Monthly Archives: March 2014

Battling Pollution Balances Health Disparities and Brings Economic Opportunity

Pollution isn’t just a barrier to good health; it’s a barrier to good jobs. Too often, low-income families, the inner-city, and communities of color are overburdened by air and water pollution. President Obama has called closing gaps of opportunity a defining challenge of our time. Meeting that challenge means ensuring clean air, clean water, and safe, healthy work environments. It is our duty, on behalf of the people we serve, to provide equal protection for all. That’s what environmental justice is all about.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Mocha Moms President Kuae Mattox and Board Members of Mocha Moms, Inc.

Photo of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Mocha Moms President Kuae Mattox and Board Members of Mocha Moms, Inc.

 

Mocha Moms, Inc. understands that principle, and launched a National Community Service Initiative in 2009 entitled “Closing the Gap in Minority Health, Prosperity and Achievement.” This wide-reaching initiative promotes education and community service throughout 100 chapters in local communities around the country. Mocha Moms, Inc. and the EPA share a commitment to address environmental health risks and expand the conversation within underserved communities. We are thrilled to announce the continuation of the partnership between the EPA and Mocha Moms, Inc. More

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Mi primera “introducción”’ a César Chávez, defensor de los trabajadores agrícolas y líder obrero

Por Jim Jones

 En marzo del 1968, el senador de EE.UU. y candidato presidencial Robert F. Kennedy se unió a César Chávez y 8,000 trabajadores agrícolas en Delano, CA para poner fin a la huelga de hambre de 25 días de Chávez. A pesar de que era joven, la imagen del Sr. Kennedy y del Sr. Chávez en la televisión se me grabó en la mente. Era la primera vez que yo escuchaba acerca de las huelgas de hambre y aprendí que había gente en este país, particularmente los trabajadores agrícolas, a los cuales no se les trataba justamente. Esa fue mi primera introducción a la necesidad de la justicia social.

033114 Chavez RFK picture

En la actualidad, soy un administrador adjunto en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental y una de mis responsabilidades es ayudar a asegurar que las protecciones de la exposición a pesticidas estén en vigor para los trabajadores agrícolas. Dos millones de trabajadores agrícolas cultivan, cuidan, cosechan nuestros alimentos. Ellos merecen estar protegidos.

Durante esta semana, la 15ta Semana de Concienciación del Trabajador Agrícola anual que concluye con un día nacional para conmemorar el legado de César Chavez, reconocemos la importante contribución de los trabajadores agrícolas a nuestra economía y a nuestras comunidades locales.

Durante los últimos dos años, he visitado campos y granjas de trabajadores agrícolas en todo el país, incluyendo algunos en Michigan, Florida, y Carolina del Norte. Me chocaron varias cosas:

1.       Los trabajadores agrícolas trabajan largas jornadas extenuantes y extensas períodos de cosecha bajo el calor y la lluvia y muchas veces madrugan y trabajan hasta el anochecer.

2.       Están sujetos a la exposición a plaguicidas como ninguna otra persona en este país. Ellos aplican pesticidas y trabajan en contacto directo con las cosechas que todavía tienen residuos de pesticidas. Piense en estos escenarios cuando coja el fruto rodeado de las hojas del árbol.

3.       Tienen muy poca capacitación y adiestramiento en asuntos de seguridad. Muchos trabajadores agrícolas me dijeron que no habían recibido ningún tipo de entrenamiento de seguridad. En la actualidad se requiere que los trabajadores agrícolas reciban entrenamiento cada 5 años. (Estamos proponiendo cambiarlo a un entrenamiento anual y mejorarlo para que los trabajadores entiendan el conjunto de protecciones que se les ofrece).

4.       Ellos se sienten vulnerables. Ellos están preocupados de que puedan ser deportados o de que los despidan si se quejan. Ellos no se sienten cómodos tomando tiempo libre si se sienten enfermos por los plaguicidas o por otros asuntos de salud.

Por estas y otras razones, la agencia propuso revisiones a la Norma de Protección del Trabajador Agricola, actualizando la regulación de hace 20 años para proveer mayores protecciones a los trabajadores agrícolas de la exposición a plaguicidas.

Los nuevos requisitos propuestos incluyen adiestramiento mandatorio sobre el manejo seguro de pesticidas casa año, además áreas de amortiguamiento de 25 a 100 pies alrededor de los campos en los cuales se prohíbe la entrada donde los pesticidas han sido aplicados, por primera vez se requiera la edad mínima para el manejo de pesticidas, rotulación mandatoria con rótulos de alerta alrededor de las áreas tratadas con los pesticidas más peligrosos, contabilidad de documentos mandatorios por dos años, y el hacer la información sobre los peligros de los plaguicidas y sus aplicaciones disponibles para los trabajadores agrícolas y las personas que abogan por sus derechos. Sin embargo, la propuesta norma continúa las exenciones para granjas familiares.

El periodo de 90 días de comentarios concluye el 17 de junio del 2014. Instamos que comenten sobre la propuesta.

Jim Jones es el administrador adjunto de Seguridad Química y Prevención de Contaminación de la 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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Join EPA, BGCA, and Spider-Man in Celebrating Earth Hour this Saturday, March 29th

Earth Hour

By: Jill Vohr

This Saturday, March 29th, is the 8th annual Earth Hour, a global movement that brings together millions of people across the world to switch off their lights for one hour as a symbol of their commitment to the planet. Are you up for the challenge? As a member of the team at ENERGY STAR, I am excited to participate for pretty obvious reasons.  Turning off lights is a great and easy way to save energy and prevent climate change.  Plus, using ENERGY STAR certified lighting saves energy even when our lights are on.

This year, Earth Hour has partnered with the new Sony Pictures movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to make Earth Hour that much more thrilling to people across the globe.  Check out this video to see how the movie stars are playing a part in protecting the environment this Earth Hour.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), a dedicated ENERGY STAR partner, is also working with the makers of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. BGCA uses the movie’s energy theme to help young people learn about saving energy. The movie villain is called Electro and he attacks by shooting bolts of electricity!

The connection between the movie and the work of the BGCA is a great one, and one that I think works for young people across the country. What better way to get your kids to use less energy than by telling them to “Be Your Own Amazing” by joining Spider-Man to stop Electro and save energy, right?  Even without the movie connection, Earth Hour is its own amazing.  It is a way for individuals across the globe to come together to make a difference for the planet through local activities.  And that speaks to us at ENERGY STAR, because we are passionate about using energy efficiently.

Did you know that the average home spends about 12% of its electricity bill on lighting? Lighting accounts for more of the energy that you use than your laundry equipment, refrigerator and dishwasher combined. That fact alone should be a good reason to switch off the lights (non-essential ones) and give Earth Hour a try this weekend. We know that our kids want to be heroes like the Amazing Spider-Man.  So by turning off the lights this weekend, we adults can certainly be our own amazing, too.

Earth Hour will take place on Saturday, March 29th between 8:30pm and 9:30pm in your local time zone.

About the Author: Jill Vohr is the Director of Marketing for the ENERGY STAR Labeling Branch.  When she is not pursuing strategies that encourage individuals to use less energy – she is using up a lot of her own energy with her 7-year old daughter, Ingrid, who thinks spiders are icky.

 

 

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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Rethinking Wastewater

By Marguerite Huber

glass of beer

The next time you enjoy a beer you might be helping the environment.

The next time you enjoy a cold, refreshing beer or glass of wine, you might also be helping the environment. Over 40 billion gallons of wastewater are produced every day in the United States, and wineries, breweries, and other food and beverage producers are significant contributors.  For example, the brewing industry averages five or six barrels of water to produce just one barrel of beer.

But where most see only waste, others see potential resources. What we label “wastewater” can contain a wealth of compounds and microbes, some of which can be harvested.

One innovative company that has recognized this, Cambrian Innovation, is harnessing wastewater’s potential through the world’s first bioelectrically-enhanced, wastewater-to-energy systems, EcoVolt. (We first blogged about them in 2012.)

Cambrian Innovation is working with Bear Republic Brewing Company, one of the largest craft breweries in the United States. Located in California, which is suffering from severe drought, Bear Republic first began testing Cambrian’s technology to save water and reduce energy costs. Fifty percent of the brewery’s electricity and more than twenty percent of its heat needs could be generated with EcoVolt. Compared to industry averages, Bear Republic uses only three and a half barrels of water to produce one barrel of beer.

The EcoVolt bioelectric wastewater treatment system leverages a process called “electromethanogenesis,” in which electrically-active organisms convert carbon dioxide and electricity into methane, a gas used to power generators.  The methane is renewable and can provide an energy source to the facility.

Rather than being energy intensive and expensive, like traditional wastewater treatment, Cambrian’s technology generates electricity as well as cost savings.

Furthermore, the EcoVolt technology is capable of automated, remote operation, which can further decrease operating costs.

EPA first awarded Cambrian Innovation a Phase I (“proof of concept”) Small Business Innovation Research contract in 2010. Based on that work, the company then earned a Phase II contract in 2012 to develop wastewater-to-energy technology. Cambrian Innovation has also developed innovative solutions with funding from other partners, including the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Defense, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

With access to water sources becoming more of a challenge in many areas of the country, Cambrian’s technology can help change how we look at wastewater. It doesn’t have to be waste! Wastewater can instead be an asset, but only as long as we keep pushing its potential. That can make enjoying a cold glass of your favorite beverage even easier to enjoy!

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a Student Contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

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

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Un recordatorio

Por Danny Hart

Recibimos un visitante en nuestro edificio durante el último par de semanas. Era una belleza. Y por lo poco que sé acerca de las aves y lo que pude encontrar en la red después de su visita previa, parece que era un halcón de cola roja. Fue un poco extraño ver una enorme ave semejante posada en el patio interior entre nuestros edificios al centro de Washington, DC en un día primaveral mientras nevaba. Pensé que se sentiría más cómodo en las marismas de la costa oriental de Maryland, o sobrevolando las montañas Blue Ridge de Virginia.

 

Foto tomada por Daniel Hart

Foto tomada por Daniel Hart

 

Creo que este visitante quiso hacernos una visita para recordarnos acerca de la majestuosidad y belleza que comparte este planeta que estamos tratando de proteger.

 

Acerca del autor: Danny Hart ha estado en la EPA desde el 2006. Es el director asociado para Comunicaciones del Web.

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 Reminder

By Danny Hart

We’ve had a visitor to our building over the last couple of weeks. He’s a beauty. And from the little I know of birds and what I could find online after his previous visit, he appears to be a red-tailed hawk. It’s a bit strange seeing such a huge bird perched in a courtyard in downtown Washington, DC on a snowy spring day. I would have thought he’d be more comfortable out in the marshes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, or soaring the skies above Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

But, I think this visitor wanted pay a visit to remind us of the majesty and beauty that shares this planet we’re trying to protect.

About the author: Danny Hart is EPA’s Associate Director 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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EPA’s Report on the Environment: Tracking National Trends Over Time

Reposted from EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA Leadership

By Lek Kadeli

With the cold winter still stubbornly hanging on, it’s a bit hard to believe that next week marks the beginning of the 2014 baseball season. As a life-long fan of the game, I always find it easy to slip back into the routine of reading the daily box scores each evening, keeping an eye on batting averages and other pertinent statistics, and assessing the progress of my favorite team—the New York Yankees! I am usually ready to start thinking about October travel plans to the watch playoff home games in the Bronx sometime around the All Star break.

The ability to monitor the state of my team is one of the truly gratifying aspects of baseball. Having a similar ability to assess and monitor trends when it comes to the environment is even a more gratifying aspect of meeting our mission here at EPA: to protect human health and the environment.

Today, our scientists and engineers have reached a major milestone in that area with the release of the draft Report on the Environment 2014 (ROE 2014).

Read the rest of the rest of the blog post. 

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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EPA’s Report on the Environment: Tracking National Trends Over Time

With the cold winter still stubbornly hanging on, it’s a bit hard to believe that next week marks the beginning of the 2014 baseball season. As a life-long fan of the game, I always find it easy to slip back into the routine of reading the daily box scores each evening, keeping an eye on batting averages and other pertinent statistics, and assessing the progress of my favorite team—the New York Yankees! I am usually ready to start thinking about October travel plans to the watch playoff home games in the Bronx sometime around the All Star break.

The ability to monitor the state of my team is one of the truly gratifying aspects of baseball. Having a similar ability to assess and monitor trends when it comes to the environment is even a more gratifying aspect of meeting our mission here at EPA: to protect human health and the environment.

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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Take a second to fix some leaks!

Water SenseBy Kimberly Scharl

American households waste more than 1 trillion gallons of clean drinking water each year due to leaky pipes, toilets, showerheads and other fixtures. Fixing these leaks can be easy and inexpensive, and can save you nearly 10% on utility bills.  EPA’s WaterSense program spent the week of March 17-23 encouraging everyone to “chase down” plumbing leaks during the 6th annual Fix a Leak Week. To kick off the week, EPA hosted a Twitter Chat with tweets featuring Flo, the WaterSense mascot at different locations in the mid-Atlantic, challenging each location to participate in Fix a Leak Week. Flo appeared at the White House, the Liberty Bell and with the ponies at Assateague!

Throughout the rest of the week, my coworkers and I participated in several more events and activities.  At the Energy Awareness Fair at the Naval Support Activity Base in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, we highlighted the link between water savings and energy savings by promoting water efficiency in homes and communities. Using less water means water and wastewater utilities need to use less energy for their pumps.

We also visited Eyer Middle School in Macungie, Pennsylvania, to talk with sixth graders about saving water in their homes.  We used a WaterSense-labeled shower head to demonstrate its water savings as compared to a traditional fixture.  In preparation for our visit, the classes explored Recycle City to learn about other ways to save water and energy.

Even though Fix a Leak Week is officially over, any time is a good time to find and stop water leaks in your home.  And when it comes to repairing leaky fixtures, you don’t need to be a home repair expert. Common types of leaks found in the home are worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves–all often easy to fix. You might only need a few tools and hardware, and these fixes can pay for themselves in water savings. Check out this video by Spartanburg Water on detecting a leaky toilet.

Take the Pledge!

Join us and thousands of your friends and neighbors in taking simple actions to save water. Take the “I’m for Water” pledge, and make a commitment to saving this precious resource.

For more information on Fix a Leak Week and the WaterSense program, go to www.epa.gov/watersense. You can also follow WaterSense on Facebook and Twitter!

How do you save water during Fix a Leak Week and everyday? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: Kimberly Scharl joined EPA in 2010, after moving to Pennsylvania from Mississippi. She is a financial analyst and project officer in the Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, and is the Regional Liaison for the WaterSense Program. Kim enjoys bowling and spending time with her family.

 

 

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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Celebrating Women as Storytellers and Science Popularizers: Women’s History Month at EPA

By Abbey States

Profiles of Women Employees at EPA

Profiles of Women Employees at EPA

March is Women’s History Month and while it’s been more than a century since the first International Women’s Day in 1911, for those in scientific career fields it can also be an annual reminder that women in science are by and large still underrepresented and underpaid. Now that it seems progress has stalled on closing this gender gap, it’s more important than ever to seek inspiration from the women that have been leaders of change in science and legislation in America for decades.

Women have played a critical role in the environmental movement since long before the EPA existed.  Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” galvanized the public in favor of environmental conservation, spurring the federal government to take action on pesticide regulation and water quality in the 1960s. Hazel Johnson’s crusade against urban pollution led to the passing of the Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898 in 1994; she was also one of the first champions of sustainable community development. Of particular significance in the region is Lois Gibbs, a housewife from upstate New York whose activism against the hazardous waste polluting her Love Canal community inspired the creation of the EPA’s Superfund program, used to locate and remediate toxic waste sites throughout the country.

In planning for this year’s Women’s History Month, I was struck by the power of these women not only as environmental activists, but also as storytellers. Their leadership and communication skills are why they are remembered because they were the vehicles for the important environmental issues they worked to advance.  In this vein, our events focus on women storytellers and science popularizers that are making waves today.

The book club of the Women in Science and Engineering Council, started last year in  our region, selects  recently published science books written by women, many of whom are journalists first and science enthusiasts second. “ Full Body Burden” by Kristen Iversen, “Gulp” by Mary Roach, and “Breasts” by Florence Williams are a few great titles that combine personal anecdotes with scientific literature and a bit of history to create compelling reads that also succeed in conveying important information.

This month we also hosted a viewing of the three-part PBS documentary series Makers: Women Who Make America.  This film, produced by women, celebrates the last century’s social revolution through the stories of some of the key figures in the women’s rights movement, as well as those it impacted.

Income parity for scientific careers across gender lines will improve when more women are inspired to enter and stay in these jobs, changing the culture from within.  It is more important than ever to recognize those that inspire us to do so through their storytelling and popularization of important issues in science.

For more inspiration, check out these profiles of featured women EPA employees and the Department of Labor’s Women’s History Month book selections.

About the Author: Abbey States has been a Physical Scientist with the Superfund Program Support Branch since 2010 and is the current Women in Science and Engineering Special Emphasis Program Manager for EPA Region 2. She studied chemistry at Tufts University and has a graduate degree from the University of Auckland. Prior to joining the EPA, Abbey worked as a field sampler on Superfund sites, a laboratory analyst, and a chimney stack tester.

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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