project will generate, from elementary to high school, including the new Research Triangle High School with its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) focus. Not only do we have the resources to teach students of all ages how to do research, we can offer them the opportunity to become part of new and exciting research in the making.

Hopefully, the South Regional Library’s collaboration with the EPA and other Village Green community partners is just the beginning of many fruitful and enduring partnerships that will continue to grow our community and nurture our learners.

 

About the author:  Guest blogger Jennifer Brannen is a teen and adult services librarian at Durham County’s South Regional Library and has worked with EPA and Durham County to share the Village Green Project with the local community.

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

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What to Say about Ramps

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

No matter how much you beg, I won’t tell you where I found them. I won’t even direct you to the state where the ramps were growing. Ramps colonies are top secret. This recently trendy delicacy, which may be described as wild leek, is not always easy to find.

You can make ramp tarts, ramp grits, fried ramps, or ramps & eggs. They can be roasted sautéed, pickled, or puréed. They can be put raw in salads or stir fried.

Ramps, officially allium trioccum, are part of the lily family, which includes garlic, leeks, and onions. Slightly resembling scallions, they have a white bulb at the bottom, and below that are the roots. And they are among the first greens available in spring.

No matter where you live in the US, ramps may be growing wild. They’ve been around for a long time in the east, from Canada to Georgia.

Until the 1980s, though, ramps were not part of northeastern restaurant culture. The buzz began in food writing circles, and in 1983, a recipe for a ramp tart and cheddar-enriched ramps grits soufflé appeared in Gourmet magazine.

Now, the spring bulb is threatened with overharvesting. Lawrence Davis-Hollander, an ethnobotanist who lives in the Berkshires, sees a problem so serious he put out a “Ramp Action Alert.” Quebec banned ramp harvesting in 1995 and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park banned harvesting in 2004.

The problem is that overharvesting will reduce sustainability of ramps as well as their ability to reproduce. Even harvesting 25 percent could require 10 years to recover. In 2011, Davis-Hollander estimated over 2 million ramps plants were harvested for culinary purposes.

Wild food specialist Russ Cohen, who also lives in the Berkshires, has noticed whole patches being decimated. He also noticed that when ramp colonies are disturbed, the areas are susceptible to invasive species. Apparently, it’s not hard to wipe out an entire plant species, even one as common as ramps. According to Davis-Hollander, ginseng once was just as common as ramps are now. Yet it’s now virtually extinct from many woods, and generally scarce.

Ramps lovers who don’t want to give up the habit can follow some simple rules from Davis-Hollander: don’t take more than a fifth of the leaves and don’t dig out the bulbs. Also, enjoy ramps you find in woods, but don’t buy them commercially.

In other words, everything in moderation.

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, eight chickens, chicken-eating 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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Fall into Fall Energy Savings

Fall leaves

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

It’s hard to believe but summer has come to a close, and fall is officially here. While summer is my favorite time of year, fall runs a close second. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, the weather is usually just about perfect, with mild temperatures that are great for wearing just a light jacket to keep the evening chill away. But, that evening chill also means that many of us start to crank up the heat, as we try to keep our homes nice and comfortable. As you head into fall, these simple tips can help you keep those high energy bills at bay.

1.)    Use ENERGY STAR Certified Lighting: The sun is going down earlier and earlier these days, and that means spending a lot more time with the lights on. Have you changed out all of your lights to ENERGY STAR certified models yet? Using ENERGY STAR certified lighting means that you are using 75 percent less energy than with incandescent bulbs. Making the switch not only means that you are saving $40-$135 in annual energy bills, but your bulbs will last 10-25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

2.)    Seal and Insulate Your Home: Sealing and insulating the “envelope” or “shell” of your home — its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors — is often the most cost effective way to improve energy efficiency and comfort. ENERGY STAR estimates that a knowledgeable homeowner or skilled contractor can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% on their total annual energy bill) by sealing and insulating. Check out ENERGY STAR’s website to find out more.

3.)    Use a Programmable Thermostat: Using a programmable thermostat is one of the easiest ways to save energy this fall. All you have to do is set the correct temperature based on how your home is being used at different points in the day, and let the thermostat do the rest. Setting the device correctly is the most important piece to the puzzle, so use the information on ENERGY STAR’s website and start saving up to $180 per year.

4.)    Use a Power Strip: The end of summer means that the kids will once again be back in the house, watching TV and playing video games. You can make sure that they don’t leave the all of the electronics on day and night by using a power strip. With just one click they can turn everything off at once, helping the entire family to keep those energy bills down.

5.)    Keep Drapes Open: This may be the easiest energy-saving tip of all. Keep the drapes/shades on south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to warm your home. Just don’t forget to close the drapes/shades at sundown to prevent heat loss in the evening.

So, what is your favorite fall energy-saving tip? Leave it in a comment to this post and help other fans of the ENERGY STAR Current save energy, save money and protect the climate this fall.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR communications team. Pumpkin-flavored lattes, warm boots and leather jackets are just a few of the things that she loves about fall. 

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 Farm Safety and Health Week 2013

Like many Americans, I didn’t always know a lot about growing or harvesting my food. I knew that it started on a farm and ended up in my grocery store. Over time, I learned that agricultural work is one of the toughest, riskiest and lowest paid jobs in the U.S. Now, I put my passion for farm safety to work here at EPA.

Across the nation this week, farm communities are working together to stay safe as part of Farm Safety and Health Week. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with numerous risks to workers. Agricultural workers can also face potential chemical hazards. At EPA we’re working with our partners to help people understand how to be safe around farms, nurseries, and greenhouses.

For example, we work with federal, state, and non-profit agencies and associations to implement the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard. Our goal: reduce risks of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers, pesticide handlers, and their families. We’re also improving this standard to better protect you in the future.

Organizations we work with provide training and support for agricultural communities. The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs trains people on the proper handling of pesticides. The Migrant Clinicians Network trains doctors and nurses on how to address the health concerns of farm workers and their families. And the National Pesticide Information Center offers a toll-free number for anyone to call with questions regarding pesticides and related issues. Training is available in English, Spanish, and other languages to help agricultural communities.

Do you live or work in a farm community? Here are tips to protect yourself and your family from pesticide exposure.

  • Close windows near fields during and after spraying.
  • Don’t eat fruit or vegetables directly from the field; always wash them in clean water first.
  • Keep children away from pesticides and store household pesticides in a locked cabinet out of their reach.
  • After you apply pesticides, wash your clothes separately from the family laundry and wash your body and your hair. Put on clean clothes, not the ones you wore.
  • Leave your work shoes or boots outside the house so you don’t bring pesticide residues inside.
  • Don’t use agricultural pesticides in your home.
  • If pesticides get on your skin, wash right away. Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 to see if you need medical attention.
  • If you feel dizzy or sick while working in a greenhouse or another enclosed area, get out to an open area to breathe fresh air.

More information on agricultural worker safety and training is available.

To farm families and workers, thank you for the work you do.

 Emily Selia is an Environmental Health Scientist at the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. She works primarily on health communication and outreach initiatives, including farmworker health programs.

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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Hunger in My Neighborhood

By Mike Frankel

I occasionally work from home on Fridays, and as a treat, I pick up a great homemade meatball sandwich from a spot not far from my home in South Philly. The route takes me alongside the I-95 overpass. For months, I saw lines of people stretching for several blocks under the overpass. It didn’t matter the weather – rain or shine, hot or cold – there was a line, and I couldn’t figure out what everyone was waiting for. Perhaps a casino bus to Atlantic City?

One cold, dreary Friday, I took a late lunch – and there they were, in line as always: all ages, all
races, all sizes. But for the first time, the line was moving. I pulled up to the curb, eager to finally see what was so important that people had been lining up for months. Then I saw the truck. Its sign read “PHILABUNDANCE” – our area’s major hunger-relief organization. They weren’t waiting for a casino
jaunt. They were waiting for food!

I was shocked and felt somewhat guilty sitting in my warm, dry car with my $10 lunch. How could
this be happening in my diverse middle/working-class neighborhood? Leaving the truck with a bag of food was a familiar face. In that moment, I realized hunger isn’t something that happens elsewhere – my neighbors were hungry.

Shortly after that experience, EPA started working on a new program called the Food Recovery Challenge. I signed on immediately. You may be wondering what EPA has to do with food. Turns out food comprises 21% of municipal waste sent to landfills, more than paper and plastic. That’s not just a hunger problem; unlike other kinds of waste, food decomposes rapidly and becomes a significant source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change. Yet every day, we waste enough food to fill the Rose Bowl Stadium. In 2011, that added up to 36 million tons of food, nearly all of which was sent to landfills or incinerators.

The sad thing is that most of this food is still wholesome and nutritious. Yet one in six Americans are food-insecure: unsure of where their next meal might come from. Diverting even a small portion of the food wasted could potentially feed millions of our neighbors. EPA is working with organizations to buy smarter and divert good food away from landfills to groups like PHILABUNDANCE. And for food unsuitable for feeding families, we’re encouraging organizations to send it to places that compost it to create nutrient-rich natural fertilizer. After all, that will create soil for growing healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables that help feed us. Now that’s a true model of sustainability!

For more information on Food Recovery and what you can do.

About the author: Mike Frankel is a communications coordinator in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office. He is part of an agency-wide group promoting food recovery and sustainability.

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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Desarrollemos nuestro Lórax interior

Por Isabel Long

“You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula Tree. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water.  And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
And all of his friends
May come back.”

Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Traducción de la cita del libro El Lórax por Dr. Seuss:

“Estás a cargo de la última de las semillas de los Truffula.

Y los árboles Truffulla son lo que todos necesitan.

Siembra un nuevo árbol Truffula. Trátalo con cariño.

Dale agua limpia. Y aliméntalo con aire fresco.

Siembra un busque. Protégelo de las hachas que talan.

Entonces el Lórax.

Y todos sus amigos.

Podrían regresar.”

 

El idioma inglés no es mi lengua materna, por lo que no crecí escuchando las rimas de los libros de Dr. Seuss.  Pero  algunos meses atrás, mi marido le compró el libro “El Lorax” a nuestro hijo de tres años   Un día, entré en la habitación cuando leían las últimas páginas que mostraban la destrucción de los espectaculares árboles  “Truffula .”  Mi hijo tenía una mirada seria.  Llegamos a la última página, cuando el “Once-Ler” lanza su llamado a la acción. La escena me cautivó. Sin un vocabulario científico, en una forma bien gráfica, este cuento exponía la historia que hemos visto reiteradas muchas veces, el  daño producido por el uso ilimitado de los recursos naturales.

La historia toca un tema que ha estado en mi mente por algún tiempo, especialmente después de ser madre: cómo y cuándo la ética medioambiental comienza a desarrollarse.  El famoso naturalista, Aldo Leopoldo en una de mis citas favoritas dice: “La evolución de una ética medioambiental  es tanto un proceso intelectual, como emocional.”  En mi caso, la relación emocional con la naturaleza ha estado conmigo por mucho tiempo  como un visitante silencioso, sin conocimiento de la discusión intelectual.  En mi niñez  las conversaciones de sobremesa eran sobre temas políticos, sobre arte o literatura, nunca sobre ciencia.

No fue hasta que trabajé para una de las organizaciones medioambientales más grandes del país que mi ética medioambiental se conectó con el proceso intelectual.  Y clic, el círculo se completo.  Obviamente  trabajando en Washington DC  me informé de la discusión política,  pero lo más importante fue que aprendí la relación personal que existe entre esos maravillosos paisajes naturales  que adoro y nuestra responsabilidad que nos cabe como sociedad, no solo por estas tierras, sino también por el agua que bebemos y el aire que respiramos. 090313 Blog PHOTO NPLD Isabel

Y fue unos meses atrás que escuché el mismo mensaje en la Conferencia de La Casa Blanca, “Mujeres y Medio Ambiente.”  En un discurso convincente, la administradora de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. (EPA en sus siglas en inglés), Gina McCarthy,  nos llamaba a conectar a nuestros niños  con la naturaleza, más aún, McCarthy, recalcaba la importancia de la relación visceral que tenemos que tener con la naturaleza.  McCarthy precisaba que  solo así nos daremos cuenta de lo que está en peligro si no protegemos nuestro medio ambiente.

Es por esto que una vez más, defenderé la importancia de la conexión emocional con la tierra y la naturaleza que Aldo Leopoldo y Gina McCarthy reflexionaron.  La ética intelectual sobre el tema naturalmente se desarrollará si la parte emocional está en nosotros.  Pero si carecemos de esta última, seremos sólo individuos discutiendo, no líderes.  Seamos más como el Lorax, defendamos los árboles Truffula, protejamos esos maravillosos paisajes vírgenes esparcidos por el mundo, demandemos aire y agua pura para nuestras familias y las generaciones futuras. 

 

Acerca de la autora: Isabel Long es originalmente de Chile. Labora en la Oficina de Administración de Terrenos (BLM, por sus siglas en inglés)—Estados del Este en el Departamento del Interior de EE.UU. Ella es la co-fundadora del Proyecto de Excursiones de Diversidad Juvenil de los Estados del Este en consorcio con el Sierra Club, la Coalición Nacional de Cambio Climático (NLCCC, por sus siglas en inglés), el Consejo Nacional Hispano Ambiental (NHEC, por sus siglas en inglés), y la Escuela Charter César Chávez en Washington, D.C.

 

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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