Scientists of the Corn

By Susanna Pearlstein

Wandering through a corn field, you might find stillness, quiet, order, perhaps a tassel-lined sky. At our corn field at the Oregon State University Vegetable Research Farm, you will find a hydraulic drill and a team of EPA staff from Oklahoma’s Ground Water and Ecosystems Restoration Division.  The crew brought two hydraulic drills in a semi-truck to Corvallis, Oregon, to bring to life a study that had taken a year to plan.

an aerial view of a corn field with two paths for research

Aerial view of the completed field installs. Photo by Keith Sawicz

I met them at the corn field, armed with pastries and the excitement of knowing that all the planning, site searching, relationship building, corn planting, and a host of other activities had been successful. The results of the study will help us understand how nitrate moves into groundwater.

 

A team of researchers installing the sensor ray in the corn field

The team installing a sensor array. Photo: Steve Hutchins

Farmers apply nitrogen to crops like corn to help them grow and supplement the nutrients that they take out of the soil. It is essential to monitor water quality related to farming practices because any extra nitrogen that is not used by the plant may move down through the soil as nitrate. Nitrate is found in some local drinking water supplies, and it can be particularly harmful to infants.

 

The study will help explain how we can protect drinking water by planting crops between corn rows to keep the nitrogen in the field. The crop is left behind after corn harvest as a cover crop rather than leaving the fields bare. Scientists advocate interplanting cover crops to help keep nitrate from leaching into groundwater and surface waters across the U.S

EPA researchers stand proudly beside a sensor in a field of corn.

Steve and Susanna enthusiastically display the inner workings of the sensor dataloggers. Photo by Bart Faulkner.

Preparing the site meant that the crew from EPA spent the first part of September patiently guiding the drills through the soil to several depths within the vadose zone, the space between the soil surface and the top of the groundwater. Under the expert eye of the licensed driller James “JR” Cantrall of Northern Lights Drilling, the drill team installed these devices and drilled groundwater wells. In addition to the groundwater wells, which sample below the vadose zone in the actual groundwater, scientists installed lysimeters, soil moisture probes, and tensiometers within the vadose zone. Lysimeters are porous cups that allow water samples to be taken under vacuum as the water infiltrates through the soil. Soil moisture probes will monitor how much moisture is in the soil, and tensiometer sensors will show the soil’s capacity to take up additional moisture. All together, these devices allow for critical evaluation of changes in water quality as it moves through the soil and into groundwater.

With the site up and running now EPA will monitor the soil and groundwater biweekly for the next four years as part of EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources research program. Please visit our corn field, either in person or by watching for our updates and publications. We’re looking forward to sharing the story these data will tell!

About the Author: Susanna Pearlstein is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Postdoctoral Researcher based at the U.S. EPA in Corvallis, OR. She works with Jana Compton and co-leads the Partnership to Improve Nutrient Efficiency, a multi-stakeholder effort in the southern Willamette Valley.

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

Do your Halloween weekend plans involve zombies, aliens, monsters, or other forms of science fiction? Mix it up with some real science! Here’s the latest in EPA research.

Science and Environmental Justice
This week EPA released the EJ 2020 Action Agenda, outlining our strategic plan to advance environmental justice for the next five years and set a course for greatly reducing environmental health disparities for generations to come. Learn how EPA researchers are supporting the agenda in the blog EPA Science: Providing the Foundation for Environmental Justice.

DIY Air Monitoring
EPA’s online Air Sensor Toolbox puts air measurement capabilities into the hands of citizen scientists. We recently updated the Toolbox with additional information and a new look for even easier navigation. Learn more about the update in the blog DIY Air Monitoring: Check out the Online Air Sensor Toolbox First.

Pathways to Urban Sustainability
A new National Academy of Sciences Report, sponsored in part by EPA, offers a road map and recommendations to help U.S. cities work toward a more sustainable future. Learn about some of these recommendations in the blog Key Recommendations of National Academy of Sciences Report: Pathways to Urban Sustainability.

Bringing Insights from Social Science to Environmental Science and Policy
Robert B. Richardson and Courtney Flint, members of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors, recently held a workshop on the integration of behavioral and social sciences into environmental policy and management at EPA. Learn more about the workshop in the blog Bringing Insights from Social Science to Environmental Science and Policy.

Filling the Gaps in Environmental Science with Big Data
At EPA we have a large computational science effort that focuses on predicting exposure and toxicity for the thousands of chemicals present in the environment. EPA has joined the National Consortium for Data Science. The consortium is a collaboration of leaders in various fields that work together to encourage data science research and identify data science challenges. Learn more about this new partnership in the blog Filling the Gaps in Environmental Science with Big Data.

EPA Researchers at Work
Do you ever wonder who’s behind all the amazing science at EPA? Meet some of our researchers! This week we’re highlighting Naomi Detenbeck. Naomi is a problem solver—and that comes across in the work she does. She works on decision-support tools, like the Watershed Management Optimization Support Tool, to find solutions to water management issues. Meet EPA Scientist Naomi Detenbeck!

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

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer on 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.

Keeping International Communities Safe — One Hazardous Waste Shipment at a Time

Mathy Stanislaus Mathy Stanislaus

By Mathy Stanislaus

Here at EPA we are not only focused on responsibly and safely managing our country’s waste, but it’s also our responsibility to ensure that our country’s waste isn’t a danger to human health or  the environment of communities abroad. That is why I am excited to announce today’s publication of the Hazardous Waste Export-Import Revisions Final Rule. This rule will provide greater protection to global human health and the environment by providing for increased transparency, data sharing and more complete and efficient tracking for international hazardous waste shipments.

When hazardous waste is shipped across multiple countries to be disposed of or recycled, there can be a higher risk of mismanagement, which endangers the health and safety of surrounding communities. Abandoned shipments — or shipments sent to unapproved facilities that are not able to manage the wastes appropriately — present the biggest dangers to people and the environment. Other risk factors may include:

  • Increased number of people who are handling and transferring the international shipments
  • Entry and exit procedures
  • Temporary storage at ports and border crossings
  • Varying degrees of environmental controls and worker safety practices.

As the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Land and Emergency Management, I am committed to making sure that hazardous waste entering or leaving the United States is safely and correctly handled. That is why I am so proud of this new rule.

Specifically, the Hazardous Waste Export-Import Revisions Final Rule requires:

  • Updates to some current import and export requirements to be consistent with other existing EPA requirements based on Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) procedures, so that these widely-accepted standards will apply to all U.S. hazardous waste imports and exports in a consistent and protective manner
  • A switch to mandatory electronic reporting to EPA that will enable increased sharing of hazardous waste import and export data with state programs, the general public and individual hazardous waste exporters and importers
  • Linking the consent to export with the exporter declaration submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which will provide for more efficient compliance monitoring

Through these new requirements, hazardous waste imports and exports will occur under contracts between the exporters and management facilities, and with the written approval of the country of import. Additionally, this rule will require the tracking of international hazardous waste shipments from start to finish, reducing the misdirection of shipments to unapproved facilities. They will also require that the facility complete recycling or disposal of the shipments within one year of receipt. By requiring receiving facilities to document both the initial receipt of the hazardous waste shipment and when the management of hazardous waste is complete, the rule ensures the timely management of the waste and lessens the possibility of abandoned shipments, which can seriously harm both human health and the environment. In every aspect of this rule, my top priority is that all communities where hazardous waste is being managed are safe and healthy.

This rule will go into effect on December 31, 2016. However, we understand that it will take time for businesses affected by this rule to make any required changes. That is why this rule also establishes appropriate transition periods to help minimize the burden of implementing these new requirements.

Additionally, to ensure that there is transparency and access to compliance data while this rule is in the process of being implemented, the Internet Posting of and Confidentiality Determinations for Hazardous Waste Export and Import Documents rule is being proposed to require companies to post data on their public websites until they can submit it electronically to EPA. This rule also proposes to exclude certain hazardous waste import and export documents from Confidential Business Information claims. Providing this information to the public will enable interested members of the community and the government to better monitor proper compliance with EPA’s hazardous waste regulations, as well as ensure that hazardous waste import and export shipments are properly received and managed.

I am proud that we’ve taken another step toward keeping people and our environment safe. This new rule is an integral step in ensuring that internationally shipped hazardous waste is responsibly and safely handled. However, we still have more work to do. Whether it’s working with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation to develop technical guidelines for safe international recycling, or participating in the Basel Convention’s technical working groups to develop guidance for the environmentally sound management of electronic-waste, EPA continues to be at the forefront of creating innovative strategies to respond to ever evolving international waste issues.

We will be hosting a webinar on December 12, 2016 to introduce this new rule and give a broad overview of the immediate changes when the rules goes into effect on December 31, 2016. To RSVP for the webinar, visit: https://clu-in.org/training/#upcoming

To learn more about the rule, visit: https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/proposed-rule-hazardous-waste-export-import-revisions

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 Science: Providing the Foundation for Environmental Justice

By Fred Hauchman and Andrew Geller

the cover of the EJ 2020 action agendaYesterday, the Agency released the EJ 2020 Action Agenda, outlining our strategic plan to advance environmental justice for the next five years and set a course for greatly reducing or eliminating environmental health disparities for generations to come. The overall vision is to bring the promise of a clean, healthy, and more sustainable environment to everyone in the country, no matter where they live, work, play, or learn.

The plan recognizes that while we have made great progress improving the quality of air, water, and land over the past 40-plus years, there are far too many people who still face serious impacts and risks from exposures to environmental pollutants. We know that the people most affected are disproportionately from economically disadvantaged and minority communities. That’s not acceptable. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has stated, “Everyone deserves to have their health protected from environmental exposures.”

As always, science is critical to making that health protection a reality. That’s why the EJ 2020 Action Agenda includes an explicit commitment by the Agency to conduct and support collaborative, community-based research. This approach is needed to not only better understand the complex, interrelated factors that lead to disproportionate environmental and related public health burdens, but to provide citizens with the information, data, and tools they need to fully participate in making the decisions that affect their communities and take action.

We will continue to develop and improve innovative decision support tools that help public health officials, citizen groups, researchers, and others identify and prioritize environmental concerns and assess cumulative impacts. This includes tools such as EnviroAtlas, the Community Cumulative Assessment Tool, and the recently released Community-Focused Exposure Risk and Screening Tool, (C-FERST).   It also includes EPA’s Tribal Science effort, recognizing EPA’s responsibilities to America’s indigenous peoples and our shared role in building the capacity for the sovereign tribes to construct environmental programs that serve their nations. This suite of resources provides robust online mapping and visualization capabilities, extensive databases, case studies, and customizable applications.

Our researchers work closely with EPA’s Regions, local communities and stakeholder groups to continually improve and upgrade these and other EPA tools and resources, hold workshops and seminars, and solicit feedback. Such community engagement is key. Frequent, two-way communication with our community partners helps teams identify the highest priorities early. Together we can tailor research strategies that in the end will deliver the information and decision support needed to make lasting, visible local impact.

Another area where science and research are providing the foundation for actions to address environmental justice concerns is through the development of innovative environmental monitoring tools. Our researchers are helping usher in a new generation of low-cost, portable environmental sensors—empowering communities to collect and monitor conditions in their air, water, and other environmental media.

As outlined in EJ 2020: “New technologies and sensors have the potential to supplement regulatory monitoring, provide information on operating processes to facility managers and inspectors, and enable community engagement in the measurement of local pollution through the use of affordable, easy-to-use analytical tools (citizen science).” This emphasizes that citizen science advances environmental protection by helping local communities understand local problems and collect quality data that can be used to advocate for or solve environmental and health issues.

We are committed to providing the science and engineering solutions needed to realize that potential.  It’s part of our strategy to ensure that the benefits of environmental protection reach every community across the country. That’s the promise of EPA research, and what every American deserves.

 

About the Authors: Fred Hauchman, Ph.D., is the Director of the Office of Science Policy, which is the lead organization for integrating, coordinating, and communicating scientific and technical information and advice across EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), and between ORD and the agency’s programs, regions, and external parties.

 

Andrew Geller, Ph.D., is the Acting National Program Director for the Agency’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) research program. SHC researchers are working to provide the knowledge, data, and tools local communities and others need to advance a more sustainable, healthy, and vibrant future. A major priority is delivering the research needed to support environmental justice.

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.

‘Dr. Lowry, I read on the internet that I shouldn’t feed my child rice cereal. Is this true?’

Introduction by LaTonya Sanders

October is Children’s Health Month. In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics established October as Child Health Month in order to focus national attention on children’s health issues. This month and throughout the year, EPA works with parents, teachers, health providers and other partners to promote healthy environments where children live, learn and play.

Only through partnerships and collaboration can we make a difference and leverage the needed resources and support to guard all children against environmental health threats.

PEHSUEPA is proud to partner with people and organizations that are on the forefront in protecting children’s health and the environment, which is consistently true for Dr. Jennifer Lowry and the Mid-America Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit. Dr. Lowry is a crucial partner to EPA, and her work is instrumental in creating a healthier future for our children.

By Jennifer Lowry, MD

Jennifer Lowry, MDPediatricians love children. We love helping children become the best people they can be. We love doing what is needed to make the world a better place for children to be healthy.

What pediatricians don’t love is being caught unaware of the latest blog, internet chat, or media storm regarding environmental health issues. Media and other news outlets often inform parents of possible environmental exposures that can cause harm to children.

Unfortunately, not all of the information is true, which causes undo concern for parents and confusion to pediatricians who are asked about these effects.

A World of Stuff

What is a pediatrician or family to do? It is important to realize we are surrounded by stuff. We, or the people who have come before us, have made choices that puts stuff in our world that is supposed to make things “better” or “easier.” Unfortunately, not all of the stuff we encounter fits both descriptions.

Cell phones, plastics, better beef, lead in paint, and synthetic athletic fields are just a few examples that may make life easier, but might not (or definitely not in some cases) make life better. But today, everywhere you turn, someone is saying our children’s lives are being damaged by the chemicals we have in the environment. Is this true?

A Matter of the Dose

As a toxicologist, I have been taught “Everything is a poison. It is just a matter of the dose.” Paracelsus was a Swiss-German Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer and general occultist. Born in 1493, he founded the discipline of toxicology. Paracelsus rejected the medical conditions of the time, and pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals in medicine. He is credited with the phrase “the dose makes the poison,” but is also known to have said: If given in small doses, “what makes a man ill also cures him.” Thus, he realized medicines can be beneficial at low doses, but cause harm at higher doses.

Paracelsus, founder of toxicology

Paracelsus, founder of toxicology

But what about chemicals and metals, both synthetic and natural? What about plants? Is it true there is no harm at low levels? Well, it depends. Medications used to treat illnesses are rigorously tested for safety and efficacy. Chemicals used in the environment are not. Alternative medications (dietary supplements) are not.

We know some medications have benefits at very low doses (micrograms), but can cause toxicity at the milligram dose (or 1,000 times the microgram dose). Some medications have no efficacy at the milligram dose and require much higher doses (grams or 1000 times the milligram dose) to have effect.

Why would we expect plants, supplements, chemicals or metals to be any different? Each chemical is different and has a different profile for efficacy and toxicity. Some chemicals (botulinum toxin, for example) are toxic at even lower doses. Unfortunately, we are finding out doses that were presumed safe were really not safe to begin with.

Arsenic and Lead

Chemical symbols for arsenic and lead

Chemical symbols for arsenic and lead

At one time, we erroneously thought because arsenic was “natural,” it could be placed in soil as a pesticide. However, arsenic is relatively immobile so anything that grows where it was placed (such as rice fields) can incorporate it into the food. Thus, higher levels of arsenic are found in foods grown where arsenic was used.

The same is true about lead. Pediatricians know that children are not little adults. But the level associated with toxicity in adults was applied to children early in the 1900s. However, it was soon realized children were more vulnerable and action was required at lower levels. Lead has not become more toxic over time. Our recognition of the toxicity of lead has changed for us to realize that even low levels of blood lead may result in harm.

So What Do We Do?

Can a 6-month-old child eat rice cereal? YES. Should they only eat rice cereal? NO. Does it have to be the first cereal they eat? NO. Can my teenager have a cell phone? YES. Should they be on it all the time? NO. Should they carry it in their pants or in their bra? NO. Should an infant or toddler play with a cell phone or tablet as their entertainment? NO.

How do you discover these answers? Great resources are available to help you sort this out:

  • Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) – Staffed by health care professionals who are experts in pediatric environmental health, they can help to best inform health care providers and the public on how to keep children safe from environmental toxins.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics – Through the Council on Environmental Health, health care professionals can learn about the latest science on pediatric environmental health and how to incorporate this knowledge into their practice. This website is a great resource for families to find out what experts in children advise.
  • Poison Control Centers – Staffed by health care professionals, they are best able to help you with acute exposures. Some PEHSUs collaborate with poison control centers. Call 1-800-222-1222.

Lastly, be smart. Do you really need that stuff? Do you really need to throw it away? Reduce, reuse and recycle. It is easy to blame others before us for where we are now. But who will our children blame with what we leave them?

About the Introducer: LaTonya Sanders serves as the children’s health coordinator in EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs in Lenexa, Kan. Her EPA career expands over 20 years in public affairs, communications, outreach, education and congressional relations.

About the Author: Jennifer Lowry, MD, is the medical director of the Mid-America Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, among several other prestigious titles. She served on EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee from 2012 to 2014.

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.

DIY Air Monitoring: Check Out the Online Air Sensor Toolbox First

By Ann Brown

airsensoridEPA’s online Air Sensor Toolbox puts air measurement capabilities into the hands of citizen scientists. We recently updated the Toolbox with additional information and a new look for even easier navigation.

The latest version of the Toolbox provides a variety of resources on using air sensor technologies, including new sensor performance reference tables. One of the most popular resources is the Air Sensor Guidebook, a how-to for using of air sensors and what to consider before getting started with a citizen science project. In addition, the Toolbox includes scientific reports on air sensor monitors that undergo testing and evaluation by EPA. Technical documents on operating procedures also are available.

Want to know what your monitor readings mean? The Toolbox also offers some guidance on how to interpret one-minute readings from air sensors. EPA has launched a pilot project to test a “sensor scale” for two main air pollutants–ozone and particle pollution, also known as particulate matter. The pilot is designed to help people understand what the real-time data generated by these monitors means for air quality and what to consider when planning outdoor activities.

EPA supports the advancement of sensor technologies to help citizens assess local air quality and alert them to potential concerns. The gold standard system in monitoring capability, however, is EPA’s national monitoring network. These monitors are stationary and have undergone rigorous testing for their accuracy and reliability. The data from these monitors are used by EPA, states and others to implement the nation’s air quality standards. Portable air sensors, on the other hand, are still being tested for their reliability, but are being used to examine local air quality conditions and help promote environmental awareness activities

Before you jump into an air sensor monitoring project, it is good to do your homework. The Toolbox has resources to help make decisions on what and where to monitor, what sensors to use and how to evaluate data using a free RETIGO mapping tool developed by EPA.

Plan to spend a little money to purchase one or more air sensors or find a partner with resources:  sensors can cost a couple hundred dollars or more. And finally, you can get your daily air quality forecast and current air quality information for your area on the AirNow.gov website.

Visit the Toolbox

Learn about local air quality

 

About the author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program.

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

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

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

EJ 2020: The Next Generation of Environmental Justice at EPA

Gina McCarthy Gina McCarthy

By Gina McCarthy

I got my start working at community health centers in Canton, Massachusetts. That was more than 35 years ago. What motivated me then, and still drives me today, is my desire to help people lead healthier, safer lives.

Far too often, I’ve seen how minority, low-income, and indigenous groups are most affected by environmental and public health challenges. I’m proud that for more than twenty years, EPA has worked to ensure that these overburdened communities benefit from the same environmental protections as other communities. This has been a priority of mine since my first days working in Canton, and it’s been a top priority for us here at EPA.

We’ve made tremendous progress over the past eight years. Through EJ 2014 – EPA’s first strategic plan – we built stronger relationships with local and community leaders. We integrated environmental justice into every EPA program. And we strengthened our partnerships across the federal family.

This progress is important, but we still have a lot of work to do. With EJ 2020, EPA’s next four-year strategic plan for environmental justice, we’re building on this foundation as we work together to turn this progress into even more action. This plan was developed based on robust public input – through thousands of comments on previous drafts, from more than one hundred meetings across the country, and four national webinars.

EJ 2020 has three overarching goals:

  • To deepen environmental justice practice in EPA’s programs that improve the health and environment of overburdened communities;
  • To work with federal, state, tribal, community, and industry partners to expand our impact across the country; and
  • To measure the progress we’re making on our most significant environmental justice challenges.

Each of these goals supports our efforts to expand our on-the-ground work and make an even greater and lasting impact where our help is needed the most. And as we develop more comprehensive ways to gauge our progress, we will better ensure that every American enjoys the benefits of living in a cleaner and healthier community.

Confronting our shared challenges requires innovative solutions and unwavering dedication. In a period of increasing challenges related to climate change and crumbling infrastructure, our capacity to confront our obstacles depends on the strength of our partnerships. EJ 2020 provides a roadmap for us to move forward, together, in a more productive and holistic way. This means listening to community leaders and residents and better understanding the burdens they face so that we strategically focus our resources. This is how we will truly make a difference in our country’s most overburdened communities.

EJ 2020 isn’t just about having words on paper. It’s about having concrete strategies that guide us through the next four years and beyond. And when I think back to the lessons I learned in Canton, I am proud of the lives that EPA has changed and the communities we’ve strengthened both in my hometown and in hometowns across the country. Everything we’ve accomplished makes me even more optimistic about our shared 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.

El EJ 2020: la próxima generación de justicia ambiental de EPA

Por Gina McCarthy

 

Yo empecé a trabajar en los centros comunitarios de salud en Canton, Massachusetts. Hace más de 35 años de eso. Lo que me motivó entonces, todavía me estimula hoy, es mi deseo de ayudar a la gente a vivir vidas más saludables y seguras.

Con demasiada frecuencia, vemos cómo los grupos minoritarios, de bajos ingresos e indígenas son los más afectados por los retos medioambientales y de salud pública. Estoy orgullosa de que por más de veinte años, la EPA ha trabajado para asegurar que estas comunidades marginadas se beneficien de las mismas protecciones ambientales que las demás comunidades. Eso ha sido prioritario para mí desde mis primeros días trabajando en Canton, y ha sido una prioridad clave para nosotros aquí en la EPA.

Hemos logrado un progreso tremendo a lo largo de los pasados ocho años. Mediante el EJ 2014, el primer plan estratégico de la EPA, desarrollamos relaciones más fuertes con los líderes locales y comunitarios. Integramos la justicia ambiental en cada programa de la EPA. Y hemos fortalecido nuestros consorcios dentro de la familia federal.

Este progreso es importante, porque todavía tenemos mucho trabajo por hacer. Con el EJ 2020, el siguiente plan estratégico de los próximos cuatro años para la justicia ambiental, continuaremos construyendo sobre esos fundamentos a medida que trabajemos juntos para convertir este progreso en todavía más acción. Este plan fue desarrollado basado en un insumo público robusto—mediante miles de comentarios al plan borrador, de más de cientos de reuniones en todo el país, y cuatro seminarios web nacionales.

La Agenda de Acción EJ 2020 tiene tres metas primordiales:

  • Profundizar la práctica de justicia ambiental dentro de los programas de la EPA para mejorar la salud y el medio ambiente en comunidades marginadas.
  • Trabajar con los socios para ampliar nuestro impacto positivo en las comunidades marginadas.
  • Demostrar el progreso sobre los retos nacionales críticos de justicia ambiental.

Cada una de estas metas apoya nuestros esfuerzos para ampliar nuestra labor sobre el terreno y lograr un impacto todavía mayor y duradero donde nuestra ayuda es más necesaria. Y a medida que desarrollemos maneras más globales para medir nuestro progreso, aseguraremos mejor que cada persona en Estados Unidos disfrute de los beneficios de vivir en una comunidad más limpia y más sana.

El confrontar nuestros retos compartidos requiere soluciones innovadoras y una dedicación inquebrantable. En un periodo de crecientes retos relacionados al cambio climático y la infraestructura en deterioro, nuestra capacidad de confrontar nuestros obstáculos depende de la fortaleza de nuestros consorcios. El EJ 2020 provee una guía para ir hacia adelante, juntos, de una manera más productiva y holística. Eso significa escuchar a los líderes comunitarios y residentes y mejor entender las cargas a las cuales ellos se enfrentan para que nosotros podamos enfocar nuestros recursos estratégicamente. Esta es la manera en la cual podremos hacer una diferencia en las comunidades más marginadas de nuestro país.

El EJ 2020 no se trata solamente de unas palabras en papel. Se trata de estrategias concretas que nos guiarán por los siguientes cuatro años y más allá. Y cuando me recuerdo de las lecciones aprendidas en Canton, me enorgullezco de las vidas que la EPA ha cambiado y las comunidades que hemos fortalecido tanto en mi pueblo natal y en pueblos natales en el país. Todo lo que hemos logrado me hace aún más optimista para nuestro futuro compartido.

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.

Shower Yourself with Savings

by Tom Damm

banner_showerbetter-2015A “Navy shower” is quite efficient.  Get wet, turn off the water, lather up, rinse off and get out.  All done in a few minutes.

My first experience with such a shower was in a trailer near New Orleans during EPA’s response to Hurricane Katrina.  I learned how to get clean in a hurry when the scarce hot water available in our compound ran out by the time I showered each morning.

I’ve since taken more comfortable, but similarly speedy showers at home.  It makes sense since EPA estimates that shortening your shower by even one minute can save 550 gallons of water per year.

Showering is one of the leading ways we use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use.

The City of Charlottesville, Virginia – a two-time EPA WaterSense national award winner for its water saving promotions – challenges its residents to take a five-minute shower, offering a free timer and suggesting they create a five-minute playlist and use a 2-in-1 shampoo-conditioner combination.

But one of the main suggestions from EPA and Charlottesville to save water, energy and money is to replace your old showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model.  Charlottesville offers them at no cost to its residents.

In just one year, a WaterSense showerhead can save the average family nearly 3,000 gallons of water and save enough electricity to power their home for 13 days.  That’s a savings of more than $70 in energy and water costs.

October has been designated Shower Better Month by EPA’s WaterSense program.  Here’s a link for more ways to save water throughout your home – and to avoid that knock on the door to speed it up in the shower.

 

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.

Making Room at the Table for Diverse Leaders

About the Author: Whitney Tome is the Executive Director of Green 2.0. 

Diversity Stats

Infographic produced by Green 2.0 with information obtained during inquiry for “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations” report.

While working in oceans, fisheries and national parks for a decade, I noticed a pattern – I was often the only women of color. I often found it hard to offer any solutions because I, like many others, had to overcome implicit and often explicit barriers where people may think I am less qualified, less knowledgeable and less able to provide insight.

AOB_0337 (2)

2014 Green 2.0 Launch

Over the years, I found a bevy of colleagues of color with similar experiences.

In the summer of 2014, Green 2.0’s released a report titled “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations,” which studied workplace diversity amongst 223 organizations in the environmental movement. The results showed that while people of color make up 36 percent of the U.S. population, the racial composition of staff hovers at from 12 to 16 percent in environmental organizations and government agencies. Following the release of the report, a conversation was ignited, and many of these organizations started taking substantive actions.

But why does this matter?

Lack of diversity among environmental leaders is an issue because environmental hazards disproportionately impact communities of color.  Without people of color in positions with policy-making capacity, it means that the perspectives of people of color are less likely to be included in the deliberations or outcomes. This is an environmental justice concern because if we are not including the people most directly impacted by environmental inequity, then the best interests of their communities will not be represented.

Diversity Stats2

Infographic produced by Green 2.0 with information obtained during inquiry for “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations” report.

With this in mind, my work with Green 2.0 has a simple mission: increase the racial diversity of the mainstream environmental movement.

Green 2.0 engages with environmental NGOs and foundations by calling on them to share their diversity data annually. Many NGOs and foundations are improving their hiring practices, assessing and addressing their work culture, and engaging diverse communities.

So where does EPA fit in?

AOB_0080 (1)At Green 2.0’s launch in 2014, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke about the importance of accountability and measuring diversity in government by explaining that “operating without a diverse workplace is like having our arms tied behind our backs.”

EPA has historically acknowledged diversity as an important issue for the agency. You can learn more about what the agency is doing to support a diverse workforce.

And you – no matter where you work – can ask what your organization or agency is doing on diversity. Depending on the answer, you can start a conversation about the diversity data, what diversity means to the organization, and how to create an inclusive culture for all.

Diversity matters, and as we continue to face increasingly complex environmental challenges, we will need diverse perspectives to create innovation solutions to these mounting concerns.

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.