Pollutants

Great Partners and Progress in Great Falls

By Brett Doney

Great Falls is a pioneering city built on a rich heritage of farming and ranching, industrial development,

This is one of several historic downtown properties cleaned and redeveloped with support from the Great Falls Development Authority and EPA brownfields funding.

This is one of several historic downtown properties cleaned and redeveloped with support from the Great Falls Development Authority and EPA brownfields funding.

the United States Air Force, and entrepreneurship. Situated at the Great Falls of the Missouri River -where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains – this city has protected its unique history and many call it genuine Montana.

Ten years ago, Great Falls was still struggling to recover from the closing of the Anaconda Smelter and numerous military cutbacks. Despite economic hardship, Great Falls never lost its spirit. Public and private community leaders came together to forge a comprehensive Forward Great Falls economic development plan. Revitalization of the city’s historic riverfront and downtown areas were identified as a key ingredient of an economic turn-around.

With the help of EPA brownfields assessment (a brownfield is a property where previous uses have left, or may have left, hazardous substances or pollutants, like a former gas station or industrial facility) and revolving loan funds, and years of hard work, Great Falls is now enjoying an economic renaissance.

Great Falls Development Authority used its brownfields funding to help clean widespread asbestos from a former bank, facilitating the development a new Easter Seals Goodwill regional headquarters.

Great Falls Development Authority used its brownfields funding to help clean widespread asbestos from a former bank, facilitating the development a new Easter Seals Goodwill regional headquarters.

Award-winning redevelopment projects and new businesses along the riverfront and downtown have attracted dozens of new businesses, regional shoppers, tourists and new residents. Employment records were set in 2013 and 2014.  Most telling, student enrollment in Great Falls Public Schools broke 20 straight years of decline to grow in each of the past two years.

Thanks in part to EPA’s brownfields assistance, we’re working with private developers who have proposed future projects that will continue this positive momentum. The future is bright for Great Falls!

About the author: Brett Doney is President and CEO of the Great Falls Development Authority in Great Falls, Montana.

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.

A Commitment to Keep Our Waters Clean and Safe

When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, it gave EPA the responsibility to protect public health and the environment from pollution stemming from farms and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). We take this charge seriously and have dedicated one of EPA’s six National Enforcement Initiatives to preventing animal waste from CAFOs from contaminating water. If not managed properly, animal waste can impair drinking water sources, transmit disease-causing bacteria and parasites, and pollute the rivers and lakes on which we all depend.

In 2011, an EPA review of a poultry CAFO owned by Lois Alt in West Virginia determined that when it rained, manure and other pollutants were discharging into a nearby creek that flowed into the Potomac River. The discharge required a permit under the Clean Water Act which would have defined safeguards to minimize pollution.

EPA issued an administrative order to address this pollution. The Alt CAFO then clarified existing management practices and adopted new ones in its operations to reduce runoff of manure, and then challenged the order in court. After EPA’s follow-up inspection and correspondence with Ms. Alt confirmed that the changes would reduce pollution, EPA withdrew the order and requested the court to dismiss the case because the dispute was over. It was time to move on and focus on more pressing issues of environmental and public health protection.

The district court nonetheless heard the case. After more than a year of legal proceedings, the district court issued a decision that offers an overly broad view of the Clean Water Act’s exemption for agricultural stormwater.

Although EPA thinks that the district court decision is wrong, we also think that it is time to stop spending resources on litigation about this CAFO. EPA is not going to appeal this decision; our resources are better spent remedying more serious, ongoing pollution across the country.

The briefs we filed in this case – and many others – state that Congress established CAFOs as point sources, and that when CAFOs discharge pollutants from the production area into waters of the United States, as the Alt operation did, the law requires permit authorization.

EPA stands by this position.

Pollution from CAFOs flowing into local waterways when it rains is an environmental and public health risk. The law gives EPA the authority to require that agriculture operations with large numbers of animals in a small area that discharge pollutants to U.S. waters obtain a permit, to reduce their environmental impact. EPA remains committed to working with the agricultural community to ensure compliance with this legal requirement and to pursue enforcement when necessary. One district court decision does not change either the law across the country or EPA’s commitment to protecting water quality.

A smart and strategic enforcement program requires us to make choices about where to spend our time for the biggest benefit to the public. We stand firm on this commitment to protect public health and the environment.

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.

Acting on Climate Change: Nurses Managing Patient Care in their Communities

Health care workers strive day in and day out to provide the best care for their patients. Yet too many Americans are still exposed to air pollution, which can lead to illnesses like asthma. Carbon pollution from power plants comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, putting our families’ health at risk. Rising temperatures from climate change bring more smog, more asthma, and longer allergy seasons—and the elderly, children, and the infirm are most vulnerable.

That’s why health practitioners like, the nurses with Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE), have such an important role to play in managing environmental risks that impact human health. EPA recently took part in a briefing hosted by ANHE and spoke with nurses about mentorship opportunities through the Asthma Community Network and the EPA Breathe Easies asthma education campaign – a great resource for school and pediatric nurses.

Nurses from the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) talking with a mother and a child.

ANHE nurse counseling family on how to manage asthma on days with poor air quality.

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.

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.

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.

You Can Help Make a Difference for Kids with this One Easy Step

By Jessica Orquina

Will you lend us your voice to protect children from pollutants? Children are more sensitive to pollutants: their bodies are still developing; they eat, drink, and breathe more in proportion to their body size; and their behavior can expose them more to chemicals and microbes.

We have simple tips for how to protect children from environmental harms, and we need your help to tell the world. Social media has changed the way we communicate, but it’s also given us new ways to amplify our voices. This week, we’re using Thunderclap to get the word out about tips for protecting kids. Lend us your voice by allowing us to send a message to your social media followers.

Our first Thunderclap will go out on October 31 at 2:00 pm EDT:

“You protect your kids from strangers and bullies. What about harmful pollutants?

What is Thunderclap? It’s a system that helps people share a message at the same time.  How does it work? We’ve created a message, and you can sign up to let Thunderclap post that message to any combination of your Twitter, FB, and Tumblr accounts. It’s like a virtual flash mob – the messages will go out on everyone’s walls and feeds at the same time. Note that you’re signing up for only this message,  not future thunderclaps.

We need you, because in order to send our Thunderclap, we need 500 people to sign up!

Join us today and add your voice. Thanks for your support!

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 military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

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.

Let’s Learn About Manure!

Spreading ManureBy Trey Cody

How do you balance production and conservation?  This was the theme of this year’s 8th annual Manure Expo; held on July 15th.  Sponsored by Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, this event was held in State College, at the Rock Springs Agricultural Progress Day Site.  Attendees ranged from manure handlers, applicators, and brokers, to the general public.  The goal of this year’s expo was to educate on ways to obtain optimum crop growth while minimizing the environmental risk.  What are some of these ways?  With help from new and improved technology, demonstrators showed safe ways to put manure into soil.  When this is not done properly, nitrogen is released into the air and phosphorus is added to run-off.  At the Expo a total of eight states were represented by university speakers.  These included: Penn State University, Cornell University, University of Delaware, University of Maine, University of Maryland, Michigan State University, and Virginia Tech.  Also speakers from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region III, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Ombudsman gave talks.  Following the expo a “White Paper” will be constructed grasping discussed methods to managing livestock manure and poultry litter.  This “White Paper” will also cover some grey areas that are in need of further discussion.

Did you know?
• About 20% of the pollution in the Chesapeake Bay comes from animal manures and poultry litter.
• Pennsylvania has about 8,500 dairies and over 55,000 milk cows.
• New York and Pennsylvania are ranked 3 and 5 nationally in dairy production.
• Between PA, NY, MD, VA, DE, WV, NJ, and OH there are over 1.6 million milking cows.
Would you like to attend a Manure Expo? Well you can; the 2011 expo will be held in Nebraska for the 1st time.

Let’s put our heads together.
What do you think will be the major nutrient reducers in the future? Can you think of ways that state/federal procurement can use organic fertilizer? What are ways states can address soil phosphorous build up? How can point to point source nutrient trading be accelerated?

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: China and Global Air Pollution

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

About the author: Julie A. Layshock is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Environmental & Molecular Toxicology at Oregon State University. Her work is funded by an EPA Science to Achieve Results (EPA STAR) Graduate Research Fellowship. She is looking forward to a career focused on reducing human exposure to pollutants.

Westerly winds over the Pacific Ocean efficiently carry sea salt and dust from the Gobi Desert to the western United States. Recently, scientists have begun to detect other, less welcome, things in the wind, too: air particles laden with pollutants from fossil fuels.

People from countries around the world cause tons of pollutants to be emitted into the air we breathe. Everything from operating vehicles, to burning coal and natural gas for heat and electricity, and manufacturing and industry activities all contribute to the global transport of air pollution. The contribution this global transport makes to local air conditions is poorly understood, and the impact it makes to human health can not yet be estimated.

That’s where my research comes in.

image of author with clipboardI am working toward answering questions concerning long-distance air pollution and how China might contribute to pollution in the United States. In my travels to China, I have seen first-hand the effects air pollution can have on human health. Understandable questions arise: Can we really quantify the contribution of pollutants from China and determine the how they affect a person in the United States?

I spent several months in China collecting air particles that I can use to compare with ones I have collected in the Pacific Northwest. My goal is to identify specific pollutants arising from en route chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Using the chemical “signatures” of the particles, combined with powerful meteorological and wind mapping models, I aim to distinguish Chinese sources from our locally produced air pollution. In the laboratory, I am also designing toxicity tests using the collected particles and identifying the most toxic combustion byproducts.

The results of my research could provide much needed insight into the global movement of these combustion-derived pollutants that are attached to particles in the air.

Demonstrating that these pollutants are capable of traveling half-way around the world highlights the need to reduce this type of pollution. Alternative energies and creative pollution control techniques are just a few of the directions that could result from my research.

For further information, I can be reached at layshocj@onid.orst.edu.

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.