Decisions, Decisions

by Magdalene Cunningham

Toilet Decision editedThis summer, my husband and I are remodeling our bathrooms and kitchen and it’s involved a lot of choices. Toilets, for instance.

I just wanted new toilets to go with my two new bathrooms; little did I know I needed to make several decisions.  Do I want chair height or lower which is better for small children?  Do I want a rounded or elongated seat?  Do I want a regular flushing system or one of the newer engineered varieties such as the push 1 or push 2?

One decision was simple.  Since I work for EPA, I‘m familiar with the benefits of buying a high-efficiency WaterSense product, and it helped me work my way through toilet row at our big home improvement store.

One of the things I’ve learned is that toilets account for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption and that older, inefficient, toilets use as much as 6 gallons per flush which can be a major source of wasted water in many homes. WaterSense-labeled models can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent – saving nearly 13,000 gallons of water and $110 every year.

After I selected my WaterSense toilets, my husband had the fun job of getting two of these new-fangled toilets onto the cart and wheeled to the checkout cashier.  We were very lucky that the ones I picked happened to be stored on the floor and not an upper shelf.  The last time we bought toilets (15 years ago when we bought the house), each toilet came in two boxes: one for the tank and one for the seat part.  Unfortunately for my husband’s back, toilets now come already assembled in one very heavy, very large box.

If someone had thought to videotape our attempts at getting those boxes into what I used to think of as our “mid-sized” car, we’d win a prize on Funniest Home Videos.  He actually did a “Rocky” pose when the second one fit into the back seat.  After installing and using the WaterSense toilets, they work just the same as our old ones, just a lot faster and with a lot less water.

Our next trip: a new energy efficient refrigerator with water and crushed ice available on the outside – at least that can be delivered.

 

About the Author: Maggy started with EPA in 1987 and has worked in the Water Protection Division as the Region 3 Clean Water State Revolving Fund Coordinator for the past 17 years.  After 23 years of marriage, Maggy is happy to have survived this current and all previous home improvement projects.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Healing Old Wounds

by Tom Damm

The day’s light was fading along with our chances of spotting a bull elk when out of the tall grass rose a pair of majestic antlers.  We quietly got out of our small caravan of cars, pointing and speaking in hushed tones.  The animal gave us a long, disinterested look and then ambled back down the hill.

Bull elk emerging from high grass

Bull elk appears for tour group

We had seen a scattering of elk cows and calves over the past half hour.  But the brief encounter with the antlered male was the perfect cap to a full day of touring old surface mines being restored in western Pennsylvania, including this popular state game land in Benezette Township known for its resurgent elk population.

Vast acres of the land before us had been scarred and abandoned by mining operators prior to a 1977 federal law requiring environmental remediation of active sites.  Now, after a series of re-mining and reclamation projects, our view was a sweeping vista of hilly forest and grasslands that serve as an attractive habitat for an elk herd 1,000 strong.

For our team of mostly federal and state regulators, the game land in Elk County was the last stop on Day 2 of a nearly week-long fact-finding tour arranged by EPA as part of a multi-agency effort to consider next steps for mine reclamation activity, including potential funding and other incentives.

Earlier in the day, Mike Smith, district mining manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, led us on an often bumpy, dusty off-road tour of mining sites on either side of Route 80 between Snow Shoe and DuBois that similarly were abandoned and are now in various stages of re-mining and recovery.

In the reclamation process, operators receive permits to mine portions of the old sites that still have viable coal reserves in exchange for strategic and insured work that restores the full sites with trees and grasses and in many cases improves the quality of water impaired by acid mine drainage.

Most of the sites we saw were relatively small in size – not the type generally supported by a pool of money financed by industry and government to address mine-related safety and economic issues.

Two of the veteran operators said that with their thin, if not break-even profit margin this will be their last hurrah.  Said one, whose work included the elk-rich game lands, “When you look at this project and the good that it’s done, I don’t know who’s going to do this when we’re gone.”

But for this day, with roaming elk, a once-acidic stream segment stocked with trout, a former “moonscape” covered with grass, and even some head-bobbing wild turkeys, it was a time to appreciate the progress at hand.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Shorebird Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise

by Nick Holomuzki

It’s August and beach season is in full swing, but people looking to escape the heat aren’t the only ones at the shore.  Each year, the piping plover migrates from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic to nest and raise their young.

The piping plover is a small, sand-colored shorebird that resembles a sand piper. They are native to the Atlantic coast, the Great Lakes shorelines and to inland lakes in the Great Plains.  In 1985, they were listed as a federally threatened species due to habitat loss as a result of a boom in shoreline development following World War II.

Piping Plover on a beach

Piping Plover on a beach. Photo credit: U.S. FWS

While there has been a large recovery effort in place since the 80’s, another threat is emerging – sea level rise.  The Barrier Islands, which lie off the coast of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, provide ideal habitat for these birds.  Low-lying, wide-open, sandy beaches make these islands so accommodating to plovers; however, these features also make them more vulnerable to sea level rise.

Piping plovers are projected to lose more than 29 percent of non-breeding range and up to 62 percent of its summer range by 2080, according to Audubon Society’s climate model.

EPA is active in addressing the challenges of climate change and sea level rise in a number of ways.  By providing technical assistance, analytical tools and outreach support, EPA has helped state and local coastal resource managers in preparing for a changing climate.  EPA also contributes scientific research to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and shares critical information with a wide array of international stakeholders.

Last August, President Obama and EPA announced the Clean Power Plan – a historic step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants, and last December in Paris, the U.S. committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2025.

Actions to combat sea level rise will benefit the piping plovers.  While we’re enjoying the beach, we can take simple steps to help them as well by keeping our dogs on leashes, cleaning up any food scraps or trash and respecting any areas fenced-off for the protection of wildlife so that these peppy birds have their space to skitter along the shoreline.

 

About the Author:  Nick Holomuzki is a Life Scientist in the Water Protection Division for the EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.  Before joining the EPA, Nick worked for the National Park Service on threatened and endangered species conservation.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Bay-Cationing

by Gwendolyn Supplee

My family has been vacationing on the southern eastern shore of Maryland at Janes Island State Park since 2013.  The first year, we had an almost one-year old daughter and weren’t quite comfortable getting out on the waters of the Tangier Sound with a little one.  So we enjoyed the beauty of the Bay from the land, but were still able to partake in many of the activities that make a “Bay-cation” so appealing, at least to us – fishing and crabbing!

As we began to plan our 2014 vacation, my husband suggested we buy a boat to really experience the Chesapeake Bay where it was meant to be enjoyed, on the water.  I was open to the idea, until he came home with a used boat he found with so much dirt, weeds, and small trees growing out of it, I wasn’t sure if he had purchased a boat or a planter for our front yard.  Alas, he got the boat sea-worthy for our trip, and we were able to experience the open Bay.

He’s made improvements to the boat every summer, and similarly, the Chesapeake Bay has shown some great improvements in many of its water quality indicators in the last several summers, as well.  That’s a big deal considering the impact of a cleaner Bay on the region’s economy, including drawing more families like mine to its shores.

Since 2010, the six Bay states and the District of Columbia have been taking significant steps to meet the clean water goals of the historic Bay TMDL “pollution diet.”   The TMDL is designed to reduce excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that leads to murky water and algae blooms, Bay Crabblocking sunlight from reaching and sustaining underwater Bay grasses and creating low levels of oxygen for aquatic life, such as fish, crabs and oysters.

I eagerly read the reports about the outlooks for fishing and crabbing this July before we set out on vacation, and when we got to the park, we quickly made friends with our camping neighbor to learn the best spots for casting our poles and nets.

As a Marylander who frequents the waters of the Bay up and down the Eastern Shore, our new friend commented the Bay had the best clarity and abundance of Bay grasses he had seen in years, and expressed optimism that the cleanup seemed to be working.  The next day we reeled in a male blue crab, 6 ¼” point to point, and had to agree, things on the Bay, especially our nightly vacation dinners with crab on the menu, were definitely looking up!

Check out this site for some simple ways to help restore the Bay and keep those blue crab meals coming.

 

About the Author: Gwendolyn Supplee is a Life Scientist who has been with EPA for six years and currently works in the Air Protection Division. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors on land and on the water with her family.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Witness to a Flash Flood

by Amanda Pruzinsky

Amanda's view from inside during the flash flood

Amanda’s view during the flash flood

On Saturday, July 30, my boyfriend and I visited Ellicott City, Maryland to sightsee its historic downtown despite the rainy day.  No one had any way of knowing that an otherwise ordinary day would end in such devastation.  Everyone was chatting about the rain when an alarm hit our smart phones.  Another summer storm, another flash flood warning, everyone glances at their phones and continues on with their evening.

Its 8:11 p.m., only a few minutes after the flash flood warning to our phones.  The heavy rainstorm had turned into the warned flash flood in less time than I can comprehend.  Everyone is glued to the windows in the front of the restaurant yelling over the sound of the raging water, watching even after the basement filled with water, power went out, and alarms came on. We continued watching for over an hour as the river of brown water swept away cars, rolled huge dumpsters, toppled street signs, cut the power lines, and raged like it would last forever.

By 9:33 p.m., the flood retreated and we took to the street to find our car while rescue squads ran in groups down the hill with large yellow rafts. The streets were full of terrified people, all looking unbelievably at the vast holes in the streets and buildings, totaled cars, and wreckage strewn before us.

My heart goes out to all of the people who were there, for the homes and businesses destroyed, and to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives.

These types of weather events happen very suddenly and there is only so much one can do to prepare.  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an excellent resource for information on what to do in disasters, such as flash floods, and the agency has a downloadable FEMA mobile app as well. EPA also has helpful information, including natural disaster preparedness and response tips, flood resilience checklist, flood risk management resources, and flood cleanup resources for your home or businesses.

Hurricanes, severe storms, flooding, droughts, and wildfires are increasing in frequency, intensity, or length. Communities are taking action and investing in their continued safety.  EPA is partnering with other national and international programs, states, localities, tribes, and communities to develop policies and provide technical assistance, analytical tools, and outreach support on climate change issues.

On the news, I hear plans being discussed to rebuild Ellicott City to be even stronger and more resilient than before. In the height of all of the devastation, there is hope for the future.

 

About the Author: Amanda Pruzinsky is a physical scientist for the Water Protection Division in EPA’s mid-Atlantic region working to support all of the water programs with a focus on data management, analysis, and communication.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Helping Freshwater Mussels Clean Up the Delaware River

These mussels help to filter the water by removing sediment, algae and pollutants.

These mussels help to filter the Delaware River by removing sediment, algae and pollutants.

by Steve Donohue

During a recent survey on the Delaware River, I helped collect for scientific research, a freshwater mussel that was likely in the river below me when I was a kid in the 60s driving over a nearby bridge in the backseat of our family’s station wagon. While some species can live to 100 or more, the one I’m holding – and after examining, returned to the water – is probably 50-60 years old and has been silently filtering water all that time.

These freshwater bivalves, like their saltwater relatives, oysters, provide valuable “ecosystems services” by filtering water and removing sediment, algae, and pollutants, while also stabilizing the bottom substrate. According to the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE), a National Estuary Program  partner, one adult mussel can filter 20 or more gallons of water a day so this one mussel has probably treated several hundred thousand gallons of water over its lifetime.  Multiply that by hundreds or thousands of mussels in a healthy population and the numbers add up quickly.

Not long ago it was believed some species of freshwater mussels were extinct in the Delaware River due to pollution and spills from the River’s industrial past, over-harvesting for bait, loss of forests along streams, loss of fish hosts needed for reproduction, and dams that block fish passage.

In 2007, the PDE launched the Freshwater Mussel Recovery Program (FMRP) to help the comeback of the one dozen native species classified as reduced, threatened, or locally extinct.

EPA’s Scientific Dive Unit is collaborating with PDE, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the Philadelphia Water Department in restoration efforts.  One goal is to determine where freshwater mussels are located, and how many are present.  This will help quantify the current benefit they provide to water quality in the Delaware and the potential benefit a larger, healthy population would provide for future generations.

 

About the author: Steve Donohue has been an environmental scientist at EPA for over 25 years.  He is the Unit Dive Officer on the EPA Mid-Atlantic Scientific Dive Unit and works to address climate change issues and improve the efficiency and sustainability of public and private sector facilities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Rebirth of the Cheat River

by Jon Capacasa

Photo credit: Kent Mason, Friends of the Cheat.

Photo credit: Kent Mason, Friends of the Cheat

I vividly remember my experience rafting the Cheat River in West Virginia.  It was in the early ‘80s and I recall a beautiful river valley with steep slopes, lushly forested hillsides, and the tremendous rush of water propelling us along.

Once we got started, there was no turning back.  A train track along the river beckoned as the river ran wilder and wilder, and a spill into the cold, churning waters came as a bracing, not to mention harrowing wake-up call.

Along the way, I also saw some of the impact to the river of pollution from old abandoned mines, such as discolored rocks with an orange coating reflecting acid mine drainage waters coming to the surface and oxidizing in the open air.

And this was even before the mid-‘90s when on two separate occasions, polluted water from an illegally-sealed underground mine blew out a hillside – pouring pollution into Muddy Creek and on into the Cheat, causing catastrophic harm not only to the river, but also to local recreation and the businesses that depended upon it.

Though these were difficult days for the river, thanks to years of Clean Water Act funding and the cleanup efforts of a local non-profit group, the state and others, the raging waters of the Cheat today represent a major success story.  The orange scour still remains in spots, but the mainstem of the river has been restored – serving once again as a haven for whitewater rafting and smallmouth bass fishing.

While work treating acid mine drainage from the river’s feeder streams continues, the restoration has been so successful that it’s getting harder for local roads to accommodate all the traffic from outdoor enthusiasts hoping to experience the Cheat’s wild wonders.

Since 2000, Cheat River restoration efforts have received more than $5.1 million in support, including $2.6 million in funding from EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source program through the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and additional funding from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and the state. These funds have largely been used by the non-profit Friends of the Cheat for “passive treatment projects” that use limestone beds and other techniques to neutralize acidity and reduce metals.

State statistics show that between 2000 and 2013, restoration work reduced acid mine drainage-related pollution to the Cheat watershed by more than 1.7 million pounds.  In 2014, the Conservation Fund and the Nature Conservancy purchased 3,836 acres of the Cheat River Canyon for preservation and public recreation.

Today, the Cheat plays host to bass fishing tournaments, as well as a robust perch population and even pollution-sensitive walleye – an amazing development considering the condition of the river just two decades ago.

Tell us about your experiences on the Cheat River.

 

About the author: Jon Capacasa is the Director of the Water Protection Division in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Redemption for Streams, Communities

by Tom Damm

Site design for Harrisburg project

Before and After: Poster with new site design stands at project location in Harrisburg.

Local residents couldn’t help but wonder why some 40 people were gathered under a tent at the site of a neighborhood eyesore in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

One resident came by on foot, another drove up in his car to check out what was happening on this large asphalt parking lot flanked by dilapidated and shuttered buildings.

What they heard was good news.

The gathering was to announce the award of 17 Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) Partnership grants, including one for design work to help the Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital Region relocate its operations to this abandoned site at the corner of 29th Street and Rudy Road.

According to the Salvation Army, the site is ideally situated near those most in need of its services, is accessible via a central bus route, and is in close proximity to several local schools.  And – the reason for the gathering – the site will include green features to reduce stormwater runoff and improve the livability and vitality of the community.

This G3 grant will be used to design a stormwater management system that will include 20,000 feet of rain gardens, 100 trees, 1,100 native plants, a walking trail, cisterns and other means to capture an estimated 6 million gallons of rainwater each year.  That rainwater would otherwise stream from the property with pollutants in tow, impacting local waters like Spring Creek in Harrisburg that eventually flow to the Chesapeake Bay.

This is the sixth year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, have awarded G3 grants.  The more than 90 grants given to date are resulting in nearly $18 million in green projects, including more than eight collective miles of green streets.

As EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin told the crowd of awardees who came to Harrisburg from states throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, “This is an amazing partnership.  We’re improving water quality, but we’re also improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods and communities.”

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Greening-up Cleanups

Constructed wetlands to manage stormwater at a RCRA corrective action site

Constructed wetlands to manage stormwater at a RCRA corrective action site

by Deborah Goldblum

Just for a moment, imagine a contaminated piece of property.  There may be contaminated soil, groundwater, or waste on the site; perhaps a building needs to be demolished.  There may be nearby businesses and perhaps an adjacent stream.  Now think of the activity that goes into cleaning up that site: trucks moving about, portable generators, power needed for a treatment system, vegetation that needs clearing for site access.  The clean-up of a contaminated site has an environmental footprint of its own!

How can that footprint be minimized?   EPA worked with a broad range of stakeholders through ASTM International to develop a Standard Guide for Greener Cleanups (E2893) that reflects EPA’s Greener Cleanup Principles, including the goal of minimizing water use and impacts to water resources.  While the standard is not required, EPA encourages its use at cleanup sites, and the standard is becoming more widely used by cleanup professionals.

Just recently, ASTM International issued an updated version of the standard to make it more user friendly.  While the process is the same, language was refined and the associated table of best management practices (BMPs) was streamlined.

Let’s go back to that contaminated site once again.  This time, rainwater is captured on-site and used for dust control.  Equipment is cleaned using phosphate-free detergents to protect the nearby stream.  Native plants are used in site restoration to provide habitat and protect waterways.  Porous pavement is used to reduce runoff from the site.  The ASTM Guide has over two dozen BMPs that protect water resources and over 100 BMPs in all.

Want to learn more about greener cleanups? Check out EPA’s website for more information, including a recent webinar on the standard.

 

About the author:  Deb has worked in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic regional Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Program for 24 years and currently serves as the region’s Sustainability Coordinator.  Deb has spearheaded numerous efforts, including initiating and leading the cross-program workgroup, which led to ASTM’s International’s Standard Guide for Greener Cleanups.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Forum Targets Basic Water Needs in Appalachia

by Lori Reynolds

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Big Stone Gap, Virginia is about as far as you can go in EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region.  But it was worth every mile of travel to help communities in Appalachia find ways to pay for badly-needed water and wastewater infrastructure.  The EPA Water Finance Forum was all it was intended to be – and so much more.

The forum held in mid-June was designed as a peer-to-peer type of transfer with panels of local presenters sharing information about funding opportunities, innovative solutions, and success stories.

I was anxious to meet the many people I had spoken to and corresponded with over the prior four months while planning for the forum.

Upon arriving, I was pleasantly greeted by mountains which seemed to rise up at my feet; the beauty of the area is undeniable.  Some from the EPA regional office asked, “Why Appalachia?”  The answer was simple.  Appalachia is a big part of EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and all of West Virginia.  And it’s an area where the water and wastewater infrastructure needs are great and the challenges complex (rural area, with low population density, mountainous terrain, difficult geology, and limited water and economic resources).

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Although progress has been made, there are still homes and families in Appalachia that do not have public water and reliable sewage treatment.  Yes, in the year 2016, there are citizens living in the United States of America where raw sewage runs directly into streams.  I can hardly imagine a life without readily available water from the tap and indoor plumbing to flush away waste.

A presenter at the forum complemented the challenges by describing the “mountain ethic” as “see a problem, come together and find a solution,” which put into words what I sensed.  Highlights about the value of water and stories about its impact on the quality of life recalled for me why I dedicated my career to water protection.  I’m excited about the Water Finance Forum marking the beginning of a longer relationship and commitment to help people and communities, who often feel forgotten, not only acquire, but sustain reliable water and wastewater services.

In the coming weeks and months, we will have an opportunity to strengthen the connections we made through the Water Finance Forum.  As one presenter put it, “the work takes commitment, dedication, and a willingness to work hard.”  Since these are the very same qualities demonstrated by the people who proudly call Appalachia home, I’m confident that our investments in the Appalachian Region will succeed.

 

About the Author:  Lori Reynolds works in the region’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, which provides funding to states for water and wastewater infrastructure.  She is naturally drawn to water, working in the Water Protection Division, swimming in pools and open water as part of a Master’s swim team, and as an Aquarius.

 

 

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