Monitoring Progress in the Bay

by Jim Edward

EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio observes underwater grasses growing at the Susquehanna Flats. (Photo by Jim Edward/Chesapeake Bay Program)

August and September were very wet and rainy months in most parts of the Chesapeake Bay region. But on September 19, there was a break in the clouds, which was fortunate for those of us going on a water quality monitoring “cruise” in the northern portion of the Bay.

Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Bolton invited EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio, Water Division Director Cathy Libertz, and me to join him and his staff on their research vessel to observe their tidal Bay monitoring team in action.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) monitoring teams do water quality monitoring cruises of the tidal Chesapeake Bay on a regular basis during the year. They take samples at numerous stations during three-day cruises beginning in the south at the mouth of the Bay and finishing up north where the Susquehanna River meets the tidal Bay.

We began by visiting one of DNR’s fixed monitoring stations where the team took various measurements including water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, Ph, turbidity and chlorophyll a. They also took water samples to test for levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, which are the three pollutants Bay jurisdictions are working to reduce under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

Monitoring the Bay and its tributaries allows the Bay Program to detect changes that take place, improves our collective understanding of the Bay ecosystem, and reveals trends that provide valuable information to policy makers.

The second leg of our cruise on a smaller boat enabled us to venture out into an area in the upper Bay known as the Susquehanna Flats. This is the longest contiguous bed of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay, spanning approximately 10 square miles near the mouth of the Susquehanna River.

Underwater grasses are important because they offer food to invertebrates and migratory waterfowl, shelter young fish and crabs, and keep the water healthy by absorbing excess nutrients, trapping suspended sediment and slowing shoreline erosion.

Our hosts were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to see much of the grass beds due to the unusually high amounts of rain we had this summer. Since June 1, more than twice the normal amount of rainfall has fallen over a broad swath from Washington, D.C., up through Maryland and central Pennsylvania, resulting in higher river flows into the Bay. Measurements show freshwater flows into the Bay this August were the highest ever recorded.

Despite these conditions, we saw many of the dozen or more species of underwater grasses that live in the Bay. While cloudier than usual, we still could pick out large stands of widgeon grass, wild celery and some hydrilla. I found it awe-inspiring to be out in the middle of almost 10,000 acres of underwater grasses.

It will be interesting to see next time what impact the record rainfalls and associated nutrient and sediment load increases will have on Bay water quality and the abundance of the underwater grasses.

We will see if the resiliency we are trying to build by putting best management practices on the land will help to minimize any potentially adverse impacts to water quality, underwater grass fisheries and habitats.

The Bay Program’s scientists will undoubtedly be making comparisons to Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, and other high-flow events to see if the resilience of the Bay ecosystem is improving as much as we have been working toward.

About the author: Jim Edward is the Acting Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He plays a lead role in coordinating the U.S. EPA’s activities with other federal agencies and works with state and local authorities to improve the water quality and living resources of the Bay.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Voluntary, partnership approaches reduce nutrients in Colorado’s Cherry Creek Watershed

By Ayn Schmit

In late September the Cherry Creek Stewardship Partners and the Cherry Creek Basin Water Quality Authority hosted managers from EPA Region 8’s Office of Water Protection for a tour of local efforts to address phosphorus and other pollution and to better manage stormwater. The Stewardship Partners organization was formed 20 years ago in recognition that solving water pollution concerns was only possible if the many jurisdictions and organizations in the Cherry Creek watershed worked together and pooled their resources and brainpower.

The Cherry Creek watershed is home to many people in the southeast Denver Metro area, including parts of Denver, Aurora, Littleton and Parker. We started our morning at the iconic Cherry Creek State Park (the most visited state park in Colorado!) and learned about the accumulation of phosphorus in Cherry Creek Reservoir. Soils in the area are naturally high in phosphorus, and as a result, erosion along many of the creeks brings this additional phosphorus into the reservoir. Add urban wastewater and the runoff of lawn fertilizer, pet waste, and other sources of nutrients into the mix and you end up with a complex set of challenges for local water and wastewater officials to navigate. The Cherry Creek Basin Water Quality Authority is at the heart of these challenges as it works with many partners to meet phosphorus limits in the reservoir.

Our next visit was in Parker, where the recently completed Reuter-Hess Reservoir provides for a growing demand for drinking water. Parker and other communities are looking to integrate their management of wastewater, drinking water and stormwater to enable multiple cycles of reuse. One innovative example is working with developers to use natural drainages to filter nutrients and other stormwater pollutants running off driveways and streets, and allow it to percolate and move more slowly down the watershed. Imagine a new house with your own creek out your back door! And — in a win-win for developers and the environment — local stormwater managers figured out how to do this without losing any housing sites at a large development coming into the area.

Southeast Metro Stormwater rain garden, Centennial, Colorado

Southeast Metro Stormwater rain garden, Centennial, Colorado

Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority model rain garden, Centennial, Colo.
Next, we stopped in to visit a rain garden in the ‘front yard’ of the Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority. Planted with native grasses rippling in the breeze, it is a beautiful oasis and a testament to designing with nature.

Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park, Centennial, Colorado

Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park, Centennial, Colorado

Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park, Centennial, Colo.
The final stop was the ‘crown jewel’ of the tour — a 25-acre park featuring restored riparian areas along Cherry Creek in the middle of the town of Centennial. The Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park blends restored riparian areas and wetlands, where the slopes of the Creek were reshaped and replanted with native vegetation. A wooden boardwalk winds through wetland areas, and playful ‘rock’ drop structures maintain the Creek channel while providing a place for kids to splash and play in the water. Sure enough, while we were visiting, a large group of preschool children and their teachers and parents were taking full advantage of the sunny day to enjoy the water and hop across the rocks.

This project is an inspiring collaboration between Urban Drainage and Flood Control, Arapaho County, Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority, Parker Jordan Metropolitan Authority District and others. The park’s features reduce erosion of phosphorus-laden sediment that would end up in Cherry Creek Reservoir, while providing a fantastic nature-based educational amenity for local residents. The pride that the watershed partners take in this project was very evident and well deserved!

EPA appreciated the opportunity to learn about the great work the Cherry Creek Stewardship Partners and their member organizations are doing. Seeing locally led water quality protection in action reminds us why we do what we do!

About the author: Ayn Schmit is Senior Adviser in the Region 8 Office of Water Protection.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Borough Takes Street-Wise Actions

by Tom Damm

Making downtown more “safe, clean and green” is part of the strategic plan for Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

So, there was much to celebrate recently when Chambersburg business and government officials joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region and the Chesapeake Bay Trust to dedicate a project that fits all three criteria.

A key downtown street is no longer a bumpy threat to emergency vehicles, or an eyesore for battlefield reenactments and borough parades, or an open tap of stormwater pollution to the Falling Spring Branch of the Conococheague Creek, which empties into the Potomac River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

Instead, Chambersburg used a $115,000 EPA/Chesapeake Bay Trust Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) grant and $315,000 in matching funds to transform Rhodes Drive and its surrounding area into a model of rain-absorbing efficiency.

Appropriately, it rained just before the dedication ceremony, giving timely testament to the benefits of a bioretention area installed along the road to capture and treat stormwater runoff.

And as speakers extolled the project’s features, several ambulances with lights flashing traveled up the refurbished street, another reminder of the multiple advantages of the green street project.

The Rhodes Drive project involved installing the bioretention area and about 580 linear feet of pervious sidewalk; adding native plants and shrubs; replacing two drains to minimize stormwater volume; and including educational signage to help visitors appreciate the improvements to the community and the environment.

In all, the project is expected to treat an estimated 1.2 million gallons of rainwater each year.

Said Chambersburg Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill, “We want to demonstrate how public works projects can be effective and good for the environment.”

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Soaking in Another Victory

by Tom Damm

It’s a four-peat.

For the fourth consecutive year, the University of Maryland, College Park has won high honors in EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge, a national collegiate competition to design the best ideas for capturing stormwater on campus before it can harm waterways.

A UMD team took second place nationally in the Master Plan category for “The Champion Gateway” project.  The project blends green infrastructure features into a campus entryway and pedestrian corridor adjacent to a proposed light rail system.

Along with providing more aesthetic appeal, the 7.9-acre site design – with its 367 new trees, permeable pavement, bioswales, rain garden and soil improvements – generates some heady environmental benefits, like:

  • A 40 percent increase in tree canopy and a reduction in stormwater runoff of 44 percent.
  • An increase in permeable surface from 5 to 74 percent.
  • The removal of 273 pounds of air pollutants and the sequestering of 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide – each year.

Green infrastructure allows stormwater to soak in rather than run off hard surfaces with contaminants in tow, flooding local streets and polluting local waters.

Chalking up impressive design numbers and wowing the judges is nothing new for UMD teams in the Campus RainWorks Challenge.

The university won first place awards in 2015 and 2016 for designs to retrofit a five-acre parking lot and to capture and treat stormwater on a seven-acre site next to the campus chapel, and won a second place award last year for its “(Un)loading Nutrients” design to transform a campus loading dock and adjacent parking lot into a safer pedestrian walkway with 6,660 square feet of plantings and 18 percent less impervious surface.

Dr. Victoria Chanse, a faculty advisor to all four UMD winning teams, said the competition “serves as an ongoing catalyst to encourage universities to develop innovative, sustainable learning landscapes that draw upon collaborations among students and faculty from a diverse set of disciplines.”

Check out more information on how stormwater runoff impacts your community.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Hope in Kentucky Farm Country

Jeremy Hinton is an eighth-generation Kentucky farmer. He and his wife Joanna own Hinton’s Orchard and Farm Market in Hodgenville, Kentucky – the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. “Our family came to LaRue County the same year that the Lincolns did, but we just stayed a lot longer,” he joked.

Today, Hinton and his wife grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables which they sell at their two retail markets – one on the farm and one in nearby Elizabethtown. They are also actively involved in agritourism, hosting school tours and festivals as well as building their own corn maze. And, as if he doesn’t already have enough to do, Hinton sells crop insurance to farmers in the area. He knows firsthand how policies emanating from Washington impact farmers and other small businesses in Kentucky.

He believes that some of policies of the previous administration, if gone to fruition, “could have been very detrimental to our business and lots of others.” “There was a good bit of concern about the Waters of the U.S.,” he said. Other policies, like the previous administration’s changes to worker protection standards, “could have been very difficult to implement on a farm like ours.”

But the EPA’s regulatory reform efforts under Administrator Scott Pruitt have “increased optimism about the future,” stated Hinton. He also believes that there is a new, more friendly and cooperative attitude at EPA toward farmers – one that appreciates the environmental stewardship they practice day in and day out. As Administrator Pruitt likes to say, farmers are among our nation’s first environmentalists and conservationists.

“Our operation, like any farm, wants to do the best that we can to protect our natural resources,” Hinton said. “That’s our livelihood.” He and his wife raise their three children on the farm and hope that someday they will become the next generation of Kentucky farmers.

This week, EPA is recognizing and celebrating National Small Business Week. Small businesses, like the Hinton’s Orchard and Farm Market, are the heart of our nation’s economy. EPA is committed to advancing policies that protect the environment and provide small businesses with the regulatory clarity and certainty they need to thrive and support local communities around the nation.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

EJSCREEN: Coming to a Phone Near You

By Tai Lung

EPA’s environmental justice screening and mapping tool, EJSCREEN, consistently ranks as one of the most used tools on the agency’s website.

This week, EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) is announcing an enhancement that will make EJSCREEN even more useful. Based on requests and user

A captured launc screen image of the EJSCREEN on a mobile device

When visiting EJSCREEN on a mobile device, you will be given the option to launch the mobile optimized version.

feedback, OEJ is rolling out a mobile device enhanced version of EJSCREEN. This new mobile version contains the same key functions and features as the full version of EJSCREEN, but in a more compact, easily accessible format. This includes the ability to select locations, access reports, and to map environmental, demographic and EJ indicators.

Maps can tell powerful stories and make complex information easy to understand. As computer mapping technologies advanced, EPA recognized an opportunity to develop a

An EJSCREEN image of a more user-friendly platform

The EJSCREEN site is now available in a more user-friendly platform for your mobile device!

screening and mapping tool that advanced our environmental justice goals. This is how EJSCREEN came to be: as a tool for EPA staff to look at environmental and demographic factors related to environmental justice as we develop programs and policies that impact low-income, minority, and other overburdened communities.

In 2017, OEJ conducted a survey on EJSCREEN, which found that more than 62% of respondents believe EJSCREEN could be improved by optimizing it for use on mobile devices. That same survey found that community users only made up 19% of EJSCREEN total users. This finding raised questions as to whether there was a correlation between the low numbers of community users and the lack of a mobile version.

EJSCREEN was originally built for use on standard desktop and laptop computers.

This image displays some of the new features that EJSCREEN offers.

With the mobile version, you can still download reports and view the various demographic and environmental indicators.

However, this format is not always accessible to many stakeholders working in environmental justice communities. As a result, the EJSCREEN platform may not be useable to some of the same communities it was designed to help.

Research has found that low-income households have lower rates of in-home internet connectivity. These households are more likely to depend exclusively on smartphones or other handheld devices to access the internet. This “digital divide” presents an opportunity for the EPA to bridge the technological gap as it relates to the use of EJSCREEN.

As a result, EPA made building a mobile version of this important tool a priority. Because of the smaller screen size of mobile devices, the mobile optimized version of EJSCREEN does not have all the functionality of the full tool. However, it does contain the key features of EJSCREEN, and users that want the full features/content have the option to switch to the full desktop version even on mobile devices.

As EPA continues to develop EJSCREEN, we are committed to making the tool more useful and accessible for everyone, and this mobile version is a big step in that direction. OEJ hopes that you will test the mobile version of EJSCREEN to see how it can serve your needs.You can also subscribe to the Environmental Justice ListServ to receive updates on our upcoming EJSCREEN activities and events.

An image depicting computer and internet use in 2013

Computer and Internet use in the United States in 2013

An image depicting devices ownership by people in th US

We look forward to hearing from you – and in the meantime, we hope you enjoy the new mobile version of EJSCREEN!

About the Author: Tai Lung is the EJSCREEN Team Lead in EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice.

Continue reading

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Achieving Tangible Results for Vulnerable Communities

Charles Lee, Senior Policy Advisor
Office of Environmental Justice, US EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Environmental Justice FY2017 Progress Report today. It is noteworthy that 2017 marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. The accomplishments highlighted in the report affirm through action how, after a quarter century of progress, environmental justice (EJ) is deeply ingrained in EPA’s fabric.

An overarching focus of the report is demonstrating tangible results in minority, low-income, tribal and indigenous communities. Here are four results that illustrate progress from the past year:

  1. As EPA’s environmental justice program matured over the past two decades, it grappled with the difficult task of demonstrating environmental outcomes in vulnerable communities. EPA developed measures for several significant national EJ challenges, one of which was fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5). In FY2017, EPA documented that the percentage of low-income people living in areas meeting the PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards increased from 43% during the baseline period of 2006-2008 to 92% in (2014-2016).
  2. EPA similarly provided national results for enforcement actions and the environment benefits of such actions in areas with potential EJ concerns. For example, 35% of the 217 million pounds of pollutants estimated to be reduced, treated or eliminated from enforcement actions in FY2017 were in such areas. EPA is able to provide these results because the Agency systematically reviews all enforcement actions for EJ considerations. The report also highlights the importance of the EJSCREEN mapping and screening tool, which provides the starting point for these assessments.
  3. EPA and its federal, state, tribal and local government partners continue to collaborate to benefit communities. The Omaha Lead Superfund cleanup, affecting over 175,000 persons in a 27 square-mile area, reduced the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels from 25% in 1999 to 0.3% in 2017. Other examples of beneficial collaborations are the improved air quality around ports, rail yards and freight distribution centers from $23.8 million in Diesel Emissions Reduction Act funding and the number of community drinking water systems returned to compliance with lead and arsenic standards in the Pacific Southwest.
  4. The report highlights the many ways EPA supports communities as they travel their own journeys to community health and revitalization. For example, with an EJ grant, “Project Oka” helped the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma maintain clean sources of water. An Urban Waters partnership assisted residents of the Martin Pena Channel, one of the poorest and most environmentally overburdened neighborhoods in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in creating an urban farm.

These results are but a few of the many accomplishments highlighted in this year’s progress report. Many of the examples required decades of effort, and are a testament to the long-standing commitment, innovation and hard work of the EPA staff who do this work on a day-to-day basis. They provide lessons for how we can all work together more effectively to address disproportionate environmental impacts, health disparities, and economic distress in our nation’s most vulnerable communities so they are cleaner, healthier and more prosperous places to live, work, play and learn.

Read a full copy of EPA’s FY2017 Environmental Justice Progress Report, as well as previous reports.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Small Funds Leading to Big Impacts

By Alyssa Edwards

Small funds don’t always mean small impacts. As the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grant program has shown us, oftentimes, very small funds, when put in the hands of community-based organizations (CBOs), can achieve big results. Since the program’s inception in 1994, more than 1,400 CBOs have done just that. And we are proud to announce the selection of 36 more organizations that will be joining that cohort as recipients of the 2017 Environmental Justice Small Grant funds.

One example of how small funds can make a difference is seen in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. In 2015, the tribe was awarded an EJ Small Grant in support of Project Oka (the Choctaw word for water). The goal was to protect and conserve local waters by helping residents reduce litter. The project has exceeded expectations. To date, the Choctaw Nation has collected and recycled more than 12,000 pounds of electronics and more than 1,800 tires. In addition, more than 400 students have been involved in educational and recycling activities. The tribe also created a disaster recovery plan to address disaster preparedness and adaptation strategies as a part of the project.

We know this year’s EJ Small Grants projects will add to the impressive list of community-driven solutions funded by EPA. A significant number will work to ensure clean and safe water, a strategic priority for EPA, as well as address public health concerns from contaminated land. Others will address lead exposure to create safer environments for children, environmental stewardship and conservation in under-resourced rural communities, and job training programs through green infrastructure projects.

Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership in Warren, Ohio will be working to reduce residents’ exposure to potential soil contamination from former industrial activities. Fideicomiso de la Tierra del Caño Martín Peña will work with the community of Buena Vista, Puerto Rico to manage rainfall runoff and reduce the threat of flooding – support even more necessary and timely as the island enters its long recovery from Hurricane Maria.

To expand the geographical reach of the program, during this past funding cycle, we placed a special emphasis on supporting projects in states where we did not have a significant funding history. We are excited that with this latest selection of EJ Small Grants, we will support efforts ranging from Dellslow, West Virginia to Waimea, Hawaii and many communities in between.

For a third of the EJSG recipients, this will be their first time receiving a federal grant. We are honored to support these communities as we know that an EJ Small Grant can be that much needed spark that allows organizations to access additional funding from government and the private sector as they pursue broader community goals.

Read project descriptions on the recently funded awards, as well as to learn more about EJ Small Grant projects from previous years.

In anticipation of the release of the Request for Proposals for OEJ’s Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) Cooperative Agreement program, hear directly from two CPS grantees about their best practices and success with the program!

From Small Funds to Big Dollars: Best Practices for Leveraging Federal Funds

  • Date: 11/15/2017
  • Time: 2:00pm – 3:00 pm Eastern

Register Here

And be sure to subscribe to the EJ ListServ to receive up-to-date information about funding opportunities from across the federal government, including our soon-to-be-released grants competition for 2018, upcoming workshops, and related environmental justice topics.

About the Author: Alyssa Edwards is a Program Analyst in the Office of Environmental Justice.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

25 Years of Environmental Justice at the EPA

by Danny Gogal

For a quarter of a century, the EPA has worked to address the environmental and public health concerns of minority, low-income and indigenous communities.  I have been blessed to be a part of this effort since its first steps. The Agency’s decision to establish the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), initially called the Office of Environmental

EPA Administrator Bill Reilly speaking to students on MLK Jr Day about EJ

EPA Administrator Bill Reilly speaking to students on MLK Jr Day about EJ

Equity, stemmed from the recommendations of the EPA Environmental Equity Work Group, which was formed by Administrator Bill Reilly in 1990 to “review the evidence that racial minority and low-income communities bear a disproportionate risk burden.”

As stated in the 1992 recommendations to Administrator Reilly, “any effort to address environmental equity [justice] issues effectively must include all segments of society: the affected communities, the public at large, industry, people in policy-making positions, and all levels and branches of government.”  This understanding continues to this day. As described in the Agency’s recently released draft FY 2018-2022 EPA Strategic Plan, the Agency is committed to “collaborate more efficiently and effectively with other federal agencies, states, sovereign tribal nations, local governments, communities, and other partners and stakeholders to address existing pollution and prevent future problems.”

Throughout these past twenty-five years, I have participated in almost every aspect of the Agency’s environmental justice program.  In the earliest days, we sought to create

OEJ staff in the early 1990s

OEJ staff in the early 1990s

an EPA definition of environmental justice; to establish the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (1993), a federal advisory committee comprised of various stakeholders to give us independent advice and recommendations for providing for environmental justice; to develop financial assistance programs for vulnerable communities, such as EJ Small Grants (1993); and to initiate federal interagency coordination and collaboration on environmental justice through the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice, as called for under Executive Order 12898 (1994).

In subsequent years, we have developed environmental justice strategies and priorities that consistently built upon our EJ progress and achievements.  Most recently, we developed EJSCREEN, the Agency’s nationally consistent screening and mapping tool for determining areas of potential environmental justice concern.  We clarified the Agency’s principles for addressing environmental justice of tribes, indigenous peoples and others living Indian country through the EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples.  We also finalized two separate documents focused on the Action Development Process and Technical Guidance of considering environmental justice during the development of regulations.

In collaboration with our co-regulators (states and tribes), vulnerable communities, and other interested stakeholders, the Agency has made considerable progress developing the infrastructure, creating the tools and identifying the opportunities for the Agency to provide environmental and public health protection for all Americans.  At the dawning of

Charles Lee, then OEJ Associate Director, at EJ Roundtable with the tribes in Alaska

Charles Lee, then OEJ Associate Director, at EJ Roundtable with the tribes in Alaska

the next 25 years of the EPA’s Environmental Justice Program, it is my hope that future generations will be able to look back at this point in time and be able to note the substantive and meaningful steps EPA took to improve the environment and public health of our country’s most vulnerable communities.  More importantly, I hope that they will also note how the efforts of so many inside and outside of EPA during these past 25 years resulted in meaningful progress and improvements in the lives, health, environments and economies of overburdened communities throughout the United States.

About the Author: Danny Gogal is the Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Program Manager for the Office of Environmental Justice, and leads the Agency’s work on international human rights.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Success Stories: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

By: Barry N. Breen, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management.

We are proud of the environmental and economic accomplishments made by local communities who use EPA resources provided through our Brownfields program to clean up and reuse brownfield sites. These communities demonstrate that a commitment to protecting public health, repurposing land, and strengthening local economies can be accomplished together.

Through our Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, we help communities tackle environmental challenges to spur their local economic growth. Recipients of RLF grants capitalize a revolving loan fund to provide low-interest loans and sub-grants to clean up brownfield sites. When loans are repaid, the repayment is returned into the fund and subsequently lent to other borrowers, providing an ongoing source of capital. These and other EPA brownfields grants leverage additional resources needed to clean up and redevelop brownfields.

So many projects, past and present, demonstrate that environmental improvement works hand-in-hand with economic development. One outstanding example can be found in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Several beige one story warehouses near a highway

Former Stewart Metal Site

The “Steelyard” redevelopment is situated on a historic Oklahoma City oil field on the east side of Bricktown. The 5-acre site was contaminated by a former metal manufacturing facility and past drilling and storage activities. Countless underground structures were found during cleanup including underground storage tanks, historic oil wells, and piping. The City of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Corporation Commission and EPA all partnered to assist this complicated redevelopment. The City of Oklahoma City’s Brownfield RLF program loaned $1,300,000 to the project for environmental remediation and the remainder of the cleanup was paid for with private equity. It will be home to a mixed-use complex with retail shops on the first floor and housing above. It will offer 30 affordable housing units out of a total of 250 units in downtown Oklahoma City and will start leasing in summer of 2017.

Computer drawing of two multistory full block buildings, colored red and gray with interior courtyards.

Steelyard Apartment Rendering

West of this property, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority (OCURA) owned a 1.38 acre site that had the same environmental problem and underwent a cleanup simultaneously with the Steelyard apartments. The City of Oklahoma City provided a $200,000 sub-grant to clean up the site. OCURA was then able to do an RFP for site redevelopment. The site is currently being redeveloped into two new hotels, the AC Hotel and a Hyatt place that will create new jobs and open in 2017.

Computerized drawing of a five story building with a large metal awning.

Hyatt Place Rendering

East of this property, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority (OCURA) owns a 1.83 acre development. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality awarded a $350,000 sub-grant and waived oversight costs for the cleanup of the project. Once the Steelyard apartments are complete, this property will be available for expansion of the apartment complex.

Computerized drawing of a five story building in gray and brown with a drive-in entrance.Projects like these demonstrate the value of our Brownfields program in communities across the country. Since the beginning of our Brownfields program in 1995, cumulative brownfield program investments across the country have leveraged more than $24 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities and more than 124,759 jobs. On average, for every one EPA Brownfields dollar provided, $16.11 is leveraged, and on average, 8.5 jobs are leveraged per $100,000 of EPA brownfields funds expended on assessment, cleanup, and revolving loan fund cooperative agreements.

A study has shown that when brownfields are addressed, nearby property values within a 1.24-mile radius can increase 5-15.2 percent. Another study analyzing data near 48 brownfields found that an estimated $29 to $97 million in additional tax revenue is generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup. This is 2 to 7 times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of those brownfields.

We are proud of local communities’ accomplishments achieved by using our Brownfields program resources. We plan to continue to work with communities to help them clean up and reuse their brownfield sites; to protect public health, revitalize land and strengthen the economy.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.