Progress in Communities: It All Starts with Science

This week is the 43rd Anniversary of the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, and we are marking the occasion by revisiting how our collective efforts on behalf of the American people help local communities become cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable. As the Assistant Administrator for the Agency’s Office of Research and Development, I can’t help but see a strong undercurrent of science and engineering in every success story.

Over the past four plus decades, EPA scientists and engineers, along with their partners from across the federal government, states, tribes, academia, and private business, have supplied the data, built the computer models and tools, and provided the studies that have helped communities take action to advance public health and protect local environments.

In every area of environmental and human health action, EPA researchers have helped local communities make progress. While examples abound, here are just a few:

  • Clean Air – Thanks in part to research in the form of our Integrated Science Assessments, emissions of six major categories of air pollution have dropped some 59% between 1990 and 2010. And while that improvement is good news for the nation as a whole, it is communities that previously suffered the worst air pollution that have benefited most directly. Because of that work, residents of thriving neighborhoods such as those in Pittsburgh and other cities don’t have to choose between an urban lifestyle and access to clean air.
  • Safe and Sustainable Water – Our recently-released stormwater calculator is helping developers design projects that minimize stormwater runoff and nutrient pollution, helping to protect not just the streams and rivers in your immediate neighborhood, but your favorite fishing spot or swimming hole further downstream, too.
  • Safe and Sustainable Communities – EPA-supported children’s health research has provided parents, health care professionals, and daycare providers with key findings that are protecting the health of children in rural communities from pesticide exposure, and advancing actions in urban communities to reduce exposures to allergens that trigger asthma attacks.
  • Human Health – Our Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) has informed many Agency decisions and other actions now making a real impact in local communities. For example, IRIS assessments have supported standards leading to cleaner drinking water for communities, and have been used extensively to inform clean up operations at contaminated Superfund sites in communities across the country.
  • Chemical Safety for Sustainability – Advancing research to reduce risks and better protect communities from chemical exposures has been a top priority for EPA since its establishment. A recent example is work identifying tilling practices to stem the flow of endocrine disrupting compounds reaching Chesapeake Bay and surrounding communities.
  • Homeland Security – Agency researchers are working with local communities across the nation to help emergency personnel, decision makers, and community leaders become better prepared for responding to wide-scale emergencies. What they are learning is helping communities not only make progress to become more secure, but also more resilient in the face of large storms and other potential challenges brought on by a changing climate.

These are just a few of the many, many examples of how the work of EPA scientists and engineers are supporting progress in our communities. As our Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote this week: “To overcome environmental challenges, we must confront them at their local roots. That’s why at EPA, our work has always come back to local communities.” That work starts with science, and I’m looking forward to the next four decades and beyond of helping make that happen.

Lek Kadeli is the Acting Assistant Administrator in the U.S. EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He has over 29 years of management experience in both government and the private sector, with broad experience in leading organizational change and improvement, policy development, resource management, information management and technology. Mr. Kadeli graduated from George Mason University in 1983 with a B.A. in International Relations. In 1986, he earned an M.A. in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.

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