Skip to content

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ecofriendly Activities

2014 August 14

With just a few weeks until the start of school, take the family out 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.

Dunes, Drawing and Dendrology: Drawing ‘Chalk and Talk’: Receive basic how-to instruction for exploring and capturing the varied landscapes of natural areas onto paper. No need to being art supplies as drawing material are provided in this introductory workshop. Conservancy House Park, Friday, August 15th, 10 a.m. to noon.

Entomology Exploration: Join the Urban Park Rangers in an exploration of the shores of the Harlem Meer as you and your little ones enjoy the abundance and diversity of insects, including dragonflies, honey bees, damsel flies, and lady bugs. Central Park North, Saturday, August 16th, 11 a.m.

GrowNYC Greenmarket: Pick up farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, drop off your compost, and enjoy the Manhattan skyline as you visit the farmer’s market in one of the city’s few free outdoor art exhibitions. Free Art Bus is also on call to shuttle visitors to many of LIC’s other famous art venues. Long Island City, Saturday, August 16th, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Midtown City Picnic: Enjoy free samples, discover creative cooking, and learn about healthy school food in this Midtown picnic, and then follow it with a free bike rental. The picnic is a part of the annual Summer Streets program, when seven miles of NYC are closed off to cars for pedestrian and cyclist enjoyment. Park Avenue, Saturday, August 16th, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nocturnal Wildlife: Join the Urban Park Rangers as they guide you to the best wildlife viewing spots in the city, identify the nocturnal residents that call the park home, and teach you about the ecology and myths that surround these mysterious animals. Blue Heron Park Nature Center, Sunday, August 17th, 8 p.m.

Summer Fishing: Children have the opportunity to learn about aquatic ecology, fishing safety, and how to use a rod and reel in this catch-and-release fishing program at Prospect Park Lake! Be prepared to get their paws dirty, because kids get to collect their own bait as well! Prospect Park Wellhouse, Saturday, August 16th, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Wildlife Theater from the Central Park Zoo: Inspire the little ones in your life to learn more and care more about our natural world through an interactive performance using drama, puppetry, games, and songs. From penguins to polar bears, dinosaurs to butterflies, children leave the theater with a new wonder for the world around them. Poe Park, Friday, August 15th, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 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.

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.

NYC‘s First Family Promotes Composting

2014 August 11

By Tasfia Nayem

On my Twitter feed this weekend, in the midst of cat videos and movie trailers, was another video, this time featuring NYC’s own First Family. In the minute-long look into the de Blasios’ Brooklyn home, we see the mayor and his family collect their compostable waste for curbside organics collection.

Almost one-third of the waste generated by NYC residents is compostable. That’s 1.1 million tons of waste (enough to fill Yankee stadium from top to bottom!) unnecessarily being sent to landfills every year. To combat this issue, the city adopted a pilot program under which the Department of Sanitation offers curbside collection of organic waste to select NYC schools, residences, and institutions. Under the ongoing pilot program, which is in effect until 2015, 100,000 households in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island can have their compostable waste collected right from their homes. Residents not currently covered by the pilot program can bring their compostable waste to many farmer’s markets and other local organics drop-off centers.

According to the NYC Recycling program, curbside organics recycling can help the city reduce millions of dollars in landfill disposal costs, achieve recycling goals, and reduce pests by storing food waste in special rodent-resistant bins. The city will then turn organic waste into compost which can be used to fertilize gardens, parks, and street trees, or into renewable energy which can be used to power thousands of homes.

“Recycling food and yard waste is a lot easier than people think,” daughter Chiara de Blasio reminds us in the video. Curbside organics collection not only includes food and yard waste, but can include meat, eggshells, and soiled paper products, including pizza boxes and dirty paper towels. All that’s involved is placing the compostable waste into a collection bin similar to those used for garbage and recycling pickup.

Though my home is currently not in the curbside pickup pilot area, I can only hope the program is fully adopted by the city. Making composting more accessible would let New Yorkers take easy steps towards decreasing the city’s footprint, preventing pollution, and fostering a culture of environmentalism in NYC. Until then, I’ll just be taking my compostables over to the organics drop-off center at my local farmer’s market on my weekly trips to splurge on local cheese!

Find out more about NYC’s organics recycling here.

Learn more about composting.

See if your home is offered curbside organics pickup.

Find an organics drop-off center.

 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 is going to go home and start a composting bin.

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.

Sustainable Things to Do in NYC

2014 August 7

Sustainable Things to Do in NYC

Don’t let your explorations of the city wane with the summer! Check out our free ecofriendly activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

Bike and Hike the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: Ride on a combination of bike lanes, city streets, and off-street paths (including the Jamaica Bay Greenway) to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The American Littoral Society will then provide a guided tour of the refuge, one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the Northeastern United States and one of the best places in New York City to observe migrating species. Jamaica Bay, Sunday, August 10th, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Bird Walk: Both beginner and experienced birders are invited to join NYC Audubon on a weekly bird walk to find hundreds of beautiful bird species in the park, learn about ornithology, and discover the nature our city has to offer. Birders are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes and bring binoculars. Van Cortlandt Park Nature Center, Saturday, August 9th, 8 a.m.

Central Park Tour: North Woods: Explore tumbling cascades, rustic bridges, and picturesque pools in the "Manhattan Adirondacks" on this tour while you learn the story of the park’s history, design, and ecology and get an insider’s look at this urban park from the people who take care of it. Central Park, Friday, August 8th, noon to 1:15 p.m.

Compost with Earth Matter: NYC produces 1.1 million tons of compostable garbage every year – enough to fill Yankee stadium from top to bottom. Learn firsthand how compost gets processed as you help volunteers create compost collected from the municipal compost program using pitch forks, rakes, and teamwork. Governors Island, Sunday, August 10th, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dive at the Park Avenue Tunnel: Ditch the car as you walk in this Manhattan tunnel, outfitted with a sound installation by artist Jana Winderen with soundscapes recorded from shallow to deep underwater environments around the world normally undetected by the human ear. Dive is a part of the annual Summer Streets program, when seven miles of NYC are closed off to cars for pedestrian enjoyment. Park Avenue Tunnel, Saturday, August 9th, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival: Bring your family to this weekend-long celebration for this colorful multicultural tradition. Roughly 180 dragon-boat teams from around the world come to race on the Queens park’s lake, while plenty of traditional food and live entertainment (like martial arts demonstrations from the monks of the Shaolin Temple and lion dance performances) wait on shore. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Saturday and Sunday, August 9th and 10th, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lost Ladybug Project: Over the past 20 years, native ladybugs that were once very common have become rare, while ladybugs from other parts of the world have greatly increased both their numbers and range. Learn about ladybug types and join the citizen science program to help Cornell University scientists track ladybugs in efforts to prevent more native species from becoming rare. Staten Island Greenbelt, Friday, August 8th, 2 p.m.

Perseid Meteor Shower: Explore the universe from the comfort of (what sometimes feels like) its center, New York City. Join the Urban Park Rangers to discuss astronomy and the science of the solar system and to discover the Perseid meteor shower, one of the brighter meteor showers of the year that will be in peak this weekend. Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center, Saturday, August 9th, 9 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.

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.

Citizen Science Pathogen Monitoring in the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Watershed

2014 August 4

By Jim Ferretti

NY/NJ Baykeeper Lab

NY/NJ Baykeeper Lab

What’s the deal with bacteria?
Bacteria (along with soil erosion/runoff, and nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus) are the leading types of pollution in our nation’s waterways. Pathogenic, or disease-causing  microorganisms are associated with fecal waste and can cause a variety of diseases (typhoid, cholera, Cryptosporosis, etc) either through ingestion/contact with contaminated water or ingestion of shellfish. Not all bacteria are harmful (yogurt contains live bacteria cultures), but the presence of some indicator bacteria such as fecal coliforms and enterococci are a clue that potentially more harmful bacteria and viruses may be present in the water as well.

There are many different types of general pathogens that are dangerous to humans, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Measuring all of these potential harmful organisms is not practical, cost effective, and measuring methods are often complicated. Instead, specific surrogate bacteria (i.e., Fecal Coliforms, E. coli, and Enterococcus sp) that can be cultured or detected easily and can be related to the risk of human illness are used as “indicator” bacteria, because their presence indicates that fecal contamination may have occurred. The higher the number of indicator bacteria would increase the risk of finding increasingly more harmful assemblages of more harmful types of organisms in the water.

Common sources of bacteria in surface waters are from combined sewers (which can overflow in a rainstorm and dump untreated sewage directly into our waters) and runoff of animal waste (including wild animal droppings) from farmland and city streets. 

Indicator Bacteria and Citizen Science
During the summer months, bacteria concentrations are measured at least once a week at most of our New Jersey and New York bathing beaches. There are many other waterways that are used for boating, fishing and even swimming that are also susceptible to bacterial contamination. Citizen scientists offer a great resource to fill data gaps, produce data that will be usable by the states for assessment purposes, engage their community and raise awareness of potential environmental issues.

There are a few common types of laboratory tests that are performed to measure bacteria, such as growing them on a filter, growing them in test tubes, or growing them in special trays until a color endpoint is observed. Many of these tests are outside the technical expertise of many citizen science groups.

Site Map of the NY/NJ Harbor Watershed Area used for the Citizen Science Pathogen Study

Site Map of the NY/NJ Harbor Watershed Area used for the Citizen Science Pathogen Study

The EPA has been involved in Citizen Science since 1988 (formally called Volunteer Monitoring). The number of Citizen Science groups across the nation and particularly in our region has risen sharply in recent years. In an effort to empower citizens in their community through collection of high quality data, the EPA has recently been involved in a technical role in a Citizen Science Pathogen (Bacteria) Study involving two citizen science groups from New York (Bronx River Alliance and Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance) and two from New Jersey (Friends of the Bonsal Preserve and the NY/NJ Baykeeper). The goal of this grant based program from the Harbor Estuary Program and administered through the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission was to train citizen science groups, assist them in preparation of a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) or a plan that details all facets of their study, provide equipment and testing guidance manuals, perform on-site lab and field assessments, and provide a means to enter data into the national water quality data repository, WQX (formerly STORET).

Citizen Science Equipment Loan Program
Not only is this project important to the communities that are involved, this effort has provided the framework for future citizen science groups to conduct similar projects. Citizen scientists and communities may use the existing Quality Assurance Project Plan, Field and Lab Data Sheets, Excel spreadsheets for reporting, and technical guidance documents for sampling and analysis from this project that can be readily modified to fit their own pathogen monitoring program.

Another major hurdle for many citizen based science groups is the cost of equipment needed to collect the data. The cost for the lab equipment for a group to start a pathogen and water quality program similar to the one describe here is approximately $10,000. This cost is prohibitive to many citizen science groups so EPA is in the process of establishing an equipment loan program. The equipment loan program will offer citizen science organizations the opportunity to conduct water quality and/or pathogen studies with the benefit of borrowing on a short term basis (three to four months) lab equipment (incubators and sealers) and field equipment (water quality parameter meters and GPS units) plus the available technical documents (QAPP, testing guidance, and datasheets). Minus the cost of equipment, the actual per test cost for measuring bacteria is approximately $5-6 per sample. 

So, prepare your QAPP, enroll in the equipment loan program, and have your group get out there and monitor!

About the Author: Jim Ferretti is a team leader for the Sanitary Chemistry and Biology Team for the Laboratory Branch in the EPA’s Division of Environmental Science and Assessment. He has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from Rutgers University and a BS Degree in Water Analysis Technology from California University of PA. Jim has a diversified background in environmental studies and biological laboratory testing. He has been employed at the EPA since 1990, starting out in the water program in headquarters and moving to New Jersey in 1992.

 

 

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.

Ecofriendly Weekend Activities

2014 July 31

Don’t let the chance of rain dampen your summer weekend fun! Get out and enjoy our urban nature at one of these ecofriendly events.

Art Ride! Guided Bicycle Tour of Rockaway! Exhibit at Fort Tilden: Go on an exciting, interactive bicycle tour that allows participants to explore select sites of environmental and historical significance along the Rockaway Peninsula, followed by a free guided tour of the Rockaway! arts festival. Rockaway Waterfront, Sunday, August 3rd, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Central Park Moonlight Ride: Take a relaxing nighttime sojourn through Central Park highlighting its beautiful ponds, waterways, vistas, and structures by moonlight. Central Park, Friday, August 1st, 10 p.m.

Firefly Pajama Party: Your kids will have the chance to learn about fireflies in a light-hearted and playful atmosphere as they try to catch (and then release!) the last fireflies of the season. Fort Tryon Park, Saturday, August 2nd, 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.

Fort Tilden Beach Cleanup: Learn about the variety of shore birds that make their home on our beaches as you provide vital cleanup to the areas where these protected birds, like oystercatchers and piping plovers, lay their eggs. Van transportation provided from Union Square. Fort Tilden Beach, Saturday, August 2nd, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count: Help New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation collect a variety of wriggly and fascinating creatures usually hidden below the surface of the water by counting their catch to provide data for annual wildlife monitoring. Various locations, Saturday, August 2nd, various start times.

Green Thumb Fall Planting and Season Extension Workshop: Learn how to make the most of your vegetable garden by extending the harvesting season into the winter months through utilizing simple planting techniques. Phoenix Community Garden, Saturday, August 2nd, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Hindu Lamp Ceremony: Have a unique cultural experience at the park as you help acclaimed dancer Aeilushi Mistry bring peace and harmony to the shoreline as she performs the traditional Hindu Aarti Ceremony. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday, August 2nd, 4 p.m.

Qualia Gardens Installation and Performance Art: Join Brooklyn-based art collective Leimay in an exploration of the garden space as a place of constant regeneration, rebirth and contemplation. Gil Hodges Community Garden, Friday, August 1st, 7 p.m.

Van Cortlandt Park Invasive Removal: Volunteer to remove invasive exotic vegetation to help maintain the livelihood of this restored forest. Volunteers will be trained in invasive weed identification and removal techniques. Van Cortlandt Park, Friday, August 1st, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Wildlife Theater from the Central Park Zoo: Inspire the little ones in your life to learn more and care more about our natural world through an interactive performance using drama, puppetry, games, and songs. Bloomingdale Park, Friday, August 1st, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 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.

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.

The Folly of an Open Fire Hydrant

2014 July 28

By Elias Rodriguez

NYC now offers spray caps for a safe and legal way to play with the water from fire hydrants.

NYC now offers spray caps for a safe and legal way to play with the water from fire hydrants.

There were three public pools within walking distance of the Manhattan apartment where I grew up, but the long lines and adult supervision were a drag for an inner-city kid looking for fun and games. On sweltering, muggy days nothing was as attractive or exciting as the news that someone had (illegally!) opened a New York City fire hydrant in my neighborhood.

The most frequent location for this crime was a low traffic street where my school – closed for the summer – was located. Usually, some big looking kid sporting a mustache, would use some sort of special wrench to crank open the fire hydrant and word would quickly spread that our instant water park was open for mayhem. Ice cold plumes would rapidly flood the street sweeping kids along with dirt, cans, bottle caps, glass, and assorted debris towards the storm drain. An improvised device, usually a soup can opened at both ends, would serve to guide the high pressure cascade of water. Even as a precocious minor, I suspected this was wrong because everyone would skedaddle as soon as the police or fire department would show up to shut off the water.

Little did I comprehend that I was a juvenile accessory to delinquent behavior. With education and the benefit of several decades of maturity, I now realize that opening a fire hydrant is not just a serious crime, it’s irresponsible and puts people’s lives at risk. Water is a precious and limited resource.

An illegally opened fire hydrant lowers pressure that firefighters need in case of a fire. A single hydrant opened in this hazardous way can release over 1,000 gallons of water per minute. That’s enough wasted water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in less than half a day! Indeed, the pressure would topple most of us and injuries were common. This was a diversion at a cost that I did not appreciate at the time. The unauthorized opening of fire hydrants is harmful to our own communities. A further disincentive is the penalty. The perpetrator could face fines of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 30 days.

There is no excuse to commit this offense. In fact, the City has an easy way for people to request the installation of a spray cap on a fire hydrant for a controlled release of water. Among the lessons here is to never underestimate the resourcefulness of a bored pre-teen male. Hopefully this blog entry will dissuade someone from the idea that opening a fire hydrant is a victimless crime.

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.

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.