Monthly Archives: March 2011

Environmental Compliance and Enforcement in Underserved Neighborhoods

By Cynthia Giles

Far too often in this country we see minority, low-income and indigenous communities overburdened by exposure to environmental pollution. They can see, feel, and smell the air, water and chemical pollution in their neighborhoods every day. Those environmental challenges impact public health and can limit the economic possibilities of struggling communities. Addressing these issues is a top priority for EPA and environmental enforcement, the focus of my office, is one key way we are taking action to reduce pollution in communities most in need of the work we do.

Ensuring compliance with our nation’s environmental laws and taking enforcement actions against companies or individuals when they do not follow those laws is important for three reasons:1) it levels the playing field for companies and individuals that comply with the law; 2) it ensures that public health in communities does not suffer because some facilities or individuals choose not play by the rules; and 3) it offers an opportunity, through legal requirements, to install pollution controls, clean-up contaminated sites, or conduct projects to address local health and environmental issues.

For example, last December, my office reached a settlement with NEORSD, a stormwater and wastewater treatment facility serving the Cleveland area. In the settlement, NEORSD agreed to install sewer overflow pollution controls which the sewer district estimates will lead to more than 30,000 jobs in the Cleveland area and return $2.63 for every $1.00 invested. The settlement also allows the sewer district to use of green infrastructure projects to capture water. They will engage the community to decide which neighborhoods and vacant lots to revitalize and which types of projects to use, for example: rain gardens, urban croplands and permeable pavement.

Settlements like these provide real benefits to affected communities and can help turn an environmental violator into an environmental leader. As a lawyer, an advocate for justice, and a mother, I work every day to protect our children and our families from exposure to harmful pollution. Along with many other women in the federal government, including EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Lisa Garcia  — EPA’s lead advocate for environmental justice — and Ignacia Moreno — my counterpart at the Department of Justice, we are taking concrete steps to ensure that every American has the foundations they need for success: air that is healthy to breathe, water that is clean to drink, and land free of toxic chemicals.

About the Author: Cynthia Giles is Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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.

Protecting Drinking Water with SSAs

Check out the SSAs in the Mid Atlantic Region!By Trey Cody

Did you know that 90% of people who live in the Mid-Atlantic Region drink water that comes from public systems regulated by EPA and the States?  Besides regulating, how else is EPA protecting your drinking water?  One way is with the Sole Source Aquifer program.  What exactly is this program?  The Sole Source Aquifer program helps to protect ground water that serves as the primary drinking water source for a community.  This can be done when the ground water supplies at least 50% of the drinking water consumed in the area overlying the aquifer with no alternative sources that could feasibly supply all who depend on it.  Once a Sole Source Aquifer is designated, projects receiving federal funding in these areas are subject to EPA review to ensure that they are deisgned with minimal threat to the ground water.  EPA regional offices review comprehensive applications which provide extensive data about the aquifer to designate such sources as a Sole Source Aquifer.

Currently there are six designated Sole Source Aquifers in the Mid-Atlantic Region. They are:

Just because a drinking source in your community has not been designated as a Sole Source Aquifer does not mean that it shouldn’t be.  In many cases, valuable and sensitive aquifers have not been designated simply because nobody has petitioned EPA for such status.

Interested in applying to designate a Sole Source Aquifer in your community?  View EPA’s Sole Source Aquifer designation petitioner guidance.  What are your thoughts on such a program?  This is only one way EPA is continuing to maintain safe drinking water.  Check out EPA’s web site to learn about more about ways EPA is protecting drinking water here in the Mid-Atlantic.

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.

Bilingual labeling

By Lina Younes

When I first joined the Agency in 2002, I was responsible for doing outreach to Spanish-language media and Hispanic organizations. As part of my job, I worked closely with EPA offices, especially with the Office of Pesticide Programs, to increase Hispanic awareness on the safe use of pesticides and other environmental issues. Even today, I recall one of my very first live radio interviews during National Poison Prevention Week At the end of the interview, there was a call-in segment. The last question was from a lady who painted the following scenario: “What if I don’t have a phone and my child swallows some detergent accidentally, what do I do? Do I make him throw up or do I give him milk? What should I do?” Well, I told her to “read the label first” where she would find valuable information regarding what to do in case of an emergency. Still to this day I think of the situation and imagine if she was physically isolated by not having a phone, it was possible she might be linguistically isolated as well. Therefore, if she only read Spanish having an English-only label would not provide the necessary information to help her child in their time of need.

I remember that the issue of bilingual labeling came up during a meeting of the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee ,  a federal advisory committee, in 2006. Both the Consumer Labeling Workgroup and the Workgroup on Worker Safety discussed the issue of bilingual labeling, although they couldn’t reach agreement on a recommendation for the Agency. Since then, we’ve seen an increasing number of companies that produce household use pesticides with bilingual labeling. I spoke with several company representatives who noted they had taken those steps both for health AND economic reasons. With the increase in Hispanic purchasing power, bilingual labels improved their bottom line.

In December of 2009, EPA received a petition from the Migrant Clinicians Network, Farmworker Justice and other farm worker interest groups asking the Agency to require that pesticide manufacturers produce their products with labels both in English and Spanish. The Agency is currently accepting public comments on this petition from interested stakeholders. We would like to hear from you. For more information on the announcement and how to submit public comments, visit our website.   What do you think?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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.

Etiquetas bilingües

por Lina Younes

Cuando empecé a trabajar en la agencia en el 2002, era responsable de esfuerzos de alcance público a los medios en español y organizaciones hispanas. Como parte de mi labor, trabajaba de cerca con otras oficinas de EPA, en particular con la Oficina de Programas de Pesticidas, para crear conciencia sobre el uso seguro de pesticidas y otros asuntos ambientales. Todavía me acuerdo de una de mis primeras entrevistas de radio en vivo durante la Semana Nacional para la Prevención de Envenenamientos . Al final de la entrevista, había un segmento en la cual el público podía llamar y hacer preguntas. Me acuerdo que la última pregunta fue de una señora que describió el siguiente escenario: “¿Qué debo hacer si no tengo teléfono y mi hijo se traga un detergente accidentalmente, qué debo hacer? ¿Acaso le debo hacer vomitar o beber leche? ¿Qué debo hacer?” Bueno, le dije “lea la etiqueta primero” donde encontraría valiosa información sobre qué hacer en caso de una emergencia. Todavía pienso en la situación que ella describió y me imagino una persona que estaba aislada tanto físicamente al no tener teléfono así como lingüísticamente. Por lo tanto, si sólo sabía español, el tener una etiqueta sólo en inglés no le brindaría la información necesaria para ayudar a su hijo en un momento que tanto lo necesitaba.

Me acuerdo que el tema de las etiquetas bilingües surgió nuevamente durante una reunión del Comité de Dialogo sobre el Programa de Pesticidas,  un comité asesor federal, en el 2006. Tanto el grupo de trabajo sobre etiquetas para productos del consumidor como el grupo de trabajo para la seguridad laboral discutieron el asunto de las etiquetas bilingües, aunque ninguno llegó a un consenso para hacer una recomendación a la Agencia. Desde entonces, hemos visto un aumento en el número de compañías que producen pesticidas para uso casero con etiquetas bilingües. He hablado con representantes de estas compañías y han destacado que han tomado esos pasos tanto por cuestiones de salud como por razones económicas. Con el aumento del poder adquisitivo hispano, las etiquetas bilingües les han ayudado a aumentar ventas.

En diciembre de 2009, EPA recibió una petición de varias organizaciones que trabajan con obreros agrícolas entre las cuales figuraban el Migrant Clinicians Network, Farmworker Justice y otros, solicitando a la Agencia a exigir que los fabricantes de productos pesticidas los produzcan con etiquetas en inglés y español. La Agencia está solicitando comentarios de partes interesadas acerca de esta petición. Nos encantaría escuchar su sentir. Para más información sobre el tema y cómo enviar comentarios, visite el sitio Web.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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.

Breaking into EPA

By Sophia Kelley

When I tell people I work for EPA, the first question they usually ask is how I got the job. How did a graduate of an MFA program in writing come to work for the federal government? One doesn’t usually associate creative, literary types living in Brooklyn with goliaths of bureaucracy. Yet here I am, and a little secret that will probably only serve to further distance me from my hip, freelancing neighbors – I love my job.

As fascinating as it is, my personal story isn’t often what people are really asking about; they’d rather get practical advice on landing a position like mine. For readers who know they want to work in public service and for people who appreciate the mission, but haven’t thought about a government gig, per se – there are several programs at EPA that help newbies break into the agency. The Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) is how I got my foot in the door of the public affairs division in New York. The SCEP program is competitive, but it is ideal for students because you can usually arrange the work hours around your classes and, unlike most other internships, it actually pays.

Once I graduated, I was lucky to be eligible for the Environmental Careers Program (ECP). ECP is a career development program that allows recent graduates the opportunity to learn about the agency through full-time employment. It involves a two-year assignment in a home office and several rotations to other offices that provide participants with a wider view of the agency while developing skills for their future careers.

In addition to these two programs, EPA offers several other career opportunities including research fellowships and scholarships. For more information, visit. For a comprehensive list of government positions, check out.  And, if you’re one of the rare ones interested in my personal story…stay tuned. In upcoming posts, I’ll be blogging on New York City environmental issues from the perspective of a bookish Brooklyn resident.

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.

Playing it Safe on City Soccer Fields

By John Senn

I love soccer. I’ve played since I was eight years old and was even able to go to the 2006 World Cup in Germany. But when I moved to New York City from Montana almost five years ago, not only did my vistas change from tall mountains to tall buildings, I also swapped grass soccer fields for turf fields, the norm for this area.

I was a little surprised to learn that the turf soccer fields that I played on every week—including during the summer when temperatures in Manhattan were well over 90 degrees—were among the hottest surfaces in the city because they absorbed and radiated heat more readily than other surfaces and could reach 160 degrees at field level. Working out at those temperatures, even for a short time, could easily lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion. (The Mayo Clinic has more information on how your body deals with extreme heat and how best to deal with it.)

Polluted air, an issue in the New York metropolitan area most of the year, only compounds the stress your body faces from working out in hot weather. Not only are your heart and lungs working harder, you’re breathing polluted air at an increased rate.

Breathing polluted air can make your eyes and nose burn. It can irritate your throat and make breathing difficult. In fact, pollutants like tiny airborne particles and ground level ozone can trigger respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma. Today, nearly 30 million adults and children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma sufferers can be severely affected by air pollution. Air pollution can also aggravate health problems for the elderly and others with heart or respiratory diseases.

When it’s hot out, check EPA’s AirNow website to monitor the air quality of your area by typing in your zip code. You’ll be able to see if any pollutants are at high levels for that day and if you or members of your family (some people are more sensitive to changes in air quality, especially young children, the elderly and people with asthma) should take any precautions before heading outside.

Most people wear shin guards as a precaution when taking the soccer field. Knowing the air quality before you head outside for a workout, especially when it’s hot out, is another way to make sure your workout does more good than harm.

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.

Women in Science: Kesha Forrest — Environmental Science and Policy is in my DNA

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Kesha Forrest

That’s me in the photo, early on in my graduate studies at Howard University, standing in a lab of the Howard University Cancer Center. It was the first time I’d ever attempted to “extract” DNA…and it was cool. I was rocking the sample tubes, watching these unwound chromosomes like thread going through water and thinking “wow, that’s the stuff that makes us so different and so alike.” It was one of those “aha” moments.

Just months before, in search of the graduate program that was right for me, I approached the director of the Howard University microbiology department, who had lots of ideas on how to help me. She suggested I work part-time on an ongoing cancer research project, in a lab at the Howard University Cancer Center. One of my first jobs was to help analyze blood samples for an African-American prostate cancer study. Later, I helped analyze West African blood samples for the National Human Genome Center at Howard that focused on the genetics of diabetes, a disease common to African Americans and West African ancestral populations. It was great to get my head out of the books and into the real world of science.

Fast forwarding several years with my masters degree in genetics behind me, I now have my own job in the real world of science. I work in EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, helping to determine if there are contaminants in drinking water that may be harmful to human health. More recently I have been focused on contaminants that could affect our body’s main regulatory system, known as the endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates growth, development and other functions with natural chemicals called hormones. Chemicals in the environment can sometimes “mimic” or act like hormones, which may have negative effects on humans. We work to make sure none of these chemicals are a problem in drinking water.

I love working with fellow scientists that are some of the best in their fields. As I did with my mentors and advisors in graduate school, I take every chance I can to learn from them.

Here at the Agency, we use science to shape policies that protect human health and the environment. One of my career goals is to shape policies that directly consider both genetics and the environment. For now, I’m more than happy to focus on helping to keep America’s drinking water clean and safe.

About the author: Kesha Forrest works in EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and continues to expand her knowledge with classes in public health and environmental policy

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8dnKNTlbHc[/youtube] [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xHVPYxvPWk[/youtube]

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.

Playing it Safe on City Soccer Fields

By John Senn

I love soccer. I’ve played since I was eight years old and was even able to go to the 2006 World Cup in Germany. But when I moved to New York City from Montana almost five years ago, not only did my vistas change from tall mountains to tall buildings, I also swapped grass soccer fields for turf fields, the norm for this area.

I was a little surprised to learn that the turf soccer fields that I played on every week—including during the summer when temperatures in Manhattan were well over 90 degrees—were among the hottest surfaces in the city because they absorbed and radiated heat more readily than other surfaces and could reach 160 degrees at field level. Working out at those temperatures, even for a short time, could easily lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion. (The Mayo Clinic has more information on how your body deals with extreme heat and how best to deal with it.)

Polluted air, an issue in the New York metropolitan area most of the year, only compounds the stress your body faces from working out in hot weather. Not only are your heart and lungs working harder, you’re breathing polluted air at an increased rate.

Breathing polluted air can make your eyes and nose burn. It can irritate your throat and make breathing difficult. In fact, pollutants like tiny airborne particles and ground level ozone can trigger respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma. Today, nearly 30 million adults and children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma sufferers can be severely affected by air pollution. Air pollution can also aggravate health problems for the elderly and others with heart or respiratory diseases.

When it’s hot out, check EPA’s AirNow website to monitor the air quality of your area by typing in your zip code. You’ll be able to see if any pollutants are at high levels for that day and if you or members of your family (some people are more sensitive to changes in air quality, especially young children, the elderly and people with asthma) should take any precautions before heading outside.

Most people wear shin guards as a precaution when taking the soccer field. Knowing the air quality before you head outside for a workout, especially when it’s hot out, is another way to make sure your workout does more good than harm.

About the author: John Senn started working at EPA as a summer fellow in 2006 and is now a press officer handling issues related to Superfund sites, water issues and emergency response efforts.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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.

Reaching Out and Getting Back….

By Wendy Dew

A week ago EPA Region 8 employees staffed an informational booth at the Denver March Pow Wow. This is the 4th year we have gone and every year it becomes more special to us.

I worked on the first day of the Pow Wow. I was able to see the Grand Entry when all the dancers come out onto the arena. It never fails to get my heart beating going to hear the drums and see the dancers.

My favorite part of working at the Pow Wow, though, is reaching out to citizens. We spent the last month gathering EPA tribal publications and coloring books for kids. I had so much fun talking to folks and handing out information on environmental issues important for their health and communities. The kids loved the coloring books about the environment. Many of the kids walked around wearing Energy Star “Change a Light” stickers, prompting more kids to come over and ask for coloring books.

The Denver March Pow Wow and similar cultural events allow EPA a very special and unique opportunity to talk to folks about environmental issues specific to them and their community. I cannot wait for next year’s Pow Wow.

For more information about EPA’s Tribal Programs visit

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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.

Women in Science: Ann Richard

By Marguerite Huber

I have always envisioned myself working at EPA—out saving the planet. As a current intern, getting to interview those who actually do is particularly exciting to me.

Enter Ann Richard, an EPA computational chemist.

To get where she is today, Ann followed her talents in math and science to a PhD in physical chemistry. Before her post doc and EPA, she had stints working at an airport, and even an amusement park. But now, “I appreciate working for an agency that has the component of benefiting the public,” stated Ann while speaking of the EPA. She has been working here since 1987 (which is hard for me to imagine since that is longer than I have even been alive).

Today, Ann works in an area termed “chem-informatics,” a cross between chemistry and computer science that focuses the construction and use of chemical databases to address problems crossing the disciplines of chemistry, biology, and toxicology. Her greatest achievement has been the Distributed Structure-Searchable Toxicity (DSSTox) Public Database Network, sharing important information about chemicals with the public. It has been used by government, academia, and scientists worldwide. Furthermore, Ann manages the chemical informatics component of the ToxCast and Tox21 projects, which provide a foundation for improved toxico-chemoinformatics and structure-activity relationship capabilities in predictive toxicology.

In her career, Ann devotes a large effort to communicating across different disciplines. “You have to put yourself in the audience’s place and it is not easy, you have to work at it,” she said. In the end she finds it rewarding and worthwhile to try to bridge disciplines, even if she has to spend half a day on creating one perfect PowerPoint slide.

Her favorite part of her job is meeting amazing people from different countries. Ann has the opportunity to become acquainted with many talented people within her field worldwide. She derives a lot of satisfaction from knowing she has reached the point where she has gained the respect of her peers in her field.

Ann’s inspiration comes from ordinary people who do extraordinary things. While growing up, she never remembered being discouraged about being in the science field. If she was, it only made her more determined to succeed. “Don’t be intimidated,” are her wise words towards girls everywhere. In that case, I am going to pretend that toxico-chemoinformatics does not sound so intimidating!

About the author: Marguerite Huber is an intern from Indiana University currently working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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.