Greening the Apple

Improving Rodent Control Using Biomonitoring Baits in NYC

DeadRat

A dead rat being cleared from a ceiling.

By Marcia Anderson

In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift in programs aimed at controlling rodents, especially in urban areas. Through the use of non-toxic biomonitoring baits, New York City rodent control specialists are improving their pest management techniques to become more effective at tracking rodents.

Biomonitoring baits are essentially non-toxic food blocks for mice and rats with additives that allow for tracking. The baits contain human food-grade ingredients, making them highly attractive to rodents in both taste and texture.

There are two types of biomonitoring baits – one that incorporates a biofluorescent marker and a second that incorporates a dark pink dye. After they are digested, the marker additives are excreted in the rodent scat (feces). Under black light, even the faintest of scat with the bio fluorescent marker glows brilliantly. In contrast, the pinkish scat from the other bait product is easily detected in normal light.

Biomonitoring baits can assist in controlling rodent infestations, especially in sensitive locations such as in schools, childcare centers, and medical facilities. In these locations where pesticides are not desired or allowed, an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach is critical. IPM is a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to managing pests that focuses on pest prevention and incorporates a diversity of control tactics, including pesticides.

 

Mouse in insulation of a home

Mouse in insulation of a home

In areas where other mammals or birds of prey frequent and rely on rodents as part of their diet, these sensible tracking baits have no impact on non-target animals. They help pest management professionals determine the paths rodents travel between their nests and food sources. By tracking the brightly colored or glowing droppings, a pest management professional can also determine the species of rodent, size of the infestation, range, entry locations, harborages and approximate nest locations.

Biomonitoring baits can be deployed in outdoor bait stations to determine if rodents are living in or entering a building. If entering the building, these baits can the direct pest management professionals to the openings that need to be sealed. When used in indoor stations, the baits show the paths rodents are using as well as their nest site(s).

Both types of monitoring baits are currently being used in New York City. Strategically placed, they can even detect on which floors rodents are harboring. They are a smart addition to any IPM program.

In addition to rodents, the fluorescent biomarker has also been used to detect cockroach movement, their locations of entry, and even their harborages. Are they entering from the basement, sewers, neighboring structures, pipes, or wall voids? The cockroach frass (feces), although much smaller than rodent scat, is still detectable with black light, and glows just as brilliantly, uncovering their travel and harborage secrets.

 

Biomonitoring effectively addresses the pest monitoring step in a successful IPM program. It allows for a focus on the underlying issues that make areas attractive to pests. The baits can also assist community sanitarians in controlling the NYC rodent population while protecting Fordham University’s hawks at the same time. Read a related 2012 blog that highlights the Disappearing Pigeons and Rats from a Bronx High School.

Technical information on rodent biomonitoring was provided to the author by Dr. Bobby Corrigan, RMC Pest Management Consulting. For practical implementation of biomarkers in NYC go to: www.pctonline.com/boimonitoring-rodents-Corrigan.aspx.

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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 Subway Line to Green the Apple

Want to know more? Visit the Second Avenue Subway Community Information Center at 1628 Second Ave.

Want to know more? Visit the Second Avenue Subway Community Information Center at 1628 Second Ave.

By Elias Rodriguez

Quickly navigating New York City’s mass transit system requires time, forethought and good fortune. It is still far cheaper than a taxi and better for the environment. According to the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability 43 percent of New Yorkers travel to work by subway and commuter rail.

One particularly vexing problem has been traveling from upper Manhattan’s east side to the lower east side via the underground. Thankfully, the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is nearly done with the first phase of the city’s solution. Namely, the Second Avenue Subway, which will be the first major addition to the serpentine subway system in 50 years.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the $4.45 billion project was on schedule, and it is still expected to open in December 2016.

Once the dust and schist rock settles, the new line will run along 8.5 miles from 125th Street in Harlem all the way down to Hanover Square, which is in the Financial District and near the South Ferry Terminal.

There is an existing subway line that runs up the east side, but to call it overcrowded would be a serious understatement. The transit authority expects a whopping 200,000 daily riders to hop on board once the train line is activated.

Using mass transit benefits the goal of improving air quality. When states and cities plan these capital improvements, it’s important that they consider transportation conformity. Transportation conformity is required by the Clean Air Act and basically means that planners should work to not cause new air quality violations or against air quality standards.

Ironically, this subway path does not represent a new line of thinking. During a bygone era, Manhattan had a train that ran along Third Ave. Can you believe that it ran above ground and was elevated over the city’s streets? The famous old “EL” or elevated was a source of infamous noise pollution complaints, not to mention a feature that seriously crimped the real estate market in its immediate vicinity. Upon the demise of the “EL” in 1950, the New York Times wrote: “A small segment of Old New York disappeared last night with a screech and a clatter and not a tear was shed at its passing.”

Well, if all goes according to plan, tears of joy will soon be shed by straphangers all over the city who will soon have a brand new subway route as they navigate the Big Apple.

 

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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Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam

A gift from the NY Zoological Society helped restore buffalo herds to the Southern Plains.

A gift from the NY Zoological Society helped restore buffalo herds to the Southern Plains.

By Marcia Anderson

Thanks to a gift of 15 buffalo from the New York Zoological Society, predecessor to the Bronx Zoo, the Southern Plains of the United States has a substantial heard of buffalo roaming southern Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reserve, the nation’s oldest refuge.

The great southern prairies were home to numerous Indian tribes, who lived with the land, not just on it. This is where Native American teepees stood and wild buffalo roamed the Great Plains. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge got its start when Congress set aside much of southwestern Oklahoma in 1867 as a reservation for Kiowa, Comanche and Kiowa-Apache tribes. The reservation encompassed the Red River north to the Washita River, including all of the Wichita Mountains. At that time, Indian lands meant nothing to commercial hunters. They encroached into Indian Country, and killed thousands of animals at a time for their pelts.

Buffalo2

Today, over 600 buffalo freely roam the 59,000 acre Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

At the turn of the century, Oklahoma businessmen were petitioning Congress to reserve the Wichita Mountains as a national park. Even then-Vice President Roosevelt was approached by his Rough Riders to create a national park. But when Congress adjourned in 1901, there was still no park. At that point President McKinley agreed to preserve the land, not as a park, but as a National Forest Preserve. The preserve status kept land seekers at bay, but did nothing to deter the hunters who found rich hunting in the Indian lands. All large animals were exterminated down to the last wolves and bears.

In 1905, newly-elected President Roosevelt, began his quest to return the buffalo to the plains. William Hornaday, first director of the New York Zoological Park, solicited funds to purchase bison from the remaining private herds. The animals were cared for at the New York Zoological Park, predecessor of the Bronx Zoo. A member of the NY Zoological Society surveyed the Wichita Mountain site to see if the area was appropriate for bison restoration. In March 1905, the NY Zoological Society told Congress that they would donate several bison if they would cover the cost of fencing and maintenance. Congress approved the site and funding.

Thanks to Roosevelt, Horniday and the NY Zoological Society, the dream of restoring a piece of the nation’s heritage came to pass.

In October 1907, 15 bison from four herds with differing bloodlines traveled by train from New York City to Oklahoma. After the 1,800 mile journey, the bison were unloaded from the rail cars at Cache, and transferred to wagons for the final 13 miles. Everyone for miles around came to observe the historic spectacle. Children, who had never seen the wild animals, were enthralled. Comanche elders wore their finest tribal attire to welcome the Great Spirit Cattle back home. The buffalo were given names of great Indian warriors, including Geronimo.

BuffaloGrazing

Buffalo grazing on prairie grass.

As a northeasterner, the closest I ever came to a bull was a moose in Maine. The closest I had ever been to a buffalo was looking at the far side of a nickel. That was until a trip this summer to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

It is early morning and the ground thunders as their hooves pound the prairie. The buffalo run, then slow. They are the color of dark chocolate brownies and extremely photogenic. They are massive creatures, over a ton, and graze in a meadow with all of the prairie grass they can eat. A few hundred yards away is a lake with all the water they can drink. Good thing, for it seems that the bulls drink water by the gallon. They use the surrounding rocks to scratch their bellies or other parts they cannot easily reach, leaving tufts of shed fur perfect for lining the nest of a bird or prairie dog den. After lunch and a long drink, it is time to take a nap. The hot summer sun has many of the herd resting and rolling on the ground, except for the calves, who romp and play while their parents doze to beat the heat.

This is a scene that has not been observed since the 1870s – a herd of buffalo roaming the Southern Prairie. Today, over 600 buffalo freely roam the 59,000 acre Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

 

 

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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“Staying Green” for the Holidays

Christmas tree near dumpster

Don’t let Christmas trees get sent to landfills where they can contribute to dangerous methane gas emissions! Treecycle and turn them into compost or wood chips for mulch. (Source: Flickr user katielehart)

 

By Barbara Pualani

The winter holiday season is one of the best times of the year, but it is arguably one of the most wasteful. As we online shop, cook big holiday meals, wrap presents and decorate our homes, Americans create about one million extra tons of waste – this equals about a 25 percent volume increase of household waste, all generated between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But don’t let this ruin your holiday spirit! There are simple ways to “stay green” during the holidays while still maintaining the holiday cheer.

  • Recycle creatively by using eclectic gift wrapping. Old newspapers, comic books, posters, and magazines can all be used to wrap presents. Also, save bows, ribbons, and bags for reuse next year.
  • If Santa brings you new electronics, be sure to recycle the old ones. Because they can be a source of contamination, it is illegal to dispose of electronic waste in landfills in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Most electronic retailers offer a free buy-back option. In New York City, the Department of Sanitation has established special waste drop-off locations in each of the five boroughs. In addition, e-cycleNYC is a free recycling collections service that can be solicited for buildings with ten or more units. Check local and state websites for other programs as well.
  • Use LED lighting for all your holiday decorations. They use approximately 75 percent less energy and last longer than regular incandescent bulbs.
  • At the end of the season, don’t send your Christmas tree to the landfill where it contributes to dangerous methane gas emissions. Rather, replant, compost or mulch it! There are various programs available. NYC offers free curbside pickup for a couple weeks in January, and many cities in the metropolitan area have similar programs. On January 9-10 you can also bring your tree to designated NYC parks for MulchFest 2016.
  • Finally, be the best host ever and hold a zero-waste event! When hosting holiday parties, use real glasses, dishes, utensils, and cloth napkins to minimize waste. And plan ahead for meals and parties. It’s not only economical, but it will reduce the amount of food thrown away.

It’s possible to have a fun and happy holiday season while maintaining that “green” lifestyle you cultivate all year long. For these and more winter tips, check out EPA’s website.

 

About the author: Barbara Pualani serves as a speechwriter for EPA Region 2. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She resides in Brooklyn and is a graduate of University of Northern Colorado and Columbia University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Fear of Traveling with Bed Bugs

Bed bugs up close

Bed bugs up close

By Marcia Anderson

Last week, I received several emails from Marion, a traveler in panic over the possibility that she was in contact with bed bugs. She went so far as to send me photographs of her legs covered in bug bites.

First, no one can diagnose the presence of bed bugs from bites alone. Second, everyone reacts differently to their bites – from no reaction to huge welts. The only way to identify bed bugs is by physical evidence – actual bugs, shed skins, blood spots, and droppings.

I asked if she had actually seen any bed bugs. She answered no. There was, however, no assuring her that she probably was not attacked by a multitude of bed bugs without having seen even one or their tell-tale signs. I happened to know the hotel she stayed at and let her know that it had a rigorous cleaning protocol. So, an infestation of bed bugs necessary to create the number of bites she had was unlikely. Not impossible for a few to escape detection, but such a large an infestation would surely not go unnoticed by hotel cleaning staff.

She went on to ask me how to remove bed bugs and their eggs off hard-to-clean, expensive items like her suitcase, leather purse, leather shoes, running shoes, and, worst of all, smartphone. “I hope there is a solution other than throwing all these items away and being forced to buy brand new,” she said. She said she was asking about the smartphone because she read that bed bugs get into openings in electronic devices such as the small portholes for earplug insertion, AC connector, etc.

If indeed they were bed bugs, I recommend heat or steam treatment of the items that can tolerate it. Get a magnifying glass at the local drug store and look carefully. You can also use an alcohol-based cleaning wipe all around the outside and edges of the other items and electronics. Then, with a cotton swab and alcohol solution, go into hard to reach places. Do not immerse! Be sure to reach any inner holes/crevices. It is very unlikely that you would have an infestation in your electronics, especially after a one-night stay and cleaning and looking into the ports.

 

When traveling, pack all of your items in tightly sealed, clear plastic bags.

EPA’s Travel Tips card

EPA’s Travel Tips card

Large zip-top bags are fine – just make sure they are sealed. If you are worried about bed bugs in your books, put them in zip-top plastic bags and freeze them for at least 4 days after you return.

There are very few things that need to be discarded even if they carry bed bugs. When you get home, isolate your suitcase in a garage or bathtub and place it in a large plastic bag. Tape tightly shut. Then clean or heat treat it when you have a chance. The longer you keep the case in plastic, the fewer young bed bugs will survive. Even if eggs hatch, the young must feed within a few weeks or they will die.

I can understand your fear. Every time I travel, I check my room carefully, worry and check a second time. A lot of the fear of bed bugs has been accentuated by media and industry hype. Here are some informational fliers. One from the University of Minnesota describes how to inspect your hotel room for bed bugs. A second from EPA tells you how to prevent, detect, and control bed bugs.

Many people have a fear of bringing bed bugs home because of the social stigma. Yes, bed bugs, once established, are very difficult to eliminate. One reason is that they have developed resistance to many common pesticides. Therefore, a multifaceted integrated approach, called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is the most effective way to control these pests. The focus of IPM is to find the best strategy for a pest problem and not necessarily the simplest. IPM is not a one-size-fits-all method, but rather a combination of biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools that minimize health and environmental risks.

Be assured that bed bugs have been extensively studied do not cause or spread disease. Getting a mosquito bite is epidemiologically far more dangerous than a bed bug bite.

They have been around for thousands of years and were even been laid to rest with their Egyptian hosts, over 4 millennia ago.

EPA offers bed bug awareness cards for travelers. Print a few to keep and to share with friends before they travel.

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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Family Dollar Battles to Trim its “Wastelines”

By Carsen Mata

A Family Dollar store at Fulton Street and Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn.

Family Dollar is one of the largest companies participating in this year’s Battle of the Buildings competition. Pictured here: A Family Dollar store at Fulton Street and Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency and ENERGY STAR are winding down their sixth annual Battle of the Buildings competition, as thousands of buildings are battling to see who can reduce their energy and water use the most in 2015, as compared to last year. In their efforts, participants have been retrofitting existing lighting, upgrading equipment, and even suggesting the occupants of their building alter their habits to help fight the cause. Throughout the competition, participants have been tracking their overall progress using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, EPA’s online measurement and tracking tool. This tool measures a building’s monthly energy and water consumption, allowing for each competitor to strategize ways of reducing their emissions. At the end of the 12-month performance period, the team and individual building with the largest percent reductions will be declared winners.

This nationwide competition often garners a lot of attention from a great deal of big names. Companies like Target, Staples, and TD Bank have joined the battle in recent years with successful track records. This year, we’ve been paying close attention to the success stories within EPA Region 2, which covers New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight tribal nations. In total, the region boasts 178 buildings with 32 coming from 21 different New Jersey cities and 146 from 40 different New York cities. Some of the big names in our area include J.C. Penney, Samsung and Family Dollar Stores.

As most of you know, Family Dollar Stores offers a wide variety of products at affordable price points for families of all types. They provide communities with a mix of merchandise ranging from refrigerated and frozen foods to health and beauty items. Their recent partnership with the Battle of the Buildings competition is quite the story – to date, Family Dollar Stores, Inc. has over 5,500 of its sites benchmarked in the Portfolio Manager tool with more than 7,700 sites registered, making the company one of the largest users ever of the EPA tool.

Family Dollar’s building spectrum registered for the competition includes regular retail locations, distribution centers, and even their store support center. With 19 of their registered sites in Brooklyn, Family Dollar becomes a regional standout.

Commercial buildings in the United States are responsible for 17 percent of the nation’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $175 billion annually. The Battle of the Buildings competition invites corporations and buildings of all sizes to improve the energy efficiency of millions of workplaces. If successful, competitors will ultimately reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, making it one huge fight you won’t want to miss. For more information on previous winners, current competitors and competitor resources visit http://www.energystar.gov/buildings/about-us/how-can-we-help-you/communicate/energy-star-communications-toolkit/motivate-competition-8

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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Prevent Stink Bugs from Overwintering in Your School and Home

By Marcia Anderson

 

Stink bug adult

Adult brown marmorated stink bug Photo: Steven Valley, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

 

As cooler weather approaches, pests try to find their way into warmer habitats, like schools, homes and barns. Stink bugs, including the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), are no exception.

Late last autumn, BMSBs invaded my home, and for the next four months my house was overrun with the most putrid smelling bugs that I have ever encountered. Since nobody wants their classroom, kitchen or home to smell like rotting food, it’s very important to have a pest management plan in place before you begin noticing stink bugs.

Accidently imported from Asia into the United States, the BMSB was first observed in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s. With few natural predators in North America, they have since caused catastrophic damage to fruit trees, vegetable crops, ornamental plants and forest trees in the mid-Atlantic. They are now widely seen in forests, farms, and suburban landscapes in at least 42 states (see map below).

Stink bugs originally got their name from the rotting smell they give off when threatened or crushed. If you, or a student, steps on one or otherwise crushes it, you will quickly learn how they got their name.

Stink bugs are shield shaped. If you confuse the BMSB with the native brown stink bug you aren’t alone. They look very similar. The underside of the brown stink bug looks yellowish while the BMSB underside appears brown-gray. The BMSB can also be distinguished from other stink bugs by its speckled appearance.

The brown marmorated stink bug isn’t a picky eater. They will feed on ornamental plants close to buildings, and can easily find cracks and crevices in foundations, window frames, and soffits. The bugs flatten their bodies and squeeze through windows, cracks or other openings within the walls. Once inside a warm building, they look for a water source and meal. They target bathrooms and kitchens, which have ready water sources, and rooms with plants. They will even fall into pet water dishes and fish bowls.

Want to avoid a winter long battle? Be pest wise. Follow an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. Inspection, detection, exclusion and maintenance are a few of the key components of IPM, a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control. Often, it takes detective work and ingenuity to discover where pests are coming from. When you spot pests, try to find where they are entering the building. On your inspection bring a strong flashlight and take good notes, recording problem areas, entry locations, and areas needing repair.

Make sure all of your window screens fit securely and tightly, vents are screened, and door and window frames have no gaps. Sealing around baseboards and areas where pipes and wires enter your building will help keep stink bugs out. Expandable foam can be used for larger gaps. Check under doors to ensure door sweeps are in good condition and do not leave any gaps. In homes, other major points of entry are fireplaces, chimneys, and firewood. Close your flu when the fireplace is not in use to keep bugs out.

StinkBugMap

As of June 2015, BMSB had been detected in 42 states and two Canadian provinces. Source: T. Leskey, USDA ARS; Stopbmsb.org

If small numbers of stink bugs find their way indoors, remove them by hand or vacuum them up. Be warned – it may permanently infuse their stink into your vacuum. Remove the dead bugs as the smell of them rotting will attract even more stink bugs and other insects. I quickly found the easiest way to get rid of them was to give them the eternal swim (flush) down the porcelain whirlpool.

Diatomaceous earth can be used for limited stink bug control outdoors, in basements, and around foundations. Fumigation doesn’t work, and if you try to squash them…well, just say I warned you. I found that dish washing liquid mixed in a 50/50 concentration with water will kill the bugs. Pour some of this mixture into a container and let it sit out. The bugs will be attracted to the moisture, fall in, and drown.

The good news is that this pest poses no substantial risk to structures or people. However, they can be a horrid nuisance. The bad news is that there are no viable chemical strategies for brown marmorated stink bug control in agricultural settings. Insecticides are of limited use and resistance to some may even be developing.

So, what is currently being done about the BMSB? With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative, a team of more than 50 researchers from several universities, including Rutgers, Cornell, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, Washington, and Oregon, along with the Northeast IPM Center, are looking to identify, monitor, and find management solutions that will protect our food, farms, homes, and schools from this pest.

For more on the BMSB, visit the Stop BMSB website.

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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How to Inventively Recycle Subway Cars and Other Environmental Hacks

By Barbara Pualani

NYC_subway_cars_used_as_artificial_reef

NYC Subway cars used as artificial reef. Credit: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

I don’t surf. Well, correction: I tried to surf. And I failed. Miserably. I also don’t scuba dive. The sensation is too strange; it makes me feel claustrophobic. I reserve those types of adventurous activities for my brave and wonderful colleagues here at EPA.

 

I do, however, know that many people love these activities, even here in the not-so-tropical destination of New York City. Rockaway Beach, the only legal surfing beach in NYC, and the Rockaway Boardwalk see millions of tourists every year. In order to improve recreation and ocean habitat in this important area of the city, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently announced it will be making additions to the important artificial patch reefs.

 

The Rockaway Reef is a fully artificial reef and is located 1.6 miles south of Rockaway Beach. It was originally permitted for construction in 1965, and the rock, concrete, and steel structures total 413 acres. Over the years, the structures have silted and collapsed. The habitat has degraded and is in need of repair. As part of New York’s Artificial Reef Program, the state will be adding more than 450 concrete-coated steel pipe sections to extend the patch reefs already there.

 

This project is cool. It’s also good for the environment. Artificial reefs can be constructed by a variety of building materials but are most often made using submerged shipwrecks. They create new habitat for fisheries and give marine life another place to forage, find shelter, and evade predators. The reefs increase fishing opportunities for anglers and promote tourism for both surfers and divers. The benefits are both environmental and economical.

 

The Rockaway Reef is just one of 11 artificial reef sites in NYS, but the state has helped others along the coast build up their own artificial reefs with, believe it or not, old subway cars. The Metropolitan Transit Authority has recycled over 2500 subway cars over the past decade or so by using them to build artificial reefs all along the eastern seaboard, including in Delaware and in South Carolina.[1] Before they’re dropped to the bottom of the ocean, all doors and windows are removed. The subways cars are cleaned and completely swept of contaminating materials. Because there are so many nooks and crannies available in a subway car, they serve as pretty good spaces for fish habitat. Seeing them now at the bottom of the ocean is quite the trip.

 

At EPA, we have the mission to protect human health and the environment. It’s great to see projects that not only protect the environment but also allow us to enjoy it and interact positively with it. Sometimes our built environment can integrate well with our natural one, and that’s pretty special.

 

Like I said, I don’t surf. Diving is not my thing. But I can and do appreciate inventive recycling and habitat restoration. Those are activities I can get behind.

 

 About the author: Barbara Pualani serves as a speechwriter for EPA Region 2. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She resides in Brooklyn and is a graduate of University of Northern Colorado and Columbia University.

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2918849/Next-stop-REAL-Atlantic-New-York-subway-cars-dumped-sea-create-artificial-reefs-millions-fish.html

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Goes Green Every Day

PPPL Dress

Dana Eckstein shows off her dress made of recyclable CDs for an America Recycles Day fashion show.

By Rachel Chaput

 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) is focused on sustainability every day with everything from a composting program in the cafeteria to awarding prizes for employees caught “green handed” to celebrate America Recycles Day.

PPPL is a national laboratory that is funded by the Department of Energy and managed by Princeton University. The campus sits on an 88-acre parcel with woods and wetlands. There, since the 1950s, researchers have been experimenting with ways to produce clean, renewable, and abundant electric energy from nuclear FUSION. Yes that’s right, fusion, not fission. It’s the same energy that powers the sun and the stars. PPPL’s main experiment, the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) is going to reopen this year after completing a $94 million upgrade.

PPPL Compostable

Compostable service ware used at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

There is an open collaborative relationship with researchers in other countries to get this done, and the beneficial payoff to the world if it could be achieved would be huge. We wish them the best of luck!

PPPL shows its commitment to the environment in other ways as well. They are a long time, committed partner within EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge and WasteWise programs, and also participate in the Federal Green Challenge. These are sustainability partnership programs run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which strive to conserve natural resources and promote sustainability. PPPL has been recognized by EPA for good performance in these programs repeatedly, notably with the 2012 EPA WasteWise Program’s Federal Partner of the Year award.

Margaret Kevin-King and Leanna Meyer, PPPL employees who manage the sustainability efforts at PPPL, try to cover all the bases. While PPPL participates in all of the routine recycling of cardboard, paper, plastic and metal, they also do a lot of extras. They compost their food waste and recycle cooking oil to produce biodiesel. They purchase compostable service ware. The Lab also collects razor blades (a safety issue) and universal waste, including lithium batteries.

These ladies bring real commitment to their jobs. Ms. Kevin-King says that on Earth Day, her family and friends text her holiday greetings, because they know it’s the most important holiday of the year to her! Ms. Meyer has made a careful project out of color-coding the recycling bins and trash disposal areas within the lab facility.

They try to bring a creative flair to many of the sustainability efforts at the PPPL. For example, they and members of PPPL’s Green Team offered prizes this year for America Recycles Day to employees who were caught ‘green-handed’ with a reusable cup or reusable lunch bag. They also collect electronics for America Recycles Day and Earth Day. This year, PPPL is recycling everything from office supplies to goggles and hardhats. Check out the pictures of the fashion show they held in years past to celebrate American Recycles Day! These outfits were put together using materials that would otherwise be discarded. It’s good to make work fun!

PPPL Sign

An example of PPPL’s advanced recycling guidelines. How does your office measure up?

 

 

 

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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My Dog Has Fleas: Why Flea Control can be More Difficult in the City

By Marcia Anderson

The author’s little Shetland Sheepdog , Delilah.

The author’s little Shetland Sheepdog , Delilah.

I never had a problem with fleas in the suburbs. But after a few months of living in a city apartment, the little pests plagued both myself and my dog with a vengeance. Why? What was the difference?

Outdoors in the suburbs, flea prevention was always the key. This generally involved eliminating the habitat in the yard where fleas were most likely to occur. I made my yard unwelcoming to fleas and ticks by keeping the lawn mowed, shrubs trimmed, and leaves raked. Wild animals such as opossums, raccoons, and small rodents can carry fleas so we tried to discourage all animals from entering our yard. We fenced the yard to keep other dogs out, and kept garbage covered so it wouldn’t attract rodents or other pests.

Inside both my home and apartment, we vacuumed carpets often, mopped bare floors weekly and washed the dog bed regularly.

Delilah visits the pumpkin patch.

Delilah visits the pumpkin patch.

When I moved to the city, I found only a few nearby places to walk the dog before I headed for work. Although I still kept my home clean, I was no longer able to control the outside areas where my dog was allowed to go. Being accustomed to going under trees and shrubs, our dog visited the same places visited by hundreds of other dogs. Fleas tended to like those places also because they were moist, warm, shady, and there was organic debris. Although fleas cannot fly, they do have powerful back legs and can jump great distances. I soon found out that what jumps off one dog eventually jumped onto our dog.

I was faced with having to come up with a new plan for controlling these fleas. I ruled out flea collars because my dog regularly comes into close contact with the neighbor’s little girls. Sometimes they dog sit, which leads to hugging, brushing, and sleeping together.

Next, I considered flea shampoos. Every weekend our dog would get a bath. The flea shampoos worked well and killed about 95% of the fleas and made her fur ever-so-soft for my neighbor’s little girls. However, I soon realized that the shampoos don’t work to prevent new fleas. The city fleas were just too persistent and hardy.

Embarrassed, I discussed the issue with other city apartment dog owners, whom, I found, had the same problem. I requested that the landlord treat my apartment with an insect growth regulator, a type of pesticide that prevents the flea eggs and larvae from growing and hatching. Because they mimic insect hormones, it would only affect the fleas. This leads to a steady drop in the number of new fleas indoors. However, mature fleas are not affected so it can take 30 to 60 days for the adult fleas to die of old age before you’ll notice the dog scratching less.

What else could I do? There is a lot of talk about an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to other pest problems. What is IPM? An approach to pest control that creates a safer and healthier environment by reducing exposure to pests and pesticides. An effective IPM program uses common sense strategies to reduce sources of food, water, and shelter for pests in buildings and grounds. But will it work for fleas?

I realized that I already was using an IPM approach for my flea problem. Sanitation and maintenance first, including cleaning, combing, bathing, outdoor barriers, followed by least toxic means, such as the insect growth regulator. But because I was unable to fully control the problem I knew that the judicious use of another pesticide was next step. So off we went to the vet.

Close-up view of the common flea.

Close-up view of the common flea.

I found that my dog had ordinary cat fleas, the leading cause of itching in dogs and cats. Itching was most pronounced on her back, groin, tail, and hindquarters. This is where we found black, pepper-like grains in her coat. These were flea feces made up of digested blood. Now we only found a few fleas because they moved so rapidly through her hair and were difficult to catch.

We settled a monthly application of a topical product that not only controls fleas by direct contact, but also protects against heartworms and other worms. Fleas don’t have to bite the dog for the pesticide to work. Like other topical treatments, it came in a tube and was applied to the dog’s back.

Are topical flea treatments safe? Yes, if they are used correctly. The EPA says that using the wrong dosage or product is a major cause of negative reactions. Common mistakes include treating a cat with a product meant for dogs, or using a large dog dose on a small dog. Check with your vet first. More is not always better, more can be dangerous.

Keep in mind that you will probably still see some fleas, even on a treated pet, until all of the fleas in your home have died. Persistence is the key. Keep following your flea control program to get rid of all life stages of the fleas, which may take up to six months.

Prevention is the best method of flea control. After prevention, the other IPM steps may ultimately lead you to use an EPA-registered insecticide products to help keep those pesky fleas away.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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