Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act: Three Years of Safer Chemicals

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Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
By Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

Today we are proud to mark the third anniversary of the Lautenberg amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the first major update to an environmental statute in 20 years. EPA is implementing the law in a way that ensures the safety of chemicals in the marketplace and protects human health and the environment. The Important TSCA milestones outlined below were achieved through the hard work and dedication of EPA staff.

We’ve taken important steps to evaluate chemicals that are already in commerce:

  • In November 2018, we issued the first draft risk evaluation for Pigment Violet 29 (PV29) under the new law. We will release draft risk evaluations for the remaining chemicals currently under review in the coming months.
  • Earlier this year we banned sales to consumers of methylene chloride in paint removers and strengthened the regulation of asbestos to close a dangerous loophole and protect consumers.
  • We just finished collecting public comments on the next substances we’re considering for risk evaluation – both high-priority chemicals to review promptly and low-priority chemicals.

We’re pushing for increased transparency:

  • For the first time in 40 years, we identified a comprehensive list of chemicals that are actively being manufactured, processed and imported. The result of tremendous effort by stakeholders and manufacturers, this information will help us focus EPA’s risk evaluation efforts on chemicals that are still on the market.
  • After we released the draft PV29 risk evaluation, we worked with manufacturers to increase public accessibility to underlying studies and to refine our application of our systematic review framework. This framework is the way we select and review studies.
  • We are holding the first public meeting of EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) this week. The committee will review the PV29 draft risk evaluation and EPA will use its scientific advice as well as public comments to inform the final risk evaluation.
  • EPA is moving toward more real-time publication of information received regarding new chemical notices.

Finally, we’re striving to be good public stewards:

  • The TSCA fees rule allows EPA to collect fees from certain chemical manufacturers and importers for specific activities. We estimate that we will reduce taxpayer burden by an annual average of $20 million.

We’re looking forward to the years ahead of better chemical management and protection of our health and environment. We have accomplished much in the three years since Lautenberg, and we’re just getting started.

About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to that she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.

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.

Honoring Contributions of Our Small Businesses

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Denise Benjamin Sirmons, Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
By Denise Benjamin Sirmons
Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

There are 30 million small businesses in America employing nearly 59 million workers. These numbers keep growing as America’s economy is booming. From reduced taxes to providing regulatory certainty, American small businesses are thriving in the most business-friendly environment in decades. America’s economy is expanding along with small business opportunities in part because EPA is leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs by ensuring regulations are clear and consistent for businesses large and small. During the Trump Administration, EPA has committed to become an even stronger ally of small business.

As part of National Small Business Week, EPA is honoring the contributions of small businesses in creating jobs, driving innovation and strengthening the national economy while also protecting the environment. We will do this by continuing our commitment to advancing the President’s policies that ensure we have a thriving economy and healthy environment.

EPA will also present the Administrator’s Small Business Program awards to several EPA small business contractors on May 9, 2019. One small business that will receive an award for Outstanding Accomplishments by a Small Business Contractor is Green Technologies, LLC.. Green Technologies is a Florida-based company that is active in community environmental initiatives through its support of the St. Johns River Keepers and the Sierra Club. It sponsors educational outreach programs for public school science fairs and donates products for school beautification projects. Green Technologies contributes to local Earth Day Celebrations and sponsors charitable events for a range of not-for-profit organizations. EPA will also present an award to Environmental Compliance Office, Incorporated (ECO) for Outstanding Accomplishments by a Woman-Owned Small Business Contractor.

In addition to these small business awards, EPA will recognize the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, Eastern Research Group, Inc. (ERG), for its outstanding contributions as a large EPA prime contractor. Thirty years ago, EPA named ERG as its Small Business Contractor of the Year. This week’s award to ERG as a large prime contractor, acknowledges ERG’s outstanding support to EPA’s small business subcontracting program. Over the past 35 years, ERG has served all of EPA’s major offices through more than 200 prime contracts. Based on its experience as a small business itself, ERG works efficiently and effectively with its small business partners—promptly paying subcontractors, establishing clear communication channels, and helping them understand EPA’s contracting requirements. ERG has built long-lasting relationships with small business suppliers across many different types of projects. In 2018, more than 80 of ERG’s subcontract awards under seven contracts went to small businesses. Under another EPA contract, nearly 90 percent of subcontracting dollars went to small businesses; more than 20 percent to small disadvantaged businesses, and more than 17 percent went to service-disabled veteran owned small businesses.

About the author: Denise Benjamin Sirmons serves as the Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, responsible for leading the EPA’s efforts to advance the business, regulatory and environmental compliance concerns of small and disadvantaged businesses. Read more.

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.

Big Data Offers Big Insights into Links Between Environment, Heart Health

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Cavin Ward-Caviness, EPA Computational Biologist
By Dr. Cavin Ward-Caviness
Principal Investigator (Computational Biologist); U.S. EPA, ORD, NHEERL, EPHD, CRB

Air Quality Awareness Week, April 29-May 3, is a perfect time to think about how far we have come in understanding how air pollution affects the cardiovascular system. As a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist studying heart disease, I am very excited about current and future research in this area. Though the burden of heart disease on our society remains high (see the American Heart Association 2018 Statistics on Heart Disease and Stroke), we have only to look at the promising lines of current, cutting-edge research to find reasons to be optimistic about the progress we are making in our understanding and treatment of heart disease.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my optimism is that we are increasingly aware of heart disease risk factors and are working to lower those risks. Importantly, we are beginning to fully appreciate the role that a healthy environment plays in maintaining a healthy heart.

The primary way air pollution impacts heart health is through cardiovascular complications. The EPA is a world leader in research designed to improve our understanding of the potential risk that air pollution poses to people with heart disease. I am optimistic that such research will lead to improved communication about environmental health and potentially even preventative treatment solutions.

One of the many cutting-edge research areas at the EPA is the use of electronic health records for environmental studies. This research relies entirely on the anonymous participation of patients who decide to advance science by allowing their medical records to be used for research. While many may think that their participation could lead to a new drug being developed, it also informs the role that the environment plays in heart health, which is just as important for saving and improving lives.

transparent graphic of human heart over heartbeat monitorMy lab has recently established the EPA Clinical and Archived records Research for Environmental Studies (CARES) resource to improve the EPA’s efforts to work with healthcare providers to enable air pollution research using electronic health records. With ongoing projects into environmental risks for heart attack survivors and those with heart failure, we are beginning to answer important questions about environmental health and the causes of complications, hospitalizations, and even death for patient communities that many of us, or our loved ones, belong to.

As we all use Air Quality Awareness Week to reflect on how we can improve heart health, let us focus our attention on how each of us can lead better, more heart healthy lives and our opportunities to contribute to life saving research. I am proud to be a part of the fight against heart and blood vessel disease. I am also truly optimistic about the heart health of our Nation as we better understand what makes a “heart healthy environment” and as we translate our understanding into actions and solutions for all Americans.

About the author: EPA computational biologist Cavin Ward-Caviness helps determine which populations are most susceptible to air pollution. His research focuses on understanding the impact of environmental or neighborhood factors, such as living in a neighborhood with lower socioeconomic factors, on health, and the biological pathways that link exposures and health.

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.

EPA Scientists Support Air Quality Awareness

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EPA Lab Director Dr. Wayne Cascio
By Wayne E. Cascio
MD, FACC, Director, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

April 29 – May 3 is Air Quality Awareness Week, and the research staff at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development are raising awareness about the relationship between air pollution and heart and blood vessel disease. As a public health organization, we at the EPA continue to study the effects of environmental quality on heart and blood vessel health.

The most recent statistics on heart disease and stroke in the U.S. were published by the American Heart Association (AHA) on January 31, 2019. The statistics remind us once again that while tremendous progress has been made in reducing the impact of heart disease and stroke over the past five decades, it is still the leading cause of death in the United States. The AHA estimates that in 2018 over 90 million American adults (about 22% of the adult US population) had suffered a stroke or were living with a condition affecting the heart. And it’s concerning that obesity among American adults is increasing and diabetes, another risk factor for heart disease, affected almost 1 in 10 American adults as of 2018.

So, while the prevention of heart disease is straightforward – don’t smoke, be active and get plenty of exercise, control blood pressure and cholesterol, make a heart healthy diet a habit, avoid obesity and treat diabetes – only 2% of American adults meet all of these ideal behaviors.

3D rendered illustration of the human heartOver the last year, research conducted by EPA scientists contributed important new knowledge about the relationship between air pollution and heart and blood vessel disease. We learned in a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in April 2018, that wildfire smoke can trigger heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms in people predisposed to heart conditions. Ozone and air particle pollution may affect the electrical properties of the heart and this might explain the association between air pollution and abnormal heart rhythms, as found in another study published in October 2018 in Particle and Fibre Toxicology. In other research, EPA discovered that air pollution can increase some types of cholesterol in a way that suggests a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Importantly, we found that improved air quality and meeting the EPA’s outdoor air quality standards has decreased the risk of air pollution- related premature death in the U.S.

Air Quality Awareness Week is an opportunity to bring attention to the research showing potential links between air pollution and health and recall the many members of our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who have been or are affected by heart disease and stroke. As scientists in the Office of Research and Development at EPA, we are proud of our contribution to the prevention of heart disease and stroke as we provide the scientific foundation for decisions made by states and communities to protect the environment, public health and heart health.

Learn more about EPA’s Healthy Heart research

About the author: EPA Lab Director Dr. Wayne Cascio spent more than 25 years as a cardiologist helping people take care of their hearts. Now he is bringing a broader view of public health to EPA by leading research on the links between exposures to air pollution and maintaining a healthy heart.

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.

EPA Seeks Additional Comment on PV29 Draft Risk Evaluation

Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

By Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator, EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

I believe strongly that we must provide for the fullest possible public participation in all of our decision making. In addition, when new information comes to light or is made public, we want to ensure that the public has the opportunity to review and provide input to the agency before a final decision is made.

Last November, we issued a draft risk evaluation for Pigment Violet (PV29) under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) for public comment. At that time, 24 studies that informed our draft decision were deemed Confidential Businesses Information (CBI) by the companies that provided them.

Last month, that changed. The companies revised most of their confidentiality claims which allowed us to post 24 studies on our website.

While we provided a summary of the documents at the time, the public did not have the opportunity to review this information before submitting their comments on the draft risk evaluation. We’re also releasing updated systematic review documents for PV29—a tool that guides our review and selection of scientific studies used to evaluate chemicals. We made these updates based on public input we received during the initial comment period.

We are committed to being transparent about chemical information as we work to develop risk evaluations under TSCA. In light of the new and updated information we’ve recently released, we will be reopening the public comment on the draft risk evaluation for PV29. It is important that the public have the opportunity to provide input on all of the information EPA is considering before our risk evaluation is finalized, so we invite you to provide us with your feedback. The public comment period will reopen for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register.

For more information see: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/risk-evaluation-pigment-violet-29-anthra219-def6510 and https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-risk-evaluation-pigment-violet-29.

About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to this, she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.

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.

Partnering in Kentucky – Environmental Success through Cooperative Federalism

Mary S. Walker, Acting Region 4 EPA Administrator

By Mary S. Walker
Acting Region 4 EPA Administrator

As Administrator Wheeler visits Kentucky this week, I am proud to note the progress the Bluegrass State is making when it comes to environmental protection. The collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the Commonwealth of Kentucky is an excellent example of positive environmental outcomes achievable through a cooperative federalism approach.

Here are some examples of Kentucky’s progress on air quality, taken from the Kentucky Division for Air Quality’s recently released 2018 annual report:

  • Over the last 20 years, statewide averages of sulfur dioxide levels have fallen by more than 90%.
  • Between 2000 and 2017, annual fine particulate matter concentrations dropped by more than 50%.
  • As of 2018, ambient air monitoring data demonstrate that all of Kentucky is meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.

Given the advances Kentucky has made in protecting the environment, EPA has undertaken a series of actions to give Kentucky greater control in environmental regulation. Here are just a few examples:

  • On March 29, EPA approved Kentucky’s revisions to the Kentucky Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (SIP), replacing the “one-size-fits-all” federal implementation plan (FIP) imposed by EPA in 2012. EPA took this action quickly – 14 months ahead of our statutory requirement – because of the importance to the commonwealth.
  • In 2018, EPA approved Kentucky’s SIP related to ozone interstate transport, avoiding the need for a federal plan.
  • Last summer, EPA approved Kentucky’s request to opt out of the federal reformulated gasoline program for the northern part of the state, easing fuel-cost concerns while maintaining air quality standards in the area.

All of these actions stem from our recognition that when states are allowed to take the lead on environmental protection, they can create state-specific solutions that maximize efficiency, reduce costs for their citizens, and ensure continued progress in environmental protection.

The Obama Administration imposed more than 50 FIPs on states. EPA has worked to convert many of these into SIPs, averaging almost one FIP-to-SIP per month since March 2017. This includes action on regional haze FIPs for more than a dozen states, including Kentucky.

EPA heard and responded to the concerns of Governor Bevin and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet in developing the proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which addresses the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The ACE rule would replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court and has never gone into effect. The ACE proposal is more consistent with the Clean Air Act as well as the administration’s commitment to affordable, reliable energy.

We are successfully rebalancing the power between Washington and the states as we promote state leadership in environmental protection, resulting in tangible environmental results for the American people. The citizens of Kentucky can breathe easier, as air quality improves and regulatory burdens decline.

About the author: Mary Walker is the the Acting Administrator for EPA’s Southeast Region (Region 4). In this capacity, she leads EPA’s efforts to protect human health and the environment in the eight southeastern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee, as well as six federally-recognized tribes. Read more.

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.

Using the Smoke Sense App During the Camp Fire in California

By Wayne E. Cascio, MD, FACC

On Nov. 8, 2018, at 6:33 am the Camp Fire erupted with a fury in Butte County near the town of Paradise. This rolling inferno turned a small, quiet community to ashes, leaving little more than memories behind. Even those of us who were not present have a new understanding of the destruction of wildfires — stories from survivors and images of the scorched cars that carried people to safety through the flames have been shared all around the world. And we are all thankful for the heroism of the firefighters and fire managers who put it all on the line to save lives.

The images from NASA’s satellites tell another story, of massive amounts of particle and gas emissions rising into the atmosphere, eventually impacting San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and many other cities and towns with wildfire smoke. Coincidentally, I was in Sacramento to give a presentation on EPA’s wildfire research at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), along with many of my EPA colleagues, when I learned of the tragedy of Paradise. I discovered firsthand how smoke originating from a wildfire, even one almost one hundred miles away, can affect the lives of those near and far from the fire.

In only a few days, millions of Californians were under a blanket of smoke that affected visibility and, for some, their health, and EPA’s public health information, including the Smoke Sense app, was there to help. In the first two days of the fire, air quality in Sacramento was mildly impacted, causing a haziness and an acrid smell of smoke. During casual conversations with people on the street, a comment about the smoke would invariably be made and I would demonstrate the Smoke Sense app on my mobile phone. Just about everyone who saw Smoke Sense wanted to download it.

SmokeSense IconThe Smoke Sense app was developed as a citizen science project by one of our scientists, Ana Rappold, and her team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Nearly 20,000 people are now using the app to learn about air quality. I’ve been a strong advocate of Smoke Sense and I’ve demonstrated the app just about everywhere – on the street, in hotel lobbies, in a jet taxiing to the gate, and even in an elevator. Yet, I’d never had an occasion to use the app to convey real-time, important information.

In Sacramento and San Francisco, Smoke Sense provided useful information about local air quality, actions I should take to limit my exposure, and where the smoke was located as well as what was anticipated for the next day. Many people were curious about the app and were amazed that it provided so much useful information.

While I was in San Francisco, air quality deteriorated further, and I estimate only about one of 15 people who were outdoors were making some effort to reduce exposure to smoke. People were using bandannas, paper painter’s masks, and surgical masks, but those do not offer much protection. However, I did see some N-95 respirators in use, which EPA recommends during smoke events when being outdoors is unavoidable.

Individual and non-profit organizations were stepping up to provide N-95 respirators to those in need throughout the area. In fact, I witnessed one group on Market Street distributing N-95 masks to all who would take them. Some people wore them correctly, but for others, the masks fit poorly or weren’t doing much good hanging around their necks. One older man who was walking slowly assisted by his cane and wearing a blue paper painter’s mask eagerly downloaded the Smoke Sense app and immediately began to explore the map showing where smoke was present. We later learned he is 84 years old and has heart disease. Two days later we saw him with an N-95 respirator making his rounds in the neighborhood. If he needed to be outdoors the use of the proper mask should offer some protection. Success!

Not all of those I spoke to were open to the idea of protecting themselves from the smoke. While on a trolley, a man riding with us across town asked why we were wearing masks. He acknowledged that smoke might be a problem for someone with asthma, but otherwise was not concerned. It showed me the great need to educate people about the potential health impacts of smoke from wildfires.

As the origins and consequences of the Camp Fire are investigated and studied, I trust that lessons learned can be used to prevent future wildfires and the tragic loss of life and property. In the meantime, Smoke Sense is doing its small part to help.

About the author: Wayne Cascio is the director of the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, U.S. EPA.

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.