This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey FitzpatrickTeam Research Recap

From the field, to the NFL Environmental Program, to the 120 million pounds of avocados that will be consumed – this year’s Super Bowl is all about green. Across the country, both teams and their fans are “greening” sports — saving energy, cutting waste and preventing pollution. You can read more about EPA Green Sports here.

Still not enough green for one weekend? Here is some more environmental science news in this week’s Research Recap.

  • Researchers Find New Way to Monitor Toxicity in Subsistence Foods
    The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium will launch a traditional food and water monitoring website recently developed through an EPA General Assistance Program grant, in response to widespread concerns in rural Alaska communities.
    Read more about the program in this article.
  • Connecting Students to the Natural World around Them
    Teacher Gerry Reymore was a recipient of the 2014 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. This award recognizes K-12 teachers who use innovative methods to teach environmental education. He shared his plans for the funding in a blog post this week.
    Read the blog post here.
  • New Paper from a Pathfinder Innovation Project
    Pathfinder Innovation Projects challenge EPA scientists to answer the question, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could … ?” In the paper Systematic Proteomic Approach to Characterize the Impacts of Chemical Interactions on Protein and Cytotoxicity Responses to Metal Mixture Exposures, researchers provide a novel approach to characterizing and predicting the toxicities of metal and other chemical mixtures.
    Read the paper here.

If you have any comments or questions about what I shared or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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.

Who will win the big game?

by Steve Donohue

"Green" up for the big game!

“Green” up for the big game!

Sadly, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles will not be in the big game this year – again! But we can all be winners by conserving resources and saving money on game day and every other day.

Last year 111.5 million viewers watched the game. If all these fans used WaterSense toilets (which use 1.28 gallons per flush, gpf, or less) instead of the old 3.5 gpf models we could save enough water to fill Lincoln Financial Field up to the Club Box level with just one flush!

If you’re thirsty during the game you can drink bottled water at 50 cents or more each, or thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act, your local utility, and other partners, you can simply turn on the tap and get safe, clean water delivered right to your kitchen for about ½ cent a gallon. That’s hundreds of times cheaper and you don’t have to carry the bottles home or dispose of them after they are used.

Game day savings aren’t limited to water, though. If all the households that watched the game got rid of their old beer refrigerator in the garage they would not only save about $150 a year but collectively enough electricity to power over 1.6 million homes!

And, speaking of drinking, if everyone who watched the big game recycled just 1 can we could save a weight of aluminum equal to 260 times the weight of the entire Eagles roster and save enough electricity to power a television for over 2,500 years!

Finally, everyone loves a party but the cleanup…not so much. If you’re hosting a large gathering and have left over, unspoiled food, please consider donating it to a local charity and helping the over 48 million Americans who live in food-insecure households.

Greening your party for the big game is a win for your wallet and for the environment. Try out these tips on Sunday and every day!

 

About the author: Steve Donohue has been an environmental scientist at EPA for over 25 years. Currently, he works in the Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia where he is focused on greening EPA and other government facilities.

 

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.

We Must Act Now to Protect Our Winters

Gina McCarthy Gina McCarthy

2014 was the hottest year on record, and each of the last three decades has been hotter than the last.

In mountain towns that depend on winter tourism, the realities of climate change really hit home. Shorter, warmer winters mean a shorter season to enjoy the winter sports we love—and a financial hit for local economies that depend on winter sports.

Even if you hate winter, climate change affects you – because climate risks are economic risks. Skiing, snowboarding and other types of winter recreation add $67 billion to the economy every year, and they support 900,000 jobs.

Last week I went to the X-Games in Colorado to meet with some of our country’s top pro snowboarders and the businesses that support them to hear how they are taking action on climate.

Administrator McCarthy speaking to students

I spent the day with Olympic Silver Medalist and five-time X-Games Medalist pro-snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler. Our first stop was the local middle school in Aspen. These students grow up watching pro athletes like Gretchen, and many ski and snowboard themselves. We talked about changes the students can make in their everyday lives to help the environment and how they are the next generation of great minds that will develop solutions for addressing climate change.

Administrator McCarthy and snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler standing in front of a snow halfpipe.

Then we headed down to the X-Games venue to watch the halfpipe competitors practice. Without good, consistent winters, it’s tough for athletes to train and compete. Gretchen, who’s local to Aspen, told me they’re seeing more winter rain here in January, and athletes are increasingly wondering if there’s going to be enough snow for some of their biggest competitions.

Administrator McCarthy and athletes standing in front of ski slope.

The great thing about the athletes I met is that they know they’ve got a lot of stake, so they’re doing something about it. After halfpipe practice, Gretchen and I met with this year’s X-Game competitors. This bunch is committed to their sport, and they’re working with Protect Our Winters to ensure it’s around for generations to come. (That’s Maddy Schaffrick, Jake Black, me, Giom Morisset, Gretchen and Jordie Karlinski above.)

Admininstrator McCarthy and others sitting at round table discussion.

There are a lot of small businesses in Aspen that can’t survive without tourists coming into town, and I sat down for a chat with them in the afternoon. If we fail to act, Aspen’s climate could be a lot like that of Amarillo, TX, by 2100. Amarillo is a great town, but it’s a lousy place to ski.

Administrator McCarthy looking at mountain.

Unfortunately, the past few warmer winters mean the snowpack in Aspen is getting smaller. I joined Auden Schendler of Aspen Snowmass, one of the local ski resorts, to see how this year’s snow compares to previous years.

Administrator McCarthy listening to Alex Deibold speak to reporters.

Alex Deibold, 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist in snowboard cross, joined us to talk with local reporters about how climate change could impact mountain towns like Aspen if we don’t act now. He’s traveling farther to find snow where he can practice, and that’s why he’s speaking out.

Administrator McCarthy and athletes holding a "Protect Your Local Powder" sign.

These athletes and I have come to the same conclusion: We all have a responsibility to act on climate now. It’s critical to protect public health, the economy and the recreation and ways of life we love.

This week we’re focusing on how we can reduce the environmental impact of our favorite sports all year long. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our website to learn about the progress that major athletes, teams and venues are making, and what you can do as a fan to act on climate.

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.

A Chat About The Environment With Mike Richter

Mike Richter, champion on the ice and environmental champion off the ice.

Mike Richter, champion on the ice and environmental champion off the ice.

By Jennifer May-Reddy

Mike Richter is best known as one of the most successful goalies in the National Hockey League. He retired in 2003 and choose a different path – becoming partner at a private equity firm supporting companies in the environmental industry and launching Athletes for a Healthy Planet, an organization that makes the connection between a healthy planet and healthy athletes. Mike took time out of his busy schedule to talk with the EPA about why athletes and sports fans alike should care about the environment.

Q: Some people might not see an obvious nexus between sports and the environment. What do you think the connection or common thread is between sports and the environment?

A: As an athlete, I’ve been called an unlikely environmentalist but I think the environment is actually particularly relevant to athletes. Performance in sport is directly related to one’s health. The environment in which we live profoundly affects our health.

When it comes to global warming, the roots of my sport are far more affected than some other sports. The frozen ponds and lakes of North America where the sport was born freeze later and melt earlier lessening the opportunity to participate. The “free ice” which is truly free – being able to bring your skates and just walk up and play – is going away. The great history of this old sport of kids skating down the St. Lawrence River or having a pond in their backyard where they didn’t need to pay to play because this was their arena is going away. It is a shame.

Of course, so many aspects of our society are affected by pollution. But there is a direct connection with sports.

All sports started outside in a fundamental way. Sport in its basic and best sense is a challenge with yourself. You don’t have to be on a team or in an aerobics class. You can actually go up a mountain and see if you can make it to the top. That is an athletic feat. That is an athletic endeavor. But if you don’t have the trails and you don’t have the clean water or the non-polluted air, you just don’t participate as much in sports. Worse, if the local environment is compromised by pollution, it may actually be a hazard to your health.

Q: Can you talk a bit about how you got into the green movement? Were you involved in environmental causes when you were a player?

I don’t remember thinking of myself as an environmentalist. It was just on one level practical-don’t waste anything-food money, time. On another, the concept fairness and social justice.

I grew up in Northwest Philadelphia in the city – it wasn’t an urban environment, it was more suburban but every adventure I had in the small woods behind my house or local farms, it might as well have been in the Grand Tetons. It was incredible. We had sleep outs and tree forts, we found minnows and broke ice in the winter in the little creek behind my house. It is such an enormously important part of life.

I do remember there was dioxin in the river that we used to play in and they would say you really can’t eat the fish out of there. Nothing lived. All from a photo-processing plant upriver. And so it is not theoretical even for little kids. It is practical. It means that you can’t play in certain areas. It is taking away quality of life. There is an enormous injustice in that which has always bothered me.

In my life, I also lived on the Upper West Side in New York and admired the West River. The fact you can’t take a fish out of there is a sad thing. And it doesn’t have to be that way. There have been great efforts to clean up the Hudson and it’s come a long, long way. But any 5 year old can tell you that throwing one’s garbage on another person’s house is just plain old wrong. It is no different when people, corporations, or communities externalize their cost on another and pollute.

Being called an environmentalist is a funny thing. It has been politicized and it shouldn’t be a political thing. I have friends who are conservative, liberal and everything in between. And they all want clean and functioning resources and healthy children and good health for themselves.

To me, if you live on this Earth, you are an environmentalist. If you’re breathing, you want clean air and water. I think the questions is more “When did people stop identifying themselves as ‘pro-environment’?”

Q: What can fans or athletes do to be part of the “green sports” movement?

A: Most importantly, educate yourself. Ignorance of the issues is the real villain here. Become educated on the problems and available solutions, then implement them in your own life as much as possible. Take public transportation, recycle, and purchase local food. When these many excellent green sport programs are unveiled, show your team that it matters to you. Finally, demand it of their teams, players as well as themselves. Like any consumer, fans can reward those who move toward sustainability.

Q: In your experience, how are fans and players responding to green initiatives at venues?

People want clean water and clean air, clean energy, and sustainable alternatives to conventional products. They just don’t want to pay more, have inferior performance, and more difficulty in making it happen. When you go to an arena with 60,000 people in it and there are only two recycling cans on the other side of an acre-long walkway, the fan may not make the effort to recycle the bottle. It has to be easier.

Now, we see teams starting to understand environmental efforts. We have a long way to go, but they’ve come an enormous distance. You look at the recycling programs and public service announcements at games. Athletes are also starting to get more involved. We’re in a different place that we were even a decade ago in terms of the acceptance and acknowledgement of it and possible solutions. Arenas and teams are realizing that there is a more effective and efficient ways of running things. And as any person who runs a business knows, you can never be too efficient. Where there is waste, you are losing money.

The NHL’s “Rock and Wrap It Up” campaign, where they take food that has been prepared but is unused and donate it is a great example of what the environmental movement should be focusing on. In the end, we are talking about performance-less waste, smarter technology and design.

Q: Can you talk about the work you have been doing with Athletes for a Healthy Planet and other environmental organizations?

I believe that our problems with resource management are profound but recoverable. We will need government, the capital markets and NGOs combined to address the challenges if we are going to be successful. People are busy and there is a lot of information is out there but they want to do the right thing.

The environmental organizations I’ve worked with are comprised of ordinary people who care about their health, their kids and the future of their planet. They’re not radical. They are very thoughtful and generous. These projects need funding, science and volunteers. I believe very deeply in these organizations. Helping out with these organizations is one of the best gifts you can give back to society because everyone truly benefits from it.

Mike Richter is the founder and CEO of Healthy Planet Partners which finances energy infrastructure upgrades and renewables on commercial buildings. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Riverkeeper locally and on the Sierra Club Foundation Board of Directors nationally. Mr. Richter enjoyed a successful 15 year career with the New York Rangers where he was a three time NHL All-Star and in 1994 led the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 54 years. Mr. Richter also represented the United States on numerous international competitions including three Olympic teams, earning World Cup gold in 1996 and an Olympic Silver Medal in 2002. After retiring, Mr. Richter enrolled in Yale University and received his degree in Ethics, Politics, and Economics with a concentration in Environmental Policy.

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.

A PIAEE Winner’s Path Forward

By Gerry Reymore

Greetings from Vermont! The snow is falling and the temperature is a chilly 20 degrees. As a teacher, I’m busy starting the second half of the school year. If your school is anything like ours, you don’t have time to even blink from now until graduation in June. The rest of the school year just seems to fly by.

This year is especially exciting for me as a winner of the 2014 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). This award recognizes K-12 teachers who connect students to the natural world around them and use innovative methods to teach environmental education. I’m proud to be one of the 2014 recipients. I received financial support for my training, and my school received financial support too. I challenged my students this year to brainstorm what we can do with the school portion of the funding.

We agreed to focus on water and incorporate that theme in as many ways as we can. We’ll be updating our water sampling lab equipment, which will allow us to test water samples at our homes and from the local brook that runs behind our school and into the White River. Our town is building a new water treatment plant and we’ll be working with the town to understand water science from a municipal perspective. Finally, we’ll be installing a remote weather station and a water sampling station in our sugarbush (the forest of maple trees where sap is harvested for syrup). With this equipment, we can sample and test rainwater to relate its properties to the health of the forest. Information we gather will be shared with the Proctor Maple Research Center of the University of Vermont.

As for me, I plan to use this award to improve my understanding of water and the environment, but from a different standpoint: engineering. This summer, I plan to study the Erie Canal in Central New York. I would like to focus on the engineering and construction of this historic project and look at the environmental impacts to tie engineering into my teaching. I can see plenty of lesson plans and lab experiments for next year’s class coming out of this experience.

Applications for the 2015 award are now being accepted. If you’re a stellar teacher who is passionate about environmental stewardship and actively incorporating environmental education into your teaching, I highly encourage you to apply for PIAEE.

EPA, I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity to learn more about a subject I’m deeply committed to and to give my students a richer learning environment.

Have a great second half to the school year.

About the author: Gerry Reymore is the Environmental Resource Management Instructor at the Randolph Technical Career Center in Randolph Vermont. Before entering the teaching field 10 years ago, Gerry was vice president of a large Forest management and aerial mapping company in New England. He has a BS in Natural Resource Management from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY and a MSE in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle. WA.

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.

All Dried Up – Advice for Drought-Impacted Water Utilities

By Bailey Kennett

Born and raised in upstate New York, the idea of drought was pretty foreign to me. Some summers were dry, and maybe our backyard veggies didn’t do so well, but after some disappointment, we’d just cross our fingers and hope for the weather to turn before the season ended. This passive approach may have been fine for a budding gardener and her fleeting green thumb, but when whole communities are at risk, drought preparedness and response actions are essential.

Whether you live in the Sonoran Desert or the Land of 10,000 Lakes, drought can impact your water supply and influence how much water you can use at home. Some of us may witness dramatic impacts in parched lakes or vast stretches of cracked earth, while others may see more limited effects in a wilting vegetable garden. But, as these conditions persist year after year as they have in much of the country, it becomes increasingly clear that we are dealing with a disaster – a slow-moving and hard-hitting disaster fueled by climate change.

At the frontlines of the water supply emergency are water utilities, which monitor and manage supplies in order to maintain water service and ensure public health. As record drought conditions continue, many water utilities nationwide are revising their existing drought management approaches to account for new extremes and tipping points.

2014-12-09 Spicewood Onsite-WEM-004

EPA recently launched an effort to develop an interactive, multimedia guide to assist water utilities in increasing their drought preparedness and resilience. This drought response guide is based on lessons learned from six water utilities across diverse regions of the country. Two of the pilot utilities – Tuolumne Utilities District in Sonora, California, and a Corix Utilities system in Spicewood Beach, Texas – shared their insights into the major challenges faced, solutions developed, and steps taken to ensure a more resilient utility and community.

As drought continues across the United States, creating conditions that threaten to become the “new normal”, it is critical that water utilities prepare for changes to long-term supply and demand. Whether it’s using sustainable gardening practices or being aware of water emergency conditions, we as community members must also understand our role in water conservation and stewardship. Drought may be a slow-moving disaster, but our drought management efforts will help more water utilities move towards greater resiliency.

About the author: Bailey Kennett works in the U.S. EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water in Washington, D.C, through a fellowship with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). She works on emergency response programs and tools to increase the resilience of the water sector.

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.

11 Sports Teams and Leagues That Have Gone Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Carly Carroll

It’s a big week in sports. Folks are getting ready for the big game, and if you’re a hockey fan, there’s a lot of excitement out on the ice. So this week we’re focusing in on the ways that sports teams, stadiums and fans can reduce their environmental impact and take action on climate.

The great news is that many sports teams and leagues have already scored some big environmental goals. Read on to learn about a few of the big steps they’ve taken on the environment.

  1. The Philadelphia Eagles run an efficient offense under Chip Kelly and have started to bring efficiency to their cleaning strategy as well. They are using greener cleaning products that don’t contain chemicals that can harm the environment.
  2. The National Hockey League is on a power play on a number of environmental initiatives, including purchasing wind energy credits to offset all of its electricity usage for its headquarters in New York City.
  3. Consol Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is the first NHL arena to be LEED Gold Certified – the second highest level of certification.
  4. Every year, the National Basketball Association hosts NBA Green Week where it highlights what teams and players are doing to take action for a cleaner environment.
  5. The Boston Red Sox recently wrapped up a new “green monster” in Fenway Park – a five-year plan that included the installation of enough solar panels to provide 37% of their energy.
  6. While Corey Kluber fanned a lot of batters in 2014 en route to his AL Cy Young, the Cleveland Indians fanned their way to clean energy, becoming the first MLB team to install a wind turbine.
  7. The Miami Marlins are sliding into 2015 with a groundbreaking reduction in water use. New plumbing fixtures and water use plans will reduce their use by an estimated 52%, while changes to their landscape design mean a 60% reduction in water for irrigation.
  8. About 65% of the waste generated at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, gets recycled. According to the Pirates, if the plastic bottles they’ve recycled were laid flat end to end, they would stretch from PNC Park to Yankee Stadium and back again.
  9. The St. Louis Cardinals are knocking it out of the park when it comes to reducing wasted food. Since 2008, they’ve delivered $159,462 of safe, healthy leftover food to those who need a good meal.
  10. The Seattle Mariners took a big step adding Robinson Cano to their lineup in 2014. The club has also taken big steps to enhance their energy efficiency and reduce water use. They’ve saved more than $1.75 million in electricity, gas, water and sewer bills since 2006.
  11. The Washington Nationals are leading the league on green building. Nationals Park was the first major professional stadium to become LEED Silver Certified.

Many teams, leagues and stadiums are involved with programs here at EPA like the Food Recovery Challenge and the Green Power Partnership. Check out our Green Sports website to learn more.

About the Author: Carly Carroll has worked in public engagement and environmental education for 8 years. She enjoys connecting the sports world with EPA and teaching kids about nature. She graduated from NC State University with a Masters in Science Education, but is a die-hard Tar Heel fan.

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.

Largest Superfund Settlement in History Means Cleanups from New Jersey to California

Cynthia Giles Cynthia Giles

If you pollute the environment, you should be responsible for cleaning it up. This basic principle guides EPA’s Superfund cleanup enforcement program.

We just settled our largest environmental contamination case ever, for nearly $4.4 billion that will help to clean up the communities that were affected.

Here’s some background: Last April, along with the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, EPA announced a historic cleanup settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Many years ago, one of Anadarko’s subsidiaries, Kerr-McGee, conducted uranium mining and other activities that involved highly toxic chemicals at sites across the nation. These operations left contamination behind, including radioactive uranium waste across the Navajo Nation; radioactive thorium in Chicago and West Chicago, Illinois; creosote (or tar) waste in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the South; and perchlorate contamination in Nevada. All of these substances can be dangerous to people’s health.

Anadarko tried to skirt its responsibility by transferring the business assets responsible for this contamination into a now-defunct and bankrupt company called Tronox. EPA and DOJ vigorously pursued them – and the result was this new settlement. The nearly $4.4 billion that the company will pay will help to clean up toxic pollution and to turn the contaminated areas back into usable land.

This settlement took effect last week. Here are some ways that its impact will be felt:

  • In Manville, N.J., a coal tar wood treatment facility buried creosote in recreational areas. Funds will be used EPA and the state will get funds to clean up the waste left behind.
  • Not far away in Camden and Gloucester City, N.J., there’s a residential area where two former gas mantle manufacturing sites used to be. They’ve received cleanup assistance already, and this settlement means that more is on the way.
  • Funds are starting to flow to Navajo Nation territory to help clean up drinking water contaminated by radioactive waste from abandoned uranium mines.
  • Low income, minority communities in Jacksonville, Florida; West Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Mississippi; and Navassa, North Carolina are benefiting from the settlement funds to clean up contamination from uranium and thorium, volatile organic compounds, pesticides and PCBs.

Companies that operate in American communities have an obligation to protect nearby residents from harm. That’s why we do enforcement — to protect communities and their health. We make sure that responsible parties are held accountable and pay to clean up the pollution they caused.

Learn more about our enforcement cleanup efforts at Superfund sites across the country, some of which include an enforcement component, in the December 2014 National Geographic Magazine.

Picture resources:
Federal Creosote site pictures: http://epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/federalcreosote/images.html
Welsbach & Gas Mantle site pictures: http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/welsbach/images.html
Map of Navajo Nation Abandoned Uranium Mines Superfund Cleanup Sites (larger poster PDF): http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/navajo-nation/pdf/CleanupSitesPoster.pdf
smaller image found at http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/navajo-nation/abandoned-uranium.html

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.

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circle

This week in his State of the Union Address, President Obama declared that climate change is the greatest threat to our future. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy showed support of his statement in her blog, Climate Action Protects the Middle Class, where she discussed how EPA is taking action and delivering on a key part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

EPA researchers support both the Agency and President Obama in taking action on climate change by providing the science that decision makers, communities, and individuals need to protect human health and the environment in the face of a changing climate.

You can learn more about the work EPA researchers have done to support climate action here.

And here is some more research we’ve highlighted this week.

  • EPA Releases Final Connectivity Report in Support of the Clean Water Rule
    On January 15th, EPA released the final report Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence. Researchers found that the scientific literature clearly demonstrates that streams, regardless of their size or frequency of flow, are connected to downstream waters in ways that strongly influence their function.
    The report can be read here.
  • EPA Funded Research Finds BPA Exposure during Pregnancy Causes Oxidative Stress in Child, Mother
    A study done by the EPA/NIEHS Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at University of Michigan was published in the journal Endocrinology, which found that exposure to the chemical BPA during pregnancy can cause oxidative damage that may put the baby at risk of developing diabetes or heart disease later in life.
    Read more about the study here.

If you have any comments or questions about what I shared or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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.

Hmmm – Superfund – What is That?

EPA Region 2 Superfund Director Walter Mugdan explaining the Superfund process from site listing to site deletion.

EPA Region 2 Superfund Director Walter Mugdan explaining the Superfund process from site listing to site deletion.

By Cecilia Echols

Wow, what an experience! Not long ago, EPA Region 2 tried something brand new. Nearly 60 people attended the EPA Superfund Symposium – “Engaging Brooklyn and Queens” – at the Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room. This symposium was the first of its kind, blending stakeholders from various neighborhoods to talk about Superfund in their communities.

The goal for this first-time event was to provide a roadmap for cleanups at three hazardous waste sites that have interlocking neighborhoods within Brooklyn and Queens. The sites are Wolff Alport Chemical Company in Bushwick/Ridgewood; Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Long Island City and Maspeth; and, Gowanus Canal in Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus and Park Slope.

Walter Mugdan, our Superfund Director, helped kick it off by explaining the Superfund process from site listing to site deletion. Each of these sites is at a different stage in the cleanup process and they are all impacted by a wide range of contaminants. Recognizing that Superfund cleanups may appear to be a complicated and arduous process, Walter explained the technical steps in an understandable, step-by-step fashion.

In terms of contaminants, Wolff Alport has the presence of thoron and radon gas; indications of an on and off-site spread of residual radioactive materials. Newtown Creek is contaminated with pesticides, metals, PCBs, and volatile organic compounds, which are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air. The Gowanus Canal, considered one of the most polluted water bodies in the nation, has been polluted for years by industrial waste discharges, storm water runoff and sewer overflows. Other contaminants include PCBs, coal tar wastes, heavy metals and volatile organics.

Here I am (seated, facing the camera) listening to a community member discuss what it's like working with the EPA.

Here I am (seated, facing the camera) listening to a community member discuss what it’s like working with the EPA.

Michael Sivak, an EPA Risk Assessor, explained in an equally understandable way, the four-step process that is used to assess site-related human health risks – namely, what chemicals are in the soil, groundwater, air and surface water and how we are impacted and exposed to them, in the short and long-term. Additionally, four Community Involvement Coordinators presented, including Melissa Dimas, Wanda Ayala, Natalie Loney and myself. Our portion touched on elements of what we call the “community involvement toolkit,” consisting of Social Media, the Superfund Job Training Initiative, Technical Assistance Grants, Technical Assistance Services for Communities, EJ Screen, MY Environment and Community Advisory Groups (CAGs).

One of the most invaluable components of the Symposium, was a discussion led by two community members. Phillip Musegaas, representing Newtown Creek and Lizzie Olesker, representing the Gowanus Canal discussed how a CAG works for their particular site and mentioned what it is like working with EPA. Their candor and experience was very helpful and it spearheaded a lively conversation with other CAG members, homeowners, partner agencies, local business representatives and non-governmental organizations. A number of elected officials participated as well.

I was delighted with the turnout, and all of the hard work in planning this event paid off. I personally want to thank Borough President Eric Adams for the use of the space. I am pretty sure many more conversations will continue about the EPA’s role in cleaning up Wolff Alport, Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal.

http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/

http://www.epa.gov/region02/waste/wolff/index.html

http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/newtowncreek/

http://www.epa.gov/superfund/community/toolkit.htm

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.