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CAFE Standards

2014 September 23

The Road to Fuel EfficiencyBy Adriana Lenarczyk

Second in a five-part series on climate change issues.

Happy Climate Week, everybody!

So, I was standing on the subway on my way to work (chances are you don’t get to sit down on your crowded morning commute from Bushwick, Brooklyn) and as I stood squished between a businessman and a street punk, I found myself missing the privacy and freedom of my car back in Portland, OR. Steel-grey 2009 Jetta, heated seats (!), the incredible amount of trunk space, and 27 miles to the gallon (which was pretty good back then).

And that got me thinking of sky-high gas prices in New York City. Which got me thinking about my boyfriend’s gas-guzzling SUV that got 15 mpg. Which made me cringe at the thought of the cost of gas for our backpacking trip to Vermont this weekend. Which made me wonder:

Why don’t we just trade these enormous hunks of steel for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars? I mean, are people buying them? Wait, no, are car manufacturers actually producing more fuel-efficient vehicles??

And just then, I learned about CAFE standards—

CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy, are regulations that were first enacted by Congress in 1975, intending to improve the average fuel economy of cars and “light trucks” (i.e. trucks, vans, and SUVs) sold in the United States.

In 2009, President Obama proposed a new national fuel economy program which adopts federal standards to regulate both fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions. The program covers years 2012 to 2016, and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016 (39 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for trucks), which is a pretty decent jump from the current average of 29 mpg. The result of all this is a projected reduction in oil consumption of about 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the program and a projected total reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 900 million metric tons.

So if you’re thinking of buying a new car consider an electric vehicle. The U.S. government offers a $7,500 federal tax credit with the purchase of a new Tesla acquired for personal use. In Southern California, where my parents live, electric vehicle purchasers are eligible for a rebate up to $2,500 from the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) until funds are exhausted. Currently there are no state incentives for New York, but things may change.

More information on EPA Fuel Economy can be found at: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

To read the entire proposed rule for carbon pollution emission guidelines, please visit: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/18/2014-13726/carbon-pollution-emission-guidelines-for-existing-stationary-sources-electric-utility-generating#h-13

About the Author: Adriana Lenarczyk wrote this as an intern in EPA’s Region 2 Public Affairs Division. Adriana is originally from the West Coast.

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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Climate Summit is a Galvanizing Event

2014 September 22
NYC residents affected by Superstorm Sandy call for action at the People’s Climate March.

NYC residents affected by Superstorm Sandy call for action at the People’s Climate March.

 By Tasfia Nayem

Tomorrow’s U.N. Climate Summit and the People’s Climate March in New York City this past weekend have helped to further galvanize climate change as an issue of prevailing concern and public importance. The Summit brings together world leaders to set the groundwork for a 2015 agreement that will attempt to increase climate action through reducing emissions, strengthening climate resilience and mobilizing political will across the globe.

The People’s Climate March brought together thousands of participating organizations and is helping to inspire companion marches worldwide. It is thought to be the largest demonstration in support of climate solutions.

In 2009, EPA’s scientific research determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas pollutant, accounting for nearly three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions and 84 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. This summer, EPA released the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time sets carbon pollution standards on existing power plants. Power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. While limits have existed for the levels of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution, there had been no national limits on carbon pollution levels that power plants can emit prior to this summer.

The Clean Power Plan attempts to cut carbon emissions from the power sector nationwide in 2030 by almost a third below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the U.S. for a year. Not only will the proposal reduce the burden of carbon emissions internationally, but it will also cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide nationwide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit, which will prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and 490,000 missed work or school days.

The plan prepares the nation for the impacts of climate change, while giving states the power to develop plans to meet state-specific goals. While this state-federal partnership is imperative in the national climate justice movement, there’s still a lot to be done. Local, community-based activism is crucial in fostering a community of environmental responsibility. It was on a smaller scale that people took measures to reduce their carbon footprint, applied pressure to representatives to fight for climate action, and propelled the environmental movement. These small-scale and individual actions existed for years prior to EPA’s regulations of greenhouse gases, and need to continue to exist to ensure responsible decision-making that continues to protect human health and the environment. Demonstrations that assemble these communities and the public, like the People’s Climate March, reveal how large the public demand for climate action has become. And at the end of the day, it’s up to the people to ensure we live a world where both our communities and leaders are taking climate action.

About the Author: Tasfia Nayem is an intern working in the Public Affairs Division of EPA’s Region 2. She holds degrees in Environmental Studies and Biology, and you can get a high-five from her this Sunday at the People’s Climate March.

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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Climate Week in New York City is fast-approaching!

2014 September 19

We encourage you to participate and have your voice heard on climate change! More than 100 events are being planned for this year’s Climate Week centered around the UN Climate Summit on September 23. Here are some of the events taking place the week of September 21:
ClimateMarch Poster2
People’s Climate March:
Sunday, Sept. 21 at 11:30 a.m.
Location: Meet at Central Park West, between 59th and 86th Streets in Manhattan.
The march will begin at 11:30 a.m. The march will leave Columbus Circle and go east on 59th Street, then turn onto 6th Ave. and go south to 42nd Street, then turn right onto 42nd Street and go west to 11th Ave. and finally turn left on 11th Ave. and go south to 34th Street. The march will end at 11th Ave. between 34th and 38th Streets.

Interfaith Summit on Climate Change: Monday Morning Sessions
Monday, Sept. 22 from 9-11 a.m.
Location: Saint Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York
Morning discussions on ethics, spirituality, climate change and faith communities, divestment and renewable energy. Registration is required, but there is no admission cost.

UN Climate Summit:
Tuesday, Sept. 23
(Invitation only event)
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will be participating in this event with world leaders to advance the conversation on climate change and taking action.

Rising Seas Summit:
Sept. 24-26
Location: Crowne Plaza Times Square, New York, NY
EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck will be speaking at a lunch plenary session with other environmental leaders on Wednesday, September 24.

Find more NYC Climate Week events at www.climateweeknyc.org and http://milanoschool.org/climateaction.

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 Bear is in the Igloo

2014 September 10
The marine glider ready for deployment.

The marine glider ready for deployment.

By Darvene Adams

It sounds like a story of Arctic homesteading gone awry, but it actually takes place in the coastal waters off of New York and New Jersey. “The Bear is in the Igloo” is a catchphrase used by Rutgers University oceanographers to signify that an “Autonomous Underwater Vehicle” or ocean glider has been successfully retrieved from its mission gathering water quality data in the ocean.

State and federal agencies have long recognized that low dissolved oxygen in the waters off the coast of NY and NJ is a major concern. Fish, clams, crabs, etc. all need a relatively high amount of dissolved oxygen (D.O.) in the water to survive and reproduce. Effectively measuring dissolved oxygen levels in the ocean is a complex task. There is a lot of territory to cover (approximately 375 mi2 just off of NJ) and the D.O. levels change constantly. NJ and EPA have conducted some “grab” sampling which resulted in the entire coastal zone being declared “impaired,” even though the existing sampling didn’t cover the whole area. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection asked EPA for help to address this dilemma.

Glider tracks off the coast of New Jersey.

Glider tracks off the coast of New Jersey.

Enter the glider, better known as RU28, a relatively new technology but one that is being rapidly adopted by the military and water researchers. Part fish, part robot, it “glides” through the water column, using a pump to take in or expel water, allowing displacement to lift or sink the glider. It is programmed to surface approximately every two hours and “phones home” to send some of the water quality data it has collected and its operational status. Parameters include dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, chlorophyll a (pigments indicative of algae), CDOM (colored dissolved organic matter), and depth. As the glider moves in a zig-zag pattern down the coast, it is also moving vertically in the water to profile the water column. Each deployment is approximately three weeks in length.

A glider was in the water off of NJ when Hurricane Irene impacted the area in 2011. The data collected by the joint glider mission produced the first water quality data ever collected under a hurricane. The National Weather Service was able to use these data to revise their hurricane modelling to account for the effect of a tropical hurricane entering temperate zone waters.

The second mission of this summer was deployed last month, so click on: http://marine.rutgers.edu/cool/auvs/index.php?did=422&view=imagery and follow the journey.

About the Author: Darvene Adams is EPA Region 2’s Water Monitoring Coordinator. She provides technical assistance to states and the public regarding ambient monitoring activities in marine, estuarine and freshwater systems. Darvene also designs and implements monitoring programs to address relevant resource management questions in the region. She has coordinated monitoring projects in the NY/NJ Harbor, Barnegat Bay, Delaware Bay, and coastal NJ, as well as the region’s involvement with EPA’s National Aquatic Resource Surveys. Darvene received her Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from Rutgers University and is based in the Edison, NJ field office.

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.

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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Ecofriendly Weekend Activities

2014 September 4

With the opening of textbooks comes the closing of summer. Check out our last free ecofriendly activity suggestions of the season, and make sure to get out there and enjoy summer in the city before it leaves us once again.

Fort Tour by Candlelight: Share the rare experience of visiting this historic waterfront fortress in the twilight hours and walking through its tunnels by candlelight. Fort Totten Park, Saturday, September 6th, 7:30 p.m.

Harvest Festival: Join Bronx Greenup as they honor community gardeners in this annual celebration which includes gardening, activities, food, and seed exchanges. New Roots Community Garden, Saturday, September 6th, 1 p.m.

Hawk Watch: Join fellow birders in search of these avian hunters in an area of the park that’s normally closed off to the public. Pelham Bay Park, Sunday, September 7th, 1 p.m.

Life on the Forest Floor: Bring your little ones to learn about the creatures that live at or beneath our feet and play a vital role in healthy forest ecosystems. Staten Island Greenbelt, Sunday, September 7th, 1 p.m.

Marsh Exploration: Walk through different kinds of marshes as you learn about their impacts, purpose, and the migratory birds that stop over during the fall. Fort Tryon Park, Saturday, September 6th, 10 a.m.

Saltwater Fishing: Children and families are invited to learn the ecology of our waterways as they catch and release fish in the Hudson River. West Harlem Piers Park, Sunday, September 7th, 1 p.m.

Tree Giveaway: Pick up your free tree and help NYC reach its million tree goal! Livonia Community Garden, Saturday, September 6th, 9 a.m.

Tree Guard Volunteering: Help protect young trees from deer and rabbit browse by fitting them with tree guards. Bloomingdale Park, Saturday, September 6th, 9 a.m.

West Side County Fair: Enjoy county fair magic in Manhattan with a greenmarket, reptile shows, sideshow performers, aerialists, carnival rides, live music, and more. Riverside Park, Sunday, September 7th, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

 

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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Willow School in Gladstone, NJ: “The most eco-friendly school in the continental United States”

2014 September 3

By Marcia Anderson

Doors and windows at the Willow School are sustainably designed and allow easy appreciation of the natural world outside the classroom.

Doors and windows at the Willow School are sustainably designed and allow easy appreciation of the natural world outside the classroom.

The first thing that you notice at The Willow School is the closeness of nature. The natural vegetation, wild grasses, butterfly bushes, native perennial flowers and the deciduous forest are an integral part of each classroom. The large, energy-efficient windows draw the outdoor environment into the room and the children can easily move outside into learning spaces for a daily dose of nature.

The National Geographic’s “Green Guide” ranked The Willow School as the nation’s second greenest school for its sustainable design initiatives and the Travel Channel’s Show, “Extreme Green” recognized The Willow School as “the most eco-friendly school in the continental United States.” The Willow School is one of the first schools in the nation to adopt sustainability as an integrated concept on its campus and in its curriculum. This commitment has earned it ‘Green Ribbon Schools’ status by the U.S. Department of Education in 2013.

Energy Savings Integration: The school’s barn is LEED Platinum-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, and uses 70 percent less energy than an identical building constructed to meet minimum code requirements. The barn generates 37 percent of its own electricity using solar photovoltaic energy solutions. The school buildings include the latest in environmentally-sensitive and energy-efficient design. Clerestories and skylights provide passive-solar heating, supplemented by high-efficiency gas heating and solar panels. Additional energy is conserved through the use of super-insulated walls, ceilings, high-performance windows, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, and the maximum use of daylight rather than artificial light. For example: the winter sun’s rays shine through the hallway windows, and land onto a 36” thick concrete heat sink slab foundation where heat for the hallway is collected.

Waste & Recycling Investigation: The school curriculum actively incorporates children from kindergarten through eighth grade in sustainable-living practices. Kindergarteners collect hundreds of pounds of bottle caps that the Aveda Corporation melts down to create new packaging products. Third graders collect spent cell phones, yogurt cups, and non-recyclable juice pouches which are sent to TerraCycle, which converts them into new products.

The buildings themselves are a model for the “reduce, reuse and recycle” message. The toilets and bathroom stall partitions are made from 100 percent recycled plastic detergent bottles. Glass and ceramic tiles are made from 58 percent post-consumer materials. Floor tiles are made from 80 percent recycled marble and granite chips. The counter tops in the science room are made from recycled U.S. currency. A window in the entry foyer allows the visitor to peer into a wall cavity to show the building’s unique insulation: chopped up blue jeans. The trees that needed to be removed for building construction were sent to a mill in Pennsylvania where tables and chairs were fabricated for the new school.

Solar panels help provide sustainable energy for the school’s ecofriendly campus.

Solar panels help provide sustainable energy for the school’s ecofriendly campus.

Artificial turf used for the playing field was made from 100 percent recycled materials. The use of artificial turf was a controversial decision, but all parties realized that this high-usage area would be difficult to maintain in peak condition if live turf grasses had been used. The decision to use artificial turf was a conscience decision to reduce maintenance costs and eliminate the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Water Investigation: Reducing water use also is a priority for the school. A natural filtration system for storm water was designed for the entire property, collecting rainwater used to flush the low-flow toilets, and to supply bathroom faucets. The installation of a catchment system addressed both the school’s storm water management and re-uses water at the same time. Native grasses and perennial plants that require limited or no irrigation were planted partly to reduce water use and the need to mow and fertilize the school grounds.

Rainwater runoff from the Lower School building is captured in a below-ground 50,000 gallon tank made of recycled plastic. The tank is capable of capturing nearly 400,000 gallons of rainwater per year.

Rainwater stored in the large underground tank is cleaned before being stored in a 600 gallon holding tank in the basement. Sediment traps eliminate both large and small debris from entering the system. The water in the holding tank is then cleaned via an ozone sterilization system and then becomes available for use by the irrigation system and the low-flow toilets, eliminating the need for city water. Flushed water and any rainwater overflow go to the on-site constructed wetlands that process waste. These wetlands are constructed of a rubber-lined rock-filled pond, where plants are grown hydroponically in septic water. Micro-organisms and plants feed off the pollutants; the cleaned water is then pumped into the ground to help recharge the local aquifer.

Although not originally intending to go green, early on, the school founders recognized the relationship between humans and the natural world and consciously decided to develop a sense of personal stewardship for the earth. 

The Willow School (www.willowschool.org ) is located on a 34-acre site in Gladstone, NJ.

 About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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Your Sustainable Weekend in NYC

2014 August 28

Labor Day weekend means an extra day to enjoy what’s left of summer in the city! Check out our free ecofriendly activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

Adventure Course Staycation: Enjoy a pseudo getaway at this nature-themed obstacle course that includes a zip-line, a climbing and bouldering wall, a trust fall station, nets, balance platforms, and more. Alley Pond Park, Saturday through Tuesday, August 30th through September 2nd, 10 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Harlem Green Tour of Community Gardens: Take a tour of lush oases with verdant flora and fauna, rainwater harvesting systems, solar pond aeration and lighting, vertical gardening, bee hives, and so very much more in this 9th annual tradition. Harlem, Saturday, August 30th, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jackson Heights Greenmarket: Pick up local dairy and produce, sample local wine, drop off your textile and compost recycling, and enjoy Play Street in the city’s most diverse neighborhood! Travers Park, Sunday, August 31st, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kayaking: Glide along the East River as you take in the views of the Manhattan skyline and of the nature in this riverside park. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday, August 30th, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Paddle and Pickup: Improve the local environment in a unique way as you paddle along the Bronx River and pick up floating trash from the river banks and running waters. Starlight Park, Saturday, August 30th, 11 a.m.

Seed Saving Workshop: Learn different ways of saving seeds, bulbs, and more for reuse and packaging for future growing seasons in this hands-on workshop. McKinley’s Children’s Garden, Saturday, August 30th, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Street Tree Care: Tend to (some of!) the 903,870 trees in NYC as you volunteer to maintain upkeep of the existing trees in our million trees goal. Hunts Point, Friday, August 29th, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Street Trees of NYC: Learn about the complex relationship between trees, animals, and humans with Leslie Day, author of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City. Fort Tryon Park, Saturday, August 30th, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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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New Jersey Fights Mosquito Populations with Help from Tiny Crustaceans

2014 August 26

By Marcia Anderson

Tiny copepods can decrease the need for pesticides

Tiny copepods can decrease the need for pesticides

Most people generally do not realize the number of areas around their own homes where mosquitoes can find stagnant water to lay their eggs. If something can hold water for more than a few days, it is a mosquito breeding habitat. If standing water can’t be eliminated, the control of mosquito larvae within the water container is the next best step. Some states have re-introduced natural predators, such as copepods, as part of a smart, sensible and sustainable approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM), in the battle against mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases.

What are Copepods? Cousins of shrimp, copepods are tiny crustaceans that are usually less than 2.5 mm – the size of a pin head. They are used successfully to control mosquito larvae in Vietnam, Honduras, Brazil, Australia, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Many large species of copepods are voracious predators of mosquito larvae. They are an environmentally friendly tool that provides more effective biological control than any other predatory invertebrate. They can actually lessen the need for pesticides.

Raising Copepods Copepods are being grown in large numbers in New Jersey and Louisiana. They are especially effective in small containers or pools of water found in garbage dumps, roadside ditches or piles of building rubble. They are also effective in controlling the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, which can breed in the smallest of places containing water.

Large copepod species thrive in clean containers especially if given a few grains of rice as an initial food supply. If they have devoured all of the mosquito larvae in a container, a few grains of rice will keep them happy and prevent starvation. Copepods survive longer in containers near trees or other vegetation because shade prevents the containers from drying and leaf-fall provides food and a reservoir for moisture.

Mass Distribution of Copepods Thousands of large copepods (Mesocyclops sp.) can be transported in a small container to sites where they are poured, ladled or sprayed into containers. They can also be transported in backpack tanks from which they are squirted into containers with a hand-held wand. Each tank can hold enough copepods to treat a thousand or more containers, ditches, debris storage areas or even rice paddies.

New Jersey is the first state in the Northeast to use copepods. Beginning in 2011, New Jersey began deploying native copepods to county mosquito control agencies, inspired by an extremely successful program in New Orleans, Louisiana. As of 2013, more than half of New Jersey counties had incorporated copepods in their mosquito management programs.

In New Jersey and Louisiana, state and county mosquito control workers release copepods into residential and commercial areas, naturally reducing the numbers of mosquitoes. There are 13,000 species of copepods but, according to professors at Florida State University’s Medical Entomology Lab, not all copepods are effective at controlling mosquitoes. They should be used only if they occur naturally in an area where they can be reproduced and counted on to reliably attack that area’s mosquito larvae. Native copepods exist in every state. Once the species are identified, it takes time to determine which are best for a laboratory breeding program. It takes at least six months to raise enough of them, more than 50,000, to begin deployment in large-scale mosquito control programs.

Much like the mosquito-eating fish used by most states, copepods are used in pools of standing water that are either hard to reach or are in areas too sensitive for pesticides. They’re more a preventive measure than an ultimate weapon, say New Jersey state officials, but they make a difference in narrowing the scale of the mosquito fight. They actually reduce the number of inspections that county workers have to make and reduce the amount of pesticides needed to control mosquitoes. Remember that when considering the introduction of any vertebrate or invertebrate species, local regulations must be followed and care must be taken not to introduce non-native species into natural aquatic environments.

By using the smart, sensible and sustainable steps IPM offers, you can take control of mosquitoes in your own community. First, eliminate breeding habitats with sanitation and maintenance. For areas of standing water that cannot be eliminated, native biological controls can be employed to facilitate a reduction of mosquitoes, resulting in a reduction of mosquito borne diseases and a diminished reliance on pesticides.

For more information on mosquito control in New York City go to:www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/environmental/wnv-community.shtml. In other areas, contact your state cooperative extension agent or local health department for region-specific guidance and visit www2.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol.

 About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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.

Weekend Activities

2014 August 21

Enjoy the warmth of summer in the city while you can! Check out our free ecofriendly activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.
Forest Fairytales: Bring the little ones in your life to sit back, listen to nature, and hear an enchanted tale about the surrounding forest. Staten Island Greenbelt, Saturday, August 23rd, 10:30 a.m.

Grow to Give Garden Party: Join neighborhood gardeners, community agriculture groups, and environmental artists for a summer garden party with activities including a vegetable and fruit swap and a tool repair station. Conference House Park, Saturday, August 23rd, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Preserving the Harvest Workshop: Reap what you sow by learning basic ways to preserve what you’ve grown in the garden for the long winter ahead: drying, canning, freezing, and pickling. Wyckoff House Museum, Saturday, August 23rd, noon to 3 p.m.

Rockaway! Exhibit from MoMA PS1: Visit this free public arts festival to celebrate the reopening of Fort Tilden and recognize the restoration and ongoing recovery of the Rockaway peninsula. Rockaway Beach Surf Club, Friday, August 22nd, noon to 6 p.m.

Seining: Both kids and adults will enjoy using nets to catch fish and crustaceans close to shore while learning about the ecology of our waterways. Saturday, August 23rd, 1 p.m.

Soundview Park Butterfly Meditation Garden Volunteering: Join the Friends of Soundview Park as they beautify the park by performing routine maintenance, including weeding, transplanting, mulching, and watering the garden. Soundview Park, Sunday, August 24th, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Veggie Prints History Playdate: Bring your kids so they can learn firsthand how vegetables are not only delicious, but can also be used to make art! Dyckman Farmhouse, Sunday, August 24th, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Yoga on the Waterfront: Bring your mat or towel to this unique environment of nature and art for Kripalu Yoga, which integrates body postures, breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation. Socrates Sculpture Park, Saturday, August 23rd, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to noon.

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 Real (E)State of the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site

2014 August 18

By Elias Rodriguez

Gowanus Canal

Gowanus Canal

One of the most attention getting cleanup sites in our region is indubitably the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY. The canal is located near the communities of Gowanus, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. The waterbody discharges into New York Harbor. Since the 1800s, the canal was once a major industrial transportation route. Manufactured gas plants, mills, tanneries, and chemical plants are among the many facilities that operated along the canal. As a result of over 100 years of discharges, storm water runoff, sewer outflows and industrial pollutants, the Gowanus Canal has become one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated waterways.

EPA’s years of investigation of the canal confirmed what many already suspected- the widespread presence of a chemical cornucopia that includes polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and various metals, including mercury and lead, at high levels in the sediment in the Gowanus Canal.

Polychlorinated biphenyls had been widely used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications until they were banned in 1979. Electrical equipment such as capacitors and transformers, as well as many other consumer and industrials products, may contain polychlorinated biphenyls. More than 1.5 billion pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned their use with very narrow exceptions. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are a group of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, or other organic substances and can cause cancer. Mercury can lead to a variety of health problems, including nervous system damage. Lead is a toxic metal that can cause damage to a child’s ability to learn and a range of health problems in adults. What’s the precise risk? Like other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure.

One thing is certain, the Gowanus canal, once derided as Lavander Lake, needs a serious cleanup! Our 2013 Record of Decision (government-speak for EPA’s final cleanup plan) includes removing contaminated sediment that has accumulated as a result of industrial and sewer discharges from the bottom of the canal by dredging. The dredged areas will be capped. The plan also includes controls to prevent combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, and other land-based sources of contamination from compromising the cleanup. The cost of the cleanup plan is estimated to be $506 million.

Interestingly, the EPA’s designation of the canal as a Superfund site has not depressed the local real estate market. Brooklyn is still booming with interest. More broadly, the folks at Duke University took a scholarly look at the relationship between Superfund designation and real estate in a working paper entitled, ”Does cleanup of hazardous waste sites raise housing values?

Although the first and foremost purpose of a Superfund cleanup is to protect human health and the environment, a co-benefit is often redevelopment and productive reuse, which can lead to positive economic ripple effects. EPA is currently in the remedial design phase of the Gowanus Canal project. The design work is expected to continue into 2016 followed by the start of dredging. Progress is incremental but the future looks less ‘lavender’ for Gowanus!

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

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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