Working to Support Communities in Alaska Native Villages

At EPA, we respect the way of life that has enabled Alaska native villages in the Arctic and subarctic to thrive for thousands of years. We take our responsibility to those communities very seriously.  Here in the Alaska Operations Office, our focus is to connect these communities with our national policies and programs, to ensure a robust future in the face of a changing climate.

Last week, President Obama, along with Secretary John Kerry and some of EPA’s senior leaders, traveled to Alaska to see firsthand the effects of climate change and other issues that affect those who live and work here in the far north.  President Obama’s closing remarks at the GLACIER conference summarized the challenges and importance of both mitigating and adapting to climate change.

More than 184 Alaskan villages are at risk from erosion, flooding and permafrost thaw, a problem exacerbated by climate change. Both coastal and interior river system communities face unique challenges.  To explore this, Tami Fordham, our deputy director, traveled to Bethel, Alaska with Jane Nishida, EPA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs.  In Bethel, they heard from the Association of Village Council Presidents about the challenges facing many communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

Jane Nishida, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs, and Curtis Mann, Brownfields Coordinator, Orutsararmuit Native Council Kuskokwim River standing in front of water

Jane Nishida, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs, and Curtis Mann, Brownfields Coordinator, Orutsararmuit Native Council Kuskokwim River.

One pressing challenge is removing household hazardous waste and e-waste from remote villages that are accessible only by air or water.  Especially because the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta is so wet, this material needs a way out of the community to prevent future contamination of important water resources.  With funds from our Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (IGAP), AVCP is actively working on the removal of e-waste. During our visit, they shared the challenges of filling a shipping container and transporting it to a facility where this material can be properly managed.

Throughout Alaska, we are supporting communities with similar solid and hazardous waste projects, and working with state, federal, and local partners to identify solutions.  Our presence in Alaska also enables us to participate with the Collaborative Community Planning for Resilient Alaska Communities and the Sustainable Northern Communities Roundtable, both of which have been working on collaborative community planning.

Alaska is a long journey from Washington, D.C. I appreciate the effort of all of the public servants who took the time to make the trip and join the dialogue with Alaskan communities.

About the author: Dianne Soderlund is the Director of the EPA Alaska Operations Office.  An Alaskan since 1980, she fulfills EPA’s federal trust responsibilities to the state’s 229 federally recognized tribes, and works on a wide range of environmental issues, including air, water, hazardous materials and energy 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.

Heat Waves and Climate Change: Learning from History and Looking Ahead

By Allison Crimmins

Twenty years ago this week, Chicago suffered from a historic heat wave.  Families tried to stay cool in backyard wading pools and the news begged people to check on their older neighbors, who refused to turn on their air conditioning because it would cost too much. An estimated 700 people died from the heat during that two-week period, many of them elderly (learn more about heat-related mortality). Behind this grim statistic were real people and communities. An oral history of the heat wave published last week by Chicago Magazine has eloquently captured some of these stories of suffering.

heat-deaths-example-download-2014We know climate change will bring more frequent and intense heat waves to the U.S.  Twenty years later, are we twenty years wiser? In terms of preparing for another heat wave or “adaptation planning,” I’d say yes. Chicago’s Climate Action Plan is working to make the city cooler through urban planning (such as preserving green landscapes) and becoming better prepared to respond to future heat waves. But what about addressing the greenhouse gas emissions causing those more frequent and intense heat waves in the first place?

EPA’s recently released report Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action looks at projected heat-related deaths in 49 U.S. cities (representing about 1/3 of the population) under two scenarios: one where the world takes action to cut global emissions and one where it doesn’t. The risks of inaction are sobering. Without action to reduce global greenhouse gases, the average number of extremely hot days is projected to more than triple from 2050 to 2100.extreme-temp-fig-1-downloadBut there is good news. Taking action on global climate change is estimated to result in significant public health benefits by substantially reducing the risk of extreme temperature-related deaths across the U.S. Extreme temperature mortality can be reduced by 64% in 2050 and by 93% in 2100, compared to the scenario where the world does not take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  That means approximately 12,000 fewer people could die each year from extreme temperature in the 49 modeled cities in 2100. Inclusion of the entire U.S. population would increase these numbers. Activities to adapt to more frequent heat events can help reduce heat mortality, but reducing emissions is still important to saving lives. Including the assumption that cities take significant steps to prepare for extreme heat into the analysis, emissions reductions could still prevent 5,500 deaths per year by the end of the century.

Scientists have been calling on the world to reduce carbon pollution for more than twenty years. The United States has the opportunity and the ability to lead the world in global actions to cut carbon pollution that, by the end of this century, could avoid 12,000 heat-related deaths each year– not to mention save the lives of 57,000 people every year who could die prematurely from the adverse air quality impacts associated with climate change. I can think of no more important reason than that to take action on climate change now.extreme-temp-fig-3-downloadAbout the author: Allison Crimmins is an environmental scientist with EPA’s Climate Change Division, where she focuses on the impacts and risks associated with climate change, especially on human health. Prior to joining EPA, she earned one Masters degree in oceanography by exploring past climates in ocean sediments and a second Masters’ degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. She lives, works, and judges the occasional science fair in Washington, D.C. but still cheers for the Chicago Bears.

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.

On this Campus, the Rain Works

By Madeleine Raley

As the intern for the EPA’s Office of Water, I sit in on weekly communications meetings with the rest of the staff. One week in March we were discussing our communication strategy for Earth Day. It was decided that we would announce the winners of the third annual Campus Rainworks Challenge, a design competition to engage college and university students in reinventing water infrastructure. The winning designs proposed innovative additions to their respective campuses that would reduce storm water impacts while providing educational and recreational opportunities.

When the winners of the competition were announced in the meeting, you can imagine the feeling of pride I felt when I heard that my very own school, the University of Maryland, was a first place winner for the demonstration project category! So, on Earth Day, April 22, I got to stand on the steps of Memorial Chapel and listen to Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, award my fellow students and teachers with this prestigious award.

The project, titled “Historic Chapel Site: Meadows, Meanders and Meditation” includes a 7-acre re-design of the area next to the campus chapel that captures and treats storm water from the adjacent parking lots and rooftops. Replacing storm pipes and traditional lawn cover, they would implement meadow landscapes that include bio retention, bios wales and rain gardens to treat storm water in a more natural, on-site way.

NewUMD

Photos from the student report

Photos from the student report

As a student, I walk the pathway to class on the field just below the proposed site. The erosion from storm water flowing from uphill parking lots and sidewalks cuts a clear and visible pathway, descending through the athletic fields. It leaves behind a brown trail through what should be green grass. When I learned of the project’s location, I knew exactly where and why they proposed to build it. The erosion is not a sight you can miss.

The plan provides a habitat for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and beneficial insect species such as ladybugs. It also includes an outdoor classroom and contemplative landscape for visitors and the university community. The faculty and students of University of Maryland, including me, are thankful this is an award that recognizes and also helps to enhance campus’s green infrastructure.

About the author: Madeleine Raley was an intern for the Office of Water communications team. She is a senior Government and Politics Major and Sustainability Minor at the University of Maryland and is expecting to graduate in May.

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.

Protecting Endangered Species with Better Mapping Technology

by Anita Pease

In a rapidly evolving, tech-savvy world, it’s important that we keep up with new technology in our mission to protect human health and the environment. When it comes to pesticides, technology plays an important role and helps protect endangered species. Thanks to recent technology upgrades, it just got easier to find information on pesticide use limitations that protect endangered or threatened species and their habitat.

We use Bulletins Live! Two to communicate the enforceable, geographically-specific restrictions on pesticide use to ensure the pesticide will not harm a threatened or endangered species nor their critical habitat, which is designated under the Endangered Species Act. The Bulletin’s pesticide use limitations are enforceable under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

Our updated Bulletins Live! application is a valuable, web-based, must-have tool for pesticide users. Using feedback we’ve received over the years from our stakeholders on the original system, we sought to improve the user experience while making information more accessible and easier to find.

Bulletins Live! Two has several new features, including:

    • An interactive map to help users determine if their pesticide application occurs in an area with pesticide use limitations. Users of other mapping applications like Google Maps will find this interactive map intuitive to use.
    • The option to perform advanced searches for products (by name or registration number), active ingredients and location (address or zip code and state).
    • An enhanced system to receive public comments on draft Bulletins. This feature improves stakeholder involvement, a vital part of our effort to protect endangered species.
    • And, last but certainly not least important, this new version is mobile-device friendly, making it much easier for pesticide users to access information while they are out in the field.As we go into the growing season across the country, we are excited to have this improved tool online to help protect endangered species and their habitats. To try out Bulletins Live! Two, and to learn more about our efforts to protect endangered and threatened species, go to our Endangered Species Protection Program website.

About the author: Anita Pease is the Associate Director of EPA’s Environmental Fate and Effects Division in the Office of Pesticide Programs where she oversees EPA’s endangered species protection 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.

REC @ 25: A SILVER – AND GREEN – ANNIVERSARY

Twenty-five years. A quarter-century. It’s enough time to raise a young adult, age an excellent Scotch whiskey or turn a car into an antique.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell have brought historic changes. One important player in this remarkable transition has been the Regional Environmental Center (REC) for Central and Eastern Europe.

The original REC building in 1990, which was housed in a renovated silk mill in downtown Budapest.

The original REC building in 1990, which was housed in a renovated silk mill in downtown Budapest.

The REC is one of EPA’s longest-lived international programs. Created by EPA in 1990 at the request of then-President George H.W. Bush, the REC will celebrate its 25th Anniversary at a ministerial conference on June 10-11th, 2015 with the participation and support of Hungarian President Janos Ader. Former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly, who represented EPA at the REC opening in 1990, will return to Budapest to personally affirm EPA’s proud place in its history.

I had the privilege of being part of the EPA team that helped create the REC in 1990. And because the REC opening was one of my first assignments, I will spend my 25th EPA anniversary in Hungary celebrating the major progress that the REC and this region have made.

The REC’s mandate is to foster transboundary cooperation, promote environmental improvements and share experiences. Its unique geographic scope fosters information-sharing and cooperation among countries at differing levels of environmental, economic and political development within and beyond the European Union. By combining diverse experiences, the REC strengthens environmental governance across Central and Eastern Europe and beyond.

Beginning in the 1990s, EPA partnered with the REC to develop Local Environmental Action Programs (LEAPs), empowering local communities to prioritize and address environmental concerns. With the support of European partners, the REC continues to replicate this successful model across the region. The U.S. State Department also has chosen to support LEAPs through the REC to empower local governments in Ukraine. In the early 2000s, the European Commission, another REC founder, selected the REC to help many of its member countries meet environmental requirements for EU membership. In 2012, Ukraine joined the REC, an affirmation of the continuing relevance and value of this regional collaboration. And the REC’s value is further illustrated by the fact that many of its current leaders were there at its birth in 1990.

The REC’s 25th Anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate strengthened democratic and environmental governance in Central and Eastern Europe. It’s also a unique chance for EPA to take pride in our contribution to the REC’s creation – and its ultimate success.

As EPA’s Program Manager for Europe, Anna Phillips coordinates cooperation with the European Commission, EU Member States, non-EU partners and international organizations. Previously, Anna managed EPA’s technical assistance programs in Central and Eastern Europe from 1990-2004. She holds a degree from Tufts University in Soviet and East European Studies.

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.

Wetlands Wednesday: Share My Surprising Trip Across Iowa

By Cynthia Cassel

The third leg of our journey to the fascinating wetlands of the four Region 7 states has surprises in store, as we continue our May series to celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Wetlands Month. After my trip to Kansas’ wet meadows and farmed wetlands in last week’s blog, we now travel northeast to inviting Iowa.

In search of something to do that was slightly goofy while on a trip to the state, I planned a visit to the Amana Colonies in an effort to recreate Grant Wood’s famous American Gothic painting. We brought our own pitchfork and steel-rimmed glasses, and made complete fools of ourselves. Maybe not such a great idea, after all.

However, the rest of the trip all around Iowa was one of the best road trips we ever took. While admiring more of the beautiful green and gold croplands of the Heartland to be sure, we beheld a wonderful surprise: prairie potholes and fens.

Prairie Potholes and Fens

Washington State has an entire state park created around its potholes, but I never knew they existed in the Midwest until that trip. Seeming otherworldly, potholes look like craters created by shrapnel from a cosmic shotgun. We also marveled at the multitude of fens – rare, groundwater-fed places that feel like walking on a water bed. Think of peat bogs.

Prairie potholes and fens

Prairie potholes and fens

So here’s a tip: Go see the Grant Wood home, but be sure to make time to visit the potholes and fens, and take note of the rare plants and animals support by these wetlands. And then go ahead and visit the rest of the state. There’s much to do and see in the beautiful state of Iowa!

Prairie potholes are wetlands (primarily freshwater marshes) that develop when snowmelt and rain fill the pockmarks left on the landscape by land-scouring glaciers. Groundwater input is also important. Submerged and floating aquatic plants take over the deeper water in the middle of the pothole, while bulrushes and cattails grow closer to shore. Wet, sedgy marshes lie next to the uplands. In addition, many species of migratory waterfowl are dependent on the potholes for breeding and feeding.

Flowering plants in Iowa wetland

Flowering plants in Iowa wetland

Fens are alkaline (slightly acidic) wetlands less than 10 acres in size that are groundwater-fed and peat-forming. Their water supply is by surface water runoff and/or seepage from mineral soils. Fens are important sources of groundwater discharge and indicators of shallow aquifers. Most are found along stream terraces or at the base of slopes. Fens in headwater streams are difficult, if not impossible, to replace due to their unique hydrology. They’re often called “quakers” because the ground beneath them is saturated and spongy. A good jump on a fen will cause the ground to ripple for many feet.

These Iowa wetlands are important for environmental sustainability. Prairie potholes absorb surges of rain, snowmelt and floodwaters, thereby reducing the risk and severity of downstream flooding.

 

Cynthia Cassel has worked as a Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) Program grantee with EPA Region 7’s Wetlands and Streams Protection Team for 5½ years. She received her Bachelor of Science from Park University. Cynthia lives in Overland Park, Kan.

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.

Invasive Species Alert: Zebras on the Loose!

By Angela Sena

I don’t mean the four-legged variety, but zebra mussels! They are an invasive mollusk species (Dreissena polymorpha) that have been found in many lakes and rivers across the Heartland. Zebra mussels have been discovered in scattered locations along the Missouri River, Lake Lotawana, Smithville Lake, Lake of the Ozarks in the Osage River, Bull Shoals Lake, and Lake Taneycomo in the White River, just to name a few. For those who are water recreationists – boaters, anglers, water skiers, sailors or canoeists – we all need to keep our eyes open for this species and help prevent their spread since there is no known way to stop them once they get a foothold.

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)

Zebra mussels are a group of freshwater mussels with triangular shells and dark bands with prominent ridges. A concavity (or hollow) about midway allows the animal to secrete byssal threads, which allow it to attach to almost any solid surface. They often clump together, and adults are generally ¼ to 1 inch in length. Zebra mussels are native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia, and were accidentally introduced to North America from ballast water of an international ship. They have tremendous reproductive capabilities: a female zebra mussel can produce more than a million eggs during spawning season. The eggs hatch into a larval form (veligers), which are not visible to the human eye, making their detection and eradication difficult. At three weeks, the sand grain-sized larvae start to settle and attach, and feel like sandpaper on solid surfaces.

This invasive species can hitchhike by attaching to boat, canoe and watercraft hulls, lower units and propellers, axles, engine drive units, trolling motors, hitches, and anchor chains. They can also survive in boat bilge water, livewells, bait buckets, and engine cooling water systems. Aside from being an inconvenience for your water craft equipment, they negatively impact the economy by clogging power plant intakes and industrial and public drinking water intakes, and damaging boat hulls and motors. Zebra mussels also harm native ecosystems, and decimate native freshwater mussels and other aquatic animals.

If you enjoy spending your summers on a lake, just like my family, then we all need to do our part. Water recreationalists can help by preventing the spread of the species with a few simple steps:

  • Clean – Remove all plants, animals and mud, and thoroughly wash all equipment with hot water spray (104 degrees), especially in small crevices or hidden areas. Most car washes will suffice. If you can’t wash at that temperature, a 10-percent solution of bleach will do.
  • Drain – Eliminate all water before leaving the lake, including livewells and transom
  • Dry – Allow sufficient time for drying between water events – at least 48 hours.
  • Dispose – Dispose of unused bait in a trash receptacle.
  • Report – Report any sitings of these species. The U.S. Geological Survey maintains a Nonindigenous Aquatic Species (NAS) website for zebra mussels that shows an up-to-date map of recorded occurrences, and includes a “Report a Sighting” link that allows you to submit a report if you find them.

USGS Where Are the Mussels

However, if you do spot a mussel when you’re out enjoying a lake or stream, don’t worry. Not all mussels are unwelcome. In fact, most mussels here in the Heartland are a good thing. Check out these previous Big Blue Thread blogs by EPA’s Craig Thompson: Mussels in the Blue, Mussels in the Blue II: Relative Abundance of Species in the Blue, and Mussels in the Blue III: Water Quality and Threats.

 

Angela Sena serves as an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division at EPA Region 7. She has a degree in environmental science and management, and is a native New Mexican and avid outdoorswoman.

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.

Celebrating Asthma Awareness Month and Environmental Education: EPA Region 7’s Partnership with Children’s Mercy Hospital

Introduction by Kathleen Fenton

There’s just something special about working with people who are very passionate about what they do. I feel that way every time my work brings me into contact with the top-notch medical professionals at Children’s Mercy Hospital (CMH) in Kansas City. Their vision is “Be a national and international leader recognized for advancing pediatric health and delivering optimal health outcomes through innovation and a high-value, integrated system of care.” It’s a big vision that CMH delivers on a daily basis.

It’s a good thing they are here because our children need them. Nearly seven million children in the U.S. have asthma, according to the American Lung Association. CMH works tirelessly with families and children who are suffering from a myriad of medical issues, including those caused by the environment, like asthma, pesticide and lead poisoning, and exposures to chemicals. They identify problems and find solutions to help sick children, worried parents, schools with environmental concerns, and communities at risk. CHM strives to find the right solutions for frequently unique challenges.

May is Asthma Awareness Month. Children’s Mercy Hospital and EPA are partners in a collective effort to help reduce asthma attacks and deaths and instruct others on how to prevent asthma attacks for the long term. Read on to understand how Dr. Jennifer Lowry and her team of professionals work closely together, as one of EPA’s many partners and grantees, to address environmental health concerns and protect human health.

By Jennifer Lowry, MD

Jennifer Lowry, MDThe Center for Environmental Health (CEH) at Children’s Mercy houses multiple entities focused on improving the environmental health in the Heartland and across the country. Specifically, the Mid-America Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) serves Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska) by providing education, consultation, and referrals for children with environmental exposures. Additionally, the CEH, led by Director Kevin Kennedy, has been successful in delivering Healthy Homes and Healthy Schools training throughout the region andPEHSU nationally. Through two current grant initiatives, EPA Region 7 has partnered with Children’s Mercy to expand these activities into education of health care professionals (Environmental Education to Healthcare Initiative – EEHI) and offer additional healthy school training courses in all areas of Region 7.

By incorporating Healthy Homes training with the PEHSU program, the EEHI can be replicable to each of EPA’s 10 Regions and standardized across the U.S., using the PEHSU network.

The EEHI has broadened the knowledge base of students in health care and will better prepare them for their future careers. In addition, it has offered resources for students, residents, and practicing health care providers (physicians, nurses, and ancillary staff) to use when an environmental concern for a patient arises in their practice. These didactics include a 1-hour “Lunch and Learn” targeted to working health care professionals and a 2-hour presentation for health care students (such as nursing and medical students). Each of the didactics uses case study presentations from the PEHSU and offers tools for each provider to use when health care decisions (diagnosis and treatment) need to be made regarding environmental exposures. By using case-based learning, each student and practitioner can acquire useable knowledge about environmental exposures that sometimes lead to adverse health outcomes.

Now in its second year of funding, more than 700 health care students and 275 health care professionals have been educated to advocate for home-based environmental changes that can improve children’s health. In addition to continuing didactic learning in schools and offices, an e-learning platform is being developed to enhance the scope of delivery. By delivering an integrated PEHSU and Healthy Homes/Healthy Schools curriculum regionally (and ultimately, nationally), the EEHI curriculum can become a standard framework to educate health care students and practitioners about environmental health.

This increased knowledge will advance and strengthen the field of pediatrics and lead to better health for children in our homes, schools, and communities.

In addition to homes, children spend a large portion of their time in schools. In fact, surveys show that children can spend 70-90 percent of their time indoors with much of their time within schools. As school environments play an important role in the health and academic success of children, unhealthy school environments can affect children’s health, attendance, concentration, and performance, as well as lead to expensive, time-consuming cleanup and remediation activities.

To that end, staff at Children’s Mercy Hospital will work in conjunction with EPA staff to publicize and present up to 10 Healthy School Specialist Training courses throughout our four-state region and provide at least two training courses near Region 7 tribal communities. The courses are planned to be offered during the next two fiscal years.

Topics of discussion at these interactive, hands-on sessions will include: ventilation, chemical use in schools, integrated pest management, school safety issues, and best practice guidelines on how to plan, implement, and create a Healthy Schools management plan – one that includes the goal of building a teamwork structure at each school site.

For additional information about the Mid-America Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU), please call 1-800-421-9916 (toll-free) or visit www.childrensmercy.org/mapehsu.

For additional information about all of the CMH Environmental Health Training Courses, please contact Erica Forrest, education and training coordinator, at 816-960-8919 or visit www.childrensmercy.org/ceh.

To learn more, see EPA’s Environmental Education page and information on how to ensure a Healthy School through our online Healthy Schools Toolkit. Also, if you are interested in having your school assessed or an EPA expert providing a Healthy Schools presentation, please contact Kathleen Fenton at 913-551-7874 or fenton.kathleen@epa.gov.

 

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

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.

Wetlands Wednesday: Continue the Journey With Me South to Kansas

By Cynthia Cassel

As I mentioned in my blog article last week, we’re presenting a multi-part series during May to showcase the diverse wetlands of the four EPA Region 7 states and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Wetlands Month. Please join me as I travel to my picturesque home state of Kansas.

My husband was transferred to Washington State and then, 12 Julys later, transferred back to Kansas. Veteran road-trippers that we are, we decided to crisscross the state to re-familiarize ourselves with the landscape.

wet meadowWhat I know now, that I didn’t then, was that a vital part of the landscape is water-based. We saw a lot of green and gold on this round-trip from one corner of Kansas to the next and back again. I said a quiet “thank you” to all the producers of the good food that comes from their hard work.

After driving through one of those beautifully dramatic (not to mention loud) Kansas summer thunderstorms, we also saw farms with areas of standing water called Wet Meadows and Farmed Wetlands. As you read the descriptions below, think of these as vital pit stops for groups of tired and hungry birds as they migrate through Kansas.

Wet Meadows and Farmed Wetlands

As vital as water is to us, so it is for the fowl, mammals, and amphibians that call those farms their habitat, whether just for a short time or permanently. Next time you see Wet Meadows or Farmed Wetlands here in the Heartland, say a quiet “thank you” for the puddles and pools that are part of the landscape as well.

wet meadow 2Wet meadows are wetlands that occur in poorly drained areas and have herbaceous (non-woody) plants, such as sedges, rushes, and wetland wildflowers. Precipitation serves as their primary water supply so they are often dry in the summer. Water generally does not stand in these wetlands. During periods of high rainfall, wet meadows collect runoff, reducing the likelihood of seasonal flooding to low-lying areas downstream and, in the process, removing excess nutrients from runoff like a natural filter. This nutrient-rich environment provides vital food and habitat for many insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.

wet meadow 3Temporary or seasonal wetlands, usually depressions lined with clay soils, are farmed at least once every few years. Farmed wetlands produce large quantities of insects for food and resting areas for migratory birds. Dark soils that warm early in spring provide food earlier, attracting higher shorebird and duck use and providing habitat for waterfowl breeding grounds all year. Farmed wetlands filter excess nutrients (such as phosphorous, nitrates, and pesticides) from field runoff. These wetlands also filter carbon that otherwise might be released into the atmosphere to produce carbon dioxide, thus helping protect the ozone layer.

 

Cynthia Cassel has worked as a Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) Program grantee with EPA Region 7’s Wetlands and Streams Protection Team for 5½ years. She received her Bachelor of Science from Park University. Cynthia lives in Overland Park, Kan.

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.

Wetlands Wednesday: Travel With Me and Widen Your Horizons

By Cynthia Cassel

My husband and I love to take long (3,500+ mi.) driving trips in big loops around our beautiful country. He likes to do most of the driving, which is great because it means I get to be a spectator. Until I joined EPA, I knew the names of various kinds of wetlands (I fancy myself a “nature girl,” after all), but I didn’t have a complete picture of the wealth and diversity of wetlands that the EPA Region 7 states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska can claim.

May is National Wetlands Month, marking its 25th anniversary this year. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some information that I found interesting – and I’ll bet you didn’t know either. Our Wetlands and Streams Protection Team is presenting a multi-part series during Wetlands Month. None of the wetlands being presented are exclusive to any one of our Region’s states, but some are more prevalent in one state or another. As my hubby and I took these many trips, I was able to visit all of the wetland types in Region 7 and I thought you’d enjoy taking this journey with me. This week, we start with the exceptionally beautiful and bountiful state of Nebraska.

Freshwater Wetlands of the Sandhills

Nebraska SandhillsThe Sandhills of Nebraska are a 19,000+ square mile area of contiguous sand dunes covering much of north-central Nebraska (see map at right). The area lies above the Ogallala Aquifer which stretches through South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The freshwater wetlands of the Sandhills are of great importance in collecting rainwater, snowmelt, and runoff that recharges the aquifer. The Sandhills Freshwater Wetlands also provide vital habitat for countless numbers of migrating and resident waterfowl and shorebirds, offering food, shelter, nesting sites, and cover for endangered Whooping Cranes, among others.

This wwater and birdsetland system ranges from small shallow marshes to large deep lakes, and from coniferous and deciduous forests to short/tallgrass prairie to lush aquatic vegetation. Alkaline (or saline) lakes form in regions where there is little rain. The lakes form in depressions known as basins. Water flowing over and through the ground dissolves minerals (salts) from the rocks and soil. Runoff carrying the salts collects in the lowest part of the basin, forming a lake. Water in the lake evaporates, but the salts stay behind. Over time the salts build up, creating an alkaline lake. The kinds of salts that accumulate vary from lake to lake, but usually they include sodium chloride (table salt), potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and carbonate salts. Salt Flats and Lakes are unique in that little vegetation grows there, yet these wetlands are a popular stopover for many migratory birds.

I hope you enjoy learning about the diverse wetlands across our four states during May, why they’re important to habitat, and why they’re economically and culturally important to communities and the people who live near them.

Cynthia Cassel has worked as a Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) Program grantee with EPA Region 7’s Wetlands and Streams Protection Team for 5½ years. She received her Bachelor of Science from Park University. Cynthia lives in Overland Park, Kan.

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.