landfill

Exploring the Former Fresh Kills Landfill via Kayak

By Murray Lantner

Kayaking at Fresh Kills Park

Kayaking at Fresh Kills Park

On a grey, windy and cool day a group of over 20, including EPAers from several Region 2 divisions, including our Caribbean Environmental Protection Division, and their friends and family took to the estuarine inlet within the former Fresh Kills Landfill site for a one-of-a-kind paddling trip. The trip was organized by Maureen Krudner, Regional Green Infrastructure Coordinator and Staten Islander – through the EPA Region 2 Emerging Leaders Network – and was hosted and outfitted by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation which provided kayaks and an amazing guide, Chris, who provided an informal informational tour. We started the trip with a short visit to the NYC Department of Sanitation Visitor’s Center at the former landfill where we learned about the decades-long effort to transform the Fresh Kills landfill into a 2,200 acre city park some three times the size of Central Park.

The plan for the park is to combine state-of-the-art ecological restoration techniques with extraordinary settings for recreation, public art, and facilities for many sports and programs. While nearly 45 percent of the site was once used for landfilling operations, the remainder of the site is currently composed of wetlands, open waterways, and unfilled lowland areas. We also learned that the methane gas that is generated in the landfill is collected, purified and sold to the gas company where it is transmitted to over 20,000 Staten Island homes. This landfill gas collection process not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions by converting methane into fuel but also has generated approximately $3-$5 million a year in revenue for the city over the last decade. The Fresh Kills Park is a great example of how New York City is embracing sustainability, both through mitigation and climate adaptation strategies.

Out on the water, the tides were quite high so the restored Spartina alterniflora or saltmarsh cordgrass was partially submerged and only the tops were visible, and in some cases we could paddle right over it. The city has a nearby nursery that grows plugs of cordgrass for use in salt marsh restoration projects, which did seem to be taking root here – a great sign for the park.

The Fresh Kills landfill paddle was truly a treat – open waters, salt marsh, surrounded by mostly vegetated hill slopes (the former garbage dumps) – making for a surprisingly peaceful and natural experience. This is a fantastic area to explore and, once there, it’s quite easy to forget the past use of the site and to look forward to the fascinating restoration and parkland that is being created on top of the landfill. To help facilitate the park creation process Region 2 ELN raised about $200 that was donated to the Fresh Kills Park Alliance. Thanks again to Maureen, EPA ELN, NYC Parks and Recreation and the NYC Dept. of Sanitation for a wonderful experience, I encourage you all to check out the park, and explore future opportunities for educational adventures along the Fresh Kills.

About the Author: Murray Lantner is an Environmental Engineer in EPA’s Water Compliance Branch who conducts enforcement of wastewater and stormwater permits under the Clean Water Act at EPA’s Manhattan office. Murray has worked for the EPA for 20 years, and started in EPA’s Chicago office. Murray enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and paddling. Murray holds a B.S in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University and a Masters in Conservation Biology from Columbia University.

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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RE-Powering America: Updated Project Tracking Matrix and Map

 By Marc Thomas

I’ve always loved maps because each map tells a story. In my living room is a framed map from 1860 of where I live: Washington, DC. I often stop and stare at it, and I usually notice something new. I also think about what life must have been like in our nation’s capital during the Civil War.

I love that I get to explore lots of maps as part of my work with the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative. For example, there’s the RE-Powering Mapper that uses Google Earth to screen sites all over the country for contaminated lands, landfills, and mines that have renewable energy potential. We’ve also developed a series of static maps that illustrate the significant opportunities that exist nationwide for siting solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass projects on these properties.

 

We just updated our project tracking matrix, which is a list of 85 completed renewable energy projects on contaminated lands. As part of this update, we created a new map of these sites. Projects have been developed in 27 states, from Hawaii to Georgia to Vermont. Examples range from small solar arrays that power cleanup activities onsite, such as the 10 kW project at the Refuse Hideway Landfill in Wisconsin, to huge, utility-scale projects like the 237 MW wind project on the Dave Johnston Mine Reclamation site in Wyoming.

Looking at this new map, I was quickly struck by one yellow dot in western North Carolina, where I’m from. I learned that a 555-kW solar PV project had been built on a former landfill not ten minutes down I-40 from the house where I grew up. This project provides power to the homes of my friends and neighbors and is also a productive use of a closed landfill. Seeing that dot on the map reminded me that these projects offer real benefits to the communities surrounding them: each one has its own story. To learn more about this and other completed projects, see our updated project tracking matrix and map.

About the author:  Marc Thomas has served as a program analyst with EPA for over 8 years. For most of his career, he has identified ways to encourage the cleanup and revitalization of contaminated sites. Since January 2013, he has worked with the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative.

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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Sachin’s Campaign For The Environment

student

Four years ago, I started an effort to spread awareness about the dangers of electronic waste. It was a shame that people had to pay in order to recycle. Our’s was a grassroots effort, just middle school kids going door to door giving out brochures and bugging our neighbors. We offered to collect old computers to recycle for free and, if possible, fix minor issues and donate to nearby charities.

Over the past four years, the campaign grew. There were a number of memorable firsts:  the very first donation to a rural family in Ohio, the first thank you letter addressed to us, and the first newspaper article written about me. One of the most memorable moments was when I received a call from Junior Scholastic asking to interview me about my project. Junior Scholastic, a national children’s magazine, was interested in my project? I was overcome with pride and joy. All the hard work I had put in was finally paying off in the best ways. A few short weeks later, I got to see my face on the pages of the magazine, in between full page spreads of President Obama and Prince Charles.

But by far, the biggest reward, and the one I am most proud of, is the knowledge that I have made a difference in my own community. The newspaper articles helped get my name and purpose out to a large number of people, and my message resonated with many of them. I’ve received so many calls from people in my own neighborhood that wanted to donate their old electronics and many that took the effort to drive all the way to my house to drop them off. Computers that would have taken up space at a landfill can now be put to good use in homes and organizations.

It really is possible. With the right motivation and support it is possible to make a change. This is the most important lesson that this experience has taught me, and I will strive to take it along with me to other endeavors too.

Sachin Rudraraju from Powell, Ohio was a 2011 President’s Environmental Youth Award winner.

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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The Three R’s

Every so often I wake up with the “The Three R’s” by Jack Johnson stuck in my head. Given where I work it’s an appropriate mantra to be bopping around to. I guess that part of my brain that runs on kids tunes doesn’t need coffee.

“Reduce, reuse, recycle…”

There are worse tunes to have on repeat in your brain, way worse! I’m grateful the catchy number exists on the less than glamorous subject of waste disposal. Perhaps it’s the warm-up to my workday. Fitting.

The concept of the three R’s has been around for a long time and the three arrows are a recognizable icon, but there’s a new kid in town and they need to make some room.

How about accomplishing all three, while making something really cool? Two weeks ago I posed a challenge to encourage readers to submit photos and accounts of an upcycled product they created. As promised, it’s time to show off your goods! Congratulations to Dennis Mijares who submitted this photo on January 31, 2012 on Flickr of purses made from plastic bags.

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Upcycling is like a landfill diet, why toss what we can use? Who knew that waste could look so good? I hope these photos inspire you to give it a try, do share photos of what you create! Professionally constructed to kids crafts alike are welcome. I must admit, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t see any cardboard mantelpieces…

Talk to a friend about it and ask them if they’ve heard of the concept. Be sure to share that it’s good for us by cutting down on waste, helps spread environmental awareness and action and can even support local artisans and communities.

It’s a great idea for a community or school fundraiser, start an upcycling project and let us know how it goes!

If you haven’t Picked the 5 actions you can do for our environment where you live, get on it! Join the 4,000 likes on Facebook and the 8,222 others around the world who have made the official pledge. Share your story and inspire others to do the same!

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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.