Brownfields

Environmental Job Training Reaches Rural Alaska

Untitled-3

Map Illustrating Where the Diverse Geographic Areas that Alaska Indigenous Groups Live

By Lynn Zender

At the Zender Environmental Health and Research group, our vision of environmental justice is rooted in the philosophy that solutions must rely on community-based participatory efforts. We are a small non-profit organization based in Anchorage, Alaska and primarily serve what are arguably the most remote communities in the United States— the approximately 180 rural Alaska Native villages off the State’s road system. These Villages of 50 to 1,000 people can be reached only via small plane from one of the regional hubs.  The lack of trained technicians that can address and mitigate the severe solid waste conditions and risks presented at waste disposal sites is a major issue here, as are the very poor economies and lack of income to sustain environmental programs.

And that’s exactly why EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) grant program has been so helpful for us. This grant program helps low income and minority communities with unemployed or severely under-employed populations gain the skills needed to obtain employment in the environmental field.  This EPA grant program melded perfectly with the issues we are working on. Recently, our organization was very fortunate to receive funding from this EPA grant program to develop our Rural Alaska Community Job Training Program (RACEJT).

Untitled-1

RACEJT students receiving instruction during a metal salvaging tour.

RACEJT is unique because we train residents for work in their home villages, which helps prevent rural “brain drain” and erosion of community integrity.  Gaining several certifications related to hazardous materials handling and job safety means that students can be hired by contractors that manage site cleanup, water hookup, landfill, road, facility renovation and other environmental projects. Without these skills, villages are forced to hire contractors with their own crews and the local Alaska Native economies gain virtually nothing from these projects.

Untitled-2

RACEJT student geared for oil spill response training.

Over 88% of RACEJT graduates have been able to find permanent or part-time work.  In both cases, we’ve learned that any income can make the difference and help families retain their lifestyles and continue to live within their ancestral lands.  In these traditional hunting and fishing villages, a day of work can pay for gas to allow a hunter to provide moose, seal, caribou, or other game for his or her family and community, and for artists to search for ivory and other traditional materials used in making creations that they are able to sell and support their family.

One of the beauties of RACEJT is how many of our students gain self-esteem and confidence by succeeding in completing our rigorous program. Many graduates have found back their ways after stumbling on alcohol and other hardships that are all too common in rural villages.  Another lesson we’ve learned is the need to frame the program and students’ responsibilities in the context of Alaska Native cultures.  We invite Elders and other Alaskan Native mentors to evening dinners who offer great praise and encouragement to students working hard to return and help their community protect health and the subsistence way of life.

To those of us who manage the program, each student is a hero for taking on their challenging village environmental health problems, and we let them know it. Students like Brandon Tocktoo, David Olanna, Eric Alexie, and Brandon Willams have returned to their councils and educated their communities about the serious health risks posed by their open burning and uncontrolled dumps.  Chad and Garret Anelon, and Kenneth Charlie have gone back to their villages and instigated infrastructural improvements in their environmental programs. Kacey John has helped to clean up contaminated soil at her school and weatherized homes. Harvey Nusingaya has led the tank farm maintenance for his Tribal Corporation’s oil development program.  All of these students and many more are able to continue their customary and traditional practices and thus contribute to their community’s subsistence and wellness.

About: Lynn Zender is the Director of RACEJT, and Executive Director of Anchorage–based Zender Environmental Health and Research Group.

The EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program, was created in 1998, partly as a result of recommendations raised by the National Environmental Justice and Advisory Council’s (NEJAC) Waste and Facility Siting Subcommittee to provide training and workforce development opportunities for local, unemployed residents of predominantly low-income and minority communities disproportionately affected by brownfields and other polluting facilities. Click here to read more!

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

State Capitals Go Green

A Greening America’s Capitals design option for a market in Indianapolis

 

Our Greening America’s Capitals program is making a visible difference in communities—literally changing the landscape of our nation’s state capitals. Since 2010, EPA has helped 14 state capitals and the District of Columbia create community designs that help clean the air and water, stimulate economic development, and make existing neighborhoods more vibrant places. This week, we announced three more capital cities that will be receiving assistance: Lansing, Michigan; Olympia, Washington; and Madison, Wisconsin.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Celebrating National Native American Heritage Month

Members of the site visit tour of the Santa Clara Pueblo, center OSWER Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus

Members of the site visit tour of the Santa Clara Pueblo, center OSWER Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus

Recently, while in New Mexico attending the 4th annual Tribal Lands Forum, EPA’s Region 6 Regional Administrator Ron Curry and I were honored to be hosted by the Governor of the Santa Clara Pueblo Bruce Tafoya, the Tribal Sheriff Regis Chavarria, and the Environmental Director Joseph Chavarria on a tour of the Pueblo and its surrounding areas.

I experienced first-hand the impact of recent flooding and fire on canyon lands that are culturally significant to the Santa Clara Pueblo.  The Pueblo launched an organized multi-year emergency response effort to address imminent dangers and eventually restore the canyon’s land and water.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

My Community Is Going Green

By Lina Younes

Recently I was reading a weekly paper that covers community events in neighborhoods in Prince George’s County, Maryland where I live. I was very happy to see four articles on four totally separate issues that point to the county’s latest sustainability efforts. Let me explain.

The first article mentioned that Prince George’s County now has its first sustainability planner to encourage residents and small businesses to save energy, adopt sustainable practices, organize environmental events and outreach. The purpose is not only to encourage business leaders to go green, but individuals as well.

The second article mentioned how one of the pools in Prince George’s County is trying to make an environmental splash by installing a solar panel system. Installing this renewable energy system is only one of the green initiatives adopted in that community. They also have several rain barrels which collect and store rainwater runoff. Hopefully this green initiative extends to other pools and sports installations in the area. One of the community leaders is quoted as saying that “the fact that we’re actually saving money, that’s just a bonus”. Nice attitude!

The third news item reported on a recent survey that ranked the University of Maryland-College Park, one of the universities two of my children studied at, as the 13th greenest in the Nation. And the fourth article dealt with a major mass transit project envisioned for 2020 which will lead to far-reaching environmental and economic benefits for generations to come.

As administrator Gina McCarthy outlined EPA’s themes recently, the Agency is working hand in hand with its federal partners, states, tribes, AND local communities “to improve the health of American families and protect the environment one community at a time, all across the country.” EPA has a variety of programs that encourage sustainability and green practices in communities from the Urban Waters Initiative, to EPA’s Brownfields program which encourages communities and key stakeholders to work together to prevent contamination, safely cleanup communities and promote sustainable land use, and its environmental justice program.

Bottom line: the actions we take at home, at school, at the office, in our communities, have an impact on our community and our environment as a whole. Going green is not just a fad, but an imperative for us all. That’s my humble opinion. What do you think?

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Cultivate KC

By Holly Mehl

cultivatekc

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to create maps for a project I felt proud to help out with, the Urban Grown Farms and Gardens Tour in Kansas City.  Every other June, Cultivate Kansas City hosts the tour, which showcases urban agriculture across the metro area via a full week of events. The organization’s mission is to be “a catalyst for the production and consumption of locally grown food in Kansas City neighborhoods.”   This year’s event was the fifth biennial tour. Every tour has gotten better and every time more farms have joined in, showing a refreshing, tasty and sustainable trend happening in our area.

Cultivate Kansas City’s website is colorful and informative and is a feast for the visual senses, as you will see by going here.

Part of Cultivate Kansas City’s vision is to turn unused spaces into food producing farms and gardens, which not only provide sustainable, community engaged places to buy healthy food, but also beautifies neighborhoods by often redeveloping blighted areas.  This is something I can get behind and I’ve already recommended that my church’s garden – from which vegetables are donated to local pantries – become a part of the tour in 2015.

EPA actively promotes Urban agriculture as part of our Brownfields program.  Urban agriculture projects can help bind contaminants while providing further benefits to the property and surrounding community. An urban farm or community garden can improve the environment, reduce greenhouse emissions, and improve access to healthy, locally grown food. Other possible benefits include promoting health and physical activity, increasing community connections, and attracting economic activity.  You can check out more by visiting EPA’s website, read our Interim Guidelines for Safe Gardening Practices.

The tour maps are no longer posted on the website since the tour is now over, but synopses and pictures of the tour’s farms and gardens are still highlighted there, as is a little video that uses the tour’s primary map as background.

Below is the map handed out to tour participants who arrived at any of the hub locations to buy tour tickets.  Nearly 60 farms and gardens on the tour are shown in four different geographic areas called Veggie Zones.  The vegetable symbols on the map represent the farm/garden locations.

This was a fun map to make, but even more fun was visiting these vibrant, beautiful places (run by vibrant and beautiful people), all of which help to make Kansas City’s future much more promising for all of us.

cultivatekcmap

About the Author: Holly Mehl is an ecologist for EPA Region 7 who helps with water monitoring in the field and performs mapping for EPA Region 7’s program offices when in the office.

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Strengthening Opportunities for Rural Communities to Cleanup and Redevelop Brownfields

By Mathy Stanislaus

The Brownfields program creates benefits for local communities including: leveraging job creation, increasing residential property values, and supporting community revitalization and economic redevelopment. Many communities invest time and resources for the opportunity to receive Brownfield grant funding.

Looking at the Brownfield grant competition, I recognize it’s hard for many rural communities to compete for resources because they often don’t have the capacity to compete like larger communities.

Following up from recent meetings I had with State leaders in Regions 6 and 7 (where they raised concerns about our ability to deliver Brownfields resources to rural communities) I went to Nebraska to meet with 35-40 representatives from rural towns in Nebraska and western Iowa in an open forum. This continued my effort to reach out to rural stakeholders and ask how the Brownfields program can better provide tools to help convert their brownfield sites to cleanup and redevelopment opportunities.

During the meeting there were a number of suggestions that include providing targeted technical assistance to rural communities to assess sites to advance redevelopment opportunities; looking at how our grant competition can provide a more targeted competition allowing rural communities (in particular communities under 20,000) to compete at the same level as larger communities; delivering more resources through state environmental response programs to better assist rural communities.

Another idea raised was to align our TAB (Technical Assistance to Brownfields) resources with the USDA rural assistance program to integrate our resources to better deliver assistance. We talked about manufacturing opportunities in rural America and how that’s an under-appreciated and valuable opportunity to create local jobs.

I left the meeting excited by the great suggestions to better provide resources for them to expeditiously move forward on projects. There was a sincere desire from folks working hard to rebuild their communities. I was very impressed with their level of energy, commitment and sincerity. I was impressed with their commitment to collaborate among adjacent rural towns to take a collaboration-based approach to economic development.

I look forward to continuing the conversation with these communities and turning these suggestions into reality. An immediate next step is to summarize potential options, seek further input and help schedule workshops led by our TAB providers for communities with the Brownfields resources application process. We will circulate and post on our website the tools our TAB grantees developed to strengthen efforts to connect TAB grantees with local community leaders and groups.

About the author: Mathy Stanislaus is assistant administrator for EPA’s Office Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Community Solar Garden at Brownfield Part of RE-Powering’s Innovation

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Tim Rehder

On a cold December morning during a snow storm, I found myself walking across an open field known as the Tower Road site, owned by the City of Aurora. Surprisingly, all thoughts were focused on solar energy.

That morning, I joined researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and representatives of Aurora to kick off the solar feasibility study at this brownfield site. On the site walk, our team measured the solar availability and discussed future development plans. With my focus on land revitalization, I was excited to be working in the field in support of this project.

Finding an appropriate reuse for the property has been challenging for Aurora, as the property sits above contaminated ground water from the adjacent Buckley Air Force Base. The EPA-NREL feasibility study concluded that solar was not only viable, but the site could host up to an 18-megawatt solar system.

Through this feasibility study, EPA’s RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative is helping bring community owned solar to the Front Range of Colorado. The RE-Powering Initiative, recently recognized by Harvard’s Kennedy School as one of the “Top 25” Innovations in American Government, encourages renewable energy development on potentially contaminated properties, landfills, and mining sites.

Groundbreaking is set for May on a 500-kilowatt solar project, developed under Colorado’s Community Solar Garden law by Clean Energy Collective. Citizens and businesses will subscribe to the array and be credited for electricity produced as if the panels were on their roof. I see this as a great option for those who can’t put solar on their roofs – because they rent or their building is shaded — to become clean energy generators.

The Tower Road array will look very much like the solar project at the Marshall Landfill Superfund Site near Boulder, CO. RE-Powering assisted the Marshall project by making the developer aware of the property and addressing liability concerns associated with constructing on Superfund sites. The projects will produce enough energy to power approximately 200 Colorado homes and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,240 metric tonnes.

These two projects are excellent examples of how the RE-Powering program is helping put contaminated land back into productive use by bringing economic development, making good use of existing infrastructure and helping reduce pressure to develop nearby greenfields. By promoting renewable energy while revitalizing blighted properties, it’s no wonder the RE-Powering Initiative was recognized by Harvard as a model for innovation in government.

About the author: Tim Rehder is senior environmental scientist in EPA’s Denver office where he’s working to put renewable energy projects on contaminated lands and green buildings on formerly contaminated lands.  Tim is a LEED accredited professional and was on the design team for EPA’s LEED Gold certified office in Denver.

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Earth Day and the Next Generation

By Gabrielle Thompson

Do you know how many people observe our great earth on Earth Day? According to the Earth Day Network (http://www.earthday.org/2013/about.html), more than one billion people participate in Earth Day activities. That is a very significant number considering that when I was a school girl growing up in small-town, Alabama in the 1970’s, I had never heard of Earth Day; not to mention Earth Day activities. What was that? Thank goodness for the growing support of environmental awareness. Today, school children from around the world celebrate Earth Day with activities varying from one day to sometimes a week.

Stan Walker (a colleague of mine shown to the right) and I were invited to Delaware Ridge Elementary School, in Kansas City, Kansas earlier this year to share our thoughts on environmental protection. What can be more fun than 3 classrooms of happy go-lucky fourth graders? The time went by quickly as Stan and I treated them to our presentation. Who doesn’t love a PowerPoint presentation? That’s a rhetorical question.

Anyway, we tried to keep it light and informative. I begin by giving some interesting tidbits about EPA and how we protect our health by ensuring our air, water, and soil/land are safe. The kids really liked many of the examples I shared of Region 7’s commitment to the environment especially those about our assisting with Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, Joplin after the tornado, and the Gulf after the oil spill.

Stan followed up with concrete examples of Region 7’s Superfund activities by showing how seemingly impossible and abandoned residential areas can be transformed into beautiful living areas for all to enjoy in our own backyards (before and after shots below). He stressed the importance of different stakeholders (federal, state, city and the community) working collaboratively to make change happen.

Gabrielle Thompson is an environmental scientist in EPA’s Environmental Services Division (ENSV) and has worked at EPA for 5 years.  She is single and loves to cook, zumba and travel.

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

On the way to wonderful…

By Maryann Helferty

Front of the Overbrook Environmental Education Center

Front of the Overbrook Environmental Education Center

During a summer drive along a busy commercial corridor in Philadelphia’s historic Overbrook section, I was transfixed by a vibrant mural lining the cinder block wall of a former cable manufacturing plant. The wall had been painted to show bees and flowers emerging over the cityscape just as the property’s new occupant, the Overbrook Environmental Education Center, has grown into a community asset from a former brownfields site.

Interpretive signs explained how stormwater systems in older cities are often routed in tandem with the sanitary sewer.  During heavy rainfall, raw sewage can be discharged into waterways, causing a health concern.   At this site, however, stormwater is managed with bio-retention basins, swales, green roof systems and pervious pavement.  These techniques allow an amazing 90 percent of rainwater to be harvested on the 45,000 square foot site.  Developers and contractors frequently visit to see these innovations in action.

The Center director, Mr. Jerome Shabazz, shared his vision for community-based urban outreach centers.  “We create a third place beyond home and work, where everyone can meet and feel welcome.”   How does creation like this happen?  First, one listens to the home-owners and businesses to understand what strengths make Overbrook stable and connected.  Then educational offerings build from the needs expressed by the community.

Overbrook Environmental Arts Orchard Planting

Overbrook Environmental Arts Orchard Planting

Today, like the bees on its mural, the former brownfields site hums with energy, offering environmental education initiatives, as well as nutrition, fitness, and literacy.   Rising over the parking lot was the Penn State Extension High Tunnel Greenhouse; children are climbing a gym set under the trees; and a vibrant tile mosaic shows the creativity of residents from a Summer Youth project who designed the entrance that says:  “On the way to wonderful find a place called alright.”

What are the strengths that make your neighborhood an alright place to be?  How do you work in your community to make it wonderful?  I’d love to hear from you.

About the Author: Maryann Helferty is a water quality scientist with the Mid-Atlantic Regional office of the EPA.  She has worked on groundwater and watershed protection in both the rural Pacific Northwest and the urban corridors of the Atlantic.  One of her passions is teaching urban youth about water through the poetry curriculum: River of Words.

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Exploring the Hudson Aboard the Evening Star

<i>The Evening Star offers cruises along the Hudson River from historic Peeskill, New York </i>

By Schenine Mitchell

Louis P. Zicari, Jr., has been a long-standing contributor to the Brownfields Program at EPA Region 2.  He currently serves as Project Manager on an EPA Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant awarded to the Research Foundation of SUNY Buffalo.  He is Associate Director of the Center for Integrated Waste Management at SUNY Buffalo and has successfully managed several other brownfield grants in the region.  We can now say we know him on another level.  This EPA Project Manager is also known as Captain Louis P. Zicari (“Captain Lou”), working part-time on a vessel called the Evening Star. The Evening Star is an old Coast Guard vessel built in 1966 that has been converted to touring boat on the Hudson River.  This is the second year that the tour boat has been in operation.

Captain Lou Zicari and EPA’s Vince Pitruzzello cruising the Hudson (pictured from right to left)

Captain Lou is a USCG licensed Merchant Mariner, 50 ton Master. He has spent significant time on the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes and St. Lawrence River on vessels of all sizes.   Captain Lou has long standing interests in the environment, urban history, sport fishing – and enjoys combining his knowledge of those areas while at the helm of the Evening Star.  Thanks to Captain Lou’s knowledge and experience, the river tours serve as a great way to learn about some of the ecology and history of the Hudson River.  Recently, Vince Pitruzzello, the Program Support Branch Chief for the Emergency and Remedial Response Division at EPA Region 2, took part in a tour on the Evening Star.

The Evening Star offers river tours several times each week, Wednesday through Sunday, from Charles Point Marina or Riverfront Green Park.  Metro North has partnered with the Evening Star to provide discounted cruise tickets for those who travel by train. It’s a great way to escape the city, take an evening cruise, and then check out a local restaurant for dinner!  More information on times, locations, and prices can be found online at www.trinitycruises.com or call (914) 589-7773.

About the author: Schenine Mitchell is an Environmental Protection Specialist in the Brownfields Program of the Superfund Program Support Branch. She has a BS in International Environmental Studies from Rutgers University (Cook College), a graduate degree in Environmental Management from Montclair State University, and is a PhD student in Environmental Management at Montclair – specializing in Environmental Justice and Brownfields Redevelopment. She serves as Regional Brownfields Job Training Coordinator and currently Co-Chair of the Region 2 EJ Work Group.

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.