This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

research_recap_250Today is Arbor Day—a day to plant, care for, and celebrate trees! Don’t have a shovel handy? Well you can still read about the latest in EPA science to get your environmental fix.

Visualize Your Water Challenge
The winners of the Visualize Your Water challenge were announced last week! High school students were challenged to use open government data sources to create compelling, innovative, and comprehensible visualizations that inform individuals and communities about nutrient pollution. Read about it all straight from the teachers of the winning students in the blog Recognizing Winners of EPA’s Visualize Your Water Challenge.

Doing it for the Kids: Engaging Students on Energy and Climate Change
Got a minute to listen to EPA’s latest Science Bite podcast? EPA scientist Dr. Rebecca Dodder describes her research on climate change and why engaging students on energy issues is important to her. Listen to the Science Bite podcasts.

New Way to Track Everyday Exposure
EPA scientists are excited about the flurry of research under way using silicone wristbands for monitoring everyday exposures to chemicals. This research could complement EPA’s ongoing effort to develop computer models that generate high-throughput exposure predictions for thousands of chemicals. Read more about this wristband research in the article A Simple Way to Track Your Everyday Exposure to Chemicals.

Don’t Flush! Why Your Drug Disposal Method Matters
April 30th is National Drug Take-Back Day. What do you usually do with your unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals? If you flush them down the toilet or throw them in the trash, they can end up in our coastal ecosystems and negatively impact aquatic animals. Read more about what happens and how you can safely discard your pharmaceuticals in the blog Don’t Flush! Why Your Drug Disposal Method Matters.

Next Week is Air Quality Awareness Week!
EPA will be hosting a Twitter Chat with CDC on air quality issues on May 5th, from 1-2 p.m. ET. This chat will talk about topics like the impacts of air pollution on human health and how you can use air quality tools to reduce your exposure to pollution. Join the conversation at #AirQualityChat.

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.

Don’t Flush! Why Your Drug Disposal Method Matters

4A-Digital Billboard-English-1400x400By Sara Ernst

Have you ever participated in a drug take-back program?  If not, what do you typically do with leftover medications after you defeat a bacterial infection or find an old bottle of Tylenol?  Many people may flush unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals down the toilet or throw them in the trash, but those methods can actually harm our environment.

When flushed or thrown-out, these drugs can end up in our coastal ecosystems; and all the chemicals in those little pills that were once working together to make us feel better, are now dissolving in our waterways where they can negatively impact aquatic animals.

Scientists throughout EPA continue to evaluate the potential toxicity of different drugs to determine what specific effects they have on aquatic wildlife, and to develop new ways to detect if an organism has been exposed to those drugs.

I recently spoke with EPA scientists Bushra Khan and Theresa Johnston to learn about some of the specific effects they have observed in their research.

Close-up of a person's hand holding a bottle of pillsBushra talked to me about the effects that beta blockers (medication prescribed to patients with high blood pressure or chest pain) have on shellfish such as oysters, clams, and mussels.  She explained that when shellfish become exposed to beta blockers, it can interfere with the organism’s physiological pathways, cellular integrity, and their growth and development.

Theresa explained that drugs that are designed to disrupt our endocrine system, like oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies, also disrupt the endocrine system of fish and other aquatic organisms. EPA scientists have found that hormones called progestins, often used in oral contraceptives, affect the number of eggs that female cunner fish produce.  They also interfere with the way hormones function within females and males.

By improperly disposing of pharmaceuticals, we further contribute to the amount of chemical exposure aquatic animals are subjected to, and potentially threaten the population sustainability of shellfish, fish, and other aquatic animals.

The best thing you can do to help lessen the problem is to utilize Drug Take-Back Programs.  These programs allow you to drop off any unwanted medications at a designated facility where the drugs will then be disposed of in a safe and environmentally-conscious manner.

April 30th is the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Take-Back Day.  All over the country there will be facilities accepting any unwanted or expired medications from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM – it is the perfect opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinet while simultaneously helping to protect aquatic animals and their environment from chemical exposure!

Visit the National Take Back Initiative website to learn more and to locate a participating collection site near you.

About the Author:  Sara Ernst is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and works as the Science Communications Specialist in the Atlantic Ecology Division of 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.

This Spring, Show How You Care About the Air

By Jenny Noonan

What do our kids need to know about air quality? How can we teach them about the links between health and air pollution?  With a pre-kindergartener and a 3rd grader at home, my husband and I are always looking for ways to engage them about the fragility and resilience of the natural world. My job at EPA helps me do that and Asthma Awareness Month and Air Quality Awareness Week (May 2-6, 2016) give me a focus each spring.

This year’s Air Quality Awareness Week theme, Show How You Care About the Air, is a great opportunity to take to social media to share the importance of clean air to my family and yours.

For 10 years, we have sought out state and local partnerships to raise awareness about the connections between air quality and health. We’re highlighting events sponsored by our partners on our website. Show How You Care About the Air is a coordinated theme with a special focus each day of the week, including:

Monday, May 2                 Highlighting State and Local Events

Tuesday, May 3                 Asthma and Air Quality (World Asthma Day)

Wednesday, May 4            Air Quality Around the World

Thursday, May 5               Air Quality Trends

Friday, May 6                    Citizen Science

As part of Asthma Awareness Month, we will be sponsoring two Twitter chats to increase awareness. The first will discuss topics such as the environmental triggers of asthma – both indoors and out – and how you can develop a personal asthma plan to help manage these triggers. You can follow along or participate in this chat, co-sponsored with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on May 3, from 2-3 pm by following #AsthmaChat, or leave a question below.

We will also be hosting a Twitter chat with CDC on air quality issues on May 5, from 1-2 pm. This chat will talk about topics like the impacts of air pollution on human health, and how you can use air quality tools to reduce your exposure to pollution. Join the conversation at #AirQualityChat, or leave a question below.

Finally, everyone has an opportunity to take a selfie or other photo showing how you care about the air during Air Quality Awareness Week 2016 and share it on the AirNow Facebook page.

 

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.

Expanding Access to Healthy Communities through Fair Housing

Gustavo Velasquez and HUD Secretary Julian Castro

Gustavo Velasquez, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, and Julian Castro, Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Authors: Gustavo Velasquez, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, and Harriet Tregoning, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Planning and Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A zip code should never define a person’s destiny or prevent a child from reaching their aspirations. Yet there is no longer any question that a connection exists between where you live and what lifelong outcomes may be likely for you and your family. Research on poverty and economic mobility published last year by Harvard economists offered sobering evidence of the power of a child’s environment to shape his or her future health and wellbeing.

We all want the same things for our families: a safe and affordable place to call home, access to jobs, transportation options, healthy food, good schools and opportunities for our children. That is why we at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a rule last year to better equip communities with the data and tools they need to identify fair housing issues and break down barriers in access to opportunity and fair housing choice.

For 48 years, federal agencies and recipients of federal funding relating to housing and urban development have been obligated by the Fair Housing Act to “affirmatively further fair housing” (AFFH). However, as data and information systems have evolved, we all have access to new resources to assist us in this endeavor. The AFFH final rule provides certain HUD program participants with guidelines, plus the data, tools and technical assistance they need, to conduct an in-depth and localized analysis of fair housing issues in their jurisdictions and regions.

This image is a thematic map of the St. Louis, Missouri-Illinois metropolitan area created with HUD's AFFH Data and Mapping Tool. The map shows the dot distribution of the St. Louis population by race and ethnicity overlaid on a gray-scale map that corresponds to environmental health, where higher values shown as darker gray indicate less exposure to harmful air toxins, and lower values, shown as lighter gray, indicate higher exposure to harmful toxins. The map also displays the locations of racially- and ethnically-concentrated areas of poverty (RCAP/ECAP) by highlighting those census tracts that meet the RCAP/ECAP threshold. The legend on the right hand side indicates that the demographic groups shown on the map are: White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Native American Non-Hispanic, Asian-Pacific Islander Non-Hispanic, Hispanic, and Other Non-Hispanic.

Created with HUD’s AFFH Data and Mapping Tool, this map shows the dot distribution of the population by racially- and ethnically-concentrated areas of poverty (RCAP/ECAP) overlaid on a gray-scale map that corresponds to environmental health and exposure to harmful toxins. The legend on the right hand side indicates that the demographic groups shown on the map.

Additionally, the AFFH rule addresses HUD’s responsibility – under the 1994 Executive Order 12898 – to consider the environmental justice effects of federally assisted projects. One of the required components of an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) is a measurement of environmental health.  The image above shows how measures of environmental health are provided in the new AFFH data and mapping tool, a free and publicly available tool that can be used by anyone to map fair housing issues in their community, including segregation, environmental health, and access to opportunity. HUD also encourages communities to use other sources of data, like EPA’s EJSCREEN in order to assess environmental health as part of their assessments of fair housing.

Between this year and the next, over 100 communities across the country will be examining their local and regional fair housing landscapes and engaging their communities in the development of their Assessment of Fair Housing to comply with the AFFH rule.

Even if your community’s assessment is not due for several years, the data tool is available for your use now. Proposed fair housing assessment tools, which local governments, states, insular areas, and public housing agencies will be using to complete their assessment, are also out for public comment under the Paperwork Reduction Act at this very moment. We want to hear from you!  Take a look at the types of data and analysis HUD will be asking program participants to prepare and some of the guidance HUD is providing on the HUD Exchange website. Then tell us what you think about the proposed tools by submitting public comments on regulations.gov. The deadline for submitting comments on the assessment tool for states and insular areas is 11:59 PM ET on May 10, 2016; comments on assessment tools for local governments and for public housing agencies must be submitted by 11:59 PM ET on May 23, 2016.

Like the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing, segregation and unequal access to opportunity are not new. But we are introducing new data and tools to assist communities with their obligation and to overcome barriers to fair housing choice. Enabled with these data and tools, communities can make informed decisions, establish locally-determined fair housing goals, and take meaningful actions to become more inclusive, healthy, and sustainable.

Some regions have already piloted a related fair housing planning process, the fair housing and equity assessment, through HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, with great results. The findings of these assessments prompted local decision-makers to reevaluate the way they invested in and planned for public infrastructure, services, transit, and housing – learn more here.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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.

Spring Cleaning – In Your Medicine Cabinet

by Megan Keegan

Drug Take-BackTrees are blooming, the grass is greening, and its finally time to throw open the windows for a little spring cleaning!  This year, don’t just dust the corner cobwebs and air out the linens—take this opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinet!

Don’t flush those expired medications! Turn them in at a take-back location on April 30.

Don’t flush those expired medications! Turn them in at a take-back location on April 30.

On Saturday, April 30, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will host another National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, an excellent opportunity to get rid of unwanted or expired medicines.

Why make the extra effort to drop off the meds when you could just flush them, trash them, or deal with them later?

Proper drug disposal helps protect our waterways. When we flush or trash meds they  can end up polluting our waterways, because they are sometimes difficult to remove from water using conventional water treatment methods.  As a result, trace amounts of drugs can negatively impact fish reproduction, contribute to antibiotic resistance, and even end up in our drinking water. EPA gathered data on a few select pharmaceuticals during the third round of Contaminant Candidate List monitoring. The Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership – focused on protecting the drinking water for nearly 5 million people in four states and the District of Columbia – provides outreach on proper drug disposal in the 14,670 square mile Potomac River Watershed.

It helps protect your family.  Lingering stores of unwanted or expired drugs can lead to misuse or an accidental poisoning.  According to the DEA, proper disposal of medication is an important step in battling our nation’s high rate of prescription drug abuse. Over half of teens abusing medicines get them from a family member or friend, including the home medicine cabinet, and often without their knowledge.

While there are steps you can take to safely dispose of drugs in your home, drug take-back programs are widely regarded as the first choice – the safest and most responsible way to dispose of unwanted or expired medicines.  Mark your calendars now, and use the link on this DEA page to find a collection site near you!

 

About the author: Meg Keegan works with diverse drinking water partnerships in the Source Water Protection program. She likes to do lunchtime runs on the Schuylkill river trail.

 

 

 

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.

Recognizing Winners of EPA’s Visualize Your Water Challenge

Washington-Lee Students Meet the Challenge

By Ryan Miller

Winning students Nicholas Oliveira and Anna Lujan with their teacher, Ryan Miller

Winning students Nicholas Oliveira (left) and Anna Lujan (right) with their teacher Ryan Miller (center)

I teach a class at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia called Geospatial Tools and Techniques. It is a course designed to introduce high school students to geographic information systems (GIS) and is part of the James Madison University Geospatial Semester Program. All of my students are “dual-enrolled” and will be earning both high school and college credit.

GIS can be done using a variety of tools and methods, and as one of the assignments of my course this year, I decided to make the EPA Visualize Your Water Challenge a class project.

The Challenge asked contestants “to use open government data sources to create compelling, innovative, and comprehensible visualizations that inform individuals and communities about nutrient pollution and inspire them to reduce nutrient levels that cause algal blooms and hypoxia in local watersheds.

Preparing my students to work on this class project and to take on the challenge took several steps and involved several weeks of work in the classroom. Each student was to use their newly acquired GIS skills to submit entries into this government sponsored contest.

I first prepped the students by reviewing the causes, processes and impacts of nutrient pollution in waterways, something some of them were already familiar with from my environmental science class. We then transitioned into an examination of potential data needs and data sources to complete their work. Finally, we worked together to review the software skills needed.

The students aptly dove into this assignment, were able to identify fantastic open sources of government data (primarily relying upon U. S. Census and U.S. Agricultural Census data), and through minimal issues, acquired the needed software skills and set to work. The students all used an online GIS platform to complete their entries, ultimately generating “storymaps,” interactive web-based mapping applications. We were all pleased with the outcomes of this assignment, final products and grades included.

The efforts and storymaps of two of my students, Nicholas Oliveira and Anna Lujan, were fortunate to be recognized and were awarded the grand prize (Nicholas) and National Geographic Award (Anna)! Both students created well-designed functional projects that delve into nutrient pollution/eutrophication issues. I’m very proud of their efforts!

On Thursday April 21, officials from EPA, the GIS software company Esri, and other various sponsors and supporters of the Visualize Your Water Challenge visited Washington-Lee High School to celebrate and award Nicholas and Anna, and the other contestants. It was a fantastic way to bring students and experts in the field together to discuss and highlight the problems and issues of nutrient pollution/eutrophication. I’m grateful for this experience and I can state that my students are too.

About the Author: Ryan Miller teachers environmental studies and geospatial tools and techniques at Washington-Lee High School.

 

Dreams of a Teacher

By Ted Gardiner

Winning students and their teacher (left to right):

Winning students and their teacher (left to right): Clara Benadon, Alex Jin, Sam Hull, and Ted Gardiner

As a teacher within the Global Ecology Magnet Program at Poolesville High School, I was excited when the head of our program emailed me EPA’s Visualize Your Water Challenge.  Here at Poolesville High School our goal is to raise the environmental awareness of our students, so the Challenge resonated with our philosophy. It’s turned out to have a tremendous positive impact on our students.

The students really liked how the Challenge utilized StoryMaps to tackle the topic of nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, where we live.  The use of StoryMaps made the challenge fun and interactive.  This was the first time that our students used StoryMaps.  I was amazed at the interactivity and ease with which they were able to create meaningful artifacts.  Each day in our classroom students were able to have discussions with each other about how to present the information through StoryMaps, consistently pushing each other to go deeper into the issue.  As the days went on, they became more excited about how their work evolved.

All of the resources made available to the students were fantastic.  Students were able to use the websites provided through the EPA to learn more about nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and begin telling their interpretation of the story.  The Challenge engaged our students in critical thinking about the impact of nutrient pollution and how they could help in their own daily lives.

The Challenge gave students the opportunity to work with real data in an authentic process examining an issue within our own watershed.  As we neared the submission deadline, the class was so proud of what they had created that they did not discuss prizes, etc.  They were working as hard as they could to submit their StoryMaps and saw submission and the knowledge they had gained as the real prize for the project.  But they were in for a very pleasant surprise.

When we heard that we had two honorable mentions and the Chesapeake Bay winner, our students erupted into applause.  This was truly a moment that every teacher dreams of.

For the awards ceremony, EPA was very generous sending out a member of their science communication team to Poolesville High School as we remotely participated.  The students and their parents were so proud, another moment that every teacher dreams of.

Giving students this opportunity and recognition is priceless in our ever changing technological world.  Overall, this project gave our students an opportunity to be excited about learning and utilizing technology to tell a story that more people need to hear.  In the end, the Visualize Your Water Challenge delivered so many educational positives for our students. I want to thank the EPA and Challenge.gov for making this project so accessible and fantastic.

About the Author: Ted Gardiner is a teacher in the Global Ecology Magnet Program at Poolesville High School in Montgomery County, MD.

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.

Deterring Deer from Devouring Your Landscape

Hungry spring deer are tough to deter

Hungry spring deer are tough to deter

By Marcia Anderson

Last weekend, right after an afternoon spent toiling in my garden, a deer strolled into the yard and began munching on my freshly planted vegetable plants! The plants hadn’t even been in the ground a few minutes when she nibbled some right down to the ground and pulled others up – roots and all. Later, I found the doe and her two fawns right next to my front steps eating the impatiens and other potted annuals. So much for being able to admire the fruits of my gardening labor!

Springtime finds deer at their hungriest. Fawns are nursing and adults are anxious to gain back weight lost during the winter. An adult deer eats six to 10 pounds of greenery a day. So how can a gardener keep them from eating their entire landscape?

To deter deer, be prepared to alter their environment. Preventing pest problems through foresight, is the first rule of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is beneficial to both human health and the environment. IPM is smart, sensible and sustainable approach to pest control that focuses on preventive steps to preclude pests instead of waiting for them to arrive, then having to eradicate them. IPM is smart because it addresses the root causes of pest problems, sensible because it provides for a healthier environment, and sustainable by providing long-term control of pests. Here are some IPM approaches you can use to deter deer from devouring your landscape.

Fencing: An effective method of deer exclusion is installing and maintaining an eight to 10-foot-high deer fence. In my community, however, zoning regulations do not permit fencing taller than six feet. Whitetail deer are quite the jumpers and can scale eight-foot fences, especially if they are really hungry.

But, deer are less likely to jump over a barrier if they cannot see the landing area. You can plant tall, deer-resistant shrubs, like boxwood, Spirea, Andromeda or Weigelia, near the fence line to obstruct their view. Check the Rutgers University deer-resistant plant list for other species and select those that are appropriate for your exposure, soil type and hardiness zone.

Double fencing, parallel fences within a few feet of each other, are also effective deer deterrents.  Having a fence with an irregular top creates an optical illusion that makes deer reluctant to jump. A seven-wire slanted fence and fence tops with exclusion wire on angled extensions will also keep deer off your property. Each deer is unique – the same thing that deters one won’t always deter another. A hungry deer is very persistent and will find a way over, under, around or through any barrier that is not tall, strong and attached to the ground.

Repellent Plants: Deer have preferences for certain plants, just as humans prefer some food over others. Every deer is looking to gorge on high-protein, moisture-rich plants. Deer rely heavily on their sense of smell for feeding, so adding patches of pungent plants can act as a natural barrier. Strongly scented herbs, including garlic, chives, mint, lavender, lemon balm, bee balm and oleander, are offensive to deer and can mask the scent of desirable plants. This strategy can help to make your yard less appetizing than that of the surrounding neighborhood.

Resistant Plants: Trade plants that deer find tasty, like tulips, for those they won’t eat, like daffodils. Other plants like lily-of-the-valley, lamb’s ears, lavender, Russian sage, Liriope, Pachysandra and myrtle have been identified as being resistant to deer browsing. They also do not like ornamental grasses, iris, fox glove or yucca. Deer are foragers so they will often taste-test, and, if really hungry, will eat most anything. The following plants are like candy to deer: Impatiens, sunflower, tulip, Hosta, shasta daisy, coneflower, Chrysanthemums and Hyacinth. The Rutgers’ deer-resistant plant list offers additional helpful information.

Chemical and Physical Repellents: Keeping deer out of yards and gardens has become a huge industry in the United States. There are hundreds of commercially available deer repellents that work – but most need to be re-applied after each rain. Repellents also need to be alternated so deer do not acclimate to them. Chemical deer repellents are regulated in some states, so they can only be applied by a licensed applicator in accordance with other restrictions. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s Nuisance Wildlife Repellent Handbook provides a list of some repellents.

Another method that is distasteful to deer is to use one of the many sewage fertilizer or mulch products. However, be cautious about the heavy metal content of these products if using in a vegetable garden. In breezy locations, aluminum pie plates strung on stakes may help to deter deer. Other ways to repel deer are flashing lights at night and motion-activated lights and sprinklers. Remember, deer acclimate so rotate, rotate, rotate your repellent strategies for best results.

Hopefully, these tips will help you naturally deter deer and keep the fruits of your labor – your garden and landscape – intact!

 

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.

Moving Forward for America’s Drinking Water

Joel Beauvais Joel Beauvais

By Joel Beauvais

Our nation’s record of progress in advancing public health under the Safe Drinking Water Act is significant.  But too little water in the West, flooding from extreme weather in the Midwest and Southeast, and the recent water quality issues in Flint, Michigan have rightly focused national attention on America’s drinking water.  As a country, we can and must do more to make sure that every American has access to safe drinking water.  EPA is committed to working together with our governmental partners, communities and stakeholders to strengthen the nation’s drinking water systems. That is why, today, we are announcing the next steps in that effort.  Beginning next month, EPA will lead a series of engagements to inform a national action plan on drinking water, to be released by the end of the year.  In addition, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has begun a new study of the science and technology relevant to ensuring the safety of the nation’s drinking water.

THE PROGRESS WE’VE MADE

With public attention rightly focused on drinking water quality in communities across the country, it’s worth remembering how far we’ve come in providing clean safe drinking water.  Before Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974 – granting EPA the authority and the funding to take action and affirming the leading role of states and municipalities – more than 40 percent of our nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even the most basic health standards.

Today, over 300 million Americans depend on 152,000 public drinking water systems and collectively drink more than one billion glasses of tap water each day.  Our agency has established standards for more than 90 contaminants, and our compliance data show that more than 90 percent of the nation’s water systems consistently meet those standards.  Clean water is the lifeblood of healthy, vibrant communities and our nation’s economy.  Making sure that all Americans have reliable access to safe drinking water is essential, and a core task for EPA.

Over the years, through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund established by Congress in 1996, $30 billion in low-interest loans have supported infrastructure projects that are delivering drinking water to thousands of communities across the country.  This has supplemented local and state finance of drinking water infrastructure – especially in low-income communities and where public health risk is the highest.

And, relatedly, our Clean Water Rule is a major step forward to protect our nation’s precious water resources, including streams that are the source of drinking water for 117 million Americans – over one third of the country’s population.

We’ve come so far.  But our work is far from done.

NEW AND REMAINING CHALLENGES

The crisis in Flint, Michigan has brought to the forefront the challenges many communities across the country are facing, including from lead pipes that carry their drinking water and uneven publicly-available information around drinking water quality.  At the same time, as new technology advances our detection ability, we’re detecting new contaminants in our water from industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other sources that can pose risks to public health.

And science now shows that climate change – especially the extreme weather and drought impacts it brings – are placing added stress on water resources and creating uncertainty in many regions of the country.

In some areas, pollution threatens upstream sources like rivers and lakes that feed into our drinking water.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans were cut off from drinking water because of a chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia and a harmful algal bloom on Lake Erie that impacted the drinking water for Toledo, Ohio.  We need to protect our drinking water sources and the Clean Water Rule is critical to that effort.

Meanwhile, EPA data show that at least $384 billion in improvements will be needed through 2030 to maintain, upgrade and replace thousands of miles of pipe and thousands of treatment plants, storage tanks and water distribution systems that make up our country’s water infrastructure.  And if local and state governments do not lean into these investments and instead defer and delay, rebuilding our water infrastructure will only become more expensive.

Too often, the toughest infrastructure challenges are found in low-income, minority communities – both large and small – where inadequate revenue and investment have left many water systems crumbling from age and neglect, and where citizens lack the resources and timely and accurate information about their water quality to do something about it.

These are big challenges and EPA recognizes that no one can tackle them alone.

MOVING FORWARD – ENGAGING KEY PARTNERS AND STAKEHOLDERS ON A NATIONAL ACTION PLAN FOR SAFE DRINKING WATER

That’s why we’re launching a concerted, strategic engagement with key partners and stakeholders – including state, tribal and local governments, drinking water utilities, and public health, environmental and community stakeholders – to develop and implement a national action plan to address the critical drinking water challenges and opportunities before us.

EPA has already intensified our work with state drinking water programs with a priority focus on implementation of the federal Lead and Copper Rule, including directing EPA staff to meet with officials from every state to make sure they’re addressing any high lead levels and fully implementing the current rule.

We sent letters to every governor and every state environmental and/or health commissioner of states that implement the Safe Drinking Water Act, urging them to work with EPA on steps to strengthen protections against lead and on a broader set of critical priorities to keep our drinking water safe.  We’re following up with each and every state on actions to increase public health protection, transparency and accountability.

We’re now taking the next step forward.  In the coming weeks, EPA will launch a targeted engagement with key state co-regulators, regulated utilities, and nongovernmental stakeholders on priority issues related to implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The focus of that engagement will include:

  • Advancing Next Generation Safe Drinking Water Act Implementation:  Identify key opportunities and initiate work on critical next steps to strengthen and modernize state and federal implementation of Safe Drinking Water Act regulations and programs, including ways to increase public data transparency and accountability.
  • Addressing Environmental Justice and Equity in Infrastructure Funding:  Identify additional steps federal, state, tribal and local governments, and utilities can take to better ensure that drinking water infrastructure challenges of low-income environmental justice communities and small systems are being appropriately prioritized and addressed, including through increased information, sharing and replicating best practices, and building community capacity.
  • Strengthening Protections against Lead in Drinking Water: Prioritize opportunities to collaborate and make progress on implementing the current Lead and Copper Rule, particularly in environmental justice communities and expand and strengthen opportunities for stakeholder engagement to support the development of a revised rule.
  • Emerging and Unregulated Contaminant Strategies:  Develop and implement improved approaches through which EPA, state, tribal and local governments, utilities and other stakeholders can work together to prioritize and address the challenges posed by emerging and unregulated contaminants such as algal toxins and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs).

In each of these areas, we will work together with our partners and stakeholders to set a strategic agenda and identify and implement priority, near-term actions we can take in the coming months.  By the end of this year, we will release a summary of our progress and a national action plan for the future.

At the same time, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is beginning a new study of the science and technology relevant to ensuring the Nation’s drinking-water quality.  PCAST will seek input from EPA, other relevant agencies, and a wide range of experts on ideas on investments in new technology and infrastructure to protect drinking water resources, detect pollutants, advance treatment to remove contaminants and pathogens, and develop improved infrastructure for the future.  Following this review, PCAST will recommend actions the federal government can take, in concert with cities and states, to promote application of the best available science and technology to drinking-water safety.  This builds on current efforts by the Administration to draw on the power of existing and breakthrough technology to boost innovation in water supply.

We owe it to our kids today and to future generations to take steps now and develop future actions to ensure that all Americans have affordable access to high-quality water when and where they need it.  We look forward to partnering with the public and stakeholders in the development of this plan.

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_250Happy Earth Day! What better day than today to read about environmental science? Here’s the latest from EPA.

This Earth Day, Learn About Food Recovery
Coming on the heels of the announcement of the first ever national food waste reduction goal—cutting food waste in half by 2030—EPA is celebrating Food Recovery for Earth Day. EPA is involved in numerous efforts to reduce food waste. One of these efforts is taking place in Columbia, South Carolina, through EPA’s Net Zero Initiative. Read about the initiative in the Science Matters story America’s Food Waste Problem.

National Coastal Condition Assessment
EPA recently published the Agency’s 5th National Coastal Condition Assessment which provides data on the condition of U.S. coastal waters. Our coastal waters are essential to all kinds of activities, such as industry, tourism, and recreation, and provide habitat to an incredible diversity of species. Those are the reasons why EPA researchers regularly collect and analyze a host of data and put together the periodic report. Read about that effort in the EPA Science Matters article, National Coastal Condition Assessment.

Pharmaceuticals in Wastewater
Research by EPA Research Biologist Mitch Kostich was featured in the Burlington Free Press. The article Pharmaceuticals present in Burlington wastewater discussed a study that found that water released from Burlington’s wastewater treatment plant contained concentrations of pharmaceuticals that reflected some trends in Burlington at the time. The article cited EPA research on Pharmaceutical Residues in Municipal Wastewater.

Reducing Risk by Acting on Climate
Dr. Tom Burke, the Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development as well as the Agency’s Science Advisor, co-authored a commentary in a special edition of the journal Health Security. Read Reducing Risk by Acting on Climate.

EPA Researcher Highlighted in her Hometown Paper
EPA’s Dr. Rebecca Dodder is a recent winner of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Dr. Dodder grew up in Colorado and was recently featured in her hometown paper the Parker Chronical. Read the story Ponderosa grad wins presidential award for water work.

National Sustainable Design Expo
Did you miss us at the USA Science & Engineering Festival last weekend? Well you can check out these photos from our National Sustainable Design Expo and see what you missed.

Upcoming Events at EPA
Interested in attending some of EPA’s public meetings or webinars? Read about a few that we are hosting at the end of April here.

Group of hikers with a National Park Service Ranger looked out over a mountain range

Happy Earth Day and National Park Week! Image courtesy of NPS

That’s all for this week. Enjoy Earth Day and now that you’re done catching up on the latest EPA research, get outside—it’s also National Park Week, so every national park will give you free admission!

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.

Building Big! Building Green?

LaGuardia Airport in Queens, NY.

LaGuardia Airport in Queens, NY.

By Elias Rodriguez

Today helps determine our tomorrow. Over the next several years, visitors and residents of the Big Apple, as New York City is known, will witness a major reconstruction or reinvention of two major transportation hubs within the area. Both of these herculean public works projects will have significant impacts on New York’s quality of life, the communities surrounding them and the environment.

Most likely, the first mega-project will be LaGuardia airport in Queens. The decaying airport is named for our beloved Fiorello Henry La Guardia who served three terms from 1933 to 1945 as mayor. Budgeted at $3.6 billion, the long overdue overhaul of the airport is highly anticipated. Vice President Biden attending the launch for the plan. Comprising over 680 acres, the airport borders two bays: Flushing and Bowery and served 26.7 million passengers in 2013 alone. LaGuardia airport opened in 1939 and is infamous for traffic jams, and a retro-vibe that is decidedly not cool.

The second transportation hub in desperate need of an update is the bus terminal at 42 Street and Eighth Ave. and Ninth Ave., which is also owned by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. It is the largest bus terminal in the country and handles about 220,000 passenger trips on one typical work day. It is not named after anyone, which is odd for Gotham.

Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

Founded in 1921, the Port Authority built and owns the two hubs, the World Trade Center site and many bridges and tunnels in the area. The Port Authority is a bi-state agency and joint venture run by the two respective states. It receives no tax revenue from either New York or New Jersey but gets its revenue from other sources such as tolls and the fees I pay for my EZ-Pass (electronic toll collection system) device. In my family’s case, the Port Authority gets about $150 to $300 a month. Correct. That’s not chump change.

Projects of this size, scale and enormous cost raise correspondingly momentous questions about their environmental impacts. Will green infrastructure be a consideration? How can we best handle air emissions from mobile sources? The region’s transportation infrastructure was already sorely tested during the extreme weather from Hurricane Sandy. What mitigation steps are available to address the impacts from floods and wet weather impacts? These are weighty questions and public input will be a key part of the design and development process. Are these project really necessary? Yes, they are desperately needed investments. How they are rebuilt will be of monumental significance to every stakeholder.

As you enjoy Earth Day and related events, take some time to think about your impact, big or small, on our planet. Oh, and have a safe trip.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

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.