non-point source pollution

Refreshing…

The Enviroscape model

The Enviroscape model

By Amelia Jackson

In celebration of Earth Day this year, I had the opportunity to visit Mrs. Mulloy and Ms. Jackson’s 5th grade science class at Union Valley Elementary School in Sicklerville, NJ. (Yes, student teacher Jackson is my soon to be college grad-but that’s another blog). During the year, the class has been visited by many parents discussing their careers, to demonstrate why it’s important to study English, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. and provide a glimpse into a day in the life of an adult.

The discussion began with what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is, why it was formed, what we do and the various categories of careers that are needed to make it all work. I also engaged the services of the current Gloucester County Watershed Ambassador, Morgyn Ellis, who eagerly demonstrated the concepts of point and non-point source pollution in a watershed. To 5th graders, a lecture on this would seem boring, but they got to be hands on as Morgyn used Enviroscape, which is a 3D model town, complete with a residential area, factory, farm, park/golf course, roads, creeks, streams and a river. The kids used colored water and various candy pieces to represent different types of pollution, and made it ‘rain’ with a water spray bottle. They got the biggest kick out of using chocolate ice cream sprinkles to simulate various animal’s waste (remember they are 11 years old!) and to see where it all actually winds up after a storm.

I was impressed with the level of knowledge and environmental awareness the children possessed. They knew about aquifers, groundwater uses, watersheds, organic farming, ecosystems and how their actions affect the communities in which they live and play. They offered suggestions on what they and their families could do each day, including reduce, re-use, and recycle to assist in protecting our planet.

I was reminded of the eagerness and the ‘I can do anything’ attitude that is the very core of an 11 year old, and found it contagious. If you can, spend some time with kids and talk to them about our environment and what we do each day at work.  You too, will find it refreshing.

About the Author: Amelia Jackson serves as the Superfund Support Team Leader in the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment out of EPA’s Edison Environmental Center. Amelia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Rutgers University. Amelia’s career spans 26+ years with EPA in support of the regional Superfund Program in the areas of quality assurance, field sampling and laboratory analysis.

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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Take Cover! (With Vegetation)

By Marguerite Huberbuffer

Take cover!

It’s a phrase you yell to protect against something headed your way. But did you ever think that phrase could be applied to pollutants? Well, it can – vegetative cover acts as a defense against non-point source (NPS) pollutants, protecting our lakes, streams, and water bodies.

Vegetative filter strips and riparian buffers  are conservation practices that help control the amount of sediment and chemicals that are transported from agricultural fields into water bodies. They slow down the speed of runoff and capture nutrients, keep more nutrient-rich topsoil on farmers’ fields, and reduces impacts on downstream ecosystems.

To improve water quality in large watersheds, conservation managers need to know what the problems are, where the pollutants originate, and what conservation practices work best.  However, investigating all of these factors at the watershed-wide level is a very difficult and complex task. This is why EPA is working with partners to supplement an existing watershed simulation model to estimate the efficiency of riparian buffers.

USDA’s watershed simulation model, Annualized Agricultural Non-Point Source Pollution (AnnAGNPS), is used to evaluate the effect of farming and conservation practices on pollutants and help decide where to put these practices.  AnnAGNPS also predicts the origin and tracks the movement of water, sediment, and chemicals to any location in the watershed.

To supplement this model, researchers from EPA, USDA, and Middle Tennessee State University developed a Geographic Information Systems–based technology that estimates the efficiency of buffers in reducing sediment loads at a watershed scale.

With the addition of this AGNPS Buffer Utility Feature  technology to the USDA model, researchers and watershed conservation managers can evaluate the placement of riparian buffers, track pollution loads to their source, and assess water quality and ecosystem services improvements across their watersheds.

Riparian buffers and other vegetative cover, such as filter strips, are considered an important, effective, and efficient conservation practice that has been shown to protect ecosystem services at a local level. However, their full impact on a watershed-scale is still subject to ongoing research.

 

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a Student Contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

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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All Politics Is Local…And The Environment, Too

As part of my job at EPA, I meet with elected officials and stakeholders who visit the Agency to discuss their local environmental challenges and concerns. Whether they are concerned about local drinking water issues, air quality concerns, site cleanups, these stakeholders often come to meet with EPA officials to discuss the Agency’s regulations and economic opportunities. EPA’s actions in the Nation’s capital or at the regional level directly affect communities across the United States and its territories.

Increasingly, I see the relevance of the popular phrase attributed to the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neil, “all politics is local.” With time, I’ve been able to see how the phrase also applies to environmental decisions and actions, not only at EPA but for the general public as well. For example, the things we do at home, at school, at work, or in our community have a direct impact on our environment. Every day activities can harm our immediate surroundings and areas far away. What type of activities you might ask? Well, everyday decisions such as taking a bath vs. shower, driving vs. commuting, applying fertilizers and pesticides vs. greenscaping, all have different repercussions on the environment.

What can you do at home to reduce non point source pollution
and protect the environment? Need some tips for conserving water at home?  For more info on acting locally and thinking globally, please visit our Web site.  I’m sure many of you have many green experiences that you would like to share. We want to hear from you. Have a great day.

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 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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Cleaning the Chesapeake Bay

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.

As I’ve mentioned before, my weekend agenda is pretty much controlled by the activities that my youngest has scheduled. Recently, she was invited to a friend’s birthday party in Pasadena, MD. The home where they were having the party was about 45 minutes from our house. I had never been to the area and it wasn’t until we got there that we discovered the house was right on the Chesapeake Bay! There was a beautiful view of the majestic Chesapeake, the largest estuary in the nation, right at our footsteps.

I started speaking with the mom and she told me how they had recently moved into their new home. She also mentioned that she was looking forward to the spring to start gardening and planting new flowers and trees in her yard. I recommended that she plant native shrubs and trees which would help protect the Bay. Native plants reduce the need to use pesticides and fertilizers. Letting these shrubs grow densely along the waterway prevents non-point source pollution and erosion. Greenscaping techniques are beneficial anywhere you live and near a watershed these techniques have an added value.

There are several simple steps you can take at home to prevent non-point source pollution from harming such a national treasure or any watershed for that matter. As we get closer to Earth Day, we can start to think of ways to encourage our children and communities to get involved in environmental protection. The protection of our waterways is a good place to start. With spring just around the corner, there are many green activities which the entire family will enjoy.

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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