environmental protection

Sowing Seeds in Winter

Margaret Gregor, EPA On-Scene Coordinator, speaks to reporters in upstate NY.

Margaret Gregor, EPA On-Scene Coordinator, speaks to reporters in upstate NY.

By David Kluesner

My family lives in Missouri. Three sisters, a mom and dad, and seven nieces and nephews. All in the Heartland. Several times a year I fly to St Louis, rent a car and drive the two hours south to my birthplace, Cape Girardeau. Same home that I was raised in. Rural and comforting.

The youngest of my nieces and nephews is Lauren. She’s a sophomore at Southeast Missouri State University. Still contemplating her professional career. A bright, talented young lady, with a great heart and a strong moral compass. One of the most pleasant persons I’ve ever been around. OK, I am a bit biased. But it’s true.

The Friday after President’s Day I stopped by my sister’s place in Sainte Genevieve on the way to Cape Girardeau. My niece happened to be at her mom’s place, doing homework on her laptop. Lauren asked me about my job. How work was going. Rather than give her a huge word salad to try to digest I asked her if she wanted to see one of my colleagues in action, working on an emergency response sampling project in upstate New York. I showed her photos and a video clip of Margaret Gregor, EPA On-Scene Coordinator, being interviewed earlier in the week by a local news crew. In MINUS FOUR DEGREE WEATHER! I was with Margaret, on President’s Day, assisting her with outreach to the press and local community members to inform them of our efforts to address groundwater and drinking water contamination in their community.

My niece lit up with interest and enthusiasm. Maybe it was the fact that my niece and Margaret kind of look like they could be sisters? Or that the interview showed her someone very dedicated and professional in the line of service to community, or both?  My niece was all smiles, asking lots of questions. Intrigued perhaps by a career in environmental protection or government?  As I drove off to Cape Girardeau and thought back, I wondered if I had sowed seeds of interest in the environmental field.  Did a video and some photos show great government service in action a thousand times better than anything I could possibly say?

Did my grandmother know how much she changed me as a child when she held my hand and walked me through forests in Cape Girardeau and taught me about flowers, owls and trees.  Did she know that she was sowing seeds of desire in me to one day help clean up rivers and protect the environment?

One never knows when that seed will sprout into something profound. Sometimes showing the work of people like Margaret Gregor doing her job is more powerful than any word salad. Let’s see what happens with Lauren!

 

About the author: David Kluesner heads up the Community Affairs program for EPA Region 2. David has previously served as a Community Involvement Coordinator on the Hudson River and Passaic River cleanups, and as a Superfund Remedial Project Manager out of EPA’s Atlanta 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.

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South Korea and the Heartland Connected by World Wide Water

By Jeffery RobichaudSouth Korea Meeting photo 1

Here in Kansas, we are the EPA Regional Office that is farthest from an international border. But surprisingly, we still get our own share of out-of-town visitors.

In August 2015, scientists from our Drinking Water Program and Environmental Science and Technology Division sat down with five South Korean representatives from Kunsan National University, the National Institute of Environmental Research, the Korea Environment Corporation, and the country’s Ministry of the Environment. Dr. JeJung Lee, who is our partner in the very cool KCWaterBug, helped arrange the visit and assisted with translations where necessary.

South Korea Meeting Photo 2

What was truly fascinating, yet I suppose not altogether surprising, were the issues we talked about. This group of scientists from across the Pacific wanted to learn more about how our Agency protects and regulates groundwater in the United States. They also met with staff at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the University of Kansas, and the U.S. Geological Survey. As it turns out, many of the issues they grapple with are, in fact, the same ones we deal with here in the Heartland.

We first talked about nitrate pollution. Here in the United States, nitrate is regulated in drinking water at public water systems, with a maximum contaminant level of 10 parts per million, which is rarely exceeded.

South Korea has many more private wells in urban areas, while nearly all individuals in metropolitan settings within the United States get their water from regulated public water systems with protected water sources. We learned that sampling at residential homes is difficult for them to accomplish, because homeowners are afraid of losing the ability to use the water or are fearful that they will be required to pay for treatment.

On the remediation (hazardous waste cleanup) side, our visitors were interested in chlorinated solvents and the concerns and risks associated with the vapor intrusion pathway at sites with volatile organic compounds. A specific area of interest was methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive that used to be prevalent in the United States, and its associated vapor intrusion concerns and risks.

On this day, EPA did most of the talking. It would have been nice to have had the time to hear more about how South Korea regulates groundwater nationally, South Korea Meeting Photo 3especially private water well use and construction standards, as well as their experiences with water treatment processes and techniques for drinking water and wastewater. Unfortunately, they had a busy schedule and were sprinting over to the University of Kansas to meet with professors, before moving on to Tennessee to meet with staff from the U.S. Geological Survey.

We will just have to wait for another visit. As you can see in the photo, even with the language differences, we managed to share some laughs!

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. Jeff’s journeys across the Pacific have always stopped just halfway across, and he hopes to someday cross the International Dateline and visit friends in the Far East.

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.

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Looking Back as We Move Forward: My 25 Years in the Superfund Program

By Diana Engeman

When I began working here 25 years ago, I could not appreciate the perspective I would get from working in EPA’s Superfund program from its early years, seeing it grow and evolve. In December 1980, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly referred to as Superfund. As we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Superfund program, I look forward to my 25th anniversary with EPA Region 7 here in the Heartland.

So what is Superfund? 

Superfund sites fall into two general categories: removal sites and remedial sites. Removal sites generally require short-term action. These are train car derailments, abandoned drums along a back road, or spills that may require quickly providing people with an alternative supply of clean water. The other category of Superfund sites, called remedial sites, require long-term actions to address contamination that may be more widespread or complex. Most of my work has involved remedial sites.

Little did I realize when I first started at EPA that I would be working on the first site assigned to me 25 years later – and someone will still be working on it when I retire! Does this mean I’ve failed? No, and let me explain why.

Carter Carburetor

EPA Region 7 hosts an event to announce the settlement agreements related to the Carter Carburetor Superfund Site in North St. Louis, July 29, 2013. (EPA Photo by Toni Castro)

Many Superfund sites are the result of the way hazardous materials were disposed of in the 1800s through the 1960s. Wastes from many manufacturing operations were buried underground, poured down wells, piped to waterways, or just left behind when businesses ceased operations. This was not unlawful at the time, and was probably perceived by most people as perfectly acceptable. They did not realize that, decades later, the soil where they live or the groundwater they rely on as a source of drinking water would be contaminated and unsafe to use.

There are still new Superfund remedial sites being identified in Region 7, but a significant amount of the work we do involves making sure that sites where cleanup activities were initiated many years ago, continue to make progress toward their cleanup goals, remaining safe in the meantime. This is part of the Superfund program evolution.

We are also actively involved in the redevelopment of some of these remedial sites. Even though a significant amount of contamination remains in the subsurface at one of my sites, because there is not currently a technology available to remove it, we are working with the local government on their plans to put their municipal bus storage facility on the property. There are some special issues that have to be addressed up front to make this feasible, but it’s an excellent opportunity to breathe new life into property identified as a Superfund site. It is my hope that this is the future of Superfund – new opportunities where old problems once existed.

25 years of Superfund site work

So, back to the first Superfund site assigned to me. The contamination was left at the site in the early 1900s. It was discovered in the early 1980s when the city excavated to install a new sewer line. Twenty years ago, all of the contaminated soil that could possibly be excavated was removed and treated, and the hole was backfilled under the direction and oversight of EPA. The groundwater immediately below where the contaminated soil had been is still contaminated at levels not safe to drink. But, through on-going sampling, we know exactly where the contamination remains.

No one is drinking this water or being exposed to it in any other way. There are actions taking place to treat the contaminated water, reducing the volume of water affected. Although it will take many more years before the groundwater will be “clean,” we will continue to stay on top of what is happening at the site. Superfund law requires EPA to formally review a site every five years to make sure the remedy is protecting human health and the environment. If problems are identified, they have to be addressed. This continues until the site is deemed “unrestricted use/unlimited exposure.”

This means I will probably be watching over my first Superfund site until I retire, making certain it remains safe. And it is very likely someone else will be watching over it after I retire.

Learn about Superfund’s anniversary: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-35th-anniversary

About the Author: Diana Engeman has been a project manager in the Superfund program in Region 7 for 25 years. She has enjoyed the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people, both scientists and non-scientists, throughout her career at EPA.

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.

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Will Aquaponic Gardening Help Solve Food Insecurity in the Future?

Emily Nusz-thumbnailBy Emily Nusz

EPA brings in students every summer to work, learn practical environmental skills, and enhance their educational experience through our Pathways Intern Program. The Big Blue Thread has been proud to feature several blogs written by these interns, focusing on what motivates them to work in the environmental sector and what attracted them to EPA. We’ve posted blogs by Andrew Speckin, Sara Lamprise and Kelly Overstreet. Our final blog in this series is the second one by Emily Nusz, who continues to intern with our Environmental Data and Assessment staff.

Water is an essential component of life. Without it, we cannot survive. In my previous blog, I discussed my experience building a well for clean drinking water in Africa. Many developing countries are challenged by the lack of access to clean water. In some cases, people have to walk miles each day just to reach a source, which is why my church’s mission team and I wanted to provide a water well to a village in Nairobi, Kenya.

Water is not the only essential component of life to which some communities across the globe lack access. Finding abundant food sources also may be a problem. I have thought over and over again about how we can solve food insecurity, while also being eco-friendly. During my undergraduate career, I researched and built a system that may have the potential for doing just that. In fact, my former agriculture professor travels to Haiti about once a month to teach this simple gardening technique, which can be used to provide communities with a self-sustaining food supply. This system is unique because it can work anywhere, anytime, through any season.

It’s called aquaponics, a budding technique that allows you to grow your own local, healthy food right in your backyard while using 90 percent less water  than traditional gardening. If you are wondering what aquaponics is, you are not alone. The term “aquaponics” is not part of everyday conversation, but soon it may be. I was not introduced to the idea until about a year ago when I began to build a system of my own for academic research.

How It Works

Aquaponics

Aquaponic gardening integrates fish and plant growth in a mutual recirculating cycle by combining hydroponics and aquaculture. It is an environmentally friendly way to produce food without harsh chemical fertilizers through a symbiotic relationship. To give you an idea, the fish are able to produce waste that eventually turns into nitrates, which provides essential nutrients for plant growth in a hydroponic environment without any soil. The plants, which are planted in gravel beds, take in the nutrients provided by the fish and help purify the water for the care of the fish. The purified water then flows back to the fish for reuse. Many cultures are able to use this system to not only grow crops, but have a food source of fish as well.

Many types of plants can be grown in the system, such as lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Tilapia are the most commonly used fish because they provide extra benefits other fish cannot, such as high levels of ammonia, which is important for maintaining effective system levels.

My Experiment

When I began to build an indoor aquaponic system, my goal was to research if plants and fish could sustain life in an environment lacking nutrients provided by sunlight. The system contained three separate tanks.

Tank 1 was set up as the “breeder tank.” This tank circulated the Aquaponic Research Setup - Emily Nusznutrients from the fish into the tank containing the plants. Many aquaponic systems do not include a breeder tank, but for my research it was included.

Tank 2 was set up as the “fish tank.” This tank contained all of the fish (about 50 tilapia). Tank 3 was set up as the “plant tank.” All of the plants were planted in the gravel of this tank to absorb the nutrients provided by the fish. The purified water then flowed from this tank back into tank 2 for reuse.

The water quality of the continuous cycle was observed and recorded over a 10-week period to determine the production of plant growth and water quality in an indoor aquaponic system. Measurements of water quality were collected, including pH, electroconductivity, total dissolved solids, potassium levels, nitrate levels, dissolved oxygen, and temperature.

Although my research did not support sufficient growth of plants in an indoor aquaponic system, it has been found to work indoors using ultraviolet light as a source. Year-round results can also occur by having the system set up in a greenhouse. As long as the system is set up in a controlled environment that mimics nature, fish and plant production will flourish.

The Future

The awareness and potential for aquaponics is beginning to soar. Aquaponics may not be part of everyday conversation yet, but it could make a tremendous change in how we grow our food in the future.

In fact, today EPA tries to incorporate this type of gardening technique to redevelop contaminated Brownfield sites. They work with communities on many of the redevelopment projects to set up urban agriculture practices for food production. There are many benefits to constructing Brownfield sites into agricultural growth areas, especially using the aquaponic system. Urban agriculture has two major benefits for contaminated sites: it binds the contaminants, and it contributes to the growth of local food.

Emily Nusz-thumbnailAbout the Author: Emily Nusz is a Student Intern at EPA Region 7, who worked full-time this summer and continues to work part-time during the school year. She is a graduate student at the University of Kansas, studying environmental assessment. Emily is SCUBA certified, and one of her life goals is to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reefs off the coast of Australia.

Sources:

Emily’s First Blog Entry: https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/10/providing-clean-water-to-an-african-village-not-a-simple-turn-of-the-tap/

Brownfields: http://www.epa.gov/brownfields

Land Revitalization/Urban Agriculture Fact Sheet: http://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/fs_urban_agriculture.pdf

USDA Aquaponics Information: https://afsic.nal.usda.gov/aquaculture-and-soilless-farming/aquaponics

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.

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Progress in Communities: It All Starts with Science

Reposted from EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA’s Leadership

By Lek Kadeli

This week is the 43rd Anniversary of the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, and we are marking the occasion by revisiting how our collective efforts on behalf of the American people help local communities become cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable. As the Assistant Administrator for the Agency’s Office of Research and Development, I can’t help but see a strong undercurrent of science and engineering in every success story.

Over the past four plus decades, EPA scientists and engineers, along with their partners from across the federal government, states, tribes, academia, and private business, have supplied the data, built the computer models and tools, and provided the studies that have helped communities take action to advance public health and protect local environments.

In every area of environmental and human health action, EPA researchers have helped local communities make progress. Read more…

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Making Sure Chemicals Around Us are Safe

By Jim Jones, Acting Assistant Administrator, OCSPP

Chemicals are found in most everything we use and consume— from plastics, to medicine, to cleaning products, and flame retardants in our furniture and clothing. They can be essential for our health, our well being, our prosperity and our safety— it’s no understatement to say that the quality of life we enjoy today would be impossible without chemicals. However, our understanding of chemical safety is constantly evolving and there remain significant gaps in our scientific knowledge regarding many chemicals and their potentially negative impacts on our health, and the environment.

While you may be familiar with the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts— you may not be as familiar with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the environmental statute enacted in 1976 to regulate all chemicals manufactured and used in the U.S. When TSCA was enacted, it grandfathered in, without any evaluation, the 62,000 chemicals in commerce that existed in 1976.

Unlike the laws for drugs and pesticides, TSCA does not have a mandatory program where the EPA must conduct a review to determine the safety of existing chemicals. TSCA is the only major environmental law that has not been modernized. The process of requiring testing through rulemaking chemical-by-chemical has proven burdensome and time consuming.

Compared to 30 years ago, we have a better understanding of how we are exposed to chemicals and the distressing health effects some chemicals can have – especially on children. At the same time, significant gaps exist in our scientific knowledge of many chemicals, including those like flame retardants. Increasingly, studies are highlighting the health risks posed by certain chemicals and recent media coverage has heightened public awareness about the safety of flame retardants.

As part of EPA’s efforts to assess chemical risks, we will begin evaluating 20 flame retardants in 2013 in order to improve our understanding of the potential risks of this class of chemicals, taking action if warranted, and identifying safer substitutes when possible. Over the years, EPA has also taken a number of regulatory and voluntary efforts, including negotiating the voluntary phase-outs of several toxic flame retardants. EPA’s review of and action on flame retardants has spanned over two decades and while these are important steps forward, the long history of EPA’s action on flame retardants is tied in no small part to the shortcomings of TSCA and stands as a clear illustration of the need for TSCA reform.

We have the right to expect that the chemicals found in products that we use every day are safe and provide benefits without hidden harm. It is critical that we close the knowledge gaps and provide this assurance under a reformed, 21st century version of TSCA.

About the author: Jim Jones is the Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He is responsible for managing the office which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical, and pollution prevention laws. The office has an annual budget of approximately $260 million and more than 1,300 employees. Jim’s career with EPA spans more than 24 years. From April through November 2011, Jim served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. He has an M.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a B.A. from the University of Maryland, both in Economics.

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.

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Women’s History Month: Honoring Achievements in Science

By Maggie Sauerhage

Ecologist Rachel Carson helped shape how people see the natural world.

An ecologist who changed how an entire country looks at the natural world. The first woman to win a Nobel prize and the only one to win the prize in two separate fields. A computer scientist whose research helped launch rockets into space. A pioneer who realized the dangers of air pollution during the Industrial Revolution. A champion in protecting endangered species. And the first African-American woman to receive a degree in bacteriology.

Who are they? Rachel Carson. Marie Curie. Annie Easley. Mary Walton. Jane Goodall. Ruth Ella Moore.

These are just a few of many inspiring women who have impacted all of us with their innovations in science, engineering, conservation, medicine, and human health protection. They have inspired generations of scientists, engineers, trailblazers, women, and men to find a place where they can make their own impact, no matter how small, in comparison to these great achievements.

March is Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination.

In honor of women, both past and present, who have changed all of our lives for the better through their work protecting human health and the environment, this month we are profiling EPA women scientists and engineers who are striving to make the planet a safer, cleaner, and more sustainable place to live. They share their research, how they discovered their passion for science or engineering, and give advice for anyone who is interested in pursuing their dreams.

We’ll add more profiles throughout the month, so please check back as the next four weeks roll on and maybe you, too, will find a passion for environmental and human health research!

About the Author: Maggie Sauerhage is part of the communications team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Learn More:

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Protecting the View from the Mountaintop

By Jessica Orquina

Previously, I served as a pilot in the U.S Air Force Reserves and had the opportunity to visit many places around the world. Throughout my travels, I gained an appreciation and respect for the vast variety of natural environments that exist around our planet.

Last week my husband and I took a trip to visit friends and go skiing. During my time as a military pilot, I had flown over these majestic mountains many times, admiring the shiny, snow-capped peaks from above. However, until last week, I never visited them at ground level.

The first day we went skiing we drove into the mountains, initially winding along the valley floor with peaks rising on either side. Soon we turned upward and followed winding roads switching back and forth along the mountainside to the ski slopes. There we parked our car, I put on my skis, and headed to the lift.

As I rode the chairlift even higher up the mountain, I watched the skiers and snowboarders below glide along the snow. At the top of the lift the view that met me took my breath away. The mountain top I was standing on was surrounded by more sparkling, snow-capped peaks – it was as if I had skied into a postcard. I took a moment to reflect on the natural beauty around me and was reminded how precious and fragile our environment is.

A photograph of my view from the mountaintop.

My View from the Mountaintop

Now, I’m back home thinking about the view I experienced on that mountaintop. It reminds me why the work I am part of here at EPA is so important. Protecting our environment will ensure that future generations will be able to experience this same beauty.

Here are some things you can do every day to help protect our environment at your home, in your community, and while traveling. Why is protecting our environment important to you?

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a public affairs specialist at another federal agency and is a former military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

By Jessica Orquina

Previously, I served as a pilot in the U.S Air Force Reserves and had the opportunity to visit many places around the world. Throughout my travels, I gained an appreciation and respect for the vast variety of natural environments that exist around our planet.

Last week my husband and I took a trip to visit friends and go skiing. During my time as a military pilot, I had flown over these majestic mountains many times, admiring the shiny, snow-capped peaks from above. However, until last week, I never visited them at ground level.

The first day we went skiing we drove into the mountains, initially winding along the valley floor with peaks rising on either side. Soon we turned upward and followed winding roads switching back and forth along the mountainside to the ski slopes. There we parked our car, I put on my skis, and headed to the lift.

As I rode the chairlift even higher up the mountain, I watched the skiers and snowboarders below glide along the snow. At the top of the lift the view that met me took my breath away. The mountain top I was standing on was surrounded by more sparkling, snow-capped peaks – it was as if I had skied into a postcard. I took a moment to reflect on the natural beauty around me and was reminded how precious and fragile our environment is.

Now, I’m back home thinking about the view I experienced on the mountaintop. It reminds me why the work I am part of here at EPA is so important. Protecting our environment will ensure that future generations will be able to experience this same beauty.

Here are some things you can do every day to help protect our environment at your home, in your community, and while traveling. Why is protecting our environment important to you?

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.

Do-It-Yourselfers Have To Be Careful, Too!

By Lina Younes

In these times, everyone is looking for ways to save money. Whether it’s saving energy, cutting coupons or reusing certain items, we all want to limit our expenses. So, for those who are handy with tools, the do-it-yourself-way might be the most economical option for making repairs at home. While many home improvement stores provide useful kits and information to update the look around the house, one word of caution: make sure that the simple steps you take in your home will not adversely affect your health or your family’s. Let me explain.

For example, if you live in a home that was built before 1978, it is likely that at some point your house had lead-based paint. Why should you be concerned about this? Well, lead paint poisoning affects over a million children in the United States today and it can lead to learning disabilities, hearing loss, and other serious health effects. If you are going to renovate, repair or paint your home, make sure that you use lead-safe practices to contain the work area, minimize dust, and clean up thoroughly after the paint or renovation job is over. Your best bet might be to hire a lead-safe certified contractor.

On another issue, some common home problems like drafty rooms, poorly maintained air-conditioning or heating equipment can all contribute to high energy bills. Simple repairs around the home like sealing air leaks, cleaning air ducts, and properly maintaining cooling equipment and appliances will go a long way to improve your health and save money. Here you will find additional tips to improve energy efficiency and better protect the environment.

During the summer, we see an increase in creepy crawlers inside and around the home. For some, the initial reaction is to grab the closest pesticide and spray it all over regardless of the annoying pest at hand. For others, they prefer to call professional exterminators to do the job. Regardless, the best advice is to prevent pests from invading your household in the first place. If pesticides are still necessary, follow the instructions correctly and safely.

Now, for doing-yourself auto repairs, I guess I’ll leave that for another blog. Your comments are always welcomed. Talk to you next week.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. 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 in Greenversations 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.

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.

Science Wednesday: I’m an American and Environmental Protection was “My” Idea

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

The genius behind the Microsoft advertising slogan, “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea,” is that it takes a basic, nonspecific truth—companies use customer feedback when updating their products—and gives it a brand-specific identity. Whether Windows 7 was developed with more user input than were other versions is besides the point. More important is that users feel ownership over the product because Microsoft made their contributions central to its Windows 7 roll-out campaign. The clever way the TV commercials do this is to have individuals claim they personally invented Windows 7, while we all know that many people had a hand in creating the product.

JeffMorrisPortrait-2010As a nation, let’s send a similar message with environmental protection. One can debate whether the roots of environmentalism can be traced back solely to the United States, since global movements nearly always have multiple origins. Yet history is clear that over the past several decades U.S. leadership has been central to the development of the environmental protection laws and practices that exist today around the world.

The value of communicating that environmental protection is an American idea is not in selling the rest of the world on the notion of U.S. environmental leadership, but rather is in reminding ourselves that taking responsibility for safeguarding the air, water, and land on which all life depends is part of who we are as Americans. We as a nation are all about stepping up to responsibilities with a positive, can-do attitude that is not content with accepting how things are, but rather demands forward movement toward what can be. 40 years ago we didn’t just create an EPA: we articulated a vision for the world of what a clean and healthy environment could be. With that vision we built an environmental protection “operating system” that for decades served us reasonably well.

Today we face new and complex environmental challenges. However, new thinking and advances in technology provide opportunities to address those challenges. Central to this new thinking is a growing recognition that environmental sustainability is an essential element of future prosperity and well-being. These challenges and opportunities require that we upgrade our environmental protection OS to version 2.0. It’s appropriate that the roll-out begin here. After all, we are Americans and we are proud to join others in claiming that environmentalism was our idea.

About the author: Jeff Morris is National Program Director for Nanotechnology Research in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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.