This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_250

We’re still recovering from Snowzilla here in Washington DC, but our scientists are hard at work. Here’s what they’ve been up to this week.

  • Kid Scientists Shine at White House Event
    EPA’s Amanda Kaufman recently participated in an event at the White House called the State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Address. There, she demonstrated some of EPA’s emerging air sensor technologies research. The event brought in students from all over the country to showcase innovative science and technology to excite the imaginations of the students and encourage them to follow their dreams and passions.

    Read more about the event in her blog Kid Scientists Shine at White House Event.

  • Traffic-Related Pollution
    Many scientific studies have found that people who live, work, or attend school near major roads appear to be more at risk for a variety of short- and long-term health effects. To help schools, parents, and communities reduce students’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution, EPA has just released a new resource: Best Practices for Reducing Near-Road Pollution Exposure at Schools.

    Read more about the resource in the blog Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.

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.

Protecting Our Coastal Waters

By Benita Best-Wong

America’s coastal waters are a source of life for people and marine life that reside near them. While some of us may think of our coastal waters as a great place to enjoy swimming, fishing, kayaking, boating and other fun water recreation activities, for many communities, they are much more than that. Many people’s livelihoods, whether based on fishing or tourism, depend on clean and safe coastal waters. And, in the case of the Great Lakes, surrounding communities rely on coastal waters to generate precious drinking water.

Most of America’s population lives near a coastline, and that population continues to grow every year. With population growth comes increased land development and pressure on fragile coastal habitats. The National Coastal Condition Assessment (NCCA), a study conducted under the National Aquatic Resource Surveys to better understand the condition of our nation’s waters, tells us that our coastal and Great Lakes nearshore waters have a mix of good and fair health. Even with this news, it’s important that we continue to employ all of the tools available to reduce the pollutants that degrade water quality and further protect areas in good condition.

Every day at EPA, we aim to restore and protect coastal waters through a mix of regulatory and voluntary programs. We work with federal, state and local partners to control point source pollution from industrial and municipal discharges and sewer overflows, restore coastal and estuarine habitats, preserve wetlands, monitor and clean beaches, and manage dredged material to facilitate commerce. Our ocean dumping program prevents pollution caused by discarding wastes near coastal waters. We also set limits on discharges from various vessels and work with communities to prevent trash from entering waterbodies and flowing into the sea. These programs help to keep America’s waters clean.

When we protect the environment, we protect people’s health, too.  We also work to make sure people are aware of any risks to their health due to environmental challenges.  Our ongoing Beach Watch Program and beach grants helps states improve monitoring and notification systems to alert beach goers about unsafe water quality conditions. The public can also seek our information on fish advisories to find out when certain fish from specific areas should not be eaten or eaten only in limited amounts due to toxins.

Learn more about what we at EPA are doing to protect our coastal waters and find out what you can do to help.

Benita Best-Wong is the Director of the Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds.   OWOW promotes a watershed approach to manage, protect and restore the water resources and aquatic ecosystems of the nation’s marine and fresh waters.  

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.

Go With the Flow—Green Infrastructure in Your Neighborhood

By Chris Kloss

Ten years ago, we didn’t see much green infrastructure for water resources around our neighborhoods. It was more of a novelty than a focused approach to sustainable development and construction. A few cities started using and experimenting with green infrastructure techniques such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, and bioswales which are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. The green was a complement to the gray infrastructure, the established system of underground tunnels and sewers. Together, green and gray infrastructure provided a holistic approach to manage stormwater for cleaner water.

Tools, Strategies and Lessons Learned from EPA Green Infrastructure Assistance Projects booklet coverAs the word spread about the early successes of these communities, a growing cadre of public works pioneers joined the movement to apply its principles and techniques to managing their water resources. EPA joined in their discussions, providing support to these pioneers through our technical assistance program. Today, EPA is releasing a summary report of the results from this program that we hope leads to even greater growth in green infrastructure.

Tools, Strategies and Lessons Learned from EPA Green Infrastructure Assistance Projects 

Many of the green infrastructure thinking and practices we see today are not new. Gardens, rain barrels and permeable pavement were standard practices for harnessing and managing water hundreds of years ago. They were old-time technology that let water do what it naturally does —seep back into the earth where it can flow back naturally to streams and rivers, replenish groundwater, or be absorbed by plants and trees.

Communities are now relearning these techniques, and green infrastructure is working for communities across the urban spectrum, from smaller cities like Clarksville, Georgia to midsized, midwestern cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin and large metropolitan regions like Los Angeles, California.

The summary document outlines how these and other community green infrastructure projects are successful. It also highlights benefits, offering examples for city managers to think creatively about how they can design their communities for better health, abundant water resources and improved quality of life.

We can all be part of better design for our communities. It just takes a different way of looking at things. When I’m out with my kids, I talk about how when it rains the water runs off streets, parking lots and other hard surfaces and flows down the stormwater drains into the sewer systems where it can’t be used for anything else. Now armed with the information, they’re always on the lookout for the missed opportunities in our neighborhood for letting the water go where it wants to, where it can do the most good for the watershed where they live.

I hope this report contributes to a movement where green infrastructure becomes standard practice. Every time we set out to design or build, repair or remodel our water systems let’s remember to think green infrastructure and let water do what it naturally does.

Learn more at www.epa.gov/greeninfrastructure and check out the 2016 Green Infrastructure Webcast Series for in-depth presentations throughout the year.

About the Author: Chris Kloss is Acting Chief of the Municipal Branch in EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management. The branch oversees the wet-weather permitting programs (stormwater, combined sewer systems, and sanitary sewer systems) and the green infrastructure program. Chris has nearly 20 years of experience in the clean water field including time in the private and nonprofit sectors prior to joining EPA.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Searching for Sustainable Solutions to Water Infrastructure Challenges

by Lori Reynolds

Though clean water is the backbone of our nation’s health and economy, the high cost of water infrastructure upgrades, not to mention the even higher long-term cost of delaying these fixes presents a daunting challenge for local officials.

One year ago, a Presidential Memorandum directed EPA and other federal agencies to increase collaboration between the private and public sectors to meet this challenge by expanding innovative financing tools and helping communities plan for maintaining water infrastructure and developing new projects.  WaterCARE poster_compressed

This year, the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center marked its one-year anniversary with a panel discussion at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC.  Panelists from water systems in huge urban centers and from smaller, rural locations were able to provide a broad perspective on the needs of different communities.

During the discussion, George Hawkins, the Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of DCWater, noted that while technological advances and innovative funding mechanisms are available, many communities don’t take advantage of them because they don’t know which technologies or financing instruments would work best for their situation.

Today, the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center is connecting finance experts with local water officials to help communities build more sustainable, resilient water systems.  In its first year, the Center hosted water finance forums, compiled best practices for utilizing federal and private financing programs, and is creating a clearinghouse to help communities develop revenue streams to finance stormwater and green infrastructure projects.

In addition, the Finance Center recently announced the Water Community Assistance for Resiliency and Excellence (WaterCARE) program, designed to help communities develop finance strategies.  Ten WaterCARE communities will receive specialized assistance in developing plans to finance projects for safe, clean water.

To learn more about water infrastructure, check out EPA’s website.

 

About the author: Lori Reynolds works in the region’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, which provides funding to states for water and wastewater infrastructure. To sustain the investment, Lori and others in the office promote energy and water conservation and operation and maintenance planning to extend the useful life of infrastructure assets.

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.

Looking Back as We Move Forward: My 25 Years in the Superfund Program

By Diana Engeman

When I began working here 25 years ago, I could not appreciate the perspective I would get from working in EPA’s Superfund program from its early years, seeing it grow and evolve. In December 1980, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly referred to as Superfund. As we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Superfund program, I look forward to my 25th anniversary with EPA Region 7 here in the Heartland.

So what is Superfund? 

Superfund sites fall into two general categories: removal sites and remedial sites. Removal sites generally require short-term action. These are train car derailments, abandoned drums along a back road, or spills that may require quickly providing people with an alternative supply of clean water. The other category of Superfund sites, called remedial sites, require long-term actions to address contamination that may be more widespread or complex. Most of my work has involved remedial sites.

Little did I realize when I first started at EPA that I would be working on the first site assigned to me 25 years later – and someone will still be working on it when I retire! Does this mean I’ve failed? No, and let me explain why.

Carter Carburetor

EPA Region 7 hosts an event to announce the settlement agreements related to the Carter Carburetor Superfund Site in North St. Louis, July 29, 2013. (EPA Photo by Toni Castro)

Many Superfund sites are the result of the way hazardous materials were disposed of in the 1800s through the 1960s. Wastes from many manufacturing operations were buried underground, poured down wells, piped to waterways, or just left behind when businesses ceased operations. This was not unlawful at the time, and was probably perceived by most people as perfectly acceptable. They did not realize that, decades later, the soil where they live or the groundwater they rely on as a source of drinking water would be contaminated and unsafe to use.

There are still new Superfund remedial sites being identified in Region 7, but a significant amount of the work we do involves making sure that sites where cleanup activities were initiated many years ago, continue to make progress toward their cleanup goals, remaining safe in the meantime. This is part of the Superfund program evolution.

We are also actively involved in the redevelopment of some of these remedial sites. Even though a significant amount of contamination remains in the subsurface at one of my sites, because there is not currently a technology available to remove it, we are working with the local government on their plans to put their municipal bus storage facility on the property. There are some special issues that have to be addressed up front to make this feasible, but it’s an excellent opportunity to breathe new life into property identified as a Superfund site. It is my hope that this is the future of Superfund – new opportunities where old problems once existed.

25 years of Superfund site work

So, back to the first Superfund site assigned to me. The contamination was left at the site in the early 1900s. It was discovered in the early 1980s when the city excavated to install a new sewer line. Twenty years ago, all of the contaminated soil that could possibly be excavated was removed and treated, and the hole was backfilled under the direction and oversight of EPA. The groundwater immediately below where the contaminated soil had been is still contaminated at levels not safe to drink. But, through on-going sampling, we know exactly where the contamination remains.

No one is drinking this water or being exposed to it in any other way. There are actions taking place to treat the contaminated water, reducing the volume of water affected. Although it will take many more years before the groundwater will be “clean,” we will continue to stay on top of what is happening at the site. Superfund law requires EPA to formally review a site every five years to make sure the remedy is protecting human health and the environment. If problems are identified, they have to be addressed. This continues until the site is deemed “unrestricted use/unlimited exposure.”

This means I will probably be watching over my first Superfund site until I retire, making certain it remains safe. And it is very likely someone else will be watching over it after I retire.

Learn about Superfund’s anniversary: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-35th-anniversary

About the Author: Diana Engeman has been a project manager in the Superfund program in Region 7 for 25 years. She has enjoyed the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people, both scientists and non-scientists, throughout her career at EPA.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Kid Scientists Shine at White House Event

By Amanda Kaufman

Kaufman SoSTEm

Amanda Kaufman at the SoSTEM event.

President Obama’s last State of the Union address on January 12th called for giving everyone a fair shot at opportunity, including offering every student the “hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.” The United States government, including EPA, is supporting this call by encouraging the next generation of scientists and engineers. There IS hope—and I experienced firsthand that hope with a group of young students at the White House just last week.

On January 13th, my colleague Joel Creswell and I demonstrated some of EPA’s emerging air sensor technologies research at a post-State of the Union event at the White House called the State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Address (SoSTEM). SoSTEM brought in students from all over—the Bronx, Baltimore, DC, and more—to showcase innovative science and technology to excite the imaginations of the students and encourage them to follow their dreams and passions no matter how insurmountable they may seem. Over 150 students from 5th through 12th grade attended the event.

I was lucky enough to spend several hours with these kids while I exhibited a variety of portable, lower-cost citizen science air monitors. They also got to build their own air pollution sensors using LED lights, microprocessors, electrical circuitry, and particulate matter (PM) sensors using kits designed by EPA research engineer Gayle Hagler. These energetic students had lots of questions about the sensors and air pollution in general, and I was amazed by how much they already knew about both topics or just figured out as we played with the various devices.

This event also featured presentations by NASA, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Institutes of Health, and some words of wisdom and encouragement from White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, as well as several others.

The day ended with a live question-and-answer video chat session with scientists working at the South Pole. The students lined up eagerly to ask questions about what it’s like to live at the South Pole and what kinds of challenges they face in such a harsh environment.

Throughout the day, I was constantly impressed by the vision and enthusiasm exhibited by each of the young people, which inspired me to think of what future discoveries they would bring. All this “controlled chaos of enthusiasm” was accompanied by inquiring student reporters making their rounds with thoughtful questions. It was great to see these kids link what they were seeing to school subjects, making the connection between the microprocessors used in the air sensors and those being used in their computer science or robotics classes.

With support from President Obama and others, these kids are a shining example of our future. The common message given to students throughout the day was to stick with their dreams, to never give up, and to never stop dreaming. Quoting John Holdren, “The spirit of discovery is in our DNA…You [the students] are at the core of President Obama’s vision for the future.”

Check out a few more resources and a video from this event, below:

EPA Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists

Report to the President: Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) For America’s Future

About the Author: Amanda Kaufman is an ORISE participant hosted by EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy national research program.

 

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.

Improving Rodent Control Using Biomonitoring Baits in NYC

DeadRat

A dead rat being cleared from a ceiling.

By Marcia Anderson

In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift in programs aimed at controlling rodents, especially in urban areas. Through the use of non-toxic biomonitoring baits, New York City rodent control specialists are improving their pest management techniques to become more effective at tracking rodents.

Biomonitoring baits are essentially non-toxic food blocks for mice and rats with additives that allow for tracking. The baits contain human food-grade ingredients, making them highly attractive to rodents in both taste and texture.

There are two types of biomonitoring baits – one that incorporates a biofluorescent marker and a second that incorporates a dark pink dye. After they are digested, the marker additives are excreted in the rodent scat (feces). Under black light, even the faintest of scat with the bio fluorescent marker glows brilliantly. In contrast, the pinkish scat from the other bait product is easily detected in normal light.

Biomonitoring baits can assist in controlling rodent infestations, especially in sensitive locations such as in schools, childcare centers, and medical facilities. In these locations where pesticides are not desired or allowed, an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach is critical. IPM is a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to managing pests that focuses on pest prevention and incorporates a diversity of control tactics, including pesticides.

 

Mouse in insulation of a home

Mouse in insulation of a home

In areas where other mammals or birds of prey frequent and rely on rodents as part of their diet, these sensible tracking baits have no impact on non-target animals. They help pest management professionals determine the paths rodents travel between their nests and food sources. By tracking the brightly colored or glowing droppings, a pest management professional can also determine the species of rodent, size of the infestation, range, entry locations, harborages and approximate nest locations.

Biomonitoring baits can be deployed in outdoor bait stations to determine if rodents are living in or entering a building. If entering the building, these baits can the direct pest management professionals to the openings that need to be sealed. When used in indoor stations, the baits show the paths rodents are using as well as their nest site(s).

Both types of monitoring baits are currently being used in New York City. Strategically placed, they can even detect on which floors rodents are harboring. They are a smart addition to any IPM program.

In addition to rodents, the fluorescent biomarker has also been used to detect cockroach movement, their locations of entry, and even their harborages. Are they entering from the basement, sewers, neighboring structures, pipes, or wall voids? The cockroach frass (feces), although much smaller than rodent scat, is still detectable with black light, and glows just as brilliantly, uncovering their travel and harborage secrets.

 

Biomonitoring effectively addresses the pest monitoring step in a successful IPM program. It allows for a focus on the underlying issues that make areas attractive to pests. The baits can also assist community sanitarians in controlling the NYC rodent population while protecting Fordham University’s hawks at the same time. Read a related 2012 blog that highlights the Disappearing Pigeons and Rats from a Bronx High School.

Technical information on rodent biomonitoring was provided to the author by Dr. Bobby Corrigan, RMC Pest Management Consulting. For practical implementation of biomarkers in NYC go to: www.pctonline.com/boimonitoring-rodents-Corrigan.aspx.

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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.

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go…Put the Brakes on Traffic-Related Pollution Exposure at Schools

Ruth Etzel Ruth Etzel

By Ruth Etzel, MD

School bus with black smoke.

Many scientific studies have found that people who live, work, or attend school near major roads appear to be more at risk for a variety of short- and long-term health effects, including asthma, reduced lung function, impaired lung development in children, and cardiovascular effects in adults. For example, a study by researchers at the University of Southern California found that children who live within 500 meters (that’s about one-third of a mile) from a freeway incur substantial and long-lasting deficits in lung development and function compared to children living at least 1500 meters (a little under 1 mile) from a freeway.

Yet nearly 17,000 of our country’s schools are located within steps of a heavily-traveled road, potentially exposing more than 6 million children to traffic-related pollution at a time when their developing lungs are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution.  Because one in ten children in the U.S. suffer from asthma, that number includes many kids who may already be struggling to breathe. What’s more, low-income and minority children are disproportionately impacted by asthma and are more likely to live and attend school near major roadways. Many communities are also facing difficult decisions about where to put new schools to serve a growing student population and how to design those schools to maintain a healthy learning and teaching environment.

To help schools, parents, and communities reduce students’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution, EPA has just released a new resource: Best Practices for Reducing Near-Road Pollution Exposure at Schools. In this document, best practice solutions that schools across the country are employing to reduce kids’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution are described. This “Best Practices” document summarizes several strategies that can be used to reduce exposures including ventilation, filtration, voluntary building occupant actions, school transportation policies, school siting and site layout decisions, and the use of sound walls and vegetative barriers. The document also contains a school ventilation checklist and links to additional resources for achieving clean, green and healthy school environments, such as EPA’s Voluntary School Siting Guidelines.

EPA and our partners have had tremendous success cleaning the air over the past 45 years, cutting air pollution by 70% while our nation’s economy tripled. That’s good news for our children; research published this year found that the improving air quality in Southern California over the past 20 years has led to healthier lungs for children in the region. But we still have work to do. While vehicle emissions have decreased over the past several decades due to EPA’s emission standards, schools may still be located in areas where air pollution levels are elevated.  We hope that this new resource will help schools and parents across the country find ways to reduce exposure to traffic-related air pollution at schools.

Learn what you can do: www.epa.gov/schools

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.

Increasing Transparency through Improved Data Access

By Jessie Johnson

In college I worked with community groups to address local agriculture and food safety issues. During that time, I learned how many people in the community didn’t really understand these issues or what to do about them. I started to think about transparency and the importance of community involvement and education. I am thrilled to now be a part of the team working on the Enforcement and Compliance History Online tool, known as ECHO. This tool allows users to search facilities that are in non-compliance with environmental laws and helps make EPA enforcement efforts and companies’ actions more transparent for the general public.

Each year the ECHO team hears from users around the country about enhancements they would like to see. We have been working hard to create, promote, and improve the highlighted tools in the ECHO system and build new, useful tools. Some of our notable improvements include:

 2015 Highlights

  • Users now have a “Use My Location” feature on their mobile devices to find facilities within a three-mile radius.
  • When users search by case name, defendant name or facility name on the enforcement case search, they can choose to search for exact matches or names that begin with a search term.
  • An ECHO tool guide provides users with tips about tools for various analyses.
  • Pesticide Worker Protection dashboard provides a summary of enforcement and compliance aimed to reduce risk of pesticide poisoning and injury.
  • Online tutorials are available for clean water effluent charts, detailed facility reports, and the error reporting feature.

2016 Plans

I am also excited to share what’s in store for 2016. We will be focusing on improving ECHO tools and increasing public involvement. When I joined EPA, I came with a personal goal to help others get involved with knowing their environmental community and reporting on noncompliance of environmental laws. I am personally looking forward to seeing more public users and feedback so we can improve our enforcement efforts. But as a team, we have a lot of exciting projects for 2016 to help make ECHO more useful and informative for everyone.

  • Users will be able to search for criminal enforcement cases as well as the current opportunity to search civil enforcement cases.
  • Enhanced search results and mapping capabilities.
  • Water quality mapping.
  • Frequent tutorials and trainings for both public and government users.

After a great 2015 of modernizing ECHO I am looking forward to 2016!

Jessie Johnson is new to EPA as a program analyst with the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. She specializes in GIS technology and will be working to help improve the enforcement maps and training others in map analysis and has a particular interest in how GIS mapping can help improve enforcement and management efforts.

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 Fitzpatrick

Research Recap graphic identifierThis weekend, the East Coast is preparing for the potentially record-breaking Winter Storm Jonas. So whether you’re waiting in a long line at the grocery store, already holed up at home, or enjoying the warm weather someplace far away, here’s a little snow-related reading to keep you occupied.

Are You Ready for a Snowstorm?
At the first mention of inclement weather, we often make a mad dash to the grocery store or hardware store to stock up on supplies. EPA’s Lina Younes shared some tips on how to avoid the panic and stay safe during severe storms.

Read about them in her blogs Don’t Panic. Be Prepared and Are you Ready for a Snowstorm?

The Importance of Snowpack
Long-term trends in snowpack provide important evidence that climate-related shifts are underway, and highlight the seriousness of water-resource and drought issues that Western states such as California currently face.

EPA scientist Mike Kolian explains more about snowpack as an environmental health indicator in the blog The Importance of Snowpack.

What Happens to Road Salt after the Snow has Melted?
Road salts are an important tool for making roads safer during ice and snowstorms. Every winter about 22 million tons of road salt and other de-icers are used nationwide. What happens to all that road salt after the snow melts? Is it bad for the environment?

EPA Ecologist Paul Mayer provides an answer in the blog Got an Environmental Science Question? Ask an EPA Scientist!

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.

Dog outside in the snow.

When not out in the snow with friends, enjoy the EPA Research Recap!

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