water

Release of the Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report

By Adriane Koenig

I’m excited to announce the release of a new joint report from EPA, DOE and NSF that articulates a bold vision for water treatment. Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report outlines a range of research and actions to transform today’s treatment plants into water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) that generate clean drinking water, biofuels, chemicals, and other water grades for specific uses, like agriculture. The report summarizes discussions and ideas presented at the Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop held last April in Arlington, Virginia.

The meeting was convened as many wastewater treatment facilities, pipes, and related infrastructure in cities around the country approach the end of their expected service life. EPA estimates that it will require an investment of about $600 billion over the next 20 years to continue reliably transporting and treating wastewater and delivering clean drinking water. Given the state of the country’s water infrastructure, this is a prime opportunity to encourage an industry shift from wastewater treatment to water resource recovery. By applying new research and technology, this shift offers the potential to reduce the financial burdens on municipalities, decrease stress on energy systems, cut air and water pollution, improve system resiliency to climate impacts, and support local economic activity.

Experts from industry, academia, national laboratories, and government who participated in the workshop determined that WRRFs should perform four major types of functions:

  1. Efficiently recover the resources in wastewater
  2. Integrate production with other utilities
  3. Engage and inform stakeholders
  4. Run “smart systems”

The group also discussed challenges, including regulatory, technical, social, and financial barriers, all of which must be overcome to enable wide-scale evolution toward energy-positive WRRFs. Finally, participants identified research opportunities that could produce or significantly advance the needed technology.

This report is intended to stimulate further dialogue and accelerate the wide-scale transition of advanced WRRFs. The agencies, in cooperation with the Water Environment Research Foundation, are already addressing one frequent suggestion at the workshop by identifying facilities to serve as potential test beds for new technologies. I encourage you to visit the DOE website to view workshop materials and presentations as well as the full-length report.

Water Headlines

A new report outlines a range of research and actions needed to transform today’s water treatment plants into water resource recovery facilities that generate clean drinking water, biofuels, chemicals, and other water grades for specific uses, like agriculture. Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report summarizes discussions and ideas presented at workshop held jointly last April by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

With the nation’s aging water infrastructure, a unique window of opportunity exists to apply new knowledge and technology to create an industry shift from wastewater treatment to water resource recovery. Such a shift offers the potential to reduce the financial burdens on municipalities, decrease stress on energy systems, cut air and water pollution, improve system resiliency to climate impacts, and support local economic activity.

Read more.

About the author: Adriane Koenig is an ORISE Research Participant serving in EPA’s Office of Water, where she promotes new technologies and innovative practices that advance sustainability in the water sector. She has a M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins 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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Providing Clean Water to an African Village: Not a Simple Turn of the Tap

By 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 is 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 already posted blogs by Andrew Speckin, Sara Lamprise and Kelly Overstreet. Our fourth blog is by Emily Nusz, who continues to intern with our Environmental Data and Assessment staff.

How far away is the nearest water source from where you are sitting now? An arm’s length across your desk? A few feet? Right outside the window?

Villagers carry water jug and food basket

Villagers carry water jug and food basket

Next time you get the urge to take a drink of fresh, ice cold water, take a moment to think about places that may not have the same laws and regulations.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the global water crisis. Many communities in developing countries don’t have easy access to clean drinking water. They must walk miles each day with heavy jugs on their heads, just to collect muddy water from puddles or rivers. This water is then used to drink, wash dishes, and sanitize their bodies. The water is filled with bacteria, parasites, and waste that can cause a variety of debilitating diseases including malaria and cholera. As a result, thousands of people die every day from avoidable diseases caused by contaminated water.

Little do they know, the water they so desperately need is often right beneath their feet.

Emily Nusz (center) with group of Kenyan children

Emily Nusz (center) with group of Kenyan children

A few hot summers ago, members of my church and I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya. Our mission was not only to provide care for children in orphanages, but to provide a village with clean water. We decided the best way to accomplish this task was to build the community a water well in the heart of the village for easy accessibility. Our team raised money for the well, and then we were ready to make a large time and energy commitment to a long-term solution for the people. The excitement of our arrival was very powerful. I remember every face in the village beaming with joy.

Water wells can provide clean water for hundreds of villagers. A pump or a tap built in the center of the community can save an entire day of walking to the nearest muddy puddle, and save hundreds of lives by preventing exposure to harmful or even deadly diseases.

Water can be found in underground, permeable rock layers called aquifers, from which the water can be pumped. An aquifer fills with water from rain or melted snow that drains into the ground. Aquifers are natural filters that trap bacteria and provide natural purification of the groundwater flowing through them. Wells can be dug or drilled, depending on the time and cost of the project. They can be dug using a low-cost, hand-dug method, or built using either a high-cost, deep well method or a shallow well, low-cost method. Safe drinking water can usually be found within 100 feet of the surface.

Kenyan countryside in summer

Kenyan countryside in summer

Although I was not physically involved in building the village well, we all contributed to the mission we set out to accomplish. A well was built by drilling a hole that reached down far enough to reach an aquifer, and even lined with steel to keep out pollutants. Our team put together pipes and hand pumps that enabled the villagers to pull the water out of the well and use it safely. Our team was very gratified to know that the well we built will provide clean water for a community of up to 500 people for many years to come!

Learn more about water wells. The best way to keep our water clean is to stay informed of ways to help reduce the risks and protect the source. Learn how you can help. To learn more about global water statistics, visit Global WASH Fast Facts.

About the Author: Emily Nusz is a Student Intern at EPA Region 7, who worked full-time this summer and will continue 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.

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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Photography Tips for Citizen Scientists Capturing the 2015 King Tide

By Tammy Newcomer Johnson, ORISE Research Participant

The sidewalk is flooded at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.  Photo by Tammy Newcomer Johnson.

I’m a scientist working at EPA and an avid photographer. I have exhibited nature-related photography in a 2-artist show, and I occasionally shoot weddings— preferably on the beach!

“King Tides,” are the highest tides of the year and they provide a glimpse of the future challenges that climate change brings to coastal communities facing rising sea levels. The main 2015 Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Seaboard King Tides will occur on October 28th. Check out this King Tides Map for predicted times. This is a bounty for photographers and a wake-up call for local planners.

Recording King Tides is a great citizen science opportunity. Anyone with a camera can participate!  Images and video of King Tides can help local planners, elected officials, and community members visualize and prepare for future flooding events from sea level rise, high tides, and coastal storms. For example, the King Tides Project teams up with classrooms in coastal communities to empower students to educate local planners about future flooding risks. Likewise, many of the National Estuary Programs are actively engaged in capturing the King Tides. The Casco Bay Estuary Partnership in Maine has an interactive King Tides Trail and an annual King Tide Party to document high water levels. What a fun way to combine art, science, and coastal management!

Want to learn more about King Tides? Check out EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries and NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management for some great resources.

Here are my King Tides photography tips:

  1. Location, location, location! Choose a place that is vulnerable to coastal flooding. Make sure that you include some familiar landmarks so that it is easy to identify the area.
  2. The early bird gets the worm! Arrive at your location about 45 minutes before the high tide to scout out the best shot.
  3. Quantity leads to quality! Take a lot of pictures so you can compare them and pick your favorite. During a recent wedding I photographed, I took over 2,000 photos. I found some real gems among all of these photos!
  4. Bonus points! Get some photos of the low tide to show the contrast and/or take a time-lapse video.

I encourage you to share your King Tides photography with the King Tides Project, the MyCoast App and your local National Estuary Program (if you are in one of those watersheds). Thank you for helping your community to be ready for climate change!

About the author: Tammy Newcomer Johnson is in the ORISE program with EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries team. She has a Ph.D. in Marine Estuarine Environmental Science (MEES) program from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she explored the impacts of urbanization on the ecology and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.

 

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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EPA-funded Program Leads at-Risk Youth to a Brighter Future

I’m  Derron Coles, an engineer and instructional designer in Portland, Oregon who engages young men of color in protecting the environment – a cause most of my students have never considered. I help run Grounding Waters, a youth mentoring program funded through an EPA Urban Waters grant that connects students to nature and encourages them to become advocates for the environment.

Grounding Waters is now mentoring 8th and 9th graders from Alliance High School, Roosevelt High School, and George Middle School in Portland. The program targets students in middle school because when you lose students in math and science then, it’s hard to get them back. Many students who have completed programs like Grounding Waters have gone on to college; 25 percent chose science majors.

For me, the work is personal.

I’m from Baltimore and was in the same position as these students. In high school, I was exposed to engineering. In college, I studied mechanical engineering and the Chesapeake Bay. Later, I earned a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Oregon State University, where I taught as a graduate student. Teaching gave me a new perspective on how to help the environment. I got excited about being able to create change beyond what I could do alone.

Students in Grounding Waters have weekly meetings with their mentors, who are professional men of color from the Portland area who volunteer their time. Twice a month or more, they participate in weekend activities, with black environmental science college student mentors, to learn how the urban environment affects water quality through restoration and conservation activities like removing invasive plants and conducting water quality experiments.

The students will have an opportunity in March 2016 to present at the Black Student Success Summit in Portland on the impacts community members can have on the urban environment. Participants will move full circle from students to educators as they share what they have learned about their watershed. We’re hoping that by seeing the impacts on water quality, they’ll see their connection to the environment. That’s what stewardship is all about.

This project is supported by Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant. The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant Program is a public-private partnership program led by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and EPA’s Urban Waters Program. Portland is part of EPA’s Making a Visible Difference in Communities initiative, which provides focused support to 50 communities across the country seeking to become more sustainable.

About the author: Derron Coles is a Principal Consultant with DRC Learning Solutions writing curriculum and supporting youth programs for nonprofit clients like the Blueprint Foundation. While he fully intended to put his civil engineering graduate degree to work in industry, he’s been a dedicated educator for over 14 years.

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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Water Management Shouldn’t Stay in Las Vegas

By Ellen Gilinsky

What happens in Las Vegas shouldn’t stay in Las Vegas – when it comes to water management.  While attending the Watersmart Innovations annual conference to give out EPA’s prestigious WaterSense Partner of the Year Awards, I toured several Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) projects designed to ensure that Las Vegas area residents have clean and reliable water for years to come.

The region gets its water from Lake Mead, where the severe and lengthy drought has put the existing two water intakes at risk. SNWA didn’t wait until disaster struck. They pulled together years ago to fund and design a mid-lake deep water intake and low-lake level pumping station to minimize the risk of not being able to provide good quality water to its customers.  This, coupled with an aggressive water conservation program that has reduced net water use by 45 percent since 2002, has improved the area’s water future.

Lake Mead also receives return water from the Las Vegas wash, where fast-moving runoff from storms, coupled with treated wastewater flows, had resulted in eroded banks and poor water quality. This created the need for additional water treatment, which consumed energy and challenged water quality.

The SNWA assembled a diverse stakeholder group – the Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee – and with funding from a variety of sources including the EPA CWA Section 319 program and other state grants, implemented a comprehensive source water protection program. The efforts focused on stream and wetland restoration that slowed down bank erosion, created wetlands, trapped sediment and nutrients with dams, and provided a diverse and attractive habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as for citizens to enjoy as a park.

These key actions to protect a valuable and essential water source could never have occurred without regional cooperation and advance planning.  Many other areas of the country are being impacted by climate change, from severe droughts to stronger storms to serious flooding.  Water resource agencies nationwide, with the help of federal and state agencies, need to band together to build climate resiliency into their plans so they can continue to provide adequate water of high quality to all users. Water conservation, source water protection, and water reuse are pieces of that puzzle as seen in Las Vegas – and it shouldn’t just stay there.

Ellen Gilinsky serves as the Senior Policy Advisor for Water at EPA. In this position Dr. Gilinsky addresses policy and technical issues related to all EPA water programs, with an emphasis on science, water quality, and state programs. Prior to this appointment she served as Director of the Water Division at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

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

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A Really Good Day: Building the East Capitol Urban Farm

By Jeff Corbin

As much as I love my job, and as proud as I am of the work that EPA does every day, I must admit that some days are just better than others. I’m speaking of those days when you get to be part of something that just makes you feel good. Something that makes you say: “We did well today…this is what we are all about.” Two weeks ago, I had one of those days. Let me tell you how this all started.

Build day for the East Capital Urban Farm. Photo credit: Emily Simonson/EPA ORISE.

Build day for the East Capitol Urban Farm. Photo credit: Emily Simonson/EPA ORISE.

A little while ago, I started having discussions with colleagues at the U.S. Department of Interior, one of our partners in the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. That Partnership’s focus is to reconnect urban communities – particularly those who are overburdened or economically distressed – with their waterways, and collaborate with community-led revitalization efforts. While DOI and I talked, our friends at the University of the District of Columbia, including Dr. Dwane Jones and his team in UDC’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences, helped us think through next steps.

So what was the big idea? Take a vacant, 3-acre piece of land in the District’s Ward 7, an area in dire need of fresh, healthy food and economic infusion, and turn it into an urban farm. And not just any urban farm, but one that combines art, recreation, education and a general sense of community ownership. On a recent Saturday, the District of Columbia Building Industry Association officially took the project from a “big idea” to reality, adopting this project as their annual Community Improvement Day: a day of building with the help of hundreds of citizen volunteers, professional contractors, and too many partners to name.

At the end of the day, even with a few loose ends to wrap up, the site was on track for a spring harvest of a variety of produce from the private garden lots and community gardens. Food grown here will benefit the wider community via mobile food trucks and a farmer’s market.

Final design for the East Capital Urban Farm.

Final design for the East Capitol Urban Farm.

Part of EPA’s contribution to the project was a $60,000 nonpoint source program grant to install a state-of-the-art “green” system to capture the storm water that will run off the site. With urban farming growing in popularity (that’s a good thing!), it is critical that these types of operations are designed to be models for protecting nearby waterways. EPA’s investment will also help educate visitors about the importance of controlling storm water run-off. Eventually, there will even be an aquaponics facility, where fish are grown and their waste is used to fertilize the gardens. Now that’s recycling at its best!

 

Hundreds of volunteers turned out to help with planting. Photo credit: Emily Simonson/EPA ORISE.

Hundreds of volunteers turned out to help with planting. Photo credit: Emily Simonson/EPA ORISE.

If you want to see what one of my good days looks like, hop off the Metro’s blue/orange line at the Capitol Heights stop and look uphill across the street…and plan on buying some fresh produce in the spring!

About the author: Jeff Corbin is Senior Advisor for the Chesapeake Bay and Anacostia River. Before coming to EPA, he was the Virginia Assistant Secretary of Natural Resources and before that spent time in the environmental non-profit sector. He currently splits his time between Richmond, DC, Annapolis and other parts of the Chesapeake watershed. When not working, he can usually be found on his fishing skiff exploring Virginia’s rivers.

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

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Bringing Water Protection into the Modern Age

By Cynthia Giles

Information technology is everywhere. How we communicate, and how we share with one another has gone digital, saving paper, time, money, and making it easier to get information faster and more reliably.

Paper reports can stack up – here is an example from just one EPA Region

Paper reports can stack up – here is an example from just one EPA Region

Forty-three years ago, when the Clean Water Act was enacted, things moved a little slower. But the significance and impact of this important law remains today. It has helped clean up our lakes and rivers, and ensure that Americans are drinking safe water so we can live active, healthy lives. Under the Clean Water Act, the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program requires that hundreds of thousands of regulated facilities monitor and report data on their discharges of pollutants into waters to ensure they are not negatively affecting public health or the environment.

For years, these reports were filed by paper, and regulators – state and federal – had to manually review and enter the data into computers. That is until this week, when Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the final NPDES electronic reporting rule, requiring reports to be electronically filed. More than seven years in the making, following more than 70 technical and individual meetings, and 50 webinars with over 1,200 stakeholders, we have brought clean water protection into the modern age. Here’s what that means:

  • The public will have full transparency into water quality data. Facility-specific information, such as inspection and enforcement history, pollutant monitoring results, and other data required by NPDES permits will be accessible to the public through our website. Transparency can also drive improved performance among regulated facilities; when water quality data can be easily accessed online, facilities are more inclined to avoid pollution problems that raise public concern.
  • Once the rule is fully implemented, the 46 states and the Virgin Islands Territory that are authorized to administer the NPDES program will collectively save approximately $22.6 million each year as a result of switching from paper to electronic reporting.
  • Additionally, after full implementation, we estimate that states and regulated entities will save a total combined 900,000 hours of time per year. Instead of sifting through stacks of paper, that time, in addition to the money saved, can be put toward important water protection activities.

Finalizing this rule is a major milestone, but there’s still more work to do. Over the next few months, we will schedule trainings and more webinar sessions with states and regulated entities to provide an overview of the final rule, and the next steps for implementing electronic reporting. To realize the important benefits that this rule provides, EPA and our state, tribal, and territorial partners will continue to work collaboratively to implement these changes.

Electronic reporting in this day and age is essential to effective environmental protection. It furthers our Next Generation Compliance and the E-Enterprise for the Environment strategies to take advantage of new tools, innovative approaches and to work in partnership with states to increase compliance and reduce pollution. A modernized approach to reporting means cleaner water for everyone.

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

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Where to Find EPA at WEFTEC 2015

By Ken Kopocis

EPA’s booth at WEFTEC 2012. Photo credit: Tara Johnson

EPA’s booth at WEFTEC 2012. Photo credit: Tara Johnson

In just five days, over 20,000 people will arrive in Chicago to participate in the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC). WEFTEC is one of the largest conferences and exhibitions in North America for the water sector. I’m really looking forward to attending this year’s conference along with others from EPA. During the five-day long conference, sessions and exhibit booths will showcase water technology innovations and good work in the water arena in the U.S. and internationally. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this year!

The events listed below are just some highlights of EPA’s involvement in WEFTEC 2015. Please see the full WEFTEC agenda or search the WEF Events App (available through Apple’s App Store or at http://app2.core-apps.com/weftec2015) under WEFTEC 2015 for a complete list of where to find us.

Keynote: Our Acting Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg will deliver the keynote address on Monday, September 29 at 10:00 a.m. Central Time. His speech will be streamed live online at www.weftec.org.

Policy Session: EPA officials will hold a discussion at the Clean Water Policy Forum on Monday, September 28, from 1:30 – 5:00 p.m. Central Time in Room S402b.

Innovation and Technology: We will have a display at the Spotlight on Technology Innovation in the circular awards display of the Innovation Pavilion. Here you can learn about examples of technology innovation for water resource sustainability and share your own innovations.

EPA Booth: Our staff will be available to discuss agency activities and resources for the water sector in the exhibit hall at booth #4467. New this year, we will be hosting four short speaking events at our booth to address some of the hot topics surrounding water resources:

Monday, September 28

  • 10:30 a.m. Innovative Water Financing with Jim Gebhardt
  • 11:30 a.m. Water-Energy Nexus with Jason Turgeon
  • 2:30 p.m. DOE Resources for Utilities with Scott Hutchins

Tuesday, September 29

  • 2:30 p.m. Climate & Water Tools for Adaptation/Resiliency with Michael Shapiro

Social media: During the conference, keep up with EPA information and announcements by following @EPAwater on Twitter and EPA – Water is Worth It on Facebook. Join the full WEFTEC discussion by using #WEFTEC15.

WEF Events App: All EPA events can be found using the WEF Events App by searching “EPA” under WEFTEC 2015. We will also have select documents available download through the app under our booth. Search for “4467” or “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

We look forward to seeing you in Chicago!

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

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In My Grandfather’s Footsteps: A Worthwhile Summer Spent at EPA 

Every summer, EPA brings in students to work, learn practical environmental skills, and enhance their educational experience through our Pathways Intern Program. The Big Blue Thread is 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. Andrew Speckin’s blog launched this series. Our second blog is by Sara Lamprise, who has worked in our Drinking Water, Water Quality, Wastewater, and Pesticides programs.

By Sara Lamprise

My grandfather and I share the same spirit. He is what I think of as a practical idealist. Softhearted, with a deep love of nature, he is not one to turn a blind eye to struggles. As ever, he continues to shape my sense of ethics and accountability.

When I was younger, he told me that idle worry is a way of avoiding responsibility. I never heard him say, “I wish someone would …” If he thought it needed doing, he did it, which meant he was usually busy.

lamprisegrandfather

Sara’s grandfather, Paul Deshotel, on 70th birthday

As an adult, I’ve wanted to be someone my grandfather would respect. I’ve stayed busy, but not always with things I found worth doing. Countless times I thought, “I wish I could …” or “I wish I was qualified to do something else.” Idle thoughts.

I sat on them. And I definitely didn’t tell my grandfather about them.

Meanwhile, I pestered my friends about plastics in the ocean and the erosion of the Gulf coast and fish that change from male to female. It seems pretty obvious in retrospect, but I think my friends caught on before I did. Long story short, I decided to change fields. To do that, I needed to go back to school.

I see a need for skilled people who care about others and the environment. So I’m developing the skills to fill that need. I could have spent my summer learning to fetch coffee … probably. But I wanted a worthwhile experience in a positive environment. EPA was my top choice.

Sara Lamprise at Myrtle Beach, S.C., summer 2012

Sara Lamprise at Myrtle Beach, S.C., summer 2012

I heard that this was a great program, that even as an intern, my work would be relevant and meaningful. I also heard many times that I would be working with great people. Check and check.

Plus, I respect EPA’s strategy. From my perspective, a critical role of EPA is providing the information to make sound environmental decisions. Information can spur action. It can bring about voluntary changes that are enduring and contagious. I know it doesn’t always work that way, and that’s where enforcement comes in. But information is a good Plan A.

Also, I heard tales of a fish grinder that I really want to see in action. Major selling point.

Anyway, I’m stoked. I figure whatever I work on will be time well spent, and something my grandfather will be happy to hear about.

About the Author: Sara Lamprise is working as a Student Intern at EPA Region 7. She is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in environmental science. Sara loves board games, hiking, and any excuse to 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.

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Great Lakes Successes – Part 2

By Cameron Davis

We’ve all made remarkable progress in the first five years of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), much of it visible. (see Opinion)

The Isle Royale Coaster-Credit Phyllis Green

The Isle Royale Coaster-Credit Phyllis Green

But behind every official success there are many other successes. Here a few of the unofficial successes that aren’t required for reporting, but are just as important:

  • The Initiative isn’t just about restoration. It’s about protection. Though the agencies don’t plan on removing “restoration” from the Initiative’s name, they understand we have to protect what’s left. Otherwise we’ll be spending much more to restore those things, too. For example, the Initiative has funded work to protect a small population of native coaster brook trout on Isle Royale for its own sake and so that it can be used to restore other populations around Lake Superior. “Thanks to GLRI funding, we are gaining critical information to help restoration efforts,” says Phyllis Green, superintendent at Isle Royale National Park, punctuating the notion that restoration and protection go hand in hand.
  • The Initiative continues to support overburdened and disproportionately impacted communities. For example, in its recent Requests for Applications under the Initiative, we provide extra points for applications that help advance environmental justice, as recommended by the agencies’ Great Lakes Advisory Board. This also helps EPA make good on its commitments under Plan EJ 2014. Check out the most recently-released Requests for Application (RFA). This means projects like the recently-completed Marquette Park Lagoon Stormwater project in Gary, Indiana, will help this important community. This means the agencies will keep cleaning up Areas of Concern, located largely around post-industrialized communities. This means we’ll keep reducing contaminant levels in fish, on which people depend for a food.
  • The Initiative is spending what comes in. This is one indicator that the demand for Initiative support remains high for attacking the most complex, long-standing threats to ecological health. In August, the Government Accountability Office published an examination of the Initiative and confirmed that in fiscal years 2010 through 2014, $1.68 billion of federal funds were made available and as of January 2015, we had allocated nearly all of the $1.68 billion.
  • As important, the Great Lakes community is cooperating in unparalleled ways. Chaired by our Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force of 11 federal departments works with states, tribes, municipalities, environmental groups, business, academia and just about any other interest that helps to restore the Lakes.
Marquette Park Lagoon-Banneker Achievement Center

Marquette Park Lagoon-Banneker Achievement Center

Though there’s still so much more progress needed—a century of abuse doesn’t disappear in five years—there’s little doubt that the first five years of the Initiative have made historic progress.

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

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