April Showers Bring May Flowers and Mosquitoes

Northern Culex mosquito laying eggs on water’s surface. Image: Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Northern Culex mosquito laying eggs on water’s surface. Image: Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

By Marcia Anderson

There is nothing as pleasant as a warm spring day. Flowers are beginning to bloom, tree buds are swelling, and the air is sweet with the smell of spring. Then, you hear the buzz, feel a slight prick, and the spell is gone. Yes, April showers really do bring May flowers followed by mosquitoes.

Is there anything that you can do to reduce mosquitoes and the threat of mosquito-borne diseases this year? Actually there is.

Most people do not realize all of the areas around their own homes where mosquitoes can find stagnant water for laying their eggs. Mosquitoes that live in close association with humans typically breed in containers that are holding water. Amazingly, many mosquitoes can breed in something as little as a bottle cap.

This article is designed to help you identify water sources around your home and neighborhood that could provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes. By eliminating these areas through an approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM), you can reduce the number of mosquitoes in your neighborhood. Here are some suggestions for identifying and eliminating these problematic water sources.

water in child toy

Water collected in a child’s toy left outside can support mosquito larvae.

Surveillance: Identify the locations and sizes of all stagnant water sources, including bird baths, pet water and food bowls, trays beneath potted plants, outdoor containers, kiddy pools, outdoor toys, open water barrels, tarps, blocked catchment basins, clogged storm drains, obstructed roof gutters, garbage cans and dumpsters without lids or drains, discarded appliances, and car parts, especially tires.

Sanitation: An essential component of mosquito management is the elimination of breeding sites. All mosquitoes need water on which to lay their eggs. Removing the stagnant water sources identified in the surveillance of your property will diminish the mosquitoes.

Plastics deserve a special focus because they are not only a huge waste problem, but also key breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other disease carrying pests. Improperly discarded plastic bags and food/drink containers can become pest breeding sites. Remember to empty the rainwater from children’s toys that have been left outdoors.

Maintenance: If you live in an area with irrigation diversions, swales, open stormwater culverts, or trenches, you should maintain them to prevent obstruction of the water flow by sediment or plant debris. Clogged gutters and flat roof tops with poor drainage are also commonly overlooked mosquito breeding sites that require regular maintenance.

Report standing water – in New York City call 311; in other communities, call your local health department. If your property has large areas of standing water that do not readily drain, discuss options with your municipal engineer or local agricultural extension service office.

Creative Solutions:  For a small to moderate ornamental pond, consider biological solutions such as mosquito-eating fish, tadpoles, flatworms or copepods.  (See how New Jersey used copepods to reduce mosquito larvae). Bodies of water with fish or other mosquito-eating wildlife are not prone to mosquito problems. To illustrate, every spring I add feeder goldfish to my bird bath. The tiny fish devour any mosquito larvae that appear, and the neighborhood children love to watch the fish. As a result of this and our efforts to remove or regularly empty water-collecting containers, our yard is free of mosquitoes.

Simple Steps You Can Take:

  • Unblock drains and gutters to maintain water flow.
  • Drill a few small drainage holes in pots, plastic toys, and garbage cans.
  • Empty saucers, tarps, and children’s toys of water within a few days after a rain.
  • Properly dispose of unwanted tires.

The EPA recommends that you use IPM to control all of your pests, even mosquitoes. IPM creates a safer and healthier environment by managing pests proactively and at their source. For mosquitoes, this means focusing on eliminating the places they can breed around your home and in your neighborhood. For more information, visit EPA’s mosquito control website.

 

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.

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research Recap graphic identifierI’m considering this weekend the unofficial start to summer—after an unusually cold spring here in Washington DC, it’s finally time to switch to iced coffee! This weekend, kick off the summer with your favorite iced beverage while reading about the latest in EPA science.

Small Business Innovation Research
EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a competition that, for over 30 years now, has served as a source of early-stage funding for innovative small companies in the green tech field. Learn more about the program and what it’s like to work on the team in the blog First Impressions: an Introduction to EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

Announcing the Transform Tox Testing Challenge Semi-Finalists
EPA and partners launched the Transform Tox Testing Challenge in January. Now we are thrilled to announce that we are awarding a total of $100,000 to ten semi-finalists for their amazing ideas.  Learn more about the challenge and the semi-finalists in the blog When Robots and Metabolism Collide.

Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Health
This week we took a giant leap forward in our understanding of the relationship between air pollution and heart disease with the publication of results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Air Pollution Study (MESA Air) in the leading medical journal The Lancet. Learn more about the study and its implications in the blog EPA’s MESA Air Study Confirms that Air Pollution Contributes to the #1 Cause of Death in the U.S.

Improving Environmental Conditions in Disadvantaged Communities
EPA and the National Institutes of Health are funding research centers at five universities—Harvard, Boston University, Johns Hopkins, University of New Mexico, University of Arizona, and University of Southern California—to work with local communities to better understand ways to improve environmental conditions for vulnerable populations. Learn more about the centers in this press release.

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. She is a regular contributor to It All Starts with Science and the founding writer of “The Research Recap.”

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.

An Important Milestone for Secure Carbon Dioxide Storage

Joseph Goffman Joseph Goffman

By Joe Goffman

If we are to address climate change effectively, we need to reduce emissions of the carbon pollution that is causing our earth to warm, leading to far-reaching impacts upon our health and environment. One strategy that can allow large emitters of carbon dioxide – such as power plants or large industrial operations – to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions is to deploy carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

CCS is a suite of technologies that capture carbon dioxide (CO2) at the source and inject it underground for sequestration in geologic formations. Enhanced oil recovery (where CO2 is injected to facilitate recovery of stranded oil) has been successfully used at many production fields throughout the United States and is a potential storage option.

As CCS has grown in promise and practice, we have developed standards and guidelines to protect our health and ensure that the CO2 injected underground remains there safely. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, we have comprehensive rules for both traditional enhanced oil recovery injection wells, and for wells engaged in large-scale sequestration, to ensure that CO2 injected underground does not endanger our drinking water. Our Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) has also developed a rigorous – and workable – accounting and monitoring system to measure the amount of greenhouse gases that are injected safely underground rather than emitted as air pollution. The GHGRP complements the injection well standards, and requires reporting facilities to submit a plan for reporting and verifying the amount of CO2 injected underground. Once the plan is approved, facilities report annual monitoring activities and related data. The GHGRP air-side monitoring and reporting requirements provide assurance that CO2 injected underground does not leak back into the atmosphere. Together, the comprehensive regulatory structure achieved through the injection well standards and GHGRP assure the safety and effectiveness of long-term CO2 storage.

The milestone that we’re marking is that the first such “monitoring, reporting, and verification” plan under the GHGRP was submitted by an enhanced oil recovery facility located in Texas and managed by Occidental Permian, Ltd., a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corporation (or “Oxy”). We have recently approved the plan, which allows Oxy to begin reporting annual data to the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, starting with data for 2016.

Oxy voluntarily chose to develop and submit a comprehensive plan in order to track how much carbon dioxide is being stored over the long-term. Oxy’s plan shows that our Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program framework provides value to companies, as well as to EPA and the public, to help track how much carbon dioxide is being stored and provide confidence that the carbon dioxide remains securely underground over time. Strong and transparent accounting methods are critical for measuring progress towards our nation’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. As more power plants and large facilities consider CCS as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we have at the ready a proven framework to ensure accurate accounting for CO2 stored underground.

For more information on the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, see: https://www.epa.gov/ghgreporting

To see Oxy’s MRV plan, see: https://www.epa.gov/ghgreporting/denver-unit

For more information about EPA’s activities to address climate change, see: https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/EPAactivities.html

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

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

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

First Impressions: an Introduction to EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program

By Nick Werner

The first day of work at a new job can be a daunting, maybe even a mildly-panic-inducing-event.  And chances are, every last one of us has experienced the first-day jitters at least a couple times in our lives and the butterflies will likely still be there for our next go around as “the new kid.”  In a lot of ways, the first day of work at a new job parallels the first day of class at a new school – you must begin to memorize the names and interests of your coworkers, learn about the type and amount of work you will be undertaking, find out what your bosses will expect from you, carefully pick where you want to sit at lunch, and so on.  However, work and school are also similar in that, after about the first week or two, you have started to find your niche in your new environment.

SBIR graphicIn my case, fittingly enough, my new environment was the Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA), and my niche was the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.  The SBIR program is a competition that, for over 30 years now, has served as a source of early-stage funding for innovative small companies in the green tech field.  Internally, it is a close-knit group of dedicated people, striving towards bettering the world by ensuring that the necessary funding goes to teams that can create tangible change.  And because we are all passionate about the same topics, it has made the transition from “new kid” to “team member” a relatively seamless process.

From the moment I stepped off the elevator, I was introduced to the idea that even though EPA has a number of independent programs, they are all interconnected. Student-oriented competitions such as Science to Achieve Results fellowships and the People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) program provide research funding to individuals and teams of students. Some of the projects have gone from competing in P3 to becoming a small business with an EPA SBIR contract – including Lucid Connects, Environmental Fuel Research (EFR), and SimpleWater.  In fact, both Lucid and EFR will be in attendance at the SBIR National Conference, which will be held in conjunction with the Tech Connect World Innovation Conference and Expo this week.  The conference will comprise of a number of events, including many informative panel sessions – highlighted by the one with Lucid and EFR on bringing innovative environmental technologies to market.

My role in this program centers on improving organization and efficiency, so that more focus can be placed on the individuals and teams who are striving to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing our world today.  The experience and freedom to solve problems in creative ways will certainly aid me in the future as I endeavor to leave my mark on the world as well.

 


photo of authorAbout the Author:
Nick Werner is a student contractor working with the People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) program, and assisting with the SBIR program, both of which are in the EPA’s Office of Research and Development.  Nick is an avid sports fan who hopes to pursue a graduate degree in marine biology or marine conservation in the near future.

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.

The White Table is a Reminder

By Amy Miller

I was already feeling a bit sentimental when I walked into work one day this week. I have a big birthday coming up, and a daughter home from freshman year in college. Flowers are revealing their spring colors and neighbors and friends are emerging from our New England winter’s WhiteTablehibernation. And so perhaps this all helps explain why I was so struck by the anguished solitude of the White Table set out in the lobby of my Boston workplace, more this year than in the past.

Every May the federal government puts out the White Table, a tribute to the men and women who have died or gone missing in service to our country. Called the Missing Man Table, or the Fallen Comrade Table, each feature of the setting – from the white table cloth to the red rose to the lone chair – carries symbolism.

The White Table, perhaps not so well known to the general public, had its origins with a group of fighter pilots who flew in Vietnam and it grew out of concern for the Vietnam POW/MIA issue. The table is only set for one person. A poster sign next to the table in the lobby of Five Post Office Square told the meaning of the different aspects of the table.

The white table cloth stands for the pure intentions of soldiers serving. The single rose in the vase represents bloodshed, and also the loved ones left behind. A slice of lemon is there to remind us of the bitter fate of soldiers and salt on the table tells us of tears shed by families.

The poster informed me that the glass was turned upside down to show that the soldier would not be returning to use the setting, and the candle sits as a ray of light in hopes that POWs or those MIA would find their way home.

Each day of our job at the EPA we work to protect the environment, and the health of the Earth’s living. It is a good day when we stop to remember the precious task at hand, the fragility of our planet and the life upon it.

So when I walked into the building where I work in Boston and saw the White Table, this stark reminder of people who gave up so much, it was in some ways a good day. For it was a chance to feel glad for life, and for the chance to make life in New England a little bit cleaner and a little bit healthier.

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Amy Miller works in the public affairs office of EPA New England and edits the EPA New England blog.

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.

May is American Wetlands Month: What We’re Doing to Protect America’s Wetlands

Joel Beauvais Joel Beauvais

By Joel Beauvais

May is American Wetlands Month and a time to celebrate the importance of our nation’s wetlands. Healthy wetlands reduce water pollution, buffer communities from severe and costly impacts from floods, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife. Our economy also benefits from many recreational opportunities that wetlands offer along with goods that come from wetlands.

Earlier this month, we released the country’s first-ever national assessment of the ecological health of our nation’s wetlands. With support from our state, tribal, and federal partners, we were able to send over 50 field crews to survey 1,138 wetlands across the nation to collect data on plants, soil, water chemistry, and algae.

The report found that about half of our wetlands are in good condition, with 32 percent in poor condition.  Nationally, the top sources of stress for wetlands come from vegetation removal through actions like mowing and forest clearing, soil compaction for paths and roads, and intrusion of non-native plants.

The report’s state-of-the-art, high-quality wetland science has advanced our understanding of these dynamic and extremely important ecosystems that were once actively removed throughout much of the U.S. With new insight, we are in a better position to work with our state partners to more effectively manage, protect, and restore some of those wetlands that have been lost.

It’s exciting to see that others are finding this environmental data useful, too. The Association of State Wetland Managers is using the report’s monitoring methods to evaluate wetland restoration projects in North Carolina and Ohio.  EPA’s Office of Air is using the collected soil carbon data to better estimate carbon sequestration in coastal wetlands and marshes. And, states and tribes are reaching out to us to develop complementary monitoring tools, analytical approaches, and data management technology to further their wetland protection and restoration programs.

The sampling work for the next report is already underway. It will be interesting to see new trends emerge that show that progress we are making to improve the condition of our nations’ wetlands.

EPA is also launching the National Wetland Condition Assessment Campus Research Challenge to encourage graduate students to identify and use the data to address one or more key and innovative questions and hypotheses on water quality, wetland health, or wetland ecology.

In addition to advancing the science, EPA is working with partners to address wetland protection and restoration in the U.S. Some of the ways include:

  • Overseeing dredge and fill permit decisions to ensure permits are based on science and policy, as well as developing tools for improving the management of aquatic resource protections.
  • Working with states and tribes directly and through the Association of State Wetland Mangers to bolster the ability of states and tribes to manage, regulate and protect wetlands within their state and tribal lands.
  • Working with other federal agencies on national programs to map, assess, manage and restore wetland resources on federal lands and to help private landowners be informed stewards of their wetland resources.
  • Continuing to lead the Interagency Coastal Wetlands Workgroup on new tools, strategies, and information for protecting and restoring wetlands in coastal watersheds.

I hope you all take some time during American Wetlands Month to read our assessment and then get out to experience a wetland first-hand.

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.

When Robots and Metabolism Collide: EPA and Partners Announce Transform Tox Testing Challenge Semi-Finalists

By Kevin Kuhn

When I tell my friends about chemical high-throughput screening and the Transform Tox Testing Challenge, I always start with the robot. Why? Because people love robots.

Tox 21 robot at work

Robot in action at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) where it is housed.

The Robot, i.e. the ultra-high-throughput robotic screening system (pictured) is just one example of a suite of automated systems designed to test and screen chemicals. The system identifies chemicals’ potential for trouble faster and cheaper than ever before, and without the need to test on animals.

Thanks to these automated systems and Tox21 (a cooperative effort uniting EPA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration), we have run thousands and thousands of experiments to see how chemicals affect cells, their processes, and the proteins that do the work. It truly is some amazing research.

Of course, it wouldn’t be research if the system was perfect. Here’s the rub: cells used in EPA’s current lab tests do not typically break down or metabolize chemicals like they would in the body. This means that these tests may overlook chemicals that could be metabolized into a more toxic form. We need a robot-friendly way of making our lab tests act more like the human body when evaluating chemicals’ toxicity.

To find a solution, EPA, NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and the National Toxicology Program, headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, launched the Transform Tox Testing Challenge in January.

Now we are thrilled to announce that we are awarding a total of $100,000 to ten semi-finalists for their amazing ideas. Descriptions of these promising proposals are available here. The semi-finalists have brought the best of modern technological approaches to bear on the problem, and we couldn’t be more excited about the ideas.

Right now these proposals are simply ideas on paper, but thanks to the challenge prize money, these solvers will have the opportunity to develop their plans into working prototypes and enter Stage 2 of the competition. EPA will host a workshop for the semi-finalists in July so that they can meet one another, learn more about our great set of screening systems, and potentially combine their talents to strengthen their Stage 2 entries.

With the possibility of solving this problem on the horizon, we’re one step closer to improving toxicity testing and protecting human health better than ever before. And, to be honest, that is even cooler than the robot.
For more information: transformtoxtesting.com

 

About the Author: Kevin Kuhn, Ph.D. is an advisor to the Chief Innovation Officer in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development and  manages the Pathfinder Innovation Projects – a competition that provides seed funding for EPA research scientists to pursue high-risk, high-reward research. Learn more about EPA Innovation at: https://www.epa.gov/innovation.

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.

Thinking About What’s Under Our Feet

by Valerie Breznicky

They’re out of sight, often out of mind, and increasingly, out of time.

In many cases, the drinking water and sewer lines that run beneath us have aged beyond their useful life.  And when these lines crack and leak, serious public health issues can occur from contaminants entering our drinking water systems, as well as raw sewage infiltrating ground water and surface water supplies.

Just days ago, we marked National Infrastructure Week.  It was an opportunity to highlight the value that well-maintained infrastructure can bring to our economy, our jobs and public health and safety.  It was also a chance to share information on how specific gaps in our infrastructure matter to all of us – from lost water to sewer overflows.

Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Fortunately in our office, we manage the region’s EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), working with our states to finance fixes for some of those leaky and creaky lines.

Here are just a few examples:

With a $784,576 loan from the CWSRF in the State of Delaware this year, Cape Henlopen State Park will be able to use Cured-in-Place Pipe Relining to fix cracked sewer lines.

West Providence Township in Everett, Pennsylvania, is using a $5 million CWSRF loan to replace 35,000 linear feet of existing terra cotta sewer pipe (which has cracked and disconnected), replacing it with new Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) collection lines.  This will prevent high flows to the treatment plant which has caused overflow of diluted sewage during wet weather events.

By using $34,000 in DWSRF grant money in Virginia, the Virginia Rural Water Association was able to purchase leak detection equipment to aid small water authorities in locating physical leaks in drinking water distribution lines, saving the communities money and precious clean water.

As our drinking water and wastewater pipelines increasingly show their wear, investing in the next generation of infrastructure makes sense, not only from a public health perspective, but from an economic standpoint as well.  While there is a cost to making these investments, we need to me mindful that access to clean, safe water is essential to all of us, and investing in clean water today will save us all money over the long run.

 

About the Author: Valerie is an EPA environmental scientist and one of the Region III Sustainable Infrastructure (SI) Coordinators.  She has more than 31 years of experience managing infrastructure grants and has spent over seven years as an SI Coordinator, ensuring the sustainability of our water and wastewater infrastructure through information sharing and the integration of SI principles in all state programs.

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.

Going Home to Manage the Final Steps of Omaha’s Historic Lead Cleanup

By Steve Kemp

About two years ago, when my boss first asked me to take the lead Remedial Project Manager’s role at the Omaha Lead Superfund Site, I had to laugh. I was born and raised in Omaha, where I graduated from Benson High School, left for four years while I was in the Army, returned to get my degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and then moved away to start my career.

Although I still go back frequently to visit family and friends, I haven’t lived in Omaha since the late 1980s. However, it seems that every few years I am drawn back to my hometown for one project or another.

I worked at the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) for many years, and one of the projects I was involved with was the Omaha Riverfront Redevelopment. At the time, the project was the largest in Nebraska’s Voluntary Cleanup Program. The project included the area for the Gallup Riverfront Campus along Abbott Drive, and extended south to the National Park Service building, and the Bob Kerry Footbridge.

The project was a cooperative effort among state, local, and federal government entities, and businesses. Thanks to my staff, the project was a big success. Now I was being asked to assume responsibility for the Omaha Lead Superfund Site, the largest residential lead cleanup site in the history of the Superfund program. I thought it seemed appropriate.

Over a Century of Lead Contamination

The soil in much of eastern Omaha was contaminated with lead from several sources, including a former paint manufacturer, and lead battery recycling, and smelting operations. The most significant source was the former ASARCO lead smelter, located on the west bank of the Missouri River just north of Douglas Street. Lead smelting began at this location in 1870 when the plant was owned by Omaha Smelting Works. The plant changed ownership over time and was owned by ASARCO starting around 1899. By 1915, the ASARCO smelter was the largest lead smelter in the country. ASARCO owned the plant for about 100 years. The ASARCO plant closed in 1997 in a separate cleanup action coordinated by NDEQ.

Workers clean up lead from residential yard in Omaha

Workers clean up lead from residential yard in Omaha

For a century, the ASARCO plant discharged fine particles of lead from the smokestacks into the air. The lead particles were transported by wind and deposited over a large area. In addition to the lead particles from the smelter, another significant source of lead in Omaha’s soil is lead-based paint that chips off of buildings and falls onto the soil near structures, such as houses and garages.

Serious Health Issue

This lead was found in the soil, and people – especially children – were exposed to the contaminated soil. Beginning in the 1970s, children in Omaha were tested and many living within the boundary of the site had very high levels of lead in their blood. This was a serious issue, because lead poisoning can cause a wide variety of health problems, including difficulty with learning and behavioral development. In 1998, the Omaha City Council requested that EPA help address the lead problem in eastern Omaha.

In 1999, EPA began collecting soil samples from properties, including child care facilities, schools, playgrounds, parks, and of course, private homes. EPA later began testing the paint on homes to determine whether the paint contained any lead. EPA also began collecting dust samples from homes to determine whether lead-contaminated dust had entered from outside.

Successes and Challenges

Example of yard before cleanup

Example of yard before cleanup

After 16 years, EPA’s work is now winding down. Over that time, EPA tested soil samples from 40,000 properties and cleaned up more than 13,000 properties that were contaminated with lead. During the busiest years, EPA cleaned up about 2,000 properties each year. Over the last few years, EPA has cleaned up a few hundred properties each year. The slower pace is largely due to increased difficulty obtaining permission from the remaining property owners to clean up their properties.

In 2010, EPA committed to completing the field work for the project by the end of 2015. When I was assigned to the project in February 2014, there were still about 1,800 properties left to be remediated. EPA had obtained permission to clean up a little more than half of these. One of the challenges was to find a way to clean up all the remaining properties and keep the commitment to complete EPA’s field work by Dec. 31, 2015.

City Takes on Final Phases

Example of yard after cleanup

Example of yard after cleanup

In late summer of 2014, EPA began discussions with personnel from the City of Omaha Planning Department to determine whether the city would be willing to take the lead on the remaining contaminated properties. EPA explained that we had done all we could reasonably do to obtain voluntary access from property owners. If EPA was going to obtain additional access, it would likely be necessary to pursue legal action to compel the remaining property owners to allow their properties to be cleaned up. After extensive discussions, the city decided to take on the final phases of work, agreeing that it would attempt to obtain permission to collect soil samples and clean up the remaining properties.

In May 2015, EPA awarded $31 million to the City of Omaha through a cooperative agreement to address these final phases of work. It is hoped that the owners of remaining properties will feel more comfortable, and therefore, more willing to grant access to the city. Only time will tell.

As EPA completes its portion of the residential cleanup activities, I am glad to have been part of this project. Although I only worked on the project for two of the 16 years, I’m grateful that I was able to make a contribution in my hometown. I am also hopeful that as the city continues with its part of the project, this will prove to be a new type of cooperative approach between EPA and local governments.

Learn more about the Omaha Lead Superfund Site.

About the Author: Steve Kemp has served for the past two years as project coordinator for the Omaha Lead Superfund Site. He’s a native of Omaha, and a professional geologist and remedial project manager for EPA Region 7.

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.

Help EPA in Recognizing Outstanding Efforts to Protect our Children in the US

About the Author: Ruth A. Etzel, M.D., Ph.D. is Director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and a senior advisor to the Administrator.  Before joining EPA, Dr. Etzel was Professor of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.  .  She previously served as the Senior Officer for Environmental Health Research at the World Health Organization.  

EJustice_011[1]Whether at parks and playgrounds or inside homes and schools, exposure to environmental pollutants is a constant concern in many communities. For children, such exposure poses a greater risk to their health than to adults because their bodies and immune systems are still developing. This makes them more susceptible to the negative health effects caused by environmental pollutants.

But not all children face equal risks to these pollutants. Racial and ethnic minority children and children in low-income familiesmay be disproportionally affected by exposure to pollution and climate change. For children of color from low-income households the likelihood is even greater.

Students in Montgomery County, Maryland enjoy cleaner air made possible by Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF) installed on busses in the school district.

Due to the unique risks that these children face every day, EPA has taken action to address these public health concerns. The EPA Office of Children’s Health Protection supports and facilitates the Agency’s efforts to protect children’s health from environmental threats. EPA works to develop air quality standards, safe drinking water standards and chemical regulations that specifically address the fact that children are not little adults – and therefore may require a heightened level of protection.

Additionally, we strive to raise awareness by providing educational resources to communities on the unique threats faced by children and the ways that families can mitigate these risks. Although we continue to take steps necessary to uphold our mission of protecting children’s health, we know EPA does not work alone.

Parents rely on pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, community health workers, and other professionals for information related to environmental pollutants and their impact upon children’s health. However, there are many health professionals who consistently go above and beyond to expand understanding of children’s environmental health issues.

In recognition of this invaluable work, we are now accepting applications and nominations for the 2016 EPA Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award, which recognizes individuals and organizations within the United States who have made a significant impact on increasing the number of health professionals who can address children’s environmental health concerns.

Candidates will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Program/project increases the number of health professionals (e.g., nurses, doctors, social workers, professors, and healthcare providers) who are able to address children’s environmental health issues;
  • Program/project assists health professionals to understand, diagnose, and develop prevention messages for children’s environmental health issues that they encounter; and
  • Results and outcomes that support the effectiveness of the project/program.

Please submit your application or nomination on our website, on or before Wednesday, June 15th, 2016.

For more information, please visit our website and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions concerning the award application.

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.