The EPA Blog The EPA Blog Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:22:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cooking Up Solutions to Climate Change Tue, 28 Jul 2015 13:52:20 +0000 By Natalie Liller

EPA’s 5th annual Science of Climate Change Workshop

EPA’s 5th annual Science of Climate Change Workshop

June 15-19th, 2015 marked EPA’s 5th annual Science of Climate Change Workshop—and even more importantly, it summoned the latest group of talented high-school-aged students to learn about the science behind taking action on climate change. This year, the program focused on climate science and the impacts of climate change. World-class scientists, engineers, and policy experts demonstrated their research and led hands-on activities to encourage innovative thinking.

The program’s goal is to reach out to students with a keen interest in science and climate change and equip them with the knowledge and resources to go out into their homes, schools, and communities to raise awareness and to encourage others to act. EPA’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Outreach Program, under the leadership of Director Kelly Witter, is engaging these young, bright, and enthusiastic students to extend their knowledge on climate change and build their confidence to become the scientific leaders of their generation.

EPA's Seth Ebersviller, Ph.D. shares the latest cookstove innovations.

EPA’s Seth Ebersviller, Ph.D. shares the latest cookstove innovations.

As a part of their week-long education, the students were able to see sustainable energy being harnessed while speaking to the scientists and engineers about their work. During one session, the students learned about the technology behind biomass-burning cookstoves and solar ovens with Seth Ebersviller, Ph.D., an EPA Post-Doctoral Fellow. With this first-hand exposure, the students constructed their own solar ovens using recycled pizza boxes and aluminum foil and then baked cookies. These excited students were able to take their knowledge on solar power and apply it to an everyday need—cooking.

Unfortunately, it is not all “milk and cookies.” There is a monumental need for change on a global scale to combat the effects of climate change, present and future. Witter believes that students will be the largest advocates for climate awareness because “they understand and appreciate the science.” She hopes that through this program the students will take their “enthusiasm and passion for protecting the environment and share it with their peers to make a difference and help slow the impacts.” And they are doing just that—six program students are already working on educating their peers with hopes of creating a Climate Club chapter at their respective schools. Cassidy Leovic (Riverside High School) said that the goal of the clubs will be to “inform peers on what they can do,” focusing on energy conservation and sustainable food choices. EPA is thrilled to see these students taking action and looks forward to seeing them continue to foster this enthusiasm and change in the coming years.

About the Author: Natalie Liller is a sophomore at Appalachian State University, majoring in Political Science, Pre-Legal Studies and Environmental Science. This summer she is interning at EPA to focus on educating students on environmental science and climate change.

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Excavation Experts: Are Moles or Voles Ruining your Lawn? (Part 1) Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:27:24 +0000 By Marcia Anderson

It’s Summertime! Time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.

Imagine you are strolling across your lawn on a beautiful day assessing your maintenance routines, when you notice something amiss. It appears as if someone – something! – has created a maze of tunnels under your once-beautiful turf. Voles and moles are the most common culprits. But which is which and how do you tell the difference?

Moles are not the only animal pests responsible for tunneling lawn and garden areas. In reality, it’s really voles causing much of the damage chalked up to moles. Other than names that rhyme, voles and moles are entirely different pests with little in common. Once you understand their differences, it becomes rather easy to tell them apart and to develop a control strategy. The biggest differences between moles and voles is their diet and the damage they cause.

Voles are also known as the meadow or field mouse. Photo by Jack Kelly Clark (

Voles are also known as the meadow or field mouse. Photo by Jack Kelly Clark (


Voles are rodents, as are mice, rats, gophers and squirrels. They look much like mice, only with shorter tails. Voles, of which there are 23 species, usually do not invade homes and should not be confused with the common house mouse. Voles are plant-eaters, feeding on the stems and blades of grass, and the roots, seeds and bulbs of flowering and garden crops. If that is not enough, in winter when other foods are scarce, they’ll even chew the bark off trees and shrubs.

When voles make tunnels while searching for roots to eat, they do not create raised ridges. Voles create golf-ball-sized entry holes into their tunnels along walls and in mulched beds. Their above ground grassy runways connect to multiple, clustered burrow openings. Their surface tunnels are most noticeable in early spring, just after the snow melts.


Moles are built for tunneling with paddle-like paws. Photo: Stanislaw Szyalo (

Moles are built for tunneling with paddle-like paws. Photo: Stanislaw Szyalo

Unlike voles, moles are not rodents, and they don’t eat plants. Their primary diet is earthworms with a few insects – beetle larvae and adults, ants, wasps, and flies tossed in as appetizers. According to Ohio State University, a five-ounce mole will consume 45-50 pounds of worms and insects each year.

Landscape demolition from moles comes in the form of tunnels, runways and raised burrows in your lawn, ground cover, and shrub areas while on their never-ending search for food. Moles, are built for tunneling, with paddle-like paws that make quick work of moving even the most dense clay soils. Moles can dig surface tunnels at a rate of 18 feet/hour.  The word “mole” is from the Middle English molle which is derived from mold-warpe, meaning “earth-thrower.”

Moles prefer well-drained, loose, sandy soil, and they avoid heavy clay, gravelly soils, and very dry or very wet soils. Because moles prefer moist soil, human environs such as manicured suburban lawns, parks and golf courses often provide beneficial habitat due to higher quality soils and adequate moisture.

Moles are constantly tunneling in search of meals, pushing up mini mountain ranges all over lawns, and creating volcanoes of soil in random spots. Moles produce two types of elaborate tunnels. The tunnels just beneath the surface, are feeding tunnels and appear as raised ridges running across your lawn. The second type of runway runs deeper and enables the moles to unite the feeding tunnels in a network. As the weather cools, moles will retreat into their deeper tunnels, often up to five feet beneath the surface. It is the soil excavated from the deep tunnels that resemble little volcanoes.


Pest identification is a fundamental step in an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan. IPM is a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to controlling pests. IPM is smart because it addresses the root causes of pest problems. It is sensible because it provides a healthier environment, and it is a sustainable approach that provides effective, long-term pest control. Specific knowledge about your pest will give you key clues for their management.

Preventing pest problems through foresight, is the first rule of IPM. Taking preventive steps to preclude a pest problem is preferable to waiting for pests to arrive, then having to eradicate them. To deter these landscape pests, be prepared to alter their environment.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Excavation Experts to learn how to prevent and control moles and voles. In the meantime visit the University of Nebraska website for more information on moles and voles.

About the Author: 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.

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This Week in EPA Science Fri, 24 Jul 2015 19:39:11 +0000 By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_250

The dog days of summer are upon us. Need a break from the heat? Check out some of our cool EPA science!

Here’s what we are highlighting this week.

  • A Small Program with a Big Mission
    EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) team recently attended the 2015 National SBIR/STTR Conference and met with environmental entrepreneurs and successful SBIR awardees who have gone from an innovative seedling to a growing green business.
    Read more about the conference in the blog Seeding Environmental Innovation.
  • Report on the Environment
    EPA’s Report on the Environment is a tool to effectively communicate information regarding the environment and human health conditions in the United States. It contains a compilation of objective, scientific indicators compiled from a variety of sources, including federal agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations.
    Read more about the report in the blog Bridging the Gap: EPA’s Report on the Environment.

Photo of the Week

Biologist Peggy Harris of EPA's dive team helps to survey coral reef conditions off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. EPA studies coral reefs because they are great indicators of water quality and the overall health of coastal watersheds.

Biologist Peggy Harris of EPA’s dive team helps to survey coral reef conditions off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. EPA studies coral reefs because they are great indicators of water quality and the overall health of coastal watersheds.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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Reunión de la CCA es una victoria para la salud pública en Norteamérica Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:10:55 +0000 Por Gina McCarthy
Administradora de la EPA


Administradora Gina McCarthy en la clausura de la sesión ordinaria del órgano rector de la CCA en Boston.

Administradora Gina McCarthy en la clausura de la sesión ordinaria del órgano rector de la CCA en Boston.

La semana pasada, tuve el placer de servir de anfitriona para la ministra del Medio Ambiente de Canadá y el subsecretario del Medio Ambiente de México en la vigésimo segunda ordinaria del Consejo de la Comisión de Cooperación Ambiental (CCA) en mi ciudad natal de Boston.

La CCA es una organización creada por los Estados Unidos, Canadá y México para abordar las preocupaciones ambientales en Norteamérica—porque la contaminación no lleva pasaporte. Como presidenta, representé al Gobierno de EE.UU. en el Consejo y tomé la delantera para discutir nuestro futuro como vecinos y aliados en la protección de la salud pública y el medio ambiente.

Los impactos del cambio climático, tales como más sequías extremas, un mayor número de inundaciones, incendios forestales y tormentas, amenazan las comunidades vulnerables en Norteamérica y más allá. Y a lo largo del camino aquellos que tienen menos son los que más sufren. Es por eso que nuestras tres naciones están comprometidas a trabajar juntas para abordar los retos climáticos. Y estamos esperando poder continuar nuestra cooperación en París a medida que trabajamos para lograr una acción internacional concreta sobre el clima.

En la sesión este año, el Consejo endosó un nuevo marco quinquenal que nos ayudará abordar juntos los retos medioambientales a los cuales nos enfrentamos. Nos enfocaremos en el cambio climático: desde la adaptación a la mitigación; desde la energía verde al crecimiento verde; de las comunidades sostenibles a los ecosistemas saludables. El plan presenta nuestras prioridades compartidas para maximizar los esfuerzos de cada uno por abordar los retos ambientales.

Mirando hacia el futuro, discutimos la posibilidad de usar la CCA como un medio para abordar los impactos climáticos sobre otros importantes retos ambientales como la cantidad y la calidad del agua, la energía renovable, la eficiencia energética y los océanos.

Administradora Gina McCarthy con Leona Aglukkaq, ministra del Medio Ambiente de Canadá, y Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, secretario del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales de México, en la 22nda sesión anual del Consejo de la Comisión de Cooperación Ambiental de Norteamérica

Administradora Gina McCarthy con Leona Aglukkaq, ministra del Medio Ambiente de Canadá, y Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, secretario del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales de México, en la 22nda sesión anual del Consejo de la Comisión de Cooperación Ambiental de Norteamérica


Durante nuestras conversaciones, el programa de EPA denominado “Aguas Libres de Basura” capturó la atención de los demás ministros en el Consejo. Mediante los esfuerzos comunitarios de alcance público y educación, la EPA está trabajando para reducir la cantidad de basura que llega a nuestros lagos, arroyos y océanos. Discutimos maneras en las cuales podremos ampliar y desarrollar aún más nuestros logros y expandirlos a otras ciudades en Norteamérica.

El Consejo también reafirmó el Plan Operativo de la CCA para el 2015-2016, que está enfocado en producir resultados tangibles y medibles. El plan propone 16 nuevos proyectos que reunirán a nuestros expertos en labores relacionadas a la reducción de las emisiones de transporte marítimo para proteger nuestra salud de la contaminación del aire, y el fortalecimiento de protecciones para las mariposas monarcas y otros polinizadores.

Nombramos un grupo de expertos en conocimientos ecológicos tradicionales de Canadá, México y Estados Unidos. En conjunto con las ciencias, los conocimientos tradicionales nos ayudan a entender nuestro medio ambiente, ayudándonos así a mejor protegerlo. Los peritos trabajarán con el Comité Consultivo Público Conjunto (CCPC) de la CCA para asesorar al Consejo sobre maneras para aplicar los conocimientos ecológicos tradicionales a las operaciones y recomendaciones de políticas de la CCA.

También anunciamos el tercer ciclo de subvenciones de la Alianza de América del Norte para la Acción Comunitaria (NAPECA, por sus siglas en inglés), un programa que apoya los proyectos prácticos en comunidades de bajos ingresos, marginadas e indígenas a través de América del Norte. Esta programa apoya las actividades comunitarias relacionadas al clima y fomenta la transición hacia una economía baja en carbono.

Al finalizar la reunión, México asumió la presidencia para el siguiente año. Es un honor trabajar con nuestros vecinos para abordar los retos ambientales directamente y asegurarnos de que Norteamérica lidere la acción climática global. Cuando lo hacemos, protegemos la salud de nuestros ciudadanos, nuestra economía y nuestra manera de vida. Infórmese aquí.

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Talking Clean Water With My Kids … on Vacation (Yeah, They Loved It) Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:37:13 +0000 By Jeffery Robichaud

A couple of years ago, I wrote that we took a staycation and probably would not be able to get away with that again. I was right. We visited my folks in North Carolina this year, but at least we got a place within walking distance from the beach. So even though we flew, I was able to cut down on all the car rides from the usual condo where we stay, reducing our carbon footprint. Since the weather was perfect the entire time, we also took no extra trips down to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to kill a day.

While I was gone those few weeks, there were quite a few blog articles about the Clean Water Rule, both in our region and across the nation. Honestly, I felt bad leaving work with so much going on, but I couldn’t get away from water even if I wanted to.

We spent a week at the beach, where my kids romped in the surf, collected shells, and dug holes in the sand. Sunset Beach, N.C., is located partly on Bird Island. Its pristine shoreline, dunes, and marshland provide important habitat and nesting for species that are threatened and endangered, including two types of turtles (Loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley).

It was easy to explain to my kiddos why protecting the backwaters and marshes of the island was so important. I think I lost them to the allure of the ocean, when I started saying that one of the things we’re working on back at EPA is a rule that more clearly explains which waters were protected by the Clean Water Act. (Some kids don’t like to hear their dad talk about work at the beach.)

When our beach time ended, we headed back up the coastline to Wilmington, N.C. The city is near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, which circuitously winds its way west, then north, then west again and finally past my folk’s house south of Raleigh.

I tried to break up the long drive by pointing out how each of the different rivers and creeks we crossed connected to each other and the ocean (Burgaw Creek to the Northeast Cape Fear River to the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean). Basically, I made a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game out of the system of tributaries. I’m pretty sure I only amused myself, since both boys’ heads never seemed to rise from their devices.

We rounded out our trip by heading up into the mountains just as the temperature was climbing into the triple digits. My dad took great pleasure in showing the boys that we were coming up upon the Eastern Continental Divide, quizzing them on what that meant. When they gave him the right answer, he looked a little sad that he wasn’t able to impart that bit of wisdom on them. I realized I was more like my father than I thought.

We had a great time in the Appalachians wading through some streams, skipping rocks, and enjoying the cooler weather. This was on the spur of the moment, so we weren’t able to take advantage of the rafting excursions that dotted the valleys between the peaks. However, it was pretty clear that these thriving businesses relied on the cool, clean and clear water that sprang from the mountains. I tried to point this out, but by that time, my boys were rolling their eyes and saying, “We get it, Dad. Protecting water is important!”

So even though I left for vacation as EPA announced the Clean Water Rule, I actually spent my entire summer vacation talking about it anyway – if only to an 11- and 13-year-old. From my home in the Heartland to the mountains and beyond to the ocean, clean water is a blessing we have here in the United States. It is something I am proud to be working to protect, and something that we need to be sure to safeguard for our children – if only so I can ask my grandkids someday, “Hey guys, do you know what the Eastern Continental Divide is?”

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second-generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. His summer trips to the beach as a youth were at the decidedly colder Long Sands Beach in York, Maine.

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County Health Rankings: A Breath of Fresh Air Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:23:38 +0000 By Donald F. Schwarz

About the Author: Donald F. Schwarz, MD, MPH, MBA is Director, Catalyzing Demand for Healthy Places and Practices at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Air pollution has long moved on from being a concern reserved for proactive environmentalists. Today, it has become a more visible personal health issue for millions of families and a major and growing public health concern for communities who live in close proximity to pollution sources.

The quality of air that we breathe determines, in part, how long and how well we live. Unfortunately, for residents of predominantly low-income and/or minority counties across the country, the impact of polluted air leads to the biggest concerns. Because many mobile and stationary sources of air pollution tend to be concentrated around the residential areas of low-income and minority communities, certain geographies have a greater threat of damaged health.

That’s why the County Health Rankings, an online tool which uses a variety of indicators to rank public health for almost every county in the nation, includes air pollution as an indicator to measure the health conditions of a county. It recognizes that an important aspect of the health of a community includes factors beyond the control of an individual person. The tool highlights regions by their health quality to help focus local government action.

CountyHealthRankings example

(courtesy County Health Rankings)

Air pollution is not a health concern that exists in a bubble — it has impacts on human health in several realms. For example, we know the links between polluted air and asthma. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about nine people die from asthma in the U.S. every day. The toll on lives is acute, as is the effect on how well people in impacted regions live. Air pollution also causes decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis, and other adverse pulmonary effects. The impact does not end with individual homes and families but over time affects our communities and our economy. In fact, asthma costs us about $56 billion in medical costs, lost workdays, and early deaths each year. These are not expenses that people who are already struggling to make a living are able to comfortably “take on,” nor should they have to.

There are also correlations between air pollution and the quality of life for children, many of whom are low-income or minority, who live, learn, and play in close proximity to pollution sources. There is a strong correlation between birth defect rates and proximity to air pollution, likely because pregnant mothers are a more susceptible population to environmental hazards. For older children, education is a concern based on the fact that more than 10.5 million school days each year are lost among 5- to 17-year-olds due to asthma complications.

Our hopes are that by using the county ranking tool, state and local governments can find ways which to share ideas to improve public health from place to place. For example, a recent study from our home state of New Jersey found that programs like the E-Z Pass open-road tolling (which result in fewer cars idling around toll plazas) have been connected to lower premature birth rate among moms who live nearby. By indicating within states those counties with similar pollution control problems, there is an opportunity for increased collaboration between governments and decision-makers. We hope that knowledge like this can contribute to improved public health for all.

We can hope for brighter futures for marginalized communities by taking direct action in the right areas. Want to know if you are breathing clean air in your county? Check out the 2015 County Health Rankings to see where your county stands in your state for air pollution.

Learn what you can do to improve the air in your community, check out the step-by- step guidance from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps--What Works section or the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps--Action Center where you will find tools, resources, policies, and programs to help you make your community a healthy place to live, learn, work, and play.

Donald F. Schwarz: “Learn what you can do to improve the air in your community. Check out the step-by- step guidance in the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps–What Works section or take a look in the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps–Action Center, where you will find tools, resources, policies, and programs to help you make your community a healthy place to live, learn, work, and play.”


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Welcome to the Weekend! Thu, 23 Jul 2015 20:19:45 +0000 Looking for more ways to appreciate the summer around NYC? Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA!

Friday – July 24, 2015

Land_Slide Art Gallery
6 – 9 p.m.

Land __ Slide features Caroline Voagen Nelson’s and Rebecca Sherman’s dynamic representations of moving environments in a sustainable, eco-conscious era. Both artists used sustainable products and materials (including sustainable inks and wood) and no harmful chemicals during the process and production of the artworks in this exhibit.

Observing with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York
7 – 10 p.m.

See Jupiter, Venus and the Moon through members’ telescopes which will be set up on the plaza just north of the fountain at Lincoln Center.

Billopp Shores: The Ebb and Flow of Man and Nature
Staten Island
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

This retrospective exhibition offers a glimpse of man and nature’s impact on the development of the waterfront in Conference House Park.

Saturday – July 25, 2015

Being Green at Home
Hillsborough Township, NJ
9 a.m. – Noon

Have you ever wondered what you could be doing at home to be more sustainable? Join Duke Farms staff member, Clifford Berek, and discuss three main areas where small changes make a big impact. During this program, we will discuss the four “R”s, your options when it comes to power and your impact on your local water resources.

Yoga on the Green with New York Sports Club
9:30 10:30 a.m.

Summer’s here so join us for some yoga on the Center Green in Glendale. Classes are free. If the weather is questionable or rainy the class will be moved inside NYSC. You don’t need to be a member of NYSC to participate.

Coffee & Tea | Bed-Stuy Community Forum
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

This environmental, arts, and educational initiative calls on citizens to co-produce creative and open ways to share skills and showcase recent cultural and environmental initiatives happening locally in order to amplify the diverse voices and encourage future civic engagement.

NYC Poetry Festival
Governors Island
Saturday – Sunday
11 a.m.

The Poetry Society of New York will once again invite New Yorkers to come together for this two day festival to celebrate NYC’s vibrant poetry community. The event will include over 60 poetry organizations and 250 poets on its three stages; a Vendor’s Village where local booksellers, artists and craft makers will sell their wares; a beer garden sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery; healthy and delicious food options; poetic installation art throughout, the Ring of Daisies open mic; and last but not least, the Children’s Poetry Festival, complete with writing games and its own fourth, all-kids stage.

Sunday – July 26, 2015

6th Annual Butterfly Day
Lyndhurst, NJ
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The highly-anticipated butterfly festival is back!  Join us for a fun-filled day of butterfly walks and FREE kids activities. Kids activities include a scavenger hunt, face painting, a butterfly costume contest (12 and under), and butterfly crafts. Onsite experts to help identify the various butterflies and provide gardening tips.

Family Art Project: Butterfly Habitat Hats
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

See them and sketch them, flying and sipping the nectar of their favorite shrub or flowering bush. Then learn about local butterfly species and make a butterfly habitat hat.

Wave Hill Garden Highlights Walk
2 – 3 p.m.

Join us for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights.

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CEC Meeting a Win for Public Health in North America Thu, 23 Jul 2015 17:21:14 +0000 Administrator Gina McCarthy closes the 2015 CEC Council Session in Boston.

Administrator Gina McCarthy closes the 2015 CEC Council Session in Boston.

Last week, I was thrilled to host the Canadian Environment Minister and Mexican Environment Deputy Secretary at the 22nd Regular Session of the Council for the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) in my hometown of Boston.

The CEC is an organization created by the United States, Canada and Mexico to address environmental concerns in North America—because pollution doesn’t carry a passport. As Chair, I represented the U.S. Government on the Council and took the lead in discussing our future as neighbors and allies in protecting public health and the environment.

Impacts from climate change like more extreme droughts, floods, fires, and storms threaten vulnerable communities in North America and beyond. And along the way, those who have the least suffer the most. That’s why our three nations are committed to working together to tackle climate challenges. I’m looking forward to continuing our cooperation this fall in Paris as we work to bring about concrete international action on climate.

At this year’s session, the Council endorsed a new 5-year blueprint to help us tackle environmental challenges our nations face together. We’ll focus on climate change: from adaptation to mitigation; from green energy to green growth; from sustainable communities to healthy ecosystems. The plan presents our shared priorities to make the most of each other’s efforts to address environmental challenges.

Looking toward the future, we discussed the possibility of using the CEC as a way to address climate impacts on other important environmental challenges like water quantity and quality, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and oceans.

During our conversations, EPA’s Trash Free Waters program caught the interest of the other ministers on the Council. Through community outreach and education, EPA is working to reduce the amount of litter that goes into our lakes, streams and oceans. We discussed ways we could build on its success and expand it to other cities in North America.

Administrator Gina McCarthy with Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's Minister for the Environment, and Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, Mexico's Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, at the 22nd Annual Council Session of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

Administrator Gina McCarthy with Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister for the Environment, and Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, Mexico’s Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, at the 22nd Annual Council Session of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

The Council also reaffirmed the CEC’s Operational Plan for 2015–2016, which is focused on producing tangible outcomes and measurable results. The plan proposes 16 new projects that bring together our experts on work like reducing maritime shipping emissions to protect our health from air pollution, and strengthening protections for monarch butterflies and pollinators.

We named a new roster of experts on traditional ecological knowledge from Canada, Mexico and the United States. Alongside science, traditional knowledge helps us understand our environment, helping us better protect it. The experts will work with the CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) to advise the Council on ways to apply traditional ecological knowledge to the CEC’s operations and policy recommendations.

We also announced the third cycle of the North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action grants, a program that supports hands-on projects for low-income, underserved and indigenous communities across North America. The program supports communities’ climate-related activities and encourages the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We ended the meeting with Mexico assuming chairmanship for the upcoming year. It’s an honor to work with our neighbors to address environmental challenges head-on, and to make sure North America leads on global climate action. When we do, we protect our citizens’ health, our economy, and our way of life. Learn more here.

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Technology Innovation for a Sustainable Water Future Thu, 23 Jul 2015 14:44:06 +0000 Alan Johnston from the City of Gresham Wastewater Services Division gives a tour of the energy positive Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oregon. In the background is the receiving station for fats, oils, and grease from local food establishments that increase biogas production for conversion to electricity Photo credit: Jim Swenson, New Media Magic LLC

Alan Johnston from the City of Gresham Wastewater Services Division gives a tour of the energy positive Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oregon. In the background is the receiving station for fats, oils, and grease from local food establishments that increase biogas production for conversion to electricity
Photo credit: Jim Swenson, New Media Magic LLC

By  Jeff Lape

This week, I visited the City of Gresham, Oregon’s wastewater treatment plant. This year the plant became the second facility in the country this year and the first in the Pacific Northwest to generate more energy than it needs to treat its water. Gresham has joined the growing number of facilities across the country and the world to value all of the inputs to the plant not as waste, but as a resource, and to capitalize on those resources, in the form of clean water, renewable energy, and nutrients that can be used to grow our food.

It’s vital that we continue to support innovative efforts like Gresham’s. The challenges that increasingly face our water resources will require new ways of doing things, holistic ways of managing water, and valuing water in all forms for the resources contained within in order to maintain a clean source of water for this generation and the ones to come.

Alan Johnston shows me the treatment plant is generating 112% of their total energy demand at that moment. Photo credit: Jim Swenson, New Media Magic LLC

Alan Johnston shows me the treatment plant is generating 112% of their total energy demand at that moment.
Photo credit: Jim Swenson, New Media Magic LLC

In April 2014, Administrator Gina McCarthy issued Promoting Technology Innovation for Clean and Safe Water: Water Technology Innovation Blueprint – Version 2, to demonstrate the extent of risks to water sustainability, the market opportunities for innovation, examples of innovation pioneers and actions to promote technology innovation. These actions included ways that we will be a positive contributor to the effort along with utilities, industry, investors, academics, technology developers and entrepreneurs.

This week, we released “Promoting Innovation for a Sustainable Future – A Progress Report.” This document highlights even more examples of innovative pioneers and their efforts towards water sustainability over the past 12 months. You can find the Progress Report on our website, where we continue to showcase utilities and cities across the country who are getting creative in the ways they manage water.

If you have examples from your community, we’d love to hear from you! We’ll be at WEFTEC 2015 this year collecting stories from communities across the country on ways folks are working towards water sustainability. Come see us in September to tell us yours.

About the Author: Jeff Lape serves as Deputy Director of the Office of Science and Technology, Office of Water (EPA) where he helps lead water quality criteria development, water quality standards implementation and development of technology based standards. Jeff also leads efforts to promote technology innovation for clean and safe water. 

Previously with EPA, Jeff served as Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He has supported water resource protection efforts with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and three private sector firms. Jeff has a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science (SUNY Plattsburgh) and Master’s in Environmental Science and Engineering (Virginia Tech). Jeff grew up in the Adirondacks of New York, on Lake George and Lake Champlain, where he gained an early and keen appreciation for the natural environment.

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Experience history and nature on rail-trails Thu, 23 Jul 2015 13:04:30 +0000 by Virginia Thompson

A view from the Heritage Rail Trail County Park.

A view from the Heritage Rail Trail County Park.

My husband is a huge fan of biking on rail-trails created by the conversion of unused railroad rights-of-way.  Within the past year alone, he has ridden on many trails in the Philadelphia suburbs, as well as throughout the Mid-Atlantic states.  On a recent trip, we rode on two rail-trails in southcentral Pennsylvania.

The Heritage Rail Trail County Park in York County, recently ranked by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy as the top rail-trail in the U.S. for American history, carried President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg for his famous address and also carried his funeral party to Springfield, Illinois, following his assassination.  The trail follows the South Branch of Codorus Creek, connecting the City of York and many small communities with beautifully restored train stations that now serve other purposes.  The trail, next to an active rail line, also continues across the Mason-Dixon line and connects with the Northern Central Rail Trail in Maryland.

The Safe Harbor Dam as seen from the Enola Low-Grade Trail

The Safe Harbor Dam as seen from the Enola Low-Grade Trail

Another trail we biked recently was in Lancaster County—the Enola Low-Grade Trail—which parallels the Susquehanna River as it approaches the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.  One of the interesting facets of the trail is the juxtaposition of older and new forms of electric power.  On the cliffs above the trail are several large windmills, taking advantage of the height and open space to generate electricity.  Just below the windmills sits the Safe Harbor dam, reliably providing hydroelectric power since December 1931.  The fish congregating at the dam attract bald eagles, which can be seen flying above the dam. There’s nothing quite like experiencing history and nature by biking or hiking a rail-trail. At one stop on the trail, as I looked up at the windmills and down to the river and generating station, I felt small and insignificant in one respect, but also an important part of the natural balance.

Turning formerly used rail lines into biking and hiking trails is a great way to bring people closer to waterways in their regions. EPA’s Brownfields program has had a hand in converting unused rail lines, which often snake along picturesque rivers (our nation’s original highways), into prime recreational areas. The Harrison Township Mine Site in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania was assessed through a Brownfields grant, and is now part of the Rachel Carson trail, attracting area visitors as well as hiking and running events. Allegheny County is even acquiring additional land so that the Harrison Hills Park Mine Site will ultimately connect three trails – the Rachel Carson Trail, the Butler-Freeport Trail, and the Baker Trail.

Leave a comment below to let us know about rail-trails in your area.


About the author: Virginia Thompson works at EPA Region 3 and accompanies her husband on his rail-trail adventures as often as possible.



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