By Jeffery Robichaud
A few weeks ago I blogged about our pending office move. The day has finally come, and this will be my last in this office. The movers are taking our items to our new home Thursday and Friday, and I will start to unpack next Tuesday, our first day in the new digs. This is the view out my window last night, the shadows creeping across the almost empty parking lot.
I know I have taken this view for granted over the years, but as I gazed out of it for one of the last times I was struck by all I could see… how out this one window, I could literally see before me my work over the last ten years and our mission as an Agency. Apologies to the Little River Band (feel free to hum along) but I couldn’t help myself but do a little reminiscing.
On the left hand side just above an overpass you can make out an orangish-reddish building, EPA Region 7’s Science and Technology Center. This state of the art facility was one of the first LEED certified laboratories in the country, and it was built on a Brownfields site, allowing EPA to practice what it preaches by re-using a blighted property. It is here where samples from all around our Region and even the country are analyzed to provide the necessary information for us to make decisions. It was dedicated 10 years ago and we are just as proud of it today. Even with the move to the new building around 80 staff will still be located here in Kansas City, KS.
Towards the center of the photo you can make out the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers at a place called Kaw Point, a place where Lewis and Clark camped over 200 years ago and which holds tremendous significance to me as a history buff. It is from that point where we launch Carp Buster II, our electrofishing boat which we use to collect fish from both the Kansas and Missouri Rivers as part of our Ambient Fish Tissue program, the longest running such program in the country. The information that we and our partners in the four States collect provides the public with timely information about the safety of their water’s fish. Administrator Jackson visited Kaw Point several years ago to kick off the Summer of Service Intitiative.
Kaw Point used to be a decrepit, derelict, outcropping but through the hard work of the many partners including the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and the Friends of Kaw Point, it was turned into a fantastic park just in time for the bicentennial of the Corps of Discovery. The photograph below is of my first exposure to the point at a clean-up I worked in the rain one Fall afternoon almost 10 years ago to the day (also featuring EPA’s Larry Shepard a fellow blogger and all around good guy).
Towards the top of the picture you can barely make out a candy striped stack of the Hawthorne Power Plant to the right of the new bridge. As a Senior Advisor to our Regional Advisor ten years ago I remember working on an event where former EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman spoke about the plant which at the time was the cleanest coal fired power plant in the nation. However just five years later, a horrendous fire darkened the sky above Kansas City, the result of a fire at a chemical plant nearby. Many of us worked throughout the night collecting and analyzing the data from inside the plume to ensure that we could provide the public with accurate information about their health.
Finally, I need to comment on the big black silhouette that obscures a portion of my view out my window. It is a bird, or at least a facsimile of a bird. One of the nicer features of this building is the eastern facing facade is primarily glass, providing my view of the City built on the River. However, it seems that birds have a tough time judging the windows and were smacking into them with some regularity. Rather than just accept this rather macabre side effect, a group of folks including Holly (who is also contributor to this blog) decided that we might scare off the birds by use of these sillhouettes of birds of prey, and darned if they don’t actually work.
Next week the view will definitely change, and I will miss the big black splotch on my window. What won’t change is the work that my colleagues perform everyday, their creativity, their pursuit of strong science and transparency, and their tireless effort to ensure that we work our hardest to protect the public health and the environment here in the Midwest.
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 Environmental Services Division. He will miss his view of Kaw Point.