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A Commitment to Keep Our Waters Clean and Safe

2014 September 19
Cynthia Giles


September 19, 2014
4:28 pm EDT

 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.

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Public Input Vital to Clean Water Proposal

2014 September 18
Ken Kopocis


September 18, 2014
5:13 pm EDT

At EPA, our mission is to protect human health and the environment. We follow the law and the best available science, and we always rely heavily on public input.

Anytime this agency considers an action, we listen carefully to all stakeholders. Our proposal to clarify protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act is no different.

Public input was a major reason EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule. For almost a decade, members of Congress, the Supreme Court, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, and the public have called for a rulemaking to protect clean water and provide greater predictabilityand consistency about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. The proposal will keep our water clean and offer the clarity they requested (See who requested a rulemaking).

Before we put pen to paper on our proposal, we carefully considered the 415,000 comments we received on this issue over the past decade. Public input shaped the agencies’ views on where the Clean Water Act should apply.

Since releasing the proposal in March, EPA and the Army Corps have conducted unprecedented outreach to a wide range of stakeholders, holding more than 340 meetings all across the country to offer information, listen to concerns, and answer questions.

The agencies have responded to every request from outside groups to discuss the proposal and reached out proactively to many organizations to offer information and meetings. EPA Administrator McCarthy herself has heard from farmers, commodity groups, hunters and sportsmen, conservationists, business leaders, and faith groups.  EPA officials from Washington, D.C. traveled across the country, holding roundtables in nine states and visiting farms in states from Texas and Colorado to Pennsylvania, Arizona and Mississippi.

We’re not just holding meetings for the sake of it – we are listening carefully.  We’ve heard from the business community that they can’t succeed without clean, reliable water supplies. We’ve heard from farmers and ranchers, who have questions and concerns about how the proposal may impact them. We’ve heard from hunters and fishermen who stress the importance of clean water to recreation and to the tourism, sporting goods, and outfitting industries that support it. All of these perspectives matter to the agencies.

Because public input is so vital, the agencies extended the original public comment period from 90 days to 182 days. The comment period is open until October 20, and the EPA and the Army Corps welcome input to make sure we have a strong, achievable final rule. The agencies give careful consideration to all comments and aim to publish a final rule in spring 2015.

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 Public-Private Partnership That Works

2014 September 18
Gina McCarthy


September 18, 2014
2:11 pm EDT

 

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy participates in  a White House Industry Leader Roundtable

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy participates in a White House Industry Leader Roundtable

 

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet with private and public sector leaders to discuss ways we can significantly reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems that contribute to climate change and can be hundreds to thousands of times stronger than carbon dioxide. And their use is increasing—U.S. HFC emissions are expected to nearly double by 2020 and triple by 2030.

I came away from the meeting understanding that American businesses are ready to meet this challenge. At the roundtable gathering, Carrier, a major manufacturer of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, committed to the commercialization of HFC-free refrigerants in road transportation refrigeration by 2020, building on its expertise with HFC-free carbon dioxide refrigerant in marine container and food retail. And Lapolla committed to transitioning its entire foam product line to be high-GWP HFC free by 2016.

read more…

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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Coral Reefs

2014 September 17
Jared Blumenfeld


September 17, 2014
1:50 pm EDT

All life on Earth began in the oceans.

Maybe that’s why so many of us love to swim and play in the salty ocean water. At the heart of this dynamic and beautiful ecosystem lies coral reefs. These living organisms come in a seemingly endless array of shapes, sizes and colors, and they help support an incredible assortment of fish, plants and other aquatic life.

Simply put, there is nothing as magical as floating slowly over the top of a dense coral forest.

In fact, people come from all over the world to swim the coral reef areas in Hawai’i, from Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (Oahu) to Honolu’a Bay (Maui) to Kealakekua Bay (Big Island). Coral reefs surround all of the Hawaiian Islands and 25 percent of the species on Hawaii’s reefs are endemic, found nowhere else in the world.

read more…

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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Re-connecting the Two Hearted River

2014 September 11
Cameron Davis


September 11, 2014
12:00 pm EDT

A six-year effort has now been completed—using funds from EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and other sources—to re-connect 35 miles of the Two Hearted River. As a result, this waterway is now one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the Great Lakes.

Though the Two Hearted is the only designated wilderness river in the state, that doesn’t mean the watershed hasn’t been beaten up, much of its bruising from sweeping white pine clear-cutting decades ago. More recently, stream crossings over culverts have collapsed, creating jams and resulting in sediment pouring into the waterway. The stream then fractured, with spawning beds smothering from siltation.

read more…

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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Help Us Make a (New) Mark on Safer Products

2014 September 8
Jim Jones


September 8, 2014
1:17 pm EDT

The Swoosh. The Golden Arches. You probably recognize these companies without even seeing the name of the company.  They are symbolic logos of their respective companies. So what makes a great label or logo? How can it be meaningful and easily recognizable?

Help us answer these questions as we redesign the EPA label to help you identify products like laundry and dish detergents, all-purpose cleaners, pet care products and cleaners for cars, decks, RVs and boats that are safer for your family and the environment and also work well. Take a look at the proposed label designs below and let us know what you think by October 31, 2014.

When looking at these options, consider: What is most appealing to you? What best conveys the concept of safer products for your family’s health? What are your thoughts on the words, graphic, colors and shapes? We really value your input and all comments are welcome.

Already, there are more than 2,500 products that carry the existing EPA Safer Product label, many of which can be found on the shelves of your favorite stores and major retailers. In fact, the world’s largest retailer and other major retailers and manufacturers look to the existing label to help them move toward safer, more sustainable chemicals in their products. All ingredients in products that earn the label have undergone a thorough evaluation to ensure they meet high standards for safety and performance.

Thank you for your input and helping us create a more recognizable label for safer and effective household products for consumers like you!

Note: The redesign will in no way change or affect the program standards. Look for the current label on packaging until the transition to the redesigned label is made.

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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Using Prevention and Biopesticides to Protect against Mosquitoes

2014 September 4
Jim Jones


September 4, 2014
5:38 pm EDT

A closeup of a mosquito on a person's skinThere are around 200 different species of mosquitoes in the United States, and if you’ve spent time outdoors in warmer weather, you’ve probably encountered a mosquito—or thirty. While itchy bites (a reaction to the mosquito’s saliva) can be annoying, the possibility of mosquito-borne diseases is more worrisome. You may have heard about one that has recently found its way here: the Chikungunya virus.

One of the earliest Chikungunya (meaning “to become contorted” in the Kimakonde language) outbreaks occurred in the early 1950’s in Africa. More recently, the virus has been reported in the Caribbean. Since the beginning of this year, the CDC reports that several hundred travel-associated cases have been found in the United States, while a small number of locally-transmitted cases have been identified in Florida. Common symptoms are fever and joint pain, which may be accompanied by headache, muscle pain, or rash.

Knowledge and prevention are key to protecting yourself against mosquito-borne diseases.

Protect yourself and your loved ones with repellants

While conventional insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET are an effective way to prevent insect bites, biologically-based “biopesticide” products can also help keep pesky mosquitoes at bay. Biopesticides such as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus and IR3535 are effective as mosquito repellents and can be found in many repellent products. With EPA’s online tool, you can search for and find the repellent that is best for you. Our website also offers tips to help protect yourself from mosquitoes.

EPA recently unveiled a new graphic that will help you make more informed choices about how and when to apply repellents. You should start seeing the new graphic next mosquito season.

Tips for controlling mosquito growth

The first step to control mosquitoes around your home is making sure they don’t have a place to lay their eggs. EPA offers tips for limiting areas where mosquitoes breed.

EPA also registers biopesticide products with the active ingredient methoprene, and with strains of bacterial insecticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis or Bacillus sphaericus. These products control mosquito larvae in standing water and help reduce the adult mosquito population.

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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Mapping the Truth

2014 August 28
Tom Reynolds


August 28, 2014
4:34 pm EDT

Since releasing our proposal in March to better protect clean water, there have been some questions raised in the press, most recently about maps that use data developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish & Wildlife Service and show locations and flow patterns of many of the nation’s waterways.

Before discussing the truth about the history and purpose of the maps, let’s review some basic facts. The Clean Water Act was passed by Congress to protect our nation’s water bodies from pollution. This law has nothing to do with land use or private property rights, and our proposal does not do anything to change that. The idea that EPA can use the Clean Water Act to execute a land grab or intrude on private property rights is simply false. read more…

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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Day In the Life: A Visit to Boston

2014 August 21
Gina McCarthy


August 21, 2014
12:08 pm EDT

I went home to Boston on Tuesday to engage with public health professionals and experts to discuss the important link between the health of our environment and the health of our children. We know climate change is fueling environmental public health problems such as asthma and other respiratory ailments, which is why the agency is taking action to reduce carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Power Plan and other initiatives.

Here’s a look at my day:

Excited to have GinaEPA in Boston today: mtg w/families & healthcare workers re impacts of clean air & President Obama’s #ClimateActionPlan

— EPA New England (@EPAnewengland) August 19, 2014

I started the day at the Boston Children’s Hospital.

Administrator McCarthy and the staff from Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) show they are united on improving the health of children suffering from asthma and respiratory problems aggravated by environmental factors.

Administrator McCarthy and the staff from Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU).

  read more…

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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Join Me in Congratulating Our 2014 Indoor airPLUS Leader Award Winners!

2014 August 14
Janet McCabe


August 14, 2014
4:46 pm EDT

In a recent blog post, I wrote about new guidance EPA published to help building professionals address moisture control, which is key to controlling many indoor contaminants. Beyond providing this type of guidance, we seek to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) by encouraging builders and home energy raters to participate in EPA’s Indoor airPLUS Program. Indoor airPLUS offers construction specifications and a simple, straightforward checklist to achieve an EPA label for improved IAQ in new homes.

It has been our experience that consumers are as concerned with the health, safety, and comfort of their homes as they are with reducing utility bills and maintenance costs.  EPA created Indoor airPLUS  in 2009 to help builders meet this growing consumer preference for homes with improved indoor air quality. Building on the successes of the ENERGY STAR Certified Homes Program, Indoor airPLUS  adds a few simple steps during construction, which can help protect homeowners from mold, pests, combustion by-products, and other airborne pollutants, while they are in the house.  And, keeping our buildings healthy has never been more important as we make them more energy efficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. read 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.