Clean Energy in a Revitalized Spartanburg

Re-posted from the White House Blog

By Rohan Patel

Vulnerable communities around the country are transforming their neighborhoods through collaborative partnerships. When their voices, ideas, and visions are honored, amazing things can happen.

Almost 20 years ago, residents in Spartanburg, South Carolina, began to formulate their vision for change. It started with assistance from EPA’s regional office in Atlanta, when the community discovered the sources of public health and environmental problems in their neighborhoods. As a former mill town, Spartanburg had faced disinvestment for many years. As manufacturing facilities shut down, a 30 acre dump site and a three acre site with leaking underground storage tanks was left behind, exposing residents to toxic air and water pollution.

But that wasn’t the end of the story of Spartanburg; it was the beginning of the revitalization and renewal of the community. In 1997, longtime resident Harold Mitchell prompted EPA to investigate the causes of rare cancers and respiratory diseases that were affecting his family, friends, and neighbors in Spartanburg. The link to the legacy of pollution from years past became clear. Mitchell soon founded a program called ReGenisis to address these significant environmental concerns and to reverse the blight, disinvestment, and hopelessness impacting the neighborhood.

Over the last 20 years ReGenesis has led a collaborative and transformational effort to revive Spartanburg. It started with a $20,000 EPA environmental justice small grant, a program that has provided over $24 million to over 1,400 community-based organizations. Mr. Mitchell and his community members did something extraordinary – they leveraged that $20,000 into more than $300 million in public and private funding to turn things around. With investments from federal, state, and local government, as well as private foundations, ReGenisis spearheaded the effort to clean up the Superfund sites, bring in 500 affordable housing units, six health clinics, job training programs and many other amenities that sparked far-reaching positive changes in Spartanburg. This model inspired EPA to develop its Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) Model and subsequent CPS grant program.

Today, I had the opportunity to participate in the first Clean Energy Savings for All Summit to highlight one of the crowning achievements of the revitalization effort in Spartanburg: the Arkwright Solar Farm, which is being built directly on top of one of the Superfund sites that was responsible for environmental contamination in the community. It’s a powerful symbol of the transformation that has happened in these communities. What once was a source of pollution and blight, the former Arkwright landfill is now being covered with 12,000 solar panels that will bring jobs and a source of clean energy that can power almost 500 homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

For authentic and sustainable change to happen, it must be driven by communities. The story of Spartanburg is a lesson in how government can partner with communities, empower them to find solutions to their problems, and develop innovative and collaborative strategies to make them a reality. The solar farm is the latest chapter in the story of the revitalization of Spartanburg, and we are excited to continue to raise awareness of these examples so other communities across the country can follow the path from surviving to thriving.

About the author Rohan Patel: Special Assistant to the President, Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Senior Advisor for Climate and Energy Policy.

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

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

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

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (our Water Sources): Water Conservation and Reuse Grants

By Christina Burchette

Image of rain water flowing from a downspout into a rain barrel Recycling isn’t just for paper and plastic—did you know that there are ways to recycle resources like water too? This practice is especially relevant and useful in places that have a long history of water scarcity.

From the Dust Bowl of the 1930s to the present, the United States has experienced significant periods of drought, so finding ways to conserve the available water supply and safely recycle it has already been a regional priority. However, the continued threat of water scarcity has consequences ranging from locally mandated water conservation and use restrictions, to increased food prices, to more severe wildfires—making new solutions and strategies all the more important to the health of local communities, ecosystems, and economies.

That’s why EPA is helping drought-prone areas achieve water supply resiliency by researching new ways to recycle and conserve water while also understanding how these conservation and reuse efforts affect ecological and human health.

Recently, EPA awarded Science to Achieve Results grants to five institutions that are researching the human and ecological health impacts associated with water reuse, reclaimed water applications, and conservation practices. Each institution is investigating different aspects of water reuse and their effects on the environment and public health. Researchers will measure and evaluate the impact of water conservation strategies, such as

  • direct potable reuse, which is the process of reusing treated wastewater as drinking water without an environmental buffer;
  • indirect potable reuse, where recycled water is blended with a natural water source to be treated for use as drinking water;
  • aquifer recharge, where sites are constructed to collect stormwater so that it can infiltrate back into the ground; and
  • agricultural water reuse, which is when treated wastewater is used to fertilize and irrigate crops.

The frequency, intensity, and duration of drought events only continues to increase as we see the impacts of climate change. This pattern is expected to continue and shift outside of historical trends, making forecasting our water supply and quality more difficult.

This STAR grant research will help us better understand the potential impacts of water recycling and conservation. The results will also help inform water utilities, communities, agricultural producers, and policy makers, and others with the information and solutions they need to make informed water management decisions, thereby helping drought impacted communities create healthy and sustainable water supplies.

To learn more about these grants, see the press release and visit the grant page.

About the Author: Christina Burchette is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for 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.

Stakeholder Engagement: Shaping Environmental Justice Near Ports

By Sabrina Johnson

Communities across the country benefit from access to consumer goods, but near-port communities bear a disproportionate burden from the environmental impacts of port activities. It has been well documented that ports and related industry operations frequently impact minority and low-income communities. Near-port communities may experience disproportionate health outcomes due to cumulative environmental exposures from port operations and port-related facilities. Air pollutants are found in higher concentrations along roads and corridors where there is significant truck or rail activity (https://www3.epa.gov/otaq/nearroadway.htm).  Important corridors such as these are found within or near ports.  An analysis in one study showed that millions of people living in the vicinity of 47 ports were exposed to diesel particulate matter levels that were above levels in areas farther from these facilities.

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Click to watch a video on the impacts one community is facing from goods movement issues.

Equipping/empowering overburdened near-port communities to effectively engage with ports and participate in decision-making about environmental, health, and other community-driven concerns associated with port-related activities and corresponding freight transport is a critical component for effectively addressing environmental problems in these communities. We can do this by improving environmental performance at ports and equipping industry and community stakeholders with information, skills, and guidance to develop and implement collaborative solutions that reduce air pollutants and other environmental impacts.

And that’s why we’re excited to let you know about EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality’s near-port community capacity building project and how you can get involved!  The project involves broad stakeholder outreach and participation that has resulted in the development of strategies, tools and information for near-port community and port engagement.   Pilot projects will test and refine the capacity building tools to help communities and ports to develop effective collaboration.

The centerpiece of the project is the Capacity Building Toolkit consisting of:

  1. Untitled-3

    Click to open the documents

    Ports primer for communities: An interactive tool and reference document provides an overview of planning and operations at ports, and characterizes the port industry sector – including environmental and community health impacts associated with port activities. Case studies provide further exploration into challenges and approaches for resolution.

  2. Untitled-2Community action roadmap:  An implementation companion for the Ports Primer that provides a step-by-step process for building capacity and preparing community stakeholders to engage nearby port facilities and influence decision-making on issues that may impact local land use, environmental health, quality of life, and other associated issues of community interest.
  3. Untitled-1Environmental justice primer for ports: Designed to inform the port industry sector of the perspectives, priorities, and challenges often unique to communities with EJ concerns. In addition to orienting the port sector about EJ considerations, this resource is structured to provide step-by-step guidance to improve the effectiveness of port/community engagement in addressing concerns of impacted residential communities.

You can review and provide comments on the draft tools, which are posted for public comment until September 14, 2016. Click here to access draft tools:  www.epa.gov/ports-initiative

Additionally, ports and near-port communities can apply through our website to become a pilot project location to test and refine the draft capacity building tools and associated processes. Applications are also due September 14, 2016.  Direct technical assistance to community and industry stakeholders will be provided during the pilot projects. To apply for the pilot opportunity:  www.epa.gov/ports-initiative/pilot-opportunities-port-and-near-port-community-collaboration.

Please take time to review these materials, provide comments, and apply to submit your community or port for a pilot project. Only through robust engagement, innovation and collaboration can we achieve our shared vision to improve environmental health outcomes for communities affected by ports and associated goods movement facilities.

About the Author: Sabrina Johnson is a Senior Policy Analyst in the EPA’s Office of Transportation & Air Quality (OTAQ). She leads OTAQ’s Near-port Community Capacity Building Project and played a principal role in planning the “National Conversation on Ports” webinar listening sessions and the “National Port Stakeholders Summit.” She also participates on the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group Goods Movement Committee.

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.

EPA Offers up to $80,000 to Communities to Develop Air Sensor Data Best Practices

Ann Dunkin Ann Dunkin
Chief Information Officer

By Ann Dunkin, Chief Information Officer

SMART CITIES AIR CHALLENGE INFORMATION

Application Deadline: October 28, 2016
Announcement of Winners: Around December 1, 2016
Initial award: Up to $40,000 each to two communities to deploy air sensors, share data with the public, and develop data management best practices from sensors
Additional funding: Up to $10,000 each to the winning communities in 2017 based on  their accomplishments and collaboration.

To learn more, visit the Smart City Air Challenge website.

I came to the EPA with a firm belief that data can make a difference in environmental protection. Since I’ve been here I’ve found that communities are leading the way by using data to understand local conditions and operate efficiently. That’s why I’m excited to announce EPA’s Smart City Air Challenge.

This new challenge encourages communities to install hundreds of air quality sensors and manage the resulting data. EPA is offering two communities up to $40,000 each to work with their residents to crowdsource air quality data and share it with the public online. The projects will give individuals a role in collecting the data and understanding how environmental conditions affect their health and their community.

Air quality sensors are becoming less expensive and people are beginning to use them to measure pollution levels in their neighborhoods and homes. They’re developing rapidly, but most sensors aren’t ready for regulatory use. However, by networking these devices, communities can better understand what is happening at the local level. Communities will figure out where to place the sensors and how to maintain the devices. It’s up to each community to decide what pollutants they want to measure.

The prize funds serve as seed money, so communities will need to partner with other parties, such as sensor manufacturers, data management companies and universities. These partners can provide resources and expertise in topics where communities lack experience. In doing so, communities will learn how to use data analytics, which can be applied to other aspects of community life.

What does EPA get out of this? We’ll learn how communities collect, store and manage large amounts of data. We’ll also get a better understanding of the quality of data communities collect using sensors for non-regulatory purposes. We’ll see how communities transfer data from sensors to databases and visualize the results. Finally, the sensors will produce as much as 150 gigabytes of open data a year —data anyone can use.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy often says communities are “incubators for innovation.” We’re hoping the challenge will inspire communities to come up with innovative approaches for managing data so their residents and other communities can benefit. Show us how it’s done.

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.

Keep Pests Out When Serving Breakfast in the Classroom

By Marcia Anderson

Breakfast in the Classroom is a popular meal program in schools nationwide, and is widely adopted in many NYC and surrounding schools. Once in the classroom, however, food becomes a source for potential pest problems. Even if students assist in cleaning up after eating their meal, wipe their desks, recycle waste appropriately, and put the trash in garbage bags, crumbs and spills may go unnoticed.

American cockroach Photo: Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

American cockroach
Photo: Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

Pests are not picky. Ants, flies, cockroaches, and mice are drawn to the long-forgotten crumbs in the corner and juice residue left on desks by sticky fingers. It takes very little food for pests to thrive in the hidden spaces of a classroom. Pests are attracted to any place that offers food, water, and shelter – this can include classrooms, cabinets, desks, lockers, and cubbies. Remember that managing pests is important because some can carry diseases, spread food-borne illnesses, and triggers asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

Clean up after meals. Remember that food, even if left in the classroom trash can, becomes an open invitation to any cockroach or rodent in the area.  Cleaning up regularly removes the necessities that pests need to survive. Keep paper towels or moist cleansing wipes in each classroom so students and teachers can clean desks after breakfast. Classrooms serving meals may also need more frequent vacuuming or mopping.

Disposing of trash promptly, within about two hours of the meal, and proper recycling keeps classrooms clean and pest-free. Recycling and waste management programs may need to be altered to accommodate disposal of breakfast packaging.

This NYC school serves breakfast in the classroom, but also pays particular attention to recycling and Integrated Pest Management in the classroom.

This NYC school serves breakfast in the classroom, but also pays particular attention to recycling and Integrated Pest Management in the classroom.

Implement a comprehensive pest management program. EPA recommends that schools adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to managing pests.  IPM emphasizes preventative strategies such as sanitation, maintenance, and exclusion.  In an IPM approach, school buildings and grounds are inspected to see where pests are finding food, water, and shelter. Steps are then taken to keep pests out and to make conditions unfavorable to pests by keeping everything clean, dry, and tightly sealed. Using IPM practices to manage pests is cost effective, and reduces exposure to pests and pesticides. The goal of a school IPM program is to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff.

Following these practical steps will help keep pests out of your school when serving Breakfast in the Classroom.

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 Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_250

Heading back to school? Get a little science refresher by checking out some of our research! Here’s the latest at EPA.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Shore
Sengekontacket Pond—the same pond where Jaws was filmed 41 years ago—and the adjacent salt marsh habitat at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary are threatened by both impaired water quality and negative environmental changes, which have eroded almost ten feet of marsh in recent years. EPA teamed up with a several other organization to build a living shoreline as a natural approach to salt marsh restoration. Find out more about living shorelines in the blog The Use of Living Shorelines.

From Grasslands to Forests, Nitrogen Impacts all Ecosystems
To date, most U.S. biodiversity studies on the effects of nitrogen deposition had been focused on individual sites, where fertilizer was applied and small plots were monitored through time. That’s why EPA researcher Chris Clark and a team of scientists from EPA and collaborators are exploring the effects of nitrogen deposition in a first-of-its-kind study focused on multiple ecosystems across the nation. The study was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more about it in the blog From Grasslands to Forests, Nitrogen Impacts all Ecosystems.

Researchers at Work
Research engineer Michael Tryby develops and evaluates engineering processes for EPA tools that are used to protect public health and the environment. He currently works on our Stormwater Management Model, which is a widely-used tool that supports Green Infrastructure initiatives around the Nation and the world. Meet EPA Research Engineer Michael Tryby!

EPA Water Research Paper Earns Top Rank
A journal article by EPA’s Tom Sorg was ranked #1 on the Top 20 list of published papers on arsenic science in the journal Water Research. Read the journal article Arsenic species in drinking water wells in the USA with high arsenic concentrations.

Presidential Environmental Education Awards
EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality recognized 18 teachers and 63 students from across the country for their outstanding contributions to environmental education and stewardship. Read more about the recent awards ceremony in this press release.

Need more science? Check out some of these upcoming events at EPA.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a 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.

Nebraska Teacher Wins Presidential Award; Students Examine Cosmic Rays in Soil

Introduction by Kathleen L. Fenton

Shawn Graham with his award plaque at the White House ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 16, 2016

Shawn Graham with his award plaque at the White House ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 16, 2016

Science Teacher Shawn Graham, Omaha Public Schools’ Accelere Program, is one of 10 educators across the U.S. to win the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators for 2015-2016. This prestigious award honors K-12 teachers from each EPA region who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for their students’ learning.

Shawn is a compassionate and diligent high school teacher, and one of the best liaisons I’ve seen at work. He networks with over 50 local, state and federal organizations, and most of his students’ parents, who all pitch in to educate the Accelere students.

The Accelere Program provides access to a challenging, accelerated degree format for Omaha students, ages 17-20, who want to earn a high school diploma. Working with his many partners behind the scenes, Shawn develops a tailor-made science program to fully engage all of his students.

Region 7 is featuring Shawn and his students’ nationally recognized work in this blog and the next one. Read these stories to learn how a Nebraska teacher helps his students each day by connecting them to their community by delivering environmental education, science, real-world experiences and fun!

By Shawn Graham

I want to express how lucky I am to be teaching so many talented individuals. I also have the privilege of sharing their talents with several community partners to improve our environment.

My students come up with unique ways of problem-solving today’s challenges. Part of what I do is to relate the students’ interests in post-secondary subjects to the curriculum I teach. I wish to best relate the students’ interests and experiences with their lesson plans and projects.

The first project I have my students explore is through the Cosmic Ray Observation Project (CROP) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, headed by Daniel Claes, Ph.D., department chair and associate dean of research in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Accelere’s CROP program is designed to meet two goals: To study the pattern of cosmic particles, and to interest high school students in science careers (especially physics).

Solangel Fuentes-Vasquez and Gabriela Hernandez in front of their math formulas

Solangel Fuentes-Vasquez and Gabriela Hernandez in front of their math formulas

Through the use of CROP detection equipment, students measure the neutron particles in the soil. They also measure the level of activity of the particles bombarding the Earth and how plants respond to these different levels, specifically as it relates to soil moisture. The work also allows students to produce research-quality data and prepares them for college-level science and research classes.

Solangel Fuentes-Vasquez, Brittany Merrill, and Breonna Berry used the CROP classroom detectors, collected data, and connected cosmic-ray physics with global food security – relating how cosmic rays can affect pollinator plant production.

“We had to learn about this work step-by-step,” Solangel said.

The students have found the work intriguing and love hearing the responses to their studies. Breonna explains, “We are always asked what they (cosmic rays) are and what this data is used for.” Brittany always gets this response from people viewing a scan: “What is that?”

Their favorite explanation is to refer folks to the video produced by Professor Claes, who explains how radiation impacts our everyday lives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbmSmgTIQ8s.

About the Introducer: Kathleen L. Fenton serves as the Environmental Education Program Coordinator in EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs. She has worked with communities on environmental health issues, environmental education, and Healthy Schools projects for over 20 years.

About the Author: Shawn Graham is a science teacher with the Accelere Program at Omaha Public Schools in Omaha, Neb. He has been teaching 11th and 12th grade students for 13 years. Shawn’s two main goals are to generate a deeper understanding of course topics by connecting his students with the environment, and encourage students to pursue life-long learning through post-secondary education.

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.

Explore EPA’s Annual AirTrends Report 2016 Using a New Interactive Web Application

Then: "The George Washington Bridge in Heavy Smog. View toward the New Jersey Side of the Hudson River," May 1973. Now: "Thermal Inversion Freedom Tower," March 2013.

Then: “The George Washington Bridge in Heavy Smog,” May 1973.
Now: “Thermal Inversion Freedom Tower,” March 2013.

By Arthur Zuco

Imagine standing on the banks of the Hudson River, air so thick with smog you can barely make out the massive pillars of the George Washington Bridge. Cars zoom past you fueled by leaded gasoline. A faint sound of music wafts through the air.

Wait. Is that disco music?

Though many communities still face a variety of air quality issues, our nation’s air quality has steadily improved since 1970. In all those years, many would claim that cleaning up our air would come at the expense of economic growth.

Yet, in the same period of time, gross domestic product is up almost 250 percent and aggregate emissions are down 70 percent. So why bring all this – and the nightmarish memories of platform shoes and leisure suits – up now?

Well, EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation recently released its annual AirTrends Report 2016, which tracks air quality data and trends through 2015. It’s important to track progress as we work to ensure all Americans are free from breathing toxic and harmful air pollution. We know that overall air quality is improving but we can’t stop yet.

Click on the photo to view the interactive air quality and emissions data update.

Click on the photo to view the interactive air quality and emissions data update.

There is still much work to do, especially in our communities with pressing environmental justice concerns. Recent studies have reaffirmed that certain communities, including low-income communities and communities of color, are disproportionately affected by the impacts of air pollution. Therefore, it is imperative that we utilize tools, such as the Air Trends Report, to identify how and where our air quality is improving, and where it is not, so we can prioritize those areas that most need our assistance.

So, go check out the report!

Explore the interactive air quality and emissions data update

It is presented through an interactive web app featuring a suite of visualization tools that allow the user to:

  • Air QualityLearn about air pollution and how it can affect our health and environment;Pollution
  • Compare key air emissions to gross domestic product, vehicle miles traveled, population, and energy consumption back to 1970;
  • Take a closer look at how the number of days with unhealthy air has dropped since 2000 in 35 major US cities; Emissions
  • Explore how air quality and emissions have changed through time and space for each of the common air pollutants; and
  • Check out air trends where you live.

Users will also be able to share this content across social media, with one-click access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other major social media sites.

The data shows that our nation’s air continues to improve. We may have come a long way from bell bottoms and leaded gasoline, but there is still much work left to be done to move us forward. EPA must continue work with our partners at the state, tribal, local and neighborhood levels to ensure healthy air for all communities. I encourage all of you to take a look and read about the progress made over the years.

Explore the new AirTrends website

Follow the agency’s new @EPAair twitter account

Outlook

About the Author: Arthur Zuco worked in conjunction with the Air Quality Analysis Group of the Office of Air Quality Planning Standards, which has led the effort to redesign both the AirTrends website and 2016 Air Trends Report. Experts from various disciplines contributed content and oversaw the development spanning over eleven months. Collectively, we are proud to bring the American people a compelling story about our improving air quality in an interactive and mobile-friendly tool. The employees who worked on the report, and this blog post, include Halil Cakir, Jan Cortelyou-Lee, Josh Drukenbrod, Aaron Evans, Brett Gaines, Brett Gantt, David Mintz, Liz Naess, Tesh Rao, Adam Reff, Kayla Schulte, Madeleine Strum, Ben Wells, and Arthur Zuco.

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.

Healing Old Wounds

by Tom Damm

The day’s light was fading along with our chances of spotting a bull elk when out of the tall grass rose a pair of majestic antlers.  We quietly got out of our small caravan of cars, pointing and speaking in hushed tones.  The animal gave us a long, disinterested look and then ambled back down the hill.

Bull elk emerging from high grass

Bull elk appears for tour group

We had seen a scattering of elk cows and calves over the past half hour.  But the brief encounter with the antlered male was the perfect cap to a full day of touring old surface mines being restored in western Pennsylvania, including this popular state game land in Benezette Township known for its resurgent elk population.

Vast acres of the land before us had been scarred and abandoned by mining operators prior to a 1977 federal law requiring environmental remediation of active sites.  Now, after a series of re-mining and reclamation projects, our view was a sweeping vista of hilly forest and grasslands that serve as an attractive habitat for an elk herd 1,000 strong.

For our team of mostly federal and state regulators, the game land in Elk County was the last stop on Day 2 of a nearly week-long fact-finding tour arranged by EPA as part of a multi-agency effort to consider next steps for mine reclamation activity, including potential funding and other incentives.

Earlier in the day, Mike Smith, district mining manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, led us on an often bumpy, dusty off-road tour of mining sites on either side of Route 80 between Snow Shoe and DuBois that similarly were abandoned and are now in various stages of re-mining and recovery.

In the reclamation process, operators receive permits to mine portions of the old sites that still have viable coal reserves in exchange for strategic and insured work that restores the full sites with trees and grasses and in many cases improves the quality of water impaired by acid mine drainage.

Most of the sites we saw were relatively small in size – not the type generally supported by a pool of money financed by industry and government to address mine-related safety and economic issues.

Two of the veteran operators said that with their thin, if not break-even profit margin this will be their last hurrah.  Said one, whose work included the elk-rich game lands, “When you look at this project and the good that it’s done, I don’t know who’s going to do this when we’re gone.”

But for this day, with roaming elk, a once-acidic stream segment stocked with trout, a former “moonscape” covered with grass, and even some head-bobbing wild turkeys, it was a time to appreciate the progress at hand.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

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.

Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans

Estuaries

By Nicole Tachiki

At a conference on climate change adaptation, I found myself eating lunch next to the Planning Administrator of a Maryland county. She told me that her office does not have budget or staff dedicated to thinking about the impacts of climate change, so she registered for the conference to learn how to incorporate climate adaptation into her work. Although her position as the county’s planning administrator does not include a sustainability portfolio, she recognized the need to consider climate change in county plans and wanted to learn more about it.

Climate change will have an impact on communities, particularly those that are already vulnerable to coastal storms, drought, and sea level rise. Like in the Southwest, drought will only exacerbate water shortages and increase the likelihood of future wildfires. Low-income communities that lack adequate resources to prepare and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change are especially at risk.  Workbook

Because of experiences like this, I am very proud of the work that has gone into EPA’s risk-based vulnerability assessment workbook entitled “Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans.” The workbook is a step-by-step guide to conducting a risk-based vulnerability assessment and then writing an adaptation action plan. Communities can follow the workbook steps to identify their potential climate change risks and how to consider adaptation options.

Leaders of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program decided to use the workbook to identify and prioritize climate change risks to the communities surrounding the estuary in Puerto Rico. One priority for these leaders was to engage and meaningfully involve the communities that would disproportionally be impacted by the potential risks to the estuary. They held community workshops to learn about the climate change impacts people in the community were already observing. Two of their workshops were specific to environmental justice communities living around the estuary.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdlWakSnvww

You can listen to the “Climate Resilience: What to Expect, How to Prepare, and What You Can Learn from Others” webcast to learn more about how the workbook has been used in a pilot project with the San Juan Bay Estuary program.

To facilitate user experience with the climate change adaptation workbook, EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries program has just released a new online companion tool to the workbook.

This new online tool enables users to enter data for the first five steps of the workbook online. After working through the steps of the online tool, users receive a formatted matrix prioritizing their climate change risks and a final assessment report with all the user input.

As I sat by the planning administrator that day at the conference, I was further inspired to continue this work as I got to meet the people for whom these resources were developed.

And, as I continue to work on resources such as the workbook and online companion tool, I gain a greater appreciation for the work being done at EPA to help environmental leaders adapt to climate change. Communities are already dealing with the impacts of climate change and they need our support and resources to help them adapt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pw–gmZacTY

About the Author: Nicole Tachiki is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow working with Climate Ready Estuaries and the National Estuary Program in the EPA’s Office of Water. In this capacity, she enjoys working to provide research and tools for climate change adaptation.

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.