This Year in EPA Science

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap with Happy New Year message

Our EPA researchers were hard at work in 2016—so to highlight that effort, we’ve put together a list of the ten most popular blogs from this year.

  1. Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Health
    We took a giant leap forward in our understanding of the relationship between air pollution and heart disease with the publication of results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Air Pollution Study(MESA Air) in the leading medical journal The Lancet. Learn more about the study and its implications in the blog EPA’s MESA Air Study Confirms that Air Pollution Contributes to the #1 Cause of Death in the U.S.
  1. Olive Oil and Fish Oil: Possible Protectors against Air Pollution
    Ever wondered what’s so healthy about taking fish oil tablets? EPA scientist Dr. Samantha J. Snow is investigating one of the potential benefits. Her research looks at how these oils in the diet might change the body’s reaction to ozone, a common outdoor air pollutant. Read more about her research in the blog Olive Oil and Fish Oil: Possible Protectors against Air Pollution.
  1. Goats Help EPA Protect Pollinators
    EPA’s research facility in Narragansett, Rhode Island enlisted the help of a highly skilled landscaping team to create a more pollinator-friendly habitat on the premises: a herd of goats! Learn more about ‘goatscaping’ in the blog It’s a Lawn Mower! It’s a Weed Whacker! No…it’s a Herd of Goats!
  1. Sunscreen and Sun Safety: Just One Piece of the Story
    It’s not surprising that sunscreens are detected in pool water—after all, some is bound to wash off when we take a dip—but certain sunscreens have also been widely detected in our ecosystems and in our wastewater. So how is our sunscreen ending up in our environment and what are the impacts? Find out in the blog Sunscreen and Sun Safety: Just One Piece of the Story.
  1. The Northeast Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program
    As incidences of cyanobacteria bloom continue to increase, EPA strives to create and improve methods for bloom prediction, monitoring, and management. The Northeast Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program will help generate region-wide data on bloom frequencies, cyanobacteria concentrations, and spatial distribution through three coordinated projects. To learn more about the program read the blog The Northeast Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program: One Program, Three Opportunities for You To Get Involved.
  2. Air Research Centers
    EPA is funding three university-based Air, Climate and Energy Research Centers through the Science to Achieve Results program. The centers will tackle pressing air quality issues for many communities across the U.S. still overburdened by air pollution. Read more about the new centers in the blog Air Quality Awareness: A New Generation of Research.

  3. Underwater Science
    Did you know that EPA has a team of scientists that work underwater? The EPA scientific diving program helps Superfund sites go from contaminated to clean – and keeps them that way! Read about what it’s like to be on the EPA Dive team in the blog Over 30 years of Wyckoff Superfund Site Diving Science.
  4. Compete to Improve Arsenic Sensing in Water
    The Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition is seeking innovative ways to improve arsenic sensing in water. Led by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, EPA experts helped in the prize competition’s design and development.  Read more about the Competition in the blog We’re Sensing a Change in Water Monitoring: Introducing the Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition.
  5. A Trip Back in Time
    This year at EPA’s Robert S Kerr Environmental Research Center, a cornerstone box was dusted off and unsealed in honor of the lab’s 50th anniversary. The time capsule included artifacts representing the Center’s major milestones and key accomplishments in the last 50 years. Read more about the event in the blog Another Trip Back in Time: Kerr Lab Time Capsule Reopened in Honor of 50th Anniversary.
  6. Women’s History Month
    The 2016 theme for Women’s History Month was Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government. Here at EPA, there are quite a few women scientists and engineers who truly are helping us achieve a more perfect union. We asked some of them to share a few words about what inspired them to pursue a career in science. Read what they said in the blog Women’s History Month: Honoring EPA Women in Science.

That’s all for this year. We are looking forward to all the science that 2017 will bring. Happy New Year!

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.

Reflecting on a Year of Environmental Achievements

By Sophia Rini

Gowanus Canal

Removing debris from the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY.

It’s the season when people often think back over the year’s events and take stock. Here at EPA Region 2, we had a very busy 2016 – from responding to environmental emergencies to successful green jobs training. Below are some highlights of our favorite moments protecting human health and the environment around our region this past year:

  • Major milestones in the cleanup of the Passaic River in New Jersey: We issued a final plan to remove 3.5 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the lower 8.3 miles of the Passaic River and secured $165 million to perform the engineering and design work needed to begin the cleanup.
  • Updates to the Worker Protection Standard: We visited farms in both New York and New Jersey and held a meeting with agricultural workers in Utuado, Puerto Rico to highlight the important updates to the standard. Working in farm fields day after day should not be a health risk for farmers, farmworkers, or their families. With these updates, the nation’s two million farmworkers are better protected against toxic pesticide exposure.
  • Great progress in Trash Free Waters: This year, as part of our Trash Free Waters program, we awarded a $365,000 grant to the New England Water Pollution Control Commission and awarded grants in New York and New Jersey. We also held a Microplastics/Citizen Science workshop on October 11 in Syracuse and a Caribbean Recycling Summit on December 1 & 2 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We’re getting the word out and expanding the conversation about plastic pollution.

    Fortune Society

    Graduates of the Fortune Society’s green jobs training.

  • Green Jobs Training: We provided funding for successful green jobs training programs. Forty students graduated from The Fortune Society’s training in Long Island City and we awarded $120,000 to PUSH Buffalo for green jobs training and environmental education.
  • South Jersey Ice emergency response: We safely removed 9,700 pounds of toxic ammonia gas from a storage and refrigeration facility located in a residential neighborhood and protected the public from potential harm.
  • Protecting Clean Water: In 2016, we gave millions of dollars to New York, New Jersey, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for water infrastructure projects. We also provided more than $1.5 million in funding for projects to help support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
  • Cutting Diesel Pollution at the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico: We gave more than $1.6 million to the University of Puerto Rico for projects to reduce air pollution around the Port of San Juan.
  • Progress in the Gowanus Canal Cleanup: We began debris removal in the first step of a multi-year cleanup process.
  • Millions to Preserve and Protect Long Island Sound: We announced $1.3 million in grants to local governments and community groups to improve the health and ecosystem of Long Island Sound. The projects will restore 27 acres of habitat, improve water quality and reduce pollution in the Long Island Sound watershed, one of our nation’s national treasures.
  • Environmental Champion Awards: We recognize the environmental achievements of committed people in our region every year. In 2016, we awarded six people or groups from New Jersey; 28 individuals or groups from New York; seven individuals and organizations from Puerto Rico; and two organizations from the U.S. Virgin Islands. The dedication and accomplishments of these environmental trailblazers is impressive. We will continue to recognize the hard work of people in our region for their commitment to protect public health and the environment. To nominate somebody for the 2017 Environmental Champion Award, visit our website: https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epa-region-2-environmental-champion-awards.

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 logo with a holiday wreath in the center

Kick off your holiday weekend with some science! Here’s the latest in EPA research.

New CompTox Approach Targets Thyroid
We are exposed to chemicals everyday— either through chemicals in the environment, in our food or water, or by using consumer products. EPA evaluates these chemicals to help protect our health. Recent EPA research in this area is focused on evaluating chemicals for thyroid disruption. Learn more about this research in the blog New CompTox Approach Targets Thyroid.

Taking Air Sensors to Communities
EPA has a team of people working to make low-cost air monitoring tools more accessible for people and their communities. EPA provides resources to help people find the right tool to use and to make sure they’re using it correctly. Learn more about these resources in the blog Taking Air Sensors to Communities.

A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA
Citizen science broadens environmental protection by enabling people to work together with government and other institutions toward shared goals. EPA’s Acting Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg recently discussed a report outlining the transformational potential of citizen science in the blog Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public: A Vision for Citizen Science 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.

New CompTox Approach Targets Thyroid

By Michaela Burns

We are exposed to chemicals everyday— either through chemicals in the environment, in our food or water, or by using consumer products such as shampoos, colognes, and perfumes.  Chemicals help these products to do their jobs—whether cleaning your body or making you smell good. Soap / lotion / shampoo against whiteWorking with industry and other interest groups, EPA evaluates these chemicals and, if necessary, regulates their presence in the environment to help protect our health. Because traditional testing approaches are time-intensive, only a small fraction of chemicals have been evaluated fully for potential human health effects. New methods are needed to rapidly address chemical safety.

To help address this problem, EPA has been developing new computational toxicology methods to prioritize chemicals for testing. One example of this effort is the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program in the 21st century (EDSP21) which uses the latest computational toxicology methods to evaluate chemicals for potential endocrine disruption.  Recent EPA research in this area is focused on evaluating chemicals for thyroid disruption.

Why is EPA interested in the thyroid? Well, the thyroid, an organ that is located at the front of your neck, is responsible for producing thyroid hormone, a process called thyroid synthesis. Exposure to certain chemicals can interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis, resulting in less thyroid hormone in blood and tissues. In adults, thyroid hormone helps regulate key functions, including metabolism rate and the amount of blood pumped into our heart per minute. When thyroid synthesis is disturbed in the adult body, it can cause reversible symptoms such as depression, fatigue, weight gain, and constipation. Thyroid hormones also help regulate brain development in utero, which means that pregnant mothers and children are populations of concern for thyroid hormone changes. A decrease in thyroid hormone availability during development of a fetus can result in irreversible changes to intelligence, cognitive ability, and motor skills. These potential health effects make it critical that we identify chemicals that may alter thyroid hormone levels.

One of the ways that thyroid hormone synthesis can be decreased is by inhibition of an enzyme called thyroperoxidase. EPA researchers have developed and are using a high-throughput screening assay to detect inhibitors of thyroperoxidase. This high-throughput screening assay can be used to screen thousands of chemicals at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional in vitro and/or whole animal studies.

In 2016 researchers published a scientific paper, Tiered High-Throughput Screening Approach to Identify Thyroperoxidase Inhibitors Within the ToxCast Phase I and II Chemical Libraries (Paul Friedman et al.). This paper describes the results and analysis from screening 1074 chemical samples for potential thyroperoxidase inhibition.

This the largest screening effort to date to identify chemicals that inhibit thyroperoxidase, and it’s only the beginning! This work is part of a larger EPA effort to develop a set of new high-throughput screening assays and other faster computational toxicology approaches to evaluate how chemicals might change thyroid hormone homeostasis. The ultimate goal is to screen chemicals as efficiently as possible in order to make a prediction about whether a chemical may affect thyroid hormones.

And all of EPA’s computational toxicology data, including the data from this paper on screening for thyroperoxidase inhibition, are publicly accessible. You can find and interact with the data through the EPA ToxCast Dashboard and all of the data can be downloaded from the ToxCast data download website.

About the Author: Michaela Burns 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.

How Interesting Can a Pipe Really Be?

by Hannah Braun

Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Your car slows to a crawl and red lights illuminate the orange construction cones ahead. “How long is this going to take,” you think to yourself in the exhausted manner that construction traffic brings to all of us.  As you pass, you notice the other lane has turned into a collapsed hole of exposed piping and wonder what is being done.

That construction could be for drinking water infrastructure improvements – a topic much on our minds last week as we marked the anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act.  EPA’s recently-published Drinking Water Action Plan placed infrastructure financing and maintenance in disadvantaged communities – including projects like the replacement of lead pipes – as the first of six “Priority Areas.”

One way people can be exposed to lead is through the service line, which is the pipe that connects the home to the water main in the street.  Some service line pipes made of lead can corrode and leach into water.  Localities like Washington, D.C. encourage people to find out if their service lines contain lead. Check out what I discovered when I looked up the service line to one of EPA’s Federal Triangle buildings.

In many jurisdictions, some or all of the service lines are the homeowners’ or landlords’ responsibility.  According to an evaluation by the EPA Science Advisory Board replacing private service lines in addition to the public ones is the optimal solution.

Not all towns in the Mid-Atlantic have websites like Washington, D.C.’s. We encourage you to investigate your service line composition and consider replacing it with lead-free plumbing if it is made of lead.  If replacement isn’t feasible, in the short-term, consider other options such as testing, flushing and filtering the water lines.  Feel free to comment with your findings below to share with your fellow citizens.

The next time you see construction ripping up the street or sidewalk causing congestion and inconvenience, take a deep breath – maybe the drinking water infrastructure is being improved.

 

About the Author Hannah Braun is an Environmental Protection Specialist in the Chemical Control Division in Washington, D.C. where her daily tasks include upholding the Toxic Substance Control Act and improving chemical transparency between industry, the EPA and the public.

 

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.

Creative Ways to Cut Your Holiday Waste

By Grace Doran and Jessica Kidwell

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, American household waste increases by more than 25 percent. Trash cans full of holiday food waste, shopping bags, bows and ribbons, packaging, and wrapping paper contribute an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills.

As we celebrate the holidays, it pays to be mindful of sustainable consumption and materials management practices. They may help you focus even more on caring and celebration during this holiday season, and could even reduce the strain on our fiscal budgets and  the natural environment.

Giving

  • Less is more. Choose items of value, purpose, and meaning – not destined for a yard sale.
  • Give treasure. Pass on a favorite book, plant start, or antique. Check estate sales, flea markets, and resale shops for unique finds.
  • recycling, energy, power, environment and ecology concept - clos

    Consider rechargeable batteries

    Give “anti-matter.” Focus on the experience, rather than wrapping and shipping. Share event tickets, museum memberships, gift certificates, or even your time and talents.

  • Impart values, not wastefulness. Start a child’s savings account, or make a donation to a favorite charity in the recipient’s name.
  • DIY. Handmade food and gifts display your creativity and demonstrate your dedication.
  • Consider the source. Choose recycled or sustainably sourced materials. Shop local to support area shops, makers, and artisans while reducing shipping costs and impacts.
  • Recharge. Consider rechargeable batteries (and chargers) with electronic gifts.
  • Blank linen shopping bag

    Use a reusable cloth bag

    Use a reusable cloth bag for your purchases. Avoid bags altogether for small or oversized purchases.

  • Plan ahead. Consolidate your shopping trips to save time, fuel, and aggravation. You’ll have more time for careful gift choices.
  • Rethink the wrap. Reuse maps, comics, newsprint, kid art, or posters as gift wrap. Wrap gifts in recycled paper or a reusable bag. Or skip the gift wrap, hide the gifts, and leaves clues or trails for kids to follow.

Celebrating

  • Trim the tree. Consider a potted tree that can be replanted, or a red cedar slated for removal during habitat/farm maintenance.
  • Light right. Choose Energy Star energy-efficient lighting. LED outdoor holiday lights use 1/50th the electricity of conventional lights and last 20 to 30 years.
  • Choose LED lights

    Choose LED lights

    Make it last. Choose and reuse durable service items.

  • Keep it simple. For larger gatherings, choose recyclable or compostable service items. All food-soiled paper products are commercially compostable, unless plastic- or foil-coated.

Looking Ahead

  • Reduce. Donate outgrown clothes, old toys, and unwanted gifts.
  • Reuse packing and shipping materials. Save ribbons, bows, boxes, bags, and décor for the next holiday.
  • Recycle old electronics and batteries with an e-steward.
  • Replant, mulch, or compost your live tree. Compost food scraps.

About the Co-Author: Grace Doran is a student intern in EPA Region 7’s Water, Wetlands and Pesticides Division. She is a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia, studying civil engineering with an emphasis in environmental engineering. Grace has a passion for environmental education, listening to podcasts, running and pizza (and those don’t contradict each other).

About the Co-Author: Jessica Kidwell is a hydrogeologist with EPA Region 7’s Environmental Data and Assessment staff. She’s provided technical expertise and worked with stakeholders to advance scientific, environmental, and sustainability objectives for nearly 20 years.

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.

Flying for the Holidays? Follow our Tips to Manage Your Carbon-Footprint Guilt

By Sophia Rini

I usually avoid travelling for the entire time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. But occasionally it’s unavoidable. Despite taking public transportation to work every day, just one holiday season and it seems like I’ve undone all my good climate karma. The fact is that for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have family nearby, sometimes flying is the only option. To help my fellow airborne travelers with their jumbo-jet sized guilt, I did some research on how to minimize our environmental impacts, even while travelling in the most un-ecofriendly of ways.

Although some of the suggestions below might seem small, since almost one-quarter of all travel occurs during the holiday season, if everyone followed them, the impacts would certainly add up.

Tips for decreasing the environmental impact of flying:

  • Use electronic tickets whenever possible and save the unnecessary paper.
  • Bring your own water, snacks etc. and pack them in reusable containers. Now that airlines charge for everything, this is both economically and environmentally smart. The last time I was at LaGuardia Airport, I was impressed by a water bottle refill station in one of the terminals. I hope these become more common in public places around the country.
  • Travel light. Don’t bring disposable items or things that will become waste, ask your hosts where you’re going if you need to bring shampoo and other toiletries or if they will be able to share. Alternatively, divvy up the items with your travel companions – your partner can bring the toothpaste, no need for two tubes. Packing lighter means less fuel is used and less shoulder strain too. In addition, consider giving experiences or gift cards rather than lugging a pile of presents across the country.
  • Go before you fly. Use the airport bathroom instead of the one on the plane. I read this tip on the Go Green Blog and though it sounds funny, according to them, the fuel for every mile-high flush could run a car for six miles.
  • Decrease your emissions getting to and from the airport. Take public transportation or carpool.
  • If you can, opt for non-stop flights and avoid flying on older, fuel-guzzling jets like first-generation 737s and MD-80s.
  • Take direct flights. If you do have to stop over, try and have the layover be at an airport that supports recycling or other green initiatives. Chicago O’Hare recently installed an urban garden that is not only visually appealing, but also supplies vegetables to airport restaurants (just in case you didn’t follow tip #2 and forgot to bring your own snacks).
  • Review which airlines are the greenest before purchasing your tickets.
  • Consider participating in a carbon offsetting program. Find out your personal carbon footprint to determine how big an impact your regular lifestyle has on climate change. You can also calculate the extra amount your flight will add to your emissions and choose to offset the carbon dioxide. Carbon offsetting neutralizes the carbon emitted when you travel from point A to point B. Offsetting is performed by organizations that channel funds to carbon-reducing projects such as tree planting or solar panel installation. Remember to investigate the plan before you purchase: check how the donations are used, if the results are guaranteed, and if there is a seal of approval.
O'Hare Garden

The urban garden at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport provides vegetables to the airport restaurants.

Do you have any suggestions for decreasing the environmental impact of airline travel? Add your tips to the comments section.

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.

From Contaminated to Revitalized: The Story of The Yards

By Barbara Smith


Have you ever wondered how visions like this become realized?
This is the story of how the U.S. Government is partnering with private sector developers to transform a once-contaminated property on the Anacostia River in Washington, DC, into a vibrant riverfront destination/community.

Believe it or not, the vision for a vibrant riverfront community came from this brown space, the Washington Navy Yard (WNY).

Image provided by EnviroMapper by EPA

Image provided by EnviroMapper by EPA

In early 1960’s, the WNY, located in southeastern Washington, DC, was recommissioned from its former use as a weapons manufacturing site to its current use as a Navy office/administration location. As part of the transition, in 1963, the WNY transferred 55 “excess” acres to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to develop into federal office space. The GSA named its new acquisition the Southeast Federal Center (SEFC).


However, the 55 acres had been heavily industrialized, with many abandoned factory buildings where ship boilers and large naval guns were manufactured from pre-World War One to post-World War Two. When GSA received the property in 1963, there were no regulations governing the clean-up of contaminated properties or how to identify and investigate contamination on these properties. Without funding to transform the former industrial site into office space, GSA made little progress in developing the SEFC site to its full potential.

Then, in 2000, Congress passed the SEFC Public/Private Development Act to assist GSA in developing the area. The Act allowed GSA to partner with private sector developers to plan and develop the SEFC parcels for eventual sale or lease. GSA’s master plan shifted from creating federal offices to creating office, residential, retail and public uses for the site.
Since the federal government works to protect human health and the environment, GSA worked with us to properly assess the property and any contamination found. This assessment is in accordance with the requirements of the Resource Conversation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
GSA conducted a site-wide investigation and continues to clean up any contamination found on the individual parcels prior to development.
The investigation, conducted under our RCRA Corrective Action Program, found that previous intensive industrial use had left contaminants in the soil. The picture above shows soil testing taking place at the site to see which contaminants are present.

Several soil removals have been completed, including removing PCB-contaminated sediment from storm sewers and on-site soil contaminated with petroleum and metals. GSA continues to remove contaminated soil from the surface and at depth from parcels being prepared for development.

GSA removed an old wooden seawall on the Anacostia River and replaced it with a modern concrete and steel pier.

Image provided by Kea Taylor/Imagine Photography

Image provided by Kea Taylor/Imagine Photography

The above picture is the first parcel that was developed and sold, known as the “Department of Transportation (DOT) Parcel.” During the site investigation, groundwater contaminated with gasoline was found at levels above EPA drinking water standards. The sources of this contaminated groundwater were leaking underground storage tanks from an off-site former gas station and possibly some on-site contamination.

The groundwater has been treated and contaminant levels are stable or declining. The office building has a moisture/vapor barrier and is supplied by public water which ensures that workers and pedestrians are not exposed to contaminants.

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

The other developed portions of the SEFC are known as ‘The Yards’. The Yards is a part of the revitalization and redevelopment of properties along the Anacostia River in Washington, DC known as the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, which includes the Nationals Baseball Stadium just down river, adjacent to The Yards. The Yards Park (shown above) is located within The Yards and includes an entertainment/performance area, boardwalk and now a marina. This public park was made possible by GSA, the developer, Forest City Washington and the city of Washington, DC.

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

The Anacostia River Trail is also a result of the redevelopment. This picture shows a section of the River Trail located by The Yards Park.


Almost half of The Yards development parcels are complete, with total build out scheduled for 2025. What was once an urban, industrial environment is now a revitalized area, anchored by redevelopment.

Our RCRA Corrective Action program continues to oversee the environmental investigation and clean-up process to ensure that development and future land use will be protective of human health and the environment.

About the author: For the last 15 of her 25 years with EPA Region 3, Barbara Smith has been working in the RCRA Corrective Action group, working with Facilities in transforming their contaminated properties into cleaner, safer places to live and work. Barbara looks forward to living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere someday.

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.

Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public: A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

By Stan Meiburg, Acting Deputy Administrator, US Environmental Protection Agency

At EPA, we can’t protect the environment alone. Environmental protection belongs to all of us, and participating in environmental science is one way that members of the public can have an impact. Citizen science broadens environmental protection by enabling people to work together with government and other institutions toward shared goals.

In citizen science, members of the public participate in scientific and technical work in a variety of ways, including formulating research questions, conducting experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and solving problems. In particular, community citizen science addresses questions defined by communities and allows for community engagement throughout the entire scientific process, empowering people to ask their own questions, collect their own data, and advocate for themselves.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with experts who participate in an EPA advisory council, the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT). EPA’s advisory councils are an important way for EPA to gather opinions and recommendations from experts outside the Agency. NACEPT has been working for a year to understand citizen science, gather the best thinking on the topic, and provide EPA with advice and recommendations for how to best integrate citizen science into the work of EPA.

Their timely report – Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public: A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA – outlines the transformational potential of citizen science and provides EPA with 13 recommendations to fully integrate citizen science into the work of the Agency. Citizen science can mean many things, and this excellent report provides a useful conceptual framework for considering the spectrum of uses of citizen science data, highlights the importance of a place-based approach to environmental protection, and emphasizes the need to be proactive about engaging the public in environmental protection. This report will resonate with those around the country who see the opportunities in this next wave of environmental protection. It also tells us that we at EPA have work to do in promoting high quality science and expanding our access to information that promotes constructive solutions to environmental problems.

The report is available here: https://www.epa.gov/faca/nacept-2016-report-environmental-protection-belongs-public-vision-citizen-science-epa

EPA has a number of innovative projects working to engage citizens in environmental science and decision-making and involve the public in all aspects of EPA work. You can learn more about EPA’s work in citizen science at www.epa.gov/citizenscience. EPA will take this new report very seriously and use its insights to help us make even more progress in the years to come.

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 Launches Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Determination Website

Joel Beauvais Joel Beauvais

By Joel Beauvais

We live in a society that increasingly allows us to visualize information and data on our phones, TVs, and computers. That’s why I’m excited to announce that EPA is once again demonstrating its commitment to transparency in decision-making by launching a new website that helps the public see where the Clean Water Act applies. The website will increase public understanding of the types of waters that are protected by the Clean Water Act.

The launch of the website supports a commitment made by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy to develop a publically available website to house Clean Water Act jurisdictional determinations. EPA worked in coordination with the Corps to develop a website that includes all CWA jurisdictional determinations made since August 28, 2015, the effective date of the Clean Water Rule. This includes jurisdictional determinations made under both the Rule and under the previous regulations while the Rule is stayed. Note that the website only makes use of information that was already publicly available online and does not display all waters of the United States subject to the Clean Water Act, only those for which a jurisdictional determination has been requested.

The website is the first to gather and interactively display jurisdictional determinations under the Clean Water Act across the country. This builds upon the existing  jurisdictional determination public interface on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters website.

Users are able to search, sort, map, and view information from jurisdictional determinations using different search parameters and filters. The easy-to-navigate website provides information about the presence or absence of jurisdictional waters where landowners requested jurisdictional determinations, and only makes use of public information. The website will increase and improve transparency regarding agency decision-making on Clean Water Act geographic jurisdictional matters.

I anticipate that the website will also improve jurisdictional determination requests, as the public will be able to easily access information from nearby and related determinations. Increased public access to information about how our jurisdictional decisions are made can assist landowners by providing information about the locations and types of resources that are and are not protected by the Clean Water Act.

We look forward to hearing feedback from stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead regarding website functionality and usability. We are committed to increasing the public’s access to information about how our decisions are made, because this is a key component of making the agencies’ programs more consistent, predictable, and environmentally effective.

For more, visit: https://watersgeo.epa.gov/cwa/CWA-JDs/.

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.