Monthly Archives: May 2013

Team Dioxin – an Award Winning Group!

By Elizabeth Erwin

"Team Dioxin"

“Team Dioxin”

About three years ago, I came to EPA and joined the communications team in the organization that manages EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program (a human health assessment program that evaluates the health effects of exposure to environmental chemicals). I heard various chemical names mentioned all the time, but it seemed as if one in particular was mentioned more often than others—dioxin.

I quickly learned that EPA has a long history with dioxin, a highly toxic, persistent environmental chemical known to cause a number of adverse health effects.  For years, EPA and other federal agencies worked together to reduce known and measurable dioxin emissions in the United States.

In February 2012, EPA reached an enormous milestone by completing the long-awaited IRIS assessment for dioxin (focused on health effects other than cancer). The assessment provides much needed information on the potential noncancer health effects resulting from exposure to dioxin and, for the first time, an estimate of the amount of dioxin that one can ingest daily over a lifetime that is not likely to cause harmful health effects (the “oral reference dose”).

The assessment is an essential component of the Agency’s dioxin science plan as risk assessors, health professionals, and state, local, and international governments rely on its findings to guide decisions to protect public health.

This month, the team responsible for completing the dioxin assessment received some well-deserved recognition. On May 8 EPA’s “Team Dioxin” received a Federal Service Excellence Project Team Award. Team Dioxin includes Hisham El-Masri, Belinda Hawkins, Glenn Rice, Jeffrey Swartout, Linda Teuschler, Scott Wesselkamper, Michael Wright, and Bette Zwayer.

In 2009, this team of scientists was tasked with completing the dioxin assessment on an expedited schedule. Meeting this challenge placed them under intense pressure and required countless sacrifices, but at every turn they met the challenge.

“In order to meet the aggressive schedule outlined by [former] EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, the team sacrificed time with family because they understood the significance of their work to the American people” explains Annette Gatchett, Director of NCEA’s Cincinnati branch where the dioxin team is headquartered.

Indeed, the team spent months pouring over the extensive, complex, and controversial science that exists on dioxin, evaluating over 1,000 published epidemiology and toxicology studies and analyzing numerous data sets on a variety of adverse health outcomes attributed to dioxin exposures.

Despite the sacrifices, the team’s effort was worth it. “Working on EPA’s dioxin report was extremely interesting and rewarding,” says Glenn Rice, one of the lead authors of the assessment. “Over the many nights and weekends of working on the project, I developed a sincere and deep appreciation for the expertise, dedication and senses of humor of my collaborators.”

Completing the IRIS assessment for dioxin (non-cancer) is an incredible achievement, one that I am grateful to have been at EPA to witness. Without a doubt, achievements such as Team Dioxin’s embody the Agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment and make me proud to come to work each day.

About the author: Elizabeth Erwin is a member of EPA’s science communication team where she helps make IRIS and other EPA science programs and assessments available and accessible.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

Bathtub Preparedness Planning

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Michael Dexter

Growing up in Florida the threat of extreme weather brought a rush of last minute preparations, and I clearly remember the urgency involved with preparing for such events. We would clear portions of the house likely to flood, park the car on high ground, and ready an inflatable dinghy. Like many people, we had stocks of food and bottled water. However, we also filled up the bathtub with water in case service was out for awhile. I guess you could say the bathtub became our prime–make that our only–backup water supply plan.

If we lost water pressure, we used a gallon of water from the tub for flushing. If directed by our health department, we boiled water to drink. When we needed to wash, we scooped another cup out of the tub. While I understood the need for personal preparedness, I never thought about how the broader community prepared for water service interruptions, or what could have happened if that interruption lasted for more than a day or two.

Today, EPA works with communities and water utilities across the country to help them prepare for extreme weather events like floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The EPA’s Community-Based Water Resiliency Tool helps communities and utilities understand and plan for the widespread impacts that often accompany extreme weather events. The tool helps critical community services like healthcare facilities, energy producers, and firefighters assess and increase their own preparedness level by providing tools and resources to gauge their current level of preparedness.

Last May, EPA worked with St. Clair County, Michigan on a roundtable exercise using the tool. The meeting promoted a better awareness of interdependencies between water and other community services, fostered a greater understanding of the county’s water infrastructure, discussed potential community impacts of a water service interruption during an extreme weather event, and identified actions and resources needed to respond to, and recover from, a water emergency. Drills like this exercise are a tremendous opportunity for entities like St. Clair County to think strategically about how to respond to an emergency situation that could affect thousands of its residents.

Like your community or water utility, you can prepare for the impacts of an extreme weather event. Just go to ready.gov

About the author: Michael Dexter is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education participant with EPA’s Water Security Division. He lived in Southwest Florida for over two decades and experienced Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Mitch among others. He currently resides in Washington, DC and works on the Community-Based Water Resiliency effort to help utilities, and the communities they serve, increase all hazard water preparedness.

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.

Gone Fishin’

By Jeffery Robichaud

My boys have been bugging me to go fishing and I just haven’t gotten around to taking them (gotta get some licenses first).  Also our fishing hole (the creek down the hill) used to have a nice big pool at the bottom of a low water crossing but when they fixed it up for a new trail, the pool disappeared.  Now that they are older they probably wouldn’t be satisfied with the smallish sunfish we used to catch anyway.  Maybe I will take them down to the Missouri River to get a look at some Asian Carp.

With the weather finally warming up you might be taking your kids out for this annual rite of passage.  Each of our four states (Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska) have wonderful programs to encourage and safeguard this fun pastime for the enjoyment of all.

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet, since they are a lean, low-calorie source of protein.  However some caught in lakes and rivers throughout the Midwest (as well as throughout the country) may contain chemicals that could pose health risks if these fish are eaten in large amounts.  EPA maintains a system that provides you information about Fish consumption advisories.

fishtissue

There are also a couple of easy things you can do to ensure fish are safe to eat.  It’s always a good idea to remove the skin, fat, and internal organs before you cook the fish (since this is where contaminants often accumulate).  As added precautions; make sure to remove and throw away the head, guts, kidneys, and the liver; fillet fish and cut away the fat and skin before you cook it; and clean and dress fish as soon as possible.  You can find EPA’s guide about eating the fish you catch here.

In future blog articles we hope to share with you information about Regions 7’s Ambient Fish Tissue (RAFT) Program, one of the longest running in the country.   Until then, Happy Fishing.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  His prize catch was a a 6am catfish as a youngster at a campground in Illinois (unfortunately he woke up everyone in the camp screaming for his father since it bent his pole in half).

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.

Career Advice from Dolly

 

P9260171

 

Every summer my family would take a vacation to a small town in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior to visit my great aunt.  My great aunt would love to take us to visit the Red Cliff Reservation just outside her town.  It’s not every day you meet someone who is familiar with this area, but Dolly Tong is.  She has even done a dumpster dive there!  I sat down with her to learn more about her position at the EPA.

 

 

What is your position at the EPA?

 

I am the Regional Tribal Solid Waste and Pollution Prevention Coordinator.  I work with the 35 federally-recognized tribes in our Region to manage waste issues.

 

Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?

 

No, but I started as an intern at the EPA in what was called the Technology Transfer Program back then.  This eventually evolved into EPA’s Pollution Prevention Program which I have been involved with over many years.

 

What is a typical day like for you?

 

I work with a team to assist tribes in whatever waste management issue comes up, and analyze what kinds of technical assistance we can provide to tribes over the long term. I also communicate as a liaison for other tribal solid waste coordinators in the other EPA Regions with Headquarters to address national tribal waste issues.  I oversee two part-time Senior Environmental Employees’ work and monitor their work status. 

 

Sometimes I get to do field work on tribal reservations as well.  This is the most interesting part of my job.  We have done dumpster dives with tribes and visited their recycling facilities and household hazardous waste collection events.  When you visit tribal reservations, you can better understand what the tribes are doing, what they need, and how you can help.

 

What is the best part of your job?

 

Because EPA has a direct government-to-government working relationship with federally-recognized Indian tribes, I feel like my work directly impacts tribal communities. It is great to see the positive impacts with the work you do and see the immediate results. In addition, at the EPA we are encouraged to be creative and think of solutions on our own.  If you think something is workable, you can try it.  I like the independence and creativity.

 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

 

Yes.  When I was little, the other kids used to call me “nature freak.”  I just loved animals and nature.  My whole family was actually like that as well.

 

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

 

I majored in Environmental Studies, which was a multidisciplinary program.  I took advantage of a variety of classes, to get a feel for what interested me.  I wish I could have taken classes on Native American Law.

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

 

It is important not to use so much stuff or buy a lot of things.  Everything you purchase has an impact on the environment because of all the pollution that comes from the extraction of materials, manufacturing, and transportation to bring you the finished product.  Using less has a direct impact on avoiding the generation of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.

It is really important to learn about community based social marketing to promote sustainable behaviors in people. It is more than just handing out flyers to get people to change their ways.  We need more people to learn how to apply community-based social marketing techniques to get to the root causes of why people don’t practice certain sustainable behaviors, and come up with effective ways to encourage positive behaviors that are better for the environment.

 

Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends.

 

 

 

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.

Más vale precaver que tener que remediar

Por Lina Younes.

 

Comienza la temporada de huracanes del 2013. La Oficina Nacional de Administración Oceánica y Atmosférica (NOAA, por sus siglas en inglés) pronostica que habrá mucha actividad de huracanes esta temporada en la zona del Atlántico y el Caribe. Aún aquellas áreas tierra adentro pueden sufrir los efectos de vientos huracanados, lluvias torrenciales, inundaciones y hasta tornados después de que un huracán haya tocado tierra.  Mientras uno de los meses de mayor actividad de huracanes en nuestra área parece ser el mes de agosto, no es inusual ver tormentas tropicales hasta a finales de la temporada que concluye el 1ero de diciembre.

 

¿Qué puede hacer para prepararse hoy?  Primero, desarrolle un plan de emergencia y preparación para huracanes para usted y su familia.

 

  • ·         Al desarrollar su kit de suministros de emergencias, almacene comida enlatada, agua embotellada y otros suministros de utilidad como linternas y baterías.

 

  • ·         Coloque una caja de fósforos en un envase a prueba de agua.

 

  • ·         Almacene vasos y platos desechables y utensilios plásticos

 

  • ·         Acuérdese de almacenar alimento para sus mascotas

 

  • ·         Tenga los documentos familiares importantes a mano en un envase portátil y aprueba de agua

 

  • ·         Tenga a mano dinero en efectivo o cheques de viajero

 

  • ·         Tenga libros, juegos, y actividades para los niños

 

  • ·         Tenga a mano un abrelatas portátil

 

  • ·         Conéctese con la Radio de NOAA. Visite este enlace para obtener información acerca de las frecuencias y anuncios de servicio público.

 

  • ·         Cargue la batería de su teléfono móvil con anterioridad y si es posible tenga una batería cargada adicional a mano

 

  • ·         Alrededor de la casa, inspeccione los desagües y asegúrese de que no estén obstruidos.

 

  • ·         Infórmese acerca de las rutas de evacuación en su zona

 

  • ·         Inscríbase para recibir mensajes de texto de las autoridades de seguridad pública a su teléfono móvil  con información actualizada acerca de la tormenta

 

  • ·         Tenga los números de teléfono de emergencia a mano para poder reportar si hay apagones en su área y para obtener información acerca de refugios en su localidad.

 

  • ·         No se olvide de tener un plan para sus mascotas. Muchos refugios de emergencia no aceptan mascotas. Identifique de ante mano un refugio de animales donde podrá llevar su mascota en caso de una emergencia o desastre natural.

Sobre todo, en caso de un apagón en su área, nunca use un generador al interior de espacios interiores. El escape de gas de los generadores produce monóxido de carbono, el cual puede ser letal en grandes concentraciones.

 

Al prepárese con antelación a la tormenta no tendrá que correr a buscar los suministros básicos en vísperas de que la tormenta azote cuando los supermercados están de locura.  ¿Tiene algunos consejos que quisiera compartir con nosotros? Nos encantaría escuchar su sentir.

 

 

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como portavoz hispana de la Agencia, así como enlace de asuntos multilingües de EPA. Además, ha laborado como la escritora y editora de los blogs en español de EPA durante los pasados cuatro años. Antes de unirse a la Agencia, dirigió la oficina en Washington, DC de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales a lo largo de su carrera profesional en la Capital Federal.

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.

Upcoming Weekend Activities: NYC

Have you checked out the new bike share program yet? This weekend could be perfect for riding. If you try it, let us know what you think in the comments section.

Battle of the Boroughs Tennis Challenge: This friendly competition helps support free tennis lessons and activities for children at NYC parks. Come out and support your neighborhood! At various locations.  Saturday, June 1, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Bronx Composting Event: Join this weekly workshop to learn how to compost food waste or just drop off your food waste to be composted. Saturday, June 1, 2 – 4 p.m.

Catch and Release Fishing: Free fishing for families and individuals at Harlem Meer. Poles are available for borrowing; just make sure to release what you catch! Friday-Saturday, May 31-June 1, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Housing Works Open Air Street Fair: All day bazaar with thousands of donated books, thrift shopping and entertainment. Sunday, June 2, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Red Hook Fest: Help support a Brooklyn neighborhood that continues to recover after Sandy. The event features a parade, music, dance, and activities for all ages including kayak rides in New York Harbor. Friday-Saturday, May 31 – June 1.

Strawberry Festival: Head to Queens for the annual Strawberry Festival and celebrate summer with family crafts and games honoring the lovely red berry. Saturday, June 1, noon – 3 p.m.

Street Tree Workshop: Learn how to water and care for the 80,000 new street trees that have been planted around NYC! Register for the MillionTreesNYC workshop and learn about caring for the city’s trees. Saturday, June 1, 10 a.m. – noon.

Wellness Fair: PS 89 in Tribeca is hosting a Wellness fair with booths from GrowNYC, Cafeteria Culture and other green organizations from across the city. Discover how one school’s sustainability efforts can branch out to include an entire community. Sunday, June 2, noon – 4 p.m. 

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Around the Water Cooler: Avoiding that Sinking Feeling

By Aaron Ferster

Crews work to fix DC's aging water infrastructure.

Crews work to fix DC’s aging water infrastructure.

As if Washington, DC commuters didn’t face enough challenges navigating to and from work, those who travel by car were confronted with a new one late last week: a giant sinkhole began to consume 14th Street, a key route connecting downtown with bridges and major highways just beyond.

Located only a few blocks from the White House, the crevasse grew to some 15-feet across, leading authorities to close the road in both directions for days. (As I write this, only the south-bound lanes had re-opened.)

Since its appearance, the sinkhole and its aftermath have dominated traffic reports and drawn a steady stream of curious onlookers from nearby office buildings and surrounding neighborhood tourist spots. The ever expanding meme has even sparked a Twitter account (@14thStSinkhole), ripe with parody. (As a frequent bike commuter, my favorite interaction: “I am the stuff of dreams!! RT @hellbucci: Had a dream that as I biked to work, I fell into the @14thStSinkhole. Not cool sinkhole.”)

But all joking aside, sinkholes and other symptoms of our aging water infrastructure are serious business. This particular incident apparently evolved from an ill-placed storm drain, which clogged and sent rainwater free-flowing under the street where it eroded the underlying ground and destroyed a 54-inch brick sewer line built in the 1800s.

According to a D.C. Sewer and Water Authority news release, the already complex repairs were made more difficult due to a number of utility lines and old, buried trolley tracks under the street. A hidden hole for entry from the street, identified on DC Water records, was eventually located eight feet below the surface of the road, paved over many times through the years.

Such challenges related to the nation’s aging water infrastructure are nothing new to EPA engineers and scientists who are working to identify critical research needs and develop, test, and demonstrate innovative technologies to reduce the cost and increase the effectiveness of existing or new water infrastructure.

As reported by fellow blogger Sarah Blau (see Is Your Toilet Leaking), “EPA researchers are looking at ways to assess water infrastructure for leaks without disrupting water supply for consumers (i.e. avoiding water shut-offs or pipe excavations). Other research is focused on preventing leaks from occurring, specifically by examining the relationship between water chemistry and plumbing life expectancy.”

To learn more, visit EPA’s Aging Water Infrastructure Research webpage. You can also read about a specific research project exploring pinhole leaks in copper pipes (“Problems with Pinhole Leaks in Your Copper Water Pipes”) in our Science Matters newsletter. It’s all part of our effort to share how EPA researchers are working to solve all sorts of problems—and I can guarantee that you’ll find the reading a lot cooler than riding your bicycle into a sinkhole!

About the Author: Aaron Ferster dodges sinkholes and other obstacles to and from his job as an EPA science writer, where he edits the It All Starts with Science blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

Answering the Call of the Water

By Christina Catanese

This time of year seems to bring people out of the woodwork after being cooped up all winter, to enjoy the sun and green of spring.  For me, this means I must answer the Call of the Water and take some time in nature and out on the water.

Last week, I spent a few days kayaking the Clarion River near the Allegheny National Forest.  It didn’t take long before the stress of normal life that had built up in my shoulders melted away, as my energy and perspective became focused on reconnecting with the land and waters in my native Western Pennsylvania.

Looking downstream from the banks of the Clarion

Looking upstream from the banks of the Clarion

As the blades of my paddle dipped through the water, I pictured those same, splashing water molecules making their way down the Clarion, into the Allegheny River, and all the way to my hometown of Pittsburgh. There, they would meet other molecules from the Monongahela, become the Ohio River, then the Mississippi, and finally flow into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Thinking about the journey these little H2Os would go through illuminated the concept of a watershed for me.  I realized that anything I did to the water way up in Northwestern Pennsylvania would have an impact on the water quality for millions of people that live downstream… so I’d better hold on to that granola bar wrapper if I didn’t want it to show up late for Mardi Gras. Imagining the long path this water would take made the measly 4 miles I kayaked seem like cake – what an epic journey it would be to follow that water all that way!

A heron I encountered during my kayaking trip

A heron I encountered during my kayaking trip

Spending time on rivers  can give us perspective and helps us get to know our rivers, and ourselves, in a totally new way.  Whether they flow through forested or urban areas (or a combination), we see their many uses as well as their beauty, and come to appreciate them as part of a whole network of rivers and streams that connect and support us.

That’s why many environmental and watershed groups around the country sponsor sojourns every year to help people reconnect with their rivers.  Some sojourns are just a few miles, while others paddle the entire length of a river over the course of a few days.  A quick survey reveals tons of sojourning opportunities in the Mid Atlantic region:

Is there a sojourn happening on a river near you not on this list?  Let us know!  Don’t see a sojourn happening on your river?  Start your own.

This spring and summer, I hope you too will answer the Call of the Water and get to know a river near you just a little bit better.

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

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.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Lina Younes

Well, it’s that time of year. Hurricane Season 2013 is upon us. NOAA is predicting an active hurricane season for the Atlantic/Caribbean area. Even inland areas can suffer the effects of tropical storms such as strong winds, torrential rains, flooding, and even tornadoes after a hurricane has made landfall. While the most active month for hurricanes  in our area seems to be August, it is not unusual to see tropical storms towards the later part of the season ending December 1st.

So what should you do to get ready today?  Well, first of all, develop your own emergency kit and hurricane preparedness plan for you and your family. Here are some suggestions.

  •  In developing your emergency supplies kit, store up on canned food, bottled water, and other supplies like batteries.
  •  Place matches in a waterproof container.
  • Stock up on paper cups, plates, plastic utensils.
  •  Remember to stock up on pet food for your pets.
  • Have important family documents on hand in a portable waterproof container.
  • Have cash on hand.
  • Have books, games, activities for children.
  • Have a battery-powered portable radio.
  • Connect to NOAA’s Weather Radio . Visit this link for information on the frequencies and public service announcements.
  • Charge your cell phones in advance and have an extra phone battery on hand.
  • Have a manual can opener.
  • Around the house, clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Learn about hurricane evacuation routes in your area.
  • Using technology, you can sign up to get text messages from FEMA with updated information about the storm
  • Have emergency phone numbers on hand to report power outages with your local utility company.
  • Don’t forget to plan ahead to keep ensure your pets’ safety as well. They also need a pet disaster supply kit. You may need to take them to a local pet shelter in the event that you are evacuated.

Furthermore, in the event of a power outage in your area, never use a generator inside an enclosed area.  Generators are sources of carbon monoxide which may be lethal in higher concentrations.

By preparing in advance of inclement weather, you’ll be able to stock up on the necessary supplies while avoiding the madhouse at your local grocery story on the eve of the storm. Do you have any tips that you would like to share with us? We love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 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.

Helping Rural Guatemala… One Stove at a Time

 makee

Ever wonder how you might be able to make a difference in another country? Recently, the environmental team at West Geauga High School had the same question. We had already helped our own community in many ways relating to the environment, like organizing a battery recycling program, hosting seminars about hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking,” and sponsoring “Go Green Nights” at our school, but wanted to make an impact in the wider world.  After making a few phone calls to several environmental organizations, our team finally decided on partnering with another group to help with our project. We contacted the Social Entrepreneur Corps, an organization focused on micro consignment in Guatemala and other Central American countries. Once our team settled on an organization and agreed on goals, we put our plan into action. Because our other projects focused on water and air issues, we wanted to keep the same theme in Guatemala. With previously won grant money, our team was able to sponsor the installation of water purification systems and distribution of cook stoves. Our water purification systems provided Guatemalan children access to clean, fresh water in their schools, which allows them to stay healthy and stay in school, receive an education and break the vicious cycle of poverty. The systems were sold to schools and community centers for a small fee, ensuring that the recipients’ dignity stays intact and also creates commerce in these villages. The water purification bucket has a ceramic element inside that removes common contaminants such as E-coli and silver. The filter removes 99.5% of E-Coli. The filtration device holds up to 8 liters of water and the rate at which the element filters the water is 2.5 to 3 liters per hour. Villagers who purchased our locally made cookstoves from the initial recipients made their investment back in the first two months at a reduced rate in which these cookstoves use firewood. The firewood efficiency of the stoves resulted in total savings of about $140, or the cost of corn for 9 months and 10 days for a family, 3 months of a child’s college fees, or 2 goats. Of paramount importance, the cookstoves reduced the amount of smoke inside of homes that the inhabitants would ordinarily inhale on a daily basis by 70%, benefitting the health of residents and substantially reducing CO2 emissions.  Our team helped rural Guatemala has become a cleaner, greener environment.  We received immense satisfaction from seeing our goals realized. 

Lilly  is a sophomore at West Geauga High School in Chesterland, Ohio. She has been an active member of her school’s environmental team, the West Geauga Environmental Discovery Project, for about three years now. Lilly enjoys helping and promoting sustainability in as many ways as she can.

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.