The EPA Blog The EPA Blog Fri, 29 May 2015 20:38:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 This Week in EPA Science Fri, 29 May 2015 20:38:14 +0000 By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap Graduation

Finals are over, graduations have commenced, and summer vacation is right around the corner. Think you’re totally done with science forever? Ha—think again!

Make your teachers proud and keep up with the latest in environmental science by reading about EPA research here every week.

Here’s what we’re highlighting this week.

  • Supporting Small Business Innovation Research
    “Seeding America’s Future Innovations” is a national effort to spread the word about the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Together, these programs provide $2.5 billion of contracts and other awards to small, advanced technology firms to spur discoveries and facilitate the commercialization of innovations.
    Read more about “America’s Largest Seed Fund” in the blog On the Road from Cajun Country to the Heartland to Seed Small Business Innovation Research.
  • Hacking for Change
    Hacking has become a buzzword with negative connotations, but people across the country can use the same computer savvy often associated with security breaches for good. On June 6th EPA will take part in The National Day of Civic Hacking via the Visualizing Nutrients Challenge – hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey, EPA, and Blue Legacy International.
    Read more about the event in the blog Become a Civic Hacker.
  • Creating a Healthier Environment for Students
    Nearly seven million U.S. children have asthma. EPA and University of Texas at Austin (UT) are researching gaps in information between environmental factors and student health. UT Austin’s project, Healthy High School PRIDE (Partnership in Research on Indoor Environments), is investigating a wide range of environmental parameters such as noise, lighting and indoor air quality in Texas high schools.
    Read more about the project in this press release.
  • Science to Safeguard Drinking Water
    Toxins from harmful algal blooms are increasingly contaminating source waters, as well as the drinking water treatment facilities that source waters supply. EPA researchers are helping the treatment facilities find safe, cost effective ways to remove the toxins and keep your drinking water safe.
    Learn more about this research in the video Science safeguards drinking water from harmful algal blooms.

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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Topping Off Asthma Awareness Month with Health Advice for Those You Care About Fri, 29 May 2015 17:21:57 +0000 By Becky Weber

Imagine that you’re spending a quiet day at the beach. You get warm and the crystal clear, blue water looks so inviting, you decide to go for a swim. You venture out into the calm water, but before you know it, waves start rolling over your head. You push up from the sandy ocean bottom and take a big gulp of air before another wave knocks you back over. You finally make it to shore and now you’re exhausted, but your heart is racing like you just ran the Boston Marathon and you can’t make it slow down no matter how many deep breaths you take…

Becky Weber

Becky Weber

This is eerily similar to an asthma attack that adults can experience. An attack can come out of the blue and before it’s over, they might spend time in an emergency room with doctors getting the attack and the resulting rapid pulse under control with asthma medication.

May is Asthma Awareness Month, and I’d like to cap off the month by reminding everyone that adults have asthma, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are just under one million adults in the Heartland living with asthma, or seven percent of the population. These asthma sufferers are moms, dads, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, employees, etc. When they have an attack, it takes time away from their families, jobs, and activities. In EPA Region 7’s Air Program, we work closely with our state and local partners to educate the public about asthma and the common triggers for asthma attacks.

The most common triggers for asthma in both adults and children are:

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Dust mites
  • Molds
  • Cockroaches and pests
  • Pets
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Chemical irritants
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Wood smoke

Having healthy indoor and outdoor air is important for every citizen, but it can mean life or death for people with asthma. Our Air Program is doing its part to protect air quality in the Heartland via the regional indoor and outdoor air programs, closely working with our Public Affairs and Environmental Justice experts on education campaigns and with our state and local partners. We hope our efforts result in fewer missed school and work days, less missed time with families, fewer hospital visits – and most of all, a better quality of life for our citizens living with asthma every day.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Is there anything I can do?” Yes, there are several things you can do to help those with asthma around you. Carpool more or take public transportation to reduce air pollution. Use green products when cleaning your home or office space. Buy Energy Star or energy-efficient products. And educate yourself on asthma trigger prevention. We can all do our part to help prevent asthma attacks!

For more information on asthma, triggers, and prevention, please visit EPA’s Asthma page.

About the Author: Becky Weber serves as the Director of EPA Region 7’s Air and Waste Management Division, and has worked over 20 years at EPA managing a variety of programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in meteorology from Texas A&M University. Becky enjoys cooking, reading, walking, and spending time with her family and friends.

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Become a Civic Hacker Fri, 29 May 2015 17:06:52 +0000 By Dustin Renwick

Blue circle with "Hack for Change" in the middleHacking has become a buzzword with negative connotations, but people across the country can use the same computer savvy often associated with security breaches for good. Civic hacking allows people to connect with every level of government, improve their communities, and test their talents for coding and problem solving.

This kind of hacking brings together people with different interests and skills who can tap open data sets and build technology-based solutions.

The National Day of Civic Hacking includes anyone interested in collaboration and community – from die-hard hackers to people with no technology background. This year’s event takes place on June 6.

EPA will take part via the Visualizing Nutrients Challenge – hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), EPA, and Blue Legacy International. But that’s just one of a collection of opportunities from more than 30 federal agencies who have shared social and civic problems that will benefit from public participation.

The civic hacking day brings together virtual and real-world communities. Last year’s event boasted meet-ups in more than 100 cities in 40 U.S. states and 13 countries across the world.

Look for an event in a city near you, or check out the challenge listings. Some of the themes for this year are climate and health. Nutrient pollution – excess nitrogen and phosphorus in our waters – remains a costly, complex environmental problem that affects communities and their local watersheds.

USGS, EPA, and Blue Legacy released the Visualizing Nutrients Challenge to seek compelling, innovative visual representations of open government data sources. These visualizations should inform individuals and communities on nutrient pollution and inspire them to take actions that might prevent excess algal production and hypoxia in local watersheds.

First place will receive $10,000, and the Blue Legacy Award will receive $5,000. Register for the competition and submit your entry by June 8.

Be sure to see if any other challenges fit your skillset for the national event on June 6, and join people across the world in hacking for change.

About the Author: Dustin Renwick works in conjunction with the Innovation Team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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Driving responsible growth in biofuels Fri, 29 May 2015 15:00:14 +0000 The renewable fuels standards (RFS) program, established by Congress in 2007, aims to increase the volumes of renewable biofuels that are used in our transportation system, helping the United States move away from fossil fuels to less carbon-intensive fuels. The program seeks to reduce the pollution that contributes to climate change and improve energy security. When Congress passed the RFS, it set annual targets for biofuel use that increase every year through 2022. Congress also gave EPA the authority to adjust those target volumes downward in certain situations.

Today we proposed renewable fuel volume standards that establish a path for ambitious yet responsible growth in biofuels. These standards would provide the certainty the marketplace needs to further develop low-carbon fuels over the coming years. The proposed volumes reflect two realities:

    • One – that Congressional intent is clear that renewable fuel production and use should grow over time. We have already seen success – renewable fuels are being produced and used in increasing volumes. This is true for both ethanol and biodiesel, and recently we have seen important developments in cellulosic biofuels (produced from sources like corn stover), which result in the lowest greenhouse gas emissions.
    • And two – that there are real limits to the actual amounts of biofuels that can be supplied to consumers at this time. These limits include lower than expected demand for gasoline and constraints in supplying ethanol at greater than 10 percent of gasoline.

You may often hear of the “E10 blendwall.” This term refers to the amount of ethanol that could be used if all gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol and there are no higher-level ethanol blends, such as E15 or E85. Today, nearly every gallon of gasoline sold in the United States contains 10 percent ethanol. Providing more ethanol in the system will require blends of fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol, such as E85 (fuel with up to 85 percent ethanol) or E15. While these options are growing, they are not yet available widely. So this proposal will push the renewable fuel market beyond the E10 blendwall, as Congress intended, but in a responsible manner. In developing the proposed standards, EPA considered a range of scenarios that would enable the market to achieve the proposed standards, including ones where use of E85 increases substantially.

Because of the limitations that exist today, we are using the authority Congress gave the agency to adjust the volumes below the annual targets set in the original 2007 legislation. These proposed volumes are achievable in the timeframes under consideration. At the same time, the volumes steadily increase every year, reflecting Congress’s clear intent to drive up the nation’s use of renewable fuel.

Indeed, the proposed 2016 numbers will incentivize real growth in the market.

    • The proposed 2016 standard for cellulosic biofuel – those fuels with the lowest GHG emissions profile – is more than 170 million gallons higher than the actual 2014 volumes. That’s six times higher than actual 2014 volumes.
    • The proposed 2016 standard for total renewable fuel is nearly 1.5 billion gallons more, or about 9 percent higher, than the actual 2014 volumes.
    • The proposed 2016 standard for advanced biofuel is more than 700 million gallons27 percent – higher than the actual 2014 volumes.
    • Biodiesel standards grow steadily over the next several years, increasing every year to reach 1.9 billion gallons by 2017. That’s 17 percent higher than the actual 2014 volumes.

We are committed to increasing the use of renewable fuels through the RFS. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy are building programs that support biofuels, biofuel infrastructure and the many U.S. companies leading the way in this industry. We know that opportunities lie ahead for the biofuels sector as we work through the challenges we face in transforming the nation’s fuel supply. These proposals reflect the Administration’s confidence that renewable fuels can continue to steadily advance and grow.

2Adv BioFuel_graph_update2_528

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Razones por las que necesitamos el reglamento sobre agua limpia Thu, 28 May 2015 20:35:51 +0000 Nota: Publicado en español en el Blog de la Casa Blanca el 27 de mayo de 2015:
Escrito por Gina McCarthy y Jo-Ellen Darcy

Nota del editor: Este blog se publicó originalmente en inglés por la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos. Puede leer la publicación original aquí.


El día de hoy, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos (EPA en inglés) y el Ejército están por finalizar un reglamento sobre agua limpia para proteger los riachuelos y los humedales de los que dependemos para tener buena salud, reactivar la economía y sostener nuestro estilo de vida.

Ahora que se acerca el verano, muchos de nosotros tenemos pensado pasar el rato al aire libre con amigos y familia, ya sea pescando, remando, surfeando o nadando. Es importante que estén limpios los lagos y ríos que nos encantan, pero los riachuelos y los humedales que los alimentan también deben estarlo. Esta es solamente una de las muchas razones por las que este reglamento es tan importante. A continuación les presentamos algunas más:

El agua limpia es vital para nuestra salud.

Una de cada tres personas que viven en Estados Unidos obtiene agua potable de los riachuelos que carecían de protección contra contaminación sin el reglamento sobre agua limpia. Una vez finalizado el reglamento, este ayudará a proteger la salud de 117 millones de personas que viven en Estados Unidos.

Nuestra economía depende del agua limpia.

Los sectores económicos más importantes, desde manufactura y producción de energía hasta agricultura, servicios alimenticios, turismo y ocio, dependen del agua limpia para funcionar y florecer. Sin agua limpia, la actividad comercial se paraliza, lo cual es una realidad a la que muchos pequeños empresarios se enfrentaron en Toledo el año pasado cuando el agua potable estuvo contaminada por varios días.

El agua limpia ayuda a que las granjas progresen y este reglamento no deroga las exenciones para agricultores.

Las granjas de todo Estados Unidos dependen de agua limpia y confiable para el ganado, los cultivos y la irrigación. Actividades tales como la plantación, la cosecha y el traslado de cabezas de ganado a través de riachuelos han sido exentas de la Ley Federal de Agua Limpia; y el reglamento sobre agua limpia no lo modifica. El reglamento final no genera requisitos nuevos de obtención de permisos para la actividad agrícola, sino que conserva todas las exenciones y exclusiones que ya existen, e incluso agrega más exclusiones en los casos de lagos y estanques artificiales, depresiones llenas de agua por construcción y zanjas de pastizales; todo ello con el fin de dejar claro que nuestro objetivo no es entrometernos con el sector agrícola. Al igual que antes, solo se necesita un permiso en virtud de la Ley Federal de Agua Limpia si se contamina o destruye una fuente de agua; y todas las exenciones para el sector agrícola permanecen vigentes.

El cambio climático conduce a que la protección de nuestros recursos acuíferos sea aún más esencial.

Los efectos del cambio climático, como sequías más intensas, tormentas, incendios e inundaciones, sin mencionar temperaturas más cálidas y el aumento del nivel del mar, amenazan el suministro de agua.

No obstante, los arroyos y los humedales limpios pueden proteger a las comunidades al atrapar agua de inundaciones, conservar humedad durante sequías, recargar el suministro de agua subterránea, filtrar la contaminación y brindar un hábitat para los peces y la fauna salvaje. Al tener estados como California en medio de una sequía sin precedente, es más importante que nunca que protejamos el agua limpia que aún tenemos.

Tener protecciones claras se traduce en agua limpia.

La Ley Federal de Agua Limpia ha protegido nuestra salud por más de 40 años, y ha ayudado a nuestro país a limpiar cientos de miles de millas de canales contaminados. Sin embargo, las decisiones que el Tribunal Superior tomó en 2001 y 2006 dejó muchas preguntas sin contestar con respecto a la protección que gozaba el 60 por ciento de arroyos y millones de acres de humedales del país. Con el uso de lo último en la ciencia, este reglamento aclara la confusión mencionada anteriormente, ya que por primera vez en más de una década brinda mayor certidumbre sobre las fuentes de agua potable que es importante proteger.

La ciencia nos muestra las fuentes de agua potable que hay que proteger.

Para redactar el reglamento sobre agua limpia, los organismos encargados utilizaron los últimos descubrimientos científicos, entre ellos un informe que resume más de 1200 estudios científicos publicados y revisados por expertos en la materia, que demostraron que los riachuelos y los humedales desempeñan un importante papel para conservar limpios los canales en los que desembocan, como ríos y lagos.

Ustedes pidieron mayor claridad.

Integrantes del Congreso, funcionarios estatales y locales, grupos industriales, agrícolas y medio ambientales, científicos y el público en general le pidieron a la EPA y al Ejército que aclararan qué fuentes de agua están protegidas por la Ley Federal de Agua Limpia. Estos organismos están respondiendo a aquellas peticiones con este nuevo reglamento y también están abordando las decisiones del Tribunal Superior. La EPA y el Ejército realizaron cientos de reuniones con las partes interesadas de todo el país, revisaron más de un millón de opiniones públicas y escucharon detenidamente la perspectiva de todos los frentes. Toda esta información recopilada dio forma y mejoró el reglamento final que el día de hoy anunciamos.

Es importante mencionar que hay muchas cosas que el reglamento no cubre.

Este reglamento solo protege el agua potable que originalmente ha sido cubierta bajo la Ley Federal de Agua Limpia. No interfiere con derechos de propiedad privada y solamente abarca el agua, no el uso de la tierra. Tampoco regula la mayoría de las cunetas, ni el agua subterránea ni los flujos poco profundos del subsuelo y no modifica el reglamento sobre irrigación ni transferencia de agua.

Esta publicación presenta algunas de las muchas razones por las que es importante contar con este reglamento y con agua limpia; entérese de más aquí, y comparta sus razones usando la etiqueta #CleanWaterRules #AguaLimpia.

Gina McCarthy es la administradora de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos. Jo-Ellen Darcy es subsecretaria de Obra Civil del Ejército de Estados Unidos.


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New Online Resources Available for Local Leaders and Community Members Thu, 28 May 2015 19:15:30 +0000 During my 38 years at EPA, I’ve had a chance to work here in Washington, D.C., in Research Triangle Park, in Dallas, and in Atlanta. In each of my roles, I’ve had many opportunities to meet with local leaders who are working hard to address concerns in their communities. So I know protecting environmental quality and public health happens most directly at the local level.

That’s why making a visible difference in communities is one of our top priorities for EPA. We are looking for ways we can support local officials juggling multiple responsibilities, as well as residents eager for information they can use to take action and improve local conditions.

So I’m excited about a new resource we’ve launched specifically for local officials and citizens. The Community Resources website gives visitors easy access to three unique resources that can help with a variety of local environmental and public health issues:

  • The Local Government Environmental Assistance Network (LGEAN) website offers information to help communities understand and meet federal and state environmental regulatory requirements. Developed in partnership with the International City / County Management Association, it’s one of several compliance assistance centers EPA supports. Along with media-specific information, LGEAN also includes information to help with issues ranging from sustainable environmental management to transportation to public safety.
  • The National Resource Network website offers practical solutions to help communities reach their goals for growth and economic development. Established by HUD in cooperation with the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities, it offers local government officials a Resource Library to help with practical solutions and analyses, as well as a “311 for Cities” service that enables them to request and quickly receive assistance on a wide range of topics.
  • And EPA’s Community Health website gives users resources to help improve local environmental health conditions. It provides access to information about beach closures, fish advisories, toxic emissions, and other public health issues. Visitors can also find information about applying for EPA grants and technical assistance.

We hope you’ll find this new site helpful. We invite you to check it out and then, click on the link to give us your feedback. We want to hear how we can improve the site to help local officials and community members across the country find the resources that are most important to them.

The Community Resources site is just one way we are working to make a visible difference in communities. Let me share a few examples of work happening on the ground around the country:

  • In Lawrence, Massachusetts, we awarded a brownfields grant that will help the community cleanup and revitalize a neighborhood marked by abandoned and polluted industrial properties. Check out this short video that features Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and Massachusetts Rep. Niki Tsongas as they describe what this support will mean for the community.
  • In Wheeling, West Virginia, we joined local residents in exploring how it can transform an old apple orchard in an historic part of town into a regional hub for local foods. This work is part of the Local Foods, Local Places Initiative, which involves USDA and other federal agencies in helping communities develop local food systems as a means of revitalizing traditional downtowns and promoting economic diversification. Listen to what the Reinvent Wheeling’s Jack Dougherty has to say about this effort in this story by WV Public Radio.
  • In Fresno, California, we have been working with other state and federal agencies to help spur economic development and revitalization as part of the Obama Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative. A new EPA report drawing on that work describes 30 strategies to help local governments overcome obstacles and encourage infill development, particularly in distressed communities. As many communities across the country have learned, infill development saves money through the more efficient use of tax dollars, increases property values, and improves quality of life. We’re excited about how it can help Fresno, and many other communities that recognize the benefits of reinvesting and restoring what were once vibrant neighborhoods.

Whether working on tools and information to help communities address priority issues or working right alongside community leaders, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and I are proud of the work EPA is doing to help communities build a greener, healthier, more prosperous future. We look forward to sharing more examples of how we are supporting communities in reaching their goals.

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Great Partners and Progress in Great Falls Thu, 28 May 2015 18:01:58 +0000 By Brett Doney

Great Falls is a pioneering city built on a rich heritage of farming and ranching, industrial development,

This is one of several historic downtown properties cleaned and redeveloped with support from the Great Falls Development Authority and EPA brownfields funding.

This is one of several historic downtown properties cleaned and redeveloped with support from the Great Falls Development Authority and EPA brownfields funding.

the United States Air Force, and entrepreneurship. Situated at the Great Falls of the Missouri River -where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains – this city has protected its unique history and many call it genuine Montana.

Ten years ago, Great Falls was still struggling to recover from the closing of the Anaconda Smelter and numerous military cutbacks. Despite economic hardship, Great Falls never lost its spirit. Public and private community leaders came together to forge a comprehensive Forward Great Falls economic development plan. Revitalization of the city’s historic riverfront and downtown areas were identified as a key ingredient of an economic turn-around.

With the help of EPA brownfields assessment (a brownfield is a property where previous uses have left, or may have left, hazardous substances or pollutants, like a former gas station or industrial facility) and revolving loan funds, and years of hard work, Great Falls is now enjoying an economic renaissance.

Great Falls Development Authority used its brownfields funding to help clean widespread asbestos from a former bank, facilitating the development a new Easter Seals Goodwill regional headquarters.

Great Falls Development Authority used its brownfields funding to help clean widespread asbestos from a former bank, facilitating the development a new Easter Seals Goodwill regional headquarters.

Award-winning redevelopment projects and new businesses along the riverfront and downtown have attracted dozens of new businesses, regional shoppers, tourists and new residents. Employment records were set in 2013 and 2014.  Most telling, student enrollment in Great Falls Public Schools broke 20 straight years of decline to grow in each of the past two years.

Thanks in part to EPA’s brownfields assistance, we’re working with private developers who have proposed future projects that will continue this positive momentum. The future is bright for Great Falls!

About the author: Brett Doney is President and CEO of the Great Falls Development Authority in Great Falls, Montana.

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More than Tunnel Vision Thu, 28 May 2015 12:51:43 +0000 by Jennie Saxe

Green roof at Ft. Reno reservoir.

Green roof at Ft. Reno reservoir

A few months ago, we blogged about the massive engineering project to construct tunnels beneath the District of Columbia using giant tunnel boring machines. These tunnels are being constructed to hold onto stormwater and reduce combined sewer overflows, which can result in harmful bacteria in the District’s waterways.

“Gray” solutions, like tunnels and treatment plant upgrades, are not the only part of the District’s plans. Last week, EPA officially gave the green light to DC Water’s plans to add a significant amount of green infrastructure to the mix to protect the Potomac and Rock Creek watersheds. Fittingly, this announcement was made atop the green roof at DC Water’s Ft. Reno reservoir. Using green with gray provides stormwater management capacity while creating a healthier urban environment. In addition, the implementation of these green infrastructure projects will result in water quality benefits during the installation process.  This is very different from grey infrastructure where the benefit is only realized at completion of construction.

To follow the progress of the Clean Rivers project, check out DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project website, or follow the tunnel boring machines – Nannie, Lady Bird, and Lucy – on Twitter.


About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs.


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America’s Heartland Depends on Clean Water Thu, 28 May 2015 12:20:10 +0000 By Mark Hague

The Heartland thrives on clean water, a resource we must both conserve and protect. Agricultural interests, public health officials, recreational small businesses, and all the rest of us rely on clean water for our lives and livelihoods. While EPA oversees the protection of water quality under the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, every Heartlander understands its value to our daily lives.

Mark Hague

Mark Hague

During the past 43 years, EPA, the states, and local partners have worked tirelessly to clean up once polluted rivers and streams. While we’ve come a long way and dealt with the biggest issues, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have worked together to solve what remains through a new Clean Water Rule.

This new rule will help us further ensure clean waters are available to everyone here in the Heartland and downstream. The rule more clearly protects the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of our nation’s water resources.

In developing the rule, we held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country and reviewed more than one million public comments.

One of our most important challenges is protecting those smaller tributaries and wetlands that are a part of the vast interconnected system of some of our big rivers, like the Missouri and Mississippi. Our small waters are often out of sight, yet still serve an integral role in ensuring clean water for all Americans and our environment.

We rely on these smaller wetlands to provide uptake of nutrients, moderate flow in times of flooding, and serve as important habitat for species that spawn or rely on larger bodies of water, like the Missouri River.

Agriculture relies on clean water for livestock, crops, and irrigation. With the Clean Water Rule, EPA provides greater clarity and certainty to farmers and does not add economic burden on agriculture.

There is no doubt our water quality has improved. As a community and an agency, we must continue to protect both large and small tributaries. Clean water is a powerful economic driver affecting manufacturing, farming, tourism, recreation, and energy production. In fact, people who fish, hunt, and watch wildlife as a hobby spent $144.7 billion in 2011. That’s equal to one percent of the gross domestic product. The fact is, we rely on the flow of clean water to provide for this economic engine.

Finally, we all rely on the healthy ecosystems in these upstream waters to provide us with quiet, natural places to fish, boat, swim, and enjoy the outdoors. Hunters and anglers enjoy pristine places, and fishing rod makers and boat builders enjoy more business. And, of course, when drinking water is cleaner, people are healthier. We all win!

The Clean Water Rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Learn more at

About the Author: Mark Hague serves as the Acting EPA Region 7 Administrator. He is responsible for overseeing the overall operations within the region and the implementation of federal environmental rules and regulations, and serves as a liaison with the public, elected officials, organizations, and others. Mark has 35 years of experience with EPA.

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Wetlands Wednesday: Beyond Your Typical Ozarks Excursion Wed, 27 May 2015 19:17:16 +0000 By Cynthia Cassel

Missouri is the fourth and final destination on our May tour of Region 7’s intriguing wetlands as we mark the 25th anniversary of National Wetlands Month. Following my journey to the prairie potholes and fens of Iowa in last week’s blog, we go down south to the breathtaking Show-Me State.

Since we had honeymooned in St. Louis (Paris was full), my husband and I decided to reenact the event on our fifth anniversary. Of course, my family doesn’t just “go somewhere.” It had to be a road trip through Missouri to arrive at a location four hours away. But I was pleased to take the long way ‘round after investigating the distinctive wetlands of the state: sinkhole ponds and hardwood swamps.

Sinkhole Ponds

Although we can easily appreciate the bounty of water and habitat the Ozarks provide, the rarer sinkhole pond is typical of a Missouri wetland. Sinkholes are natural depressions formed by the dissolution of underlying limestone layers or the collapse of a cavern roof. Since there are so many caves in the state, sinkholes form naturally.

Sinkhole PondsSinkhole wetlands are usually isolated and form in karst topography, which is caused when soluble rocks dissolve, such as limestone. Karst may form when rainwater, reacting with carbon dioxide from the air and forming carbonic acid, seeps through the soil into the rock. Drainage to a sinkhole is underground.

Wetter types of sinkhole wetlands can have non-woody plants, while the drier ones can be vegetated by trees or shrubs. These areas can provide habitat for amphibian and reptile breeding, depending on the amount and timing of the water supplied to them.

Hardwood Swamps

Hardwood SwampsThese beautiful bottomlands in southeast Missouri are truly an example of forest primeval, found along rivers and streams, generally in broad floodplains. Such ecosystems are commonly found wherever waterways at least occasionally cause flooding beyond the confines of their channels. They are deciduous forested wetlands, made up of different species of Gum, Oak and Bald Cypress trees, which have the ability to survive in areas that are either seasonally flooded or covered with water much of the year. Identifying features of these wetland systems are the fluted or flaring trunks that develop in several species, and the presence of knees, or aerial roots.

Hardwood swamps serve a critical role in the watershed by reducing the risk and severity of flooding to downstream communities by storing floodwater. In addition, these wetlands improve water quality by filtering and flushing nutrients, processing organic wastes, and reducing sediment before it reaches open water.

I hope you enjoyed our four-part journey to the wonderful wetlands of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. There’s so much more to see here in the Heartland. You could start by taking your own trip to Kansas’ two internationally recognized wetlands: Cheyenne Bottoms in Great Bend and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford County. And if you’d like to continue your mini-education in wetland ecology, let me know!

About the Author: Cynthia Cassel has worked as a Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) Program grantee with EPA Region 7’s Wetlands and Streams Protection Team for 5½ years. She received her Bachelor of Science from Park University. Cynthia lives in Overland Park, Kan.

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