Zero Waste is Within Our Reach, But….

By Sarah Levinson

I would have guessed that my fellow EPA employees would be leaders when it comes to recycling and reducing wastes. Turns out we are leaders, but not quite as far out front as I had hoped. In 2015, a presidential Executive Order on Sustainability directed federal agencies to do their best to divert at least half our non-hazardous wastes into recycling and composting, and to work our darnedest to reach zero waste. While we auditwaitiwaitposterat EPA’s New England office have indeed succeeded in diverting more than half our waste to recycling and compost,  our regional office has yet to achieve net-zero waste (defined as sending at least 90 percent of our waste to recycling or composting) despite our best efforts.  We, like many other organizations, face many of the same challenges when it comes to modifying our own behavior.

My job has been to help my colleagues make the “green choice” when managing wastes they generate in the office. By working with a small team of dedicated volunteers, the Green Team as we are known, instituted a composting program and we have done extensive education and outreach to promote both recycling and composting. We have put out recycling guides and compost guides, posted clear signage showing usual items for composting as well as recycling, held informational sessions, provided tips for preventing waste in the first place, and demonstrated the impact that compost amended soil can have on moisture retention and plant growth. We have also reduced paper communications and urged employees to carry reusable shopping bags, even providing the bags in our lobby. We tried to tap into the competitive spirt, running a contest between offices to see which office could divert the most from the trash stream.

Even with all of these activities and ever since we instituted composting which greatly boosted to our diversion rate, our diversion rate seems to have become stagnant. After some thought about this challenge, the Green Team decided that in order to keep improving, we needed to know what was being thrown into our trash. Specifically, we sought to identify “contaminants” that shouldn’t be in the trash.

Consequently, and timed to coincide with America Recycles Day Nov. 15, The Green Team undertook a messy, but

Most of the waste in our trash containers bound for the landfill should have been recycled or composted.

Most of the waste in our trash containers bound for the landfill should have been recycled or composted.

detailed one-day waste audit. Eight dedicated sorters separated 44 pounds of trash in about two hours. To our surprise, although staff had composted and recycled 75 percent of their unwanted materials, we found that two thirds of the material thrown in the trash could still have been recycled or composted. There were apple cores, banana and orange peels, paper bags, plastic containers and glass bottles all in the trash, when these things could have and should have been placed in recycling or the compost collection. It turned out that only a third of the material in the trash was truly trash and furthermore, we found that had staff properly sorted these items, we could have met the goal of zero waste for that day!

So while we didn’t attain our zero waste goal on Nov. 15, we now know that zero waste is well within our reach. Additionally, because we took many pictures of the “contamination” found in our trash, we now are using the photos to conduct targeted education and outreach. We hope that for many, “seeing” the poor choices that they made will turn them into “believing” the errors of their ways and modify their behavior accordingly. Additionally, by looking closely at was in our trash, we are able to strategize and discuss new ideas to implement to further reduce our waste.

I know that the Green Team will persevere with new ideas, and new efforts to guide and motivate behavioral change. I know that the Green Team won’t give up our quest and am confident that it is just a matter of time until we attain our zero waste goal, becoming true leaders in living a more sustainable lifestyle, especially because we have shown it to be possible.

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Sarah Levinson leads the Green Team at EPA’s New England office in Boston.

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.

Transporting Firewood Leads to Unintended Consequences

by Marcia Anderson

A colleague of mine who lives in Maine told me she wanted to bring firewood from her cordwood pile at home into a New Hampshire campground. Although she lives .2 miles from the border with New Hampshire, close enough that an ant’s pace would get you there in a day, restrictions on transporting firewood meant she had to wait and buy wood for $5 a bundle in New Hampshire.

Camping firewood on the move. Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Camping firewood on the move.
Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Firewood has historically been moved with little consideration of the pests it might harbor. However, the issue is getting increasing attention. This year, the US Department of Agriculture and several states put out urgent pleas to avoid transporting firewood.

Over the past 15 years, exotic insects like the Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer and hemlock woolly adelgid have killed millions of trees in the United States. Once established in new areas, these pests can quickly kill trees forests, parks, towns and campgrounds. (see related blog).

Firewood is an especially troublesome means by which pests are spread. According to USDA, the best preventative measure to protect forests from these pests is by limiting the movement of infested materials, including firewood.

Firewood is frequently moved long distances by campers and retailers. Not surprisingly, pest infestations are showing up around campgrounds and highway rest areas. In many states, all trees used as firewood are now regulated since they have the potential to harbor invasive insects and diseases.

Thirty states have imposed various levels of quarantine as a result of the emerald ash borer. Regulations vary by state, but generally include restrictions on importing firewood, movement of firewood within the state, and transportation of firewood into state, local and federal parks. In New England, the emerald ash borer was detected in Connecticut,

Woodpile Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Woodpile
Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, along with neighboring NY and Canada and all have various levels of wood quarantine in place. For example, the border was confirmed in all eight Connecticut counties so now that state has restrictions on the movement of all hardwood firewood. People who move firewood must have a document stating the origin and destination of the firewood. Some states have regulations that do not allow wood to be transported beyond a 50-mile radius of a restricted zone. A restricted zone is the quarantine of an infested area that prohibits the movement of logs and firewood outside of the zone. Check USDA’s quarantine map before you move firewood, even to another town. Because EAB does not travel far on its own, limiting human transportation of infested material will slow its spread.

It is recommended to use locally-sourced firewood, or firewood that has verified as pest free. Firewood producers and dealers must provide documentation on the source of their firewood. Seasoned wood may still have insects that can survive for many months. Only firewood heat-treated, kiln-dried at 160° F for at least 75 minutes can be brought into parks, and only with documentation.

RVs and other vehicles that have been parked for long periods can also harbor tree pests and their eggs. Take the time to check your vehicle, especially the wheel wells, and remove any insects. You can also wash down your camper between trips to help remove any hitchhiking pests.

What is at risk from transporting these pests? The trees in your backyard, along your streets, and in your neighborhood, along with the wildlife that depends on them. Jobs in the timber and forestry industries and manufacturing sector, things like flooring, cabinets, pallets, and even baseball bats, are also impacted. Cities and towns then have to pay to remove the hazardous trees killed by pests.

Although my colleague was frustrated she could not bring her own wood, the regulations are meant to protect all of us and our environment. So do your part to help sustain the health of our great forest resources and neighborhood trees.

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Marcia Anderson, who has a doctorate in environmental management, works with EPA’s headquarters on issues related to pest management in schools. She formerly worked in pesticides for EPA Region 2 and has a home in Lyman, Maine

For Connecticut certificate to transport wood: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2697&q=508886

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.

LEDs burning brighter than ever this season

xmastreeoBy Amy Miller

During the days after Christmas, after the toys, books and clothes are unwrapped and the turkey has been eaten, my family likes to cruise through nearby communities and gaze – well OK, pass judgment — on all the beautiful holiday lights.

Good one, my husband might exclaim.

Cool, my son will add.

Tacky, declares my daughter.

Oh look down there, that looks like a good street.

And so it goes, evaluating and just enjoying the displays of light that bring merriment to New England during the darkest days of winter.

Over the years we (or so we believe) have become connoisseurs of the ever more creative displays. In recent years, we keenly observe, displays have become what might technically be called a mish-mash.

Bright bluish white LEDs mixed with old fashion yellow lights. What the industry calls cold blue versus warm blue. And big C9 color bulbs mixed with soft little icicles. Beside all of these lights, a giant Snowman balloon alongside a munching incandescent deer.

Well, if it was bedlam out there, the good news is that we are slowly moving towards a much more efficient display of holiday cheer. And now, while the sales are on is the perfect time to get your LED holiday lights at an especially low cost.

Anecdotal evidence tells you that the ratio of LED bulbs to energy guzzling incandescent lights has gone up significantly. The cause may be greater energy consciousness. Or that the price of LED has dropped enough to draw in consumers. Or as I will argue, it’s because the elves created a more appealing LED light in the warm spectrum, slightly closer to the yellow whites we are used to.

In fact, our backseat analysis of the trend turns out to be true.

According to the Department of Energy, holiday light strands are becoming ever more popular. They’re sturdier, last longer and consume 70 percent less energy than conventional incandescent light strands. It only costs 27 cents to light a 6-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with LEDs compared to $10 for incandescent lights. For those who aren’t mathematicians, that’s a big difference.

Lighting today is safer and brighter than ever. The history of lighting began with candles, pretty but not so safe. Incandescent lights were a step up, and now we have LEDs, which are cooler to the touch and much safer. Plus, they are significantly less likely to burn out or break. LEDs are sturdier because they are made with epoxy lenses instead of glass, so break less easily. Also, as many as 25 strings of LEDs can be connected together without overloading an electrical outlet.”

We know LED holiday lights cost more up-front, but they save a lot of money in the long run. Besides using less energy, they last 25 times longer. I know, because for the first time, I haven’t had to replace my little strand of outdoor lights for two years.

DOE estimates the cost of buying and operating lights for 10 holiday seasons is:

  • Incandescent C-9 lights, $122.19
  • LED C-9 lights, $17.99
  • Incandescent mini-lights, $55.62
  • LED mini-lights, $33.29

OK, so the warm LEDs aren’t quite as cozy as the old white lights, but they are close. Anyway, I’ve come to see those cool blue ones as cleaner, more wintry. I can even envision a time when the yellow ones will seem dirty. And, to my family, they already are feeling unnecessarily wasteful and expensive.

For 2017, resolve to get LEDs. And I hope you enjoy the light shows as much as I do.

Amy Miller works in the Office of Public Affairs at EPA New England.

Fore more information on LEDs: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/led-lighting

 

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.

Case load brings recognition to EPA lawyer

By Amy Miller

Attorney Jeff Kopf was called to the deputy administrator’s office to talk about cases he had settled with towns or companies who had violated environmental laws. Getting called to the boss’s office is not an every day occurrence for a lawyer in EPA New England’s office, so he wondered why these cases were drawing attention.Kopf

When he arrived at Deb Szaro’s office, Jeff found, rather than a discussion of legal matters, a group of colleagues there to congratulate him. Jeff, now in his 19th year at EPA New England, was being recognized as “Employee of the Month” for his work in settling five separate cases that will ensure cleaner water for communities around New England.

Every month EPA recognizes an employee whose work has made a significant contribution to public health or environmental protection and most recently it was Jeff.

A native of Brookline now living in Newton, Jeff, generally handles cases involving the Clean Water Act. This focus on water is a natural outgrowth of his initial interest in environmental work.

Before joining EPA, he worked at a wildlife rehab center near Seattle, Wash. There he washed sea birds covered in oil from a large oil spill off the coast. He also learned skills related to capturing and caring for injured urban wildlife such as raccoons, opossums and seagulls, and he learned how to track released animals with radio tracking devices, including eagles, black bears and coyotes. Then he went to Boston College Law School with a focus on environmental law.

“I like working with communities to solve big waste water and stormwater infrastructure problems to come up with a solution,” said Jeff, a Brookline native now living in Newton. “I always like those cases that prevent oil spills from getting into the environment.”

In addition to the five enforcement actions Jeff finished under the Clean Water Act, he also oversaw the completion of a sixth case by an honors fellow he mentors. And besides the impressive number of cases he handled in just one recent month, Jeff was lead attorney for a total of 19 Clean Water Act cases finished in the fiscal year (which ended Sept. 30.)

“This incredible level of productivity, and the direct environmental results that he achieved in August alone, deserved recognition,” said Deputy Regional Administrator Deb Szaro

Four of the cases closed recently by Jeff – in Worcester and Halifax, Mass., and in Derby and Bridgeport, Conn., – were with municipalities. Two others – Foster Materials in Henniker, N.H., and Townsend Oil in Georgetown, Mass. – involved companies. The cases for the most part included violations involving illicit discharges, for instance an industry not fully complying with its stormwater permit, not using best management practices or not following spill prevention rules.

The cases include actions in: Worcester, which will address unauthorized discharges to Lake Quinsigamond and the Blackstone River by putting in place a plan to manage stormwater; Bridgeport, Conn., which discharged untreated sewage to the Bridgeport Harbor and Pequannock River, will address sewer overflows; Halifax, which agreed to address violations of its discharge permit at the town’s water treatment plant; Derby, Conn., which has discharged untreated sewage into the Naugatuck and Housatonic Rivers, and will put in place a program to address ongoing sewer overflows; Foster Materials, which has a sand and gravel mine and production facility in Henniker, NH, and pay a $20,000 fine for discharging sediment-laden water into the Contoocook River; and Townsend Oil, which operates a fuel oil bulk plant in Georgetown,., and to pay $30,000 to settle claims it failed to maintain and fully put in place a spill prevention plan.

Jeff acknowledged it is “certainly nice to be recognized,” but noted that enforcement cases involve collaboration, an aspect of his job he particularly values.

“Part of what I enjoy here,” he said, “is working with the technical staff the engineers who helped me put those cases together and helped in settling them.”

More information on how EPA enforces the Clean Water Act (https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/water-enforcement) and how EPA works with companies to avoid oil spills from occurring (https://www.epa.gov/oil-spills-prevention-and-preparedness-regulations)

Amy Miller works in the office of public affairs at EPA New England.

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.

Our goal: to listen, talk and understand

By Deb SzaroSzaro

My Bias is Unconscious… Is Yours? That was the name of a workshop I attended recently in Washington, DC. It is also what I believe. Accepting without question that we all have biases of which we are not aware may have led to my seat on a panel in this all-day program on Nov. 2 run by EPA’s Diversity Council.

As deputy regional administrator of EPA’s New England office, I have intuitively felt that our office did a good – though never good enough – job of honoring diversity and making all employees feel respected and included.

As one of 10 panelists in a morning session, I gave an account of an African American employee in my region who shadowed me for a day.  Right in the middle of my anecdote, I realized that this account of how we operate in New England closely mirrors just the kind of culture our moderator had said is critical to addressing unconscious biases.

What is important, said Timothy Vianney Kane, associate director for inclusion initiatives at George Washington University, is creating an office and a culture where employees truly get to know one another, where they work together in an atmosphere that breeds support and acceptance.

My anecdote was about Marcus Holmes, an environmental engineer in our Superfund program who told the staff in our regional office his personal and professional story on a Diversity Panel. After that, Marcus shadowed me for a day, including to a meeting with folks from the human resources office. He listened as human resources staff talked about their respect for each other, at times moved to tears as they reflected on the feelings of loyalty and trust that had built up between them during years of working together.

Later, during an all-hands meeting about professional development, Marcus stood to tell a roomful of Region 1 employees about his shadowing experience, and jokingly said how he now wanted to work in the human resources office.

Although this story does not precisely talk to diversity, or even unconscious bias, it does directly address a culture that is critical to tackling our biases, a culture that is central to the way we try to run our office in Boston. When we get to know each other as people and hear each other’s stories, we can better understand each other. And when we know each other as human beings, not just as lawyers or scientists in another program, we are more apt to listen to each other with a ready mind and an open heart.

I know our office has come far, but there is always farther to go. I know we will not eliminate unconscious biases through a single diversity panel or even 10 all-day workshops. But as I talked and listened during this workshop in Washington DC, I felt validated in our approach here at EPA New England – an approach that firmly declares that only through a pervasive culture of embracing and respecting differences, of promoting humanity and of tackling unconscious bias head-on, can we hope to move forward to a more inclusive and accepting workplace.

This is the philosophy that this regional office excels at, and it is this philosophy that we will continue to nourish in the years ahead.

 

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.

Beautiful Pawtuckaway faced with milfoil challenges

By Amy Miller

It was an exquisite day at Pawtuckaway State Park. I was circling Horse Island by kayak with my son, my third time paddling since waking that morning on the shores of Pawtuckaway Lake. Earlier I had come across a single loon, happily swimming past my oar. Now, as the woven gold sunset intensified behind the hills of southeastern New Hampshire, we came across a family of five loons all drifting calmly toward their nighttime concert. We also, less pleasingly, came across signs warning us of “Exotic Milfoil Spread.”Pawtuckaway Lake 2

Back on land, I checked out what was going on with this invasive plant that chokes natural vegetation in ponds and lakes across New England. Turns out Pawtuckaway had been free of this harmful intruder until last year. At that point, a small clump of milfoil was seen between the campsites of Horse Island and the houses across the inlet.

Pawtuckaway State Park is a jewel tucked into the countryside just a short drive from many large population centers. On any sunny weekend in summer, Pawtuckaway’s small beach is packed to capacity with people barbecuing, swimming, boating or just plain hanging out with their families. The much quieter campground down the road is likely to have every one of its 195 sites filled and its dirt roads bustling with youthful bikers spinning their wheels until it’s time for s’mores.

NH DES Kayak covered with milfoilPawtuckaway Lake is a 784-acre body of water in the Lamprey River Watershed. For years it has battled periodic bacteria overload from geese, development and general runoff. But until last year’s infestation, milfoil has not been a problem.

Unfortunately, efforts to get rid of the milfoil last year were not successful. Despite divers from the state Department of Environmental Protection removing the plants, the milfoil was back to the same spot this year, and even more widespread.

Fortunately, the lake has devoted friends. The Pawtuckaway Lake Improvement Association, which samples and monitors the water, has been teaching volunteers how to look for and even eliminate the intruder. When the environmental organization noticed last year that there was some milfoil in the South Channel of the lake, they began an inspection and education program.

Because the plant grows so rapidly and easily, the association is pleading for residents to carefully inspect their boats. Volunteer and paid Lake Hosts are trained to inspect boats entering the water and training materials can be found as well at at the NH Lakes web page.

To protect Pawtuckaway before it is too late, the association has asked residents to take a few particular steps like cleaning, draining and drying boats that have been in other waterways. A picture on the association web page shows bushy branches and leaves that are unnaturally bright green, especially the younger plants. Milfoil_in_Flower_small

But unless it is a floating fragment, the association recommends boaters leave it in place and report the finding to them. Floating plant fragments can be removed and disposed of in zip lock bags. The association also asked homeowners to check the lake bottom as far from shore as possible and as often as possible, especially on sunny, calm days when visibility is good. And residents willing to do a bit extra are invited to train as weed watchers.

The markers my son and I saw were there to outline where the milfoil was found. All boating, paddling or swimming was discouraged in that area. Even small pieces of milfoil that break off from the larger plants can drift and easily take root, quickly overwhelming a water body, making water activities impossible.

Luckily, my son and I turned around when we saw the sign, there to help protect the waters from any further spread of milfoil.

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Amy Miller works in the office of public affairs at EPA New England.

http://www.pawtuckawaylake.com/59-editorial-section/427-milfoil-alert-what-you-can-do-to-save-pawtuckaway

https://nhlakes.org/education/lake-host/

 

 

 

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.

Meriden, Ct., Green shows what is possible

By Curt Spalding

I shouldn’t admit it, but I was cranky about heading to Connecticut for a public appearance at the start of a summer weekend. Isn’t this beyond the call of duty, I thought, as I sizzled in late afternoon traffic on a simmering August Friday.Meriden4)

Then I arrived in Meriden, and the event turned into one of the most inspiring occasions of my eight years at EPA New England.

At the new Meriden Green, hundreds of people from different backgrounds and races, all of them residents of Meriden, were gathered to celebrate a project that has been years in the making and has no doubt already transformed this city of 60,000 people.

Once known as the Silver City, Meriden had over the decades become a sad example of what happens to a former manufacturing town badly managed. The city was hollowed out and its commerce had moved to the outskirts.

My destination that afternoon was atop an architecturally stunning bridge overlooking 14 acres of green space with the Harbor Brook running below it, not at all the picture of a down and out town. Gov. Dan Malloy and several other state and federal dignitaries were there as well, awaiting their turn to speak. We stood over the bustling scene and saw the results of a $14 million brownfields project, which is part of a much larger $250 million urban development plan that has truly brought new hope to the community of Meriden.

Harbor Brook, which had been channeled into an underground culvert, was freely flowing under the bridge. Perhaps I had stars in my eyes, but it looked to me like a bubbly stream running through the Rockies.

Just as exciting to me as the architecture, the greenery and the gurgling stream was the palpable sense of hope I sensed in the enthusiastic crowd below. At that moment we all beheld the new and glorious vision for a city whose prosperous days we once feared had passed.

Meriden1)It took more than a decade and the cooperation of state, local and federal agencies working with the community to create this urban oasis. But I want to tell you that this is what vision, funding and a dedicated citizenry can do. The Meriden Green sits on the former site of the International Silver Co., land that for decades has been idle, an eyesore amid a hurting city. Today that abandoned, contaminated lot is the center of the city’s restoration. Besides the luscious green space, the entire redevelopment area will include 600 new residential units and more than 60,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space. And all of this neighbors a train station where Amtrak’s new route will stop on its way between New York City and Springfield, Mass.

I made a few remarks, about Meriden’s transformation, and the role of $615,000 in EPA brownfields funding. I praised Gov. Malloy for the enormous amount he has invested in brownfields, accomplishing wonders for this state. When I came to EPA eight years ago, Connecticut didn’t have a robust brownfields program, nor tools to invest in these abandoned, contaminated lots. Then the people of Meriden created the Blight and Brownfields Committee, on which EPA and numerous other involved organizations sat, and the state stepped up to the plate.

Meriden Hub was very different before the redevelopment work.

Meriden Hub was very different before the redevelopment work.

Meriden is not the only Connecticut city that has reaped the benefits of an active brownfields program and coordinated efforts led by the community. I recently stopped in Bridgeport at the site of the former Remington Arms Co., now called Lake Success Eco Business Park. This 426-acre brownfield parcel that once hosted a weapons and ordnance factory is being developed into a complex of offices, commercial space, and a hotel and conference facility in the state’s largest and poorest city. Although work remains to be done, most of the site has been cleaned and contamination from ordnance testing removed.

As it happens, I am quite familiar with the history of manufacturing in Connecticut. My grandfather was born in Watertown and worked as a metallurgist at the American Brass Co.’s beautiful facilities. When I began to tour Connecticut cities, I saw despair from the loss of manufacturing. Now I look at cities like Meriden, Bridgeport or Waterbury and I see a future. In these former mills towns I now see one example after another of how the re-use of a parcel can transform a wasteland into an economically vital area and a motivated, thriving community.

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Curt Spalding is regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

For more information:

http://www.myrecordjournal.com/news/meriden/meridennews/9348235-154/meriden-green-formally-opens-to-public.html

https://cfpub.epa.gov/bf_factsheets/gfs/index.cfm?xpg_id=8029&display_type=HTML

 

 

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

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

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

Reading sees success of saving water during drought

By Gina Snyder

Ten years after my hometown of Reading, Mass., joined the regional water supply system and stopped pumping the groundwater wells that supplied our drinking water, northeast Massachusetts and much of New England is in the worst drought in decades. Before we stopped pumping in 2006, droughts like we’ve had this summer would have turned the Ipswich River into a dry riverbed littered with dead fish. This summer it did not.

Before Reading bought into the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority drinking water system, every second or third year the Ipswich River would go dry. The drought of 2016 has given us reason to celebrate the Town Meeting vote of 2006.readingwater1

In September, I got together with some of my fellow Reading Stream Team members to re-enact a locally famous kayak-without-any-water (“Got Water?”) picture taken in 2002, the year of a severe drought but not as severe as this year. At the time the Ipswich River Watershed Association brought together Stream Teamers and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs at the river to show the conditions. We could not quite reproduce the photo we took then this year since there’s water in the river!

A Stream Team member positioned her kayak while two other members held the famous poster “Got Water?” and I took the picture.

Even before the vote of a decade ago, Reading had a strong water conservation program, distributing on average no more than 55 gallons of water per person per day (below the state Department of Environmental Protection Water Conservation Standard of 65 gallons per capita per day). But conditions were dire nonetheless, with groundwater withdrawals exceeding 2.5 million gallons a day on some of the hottest summer days.

Reading’s water conservation program has continued to show the success it had before switching to the MWRA. Lawn watering is restricted throughout the year, and the Town provides free rain gauges and irrigation timers. A rain gauge helps homeowners determine when the garden, flowers or lawn need watering. The irrigation timer attaches to a garden hose to control how long the sprinkler stays on.

The conservation program will replace homeowners’ garden hose nozzles to help save water when watering outside. The nozzle has an adjustable setting to help water properly. The town also provides faucet aerators to reduce water flow, low-flow showerheads, and leak detection tablets. And, if a homeowner has to replace that leaky toilet, Reading will provide a rebate on a low-flow toilet.

I’ve been so excited as the summer drew to a close and that river segment continued to have water. It’s the most amazing success story I’ve been involved in. I have year after year of dead fish pictures, so to be able to take pictures of water in this year of serious drought has been remarkable.reading2

Reading learned about water conservation while pumping the Ipswich dry. In that case however, conservation wasn’t enough to save the river. The collage below shows a graph of rainfall amounts (from Boston) over the summer drought of 2002 (in photo on left) compared to this year (photo on right). We can see that rainfall monthly totals during this summer have been much lower than they were in 2002, but the river continues to have water quite a ways downstream.

While conditions are severe elsewhere in the Ipswich River and some of its tributaries, with dry riverbed conditions downstream of the Reading Town Forest, Reading has reason to celebrate – its section of the Ipswich River has “Got Water!” And while water conservation continues in this year of severe drought, here’s one success story we can celebrate.

About the author:  Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental Stewardship, Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and serves on her town’s climate committee. She lives in Reading, Mass

https://www3.epa.gov/region1/eco/drinkwater/water_conservation.html.

http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/eea/wrc/water-conservation-standards-rev-june-2012.pdf

http://www.ipswichriver.org/the-ipswich-river-in-the-news/

 

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.

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Taking Stock of EPA’s Work Helping the Mystic River

By Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator, US EPA New England

Today’s blog post celebrates the great work done by EPA and many partners to improve water quality in Boston’s urban waters. EPA has focused for more than two decades on improving the water quality here. It’s hard to overstate the turnaround in Boston Harbor, and the improvements to urban river watersheds like the Mystic and Charles are nothing short of remarkable.

The Mystic River offers a view of Boston.

The Mystic River offers a view of Boston.

While water quality improvements to the Charles River and Boston Harbor may get more attention, the work and the resulting advances in urban waters like the Mystic, have been equally impressive. A huge amount of progress has been made improving water quality in the Mystic River and the differences can be seen in communities throughout the watershed.

The Mystic suffered from high bacteria levels just like other urban waters such as the Charles and the Neponset. And in all three rivers, we used the same tools to tackle sources of bacterial contamination by aggressively enforcing the law to halt industrial pollution and the discharge of sewage mixed in with storm overflow. In each case, we eliminated illicit connections to storm drains, and found ways to limit stormwater pollution.

Our results speak volumes. This past summer, the water quality in the main stems of both the Mystic and Charles rivers were graded roughly equal. In the main stem of the Mystic (including Chelsea Creek, the fresh water and salt water portions of the river and the upper lakes), the water quality met Massachusetts water standards for boating and swimming over 86 percent of the time, and in the areas closer to Boston Harbor, the grade rises to nearly 90 percent of the time. These results are on par with the Charles River’s water quality grade of B+ this year for the main stem of the Charles. Some of the tributaries of the Mystic still need to see further improvement, and those areas are our focus.

EPA Regional Administrator announces 2016 Mystic River Report Card results.

EPA Regional Administrator announces 2016 Mystic River Report Card results.

Of course, the Mystic and the Charles each have different geography, development history, and vastly different population density. For example, the Mystic River is part of a large watershed, but contains a much smaller river stem. The challenges that exist in this river are heavily concentrated in the smaller tributaries that feed the river. The Mystic Watershed is far more densely populated, with about 6,600 people per square mile compared to 2,900 people per square mile in the Charles Watershed.

The differences among these rivers means EPA must tailor its work to respond to the unique characteristics of each river’s area and pollution sources. Our concerted work on the Charles began in the 1990s, and the lessons we learned there provided knowledge and experience that has brought faster improvements in other urban waters like the Mystic.

The power of the 44-year-old Clean Water Act has provided many of the tools EPA needed to achieve the superb results we have seen in Boston’s urban waterways. In 2007, EPA gave the Mystic a D for its first water quality grade. That year we also ordered the City of Revere to stop discharging pollutants into the Mystic watershed. Additional enforcement with several other Mystic municipalities, as well as the Suffolk Downs racetrack and a criminal prosecution of Exxon Mobil for a diesel spill followed. All of the municipal enforcement required the entities to identify and eliminate illicit discharges of pollutants to storm drains discharging to the Mystic River and its tributaries. And our enforcement cases have resulted in other valuable investments in the watershed. Resolution of the Exxon Mobil case provided over $2.6 million for environmental projects in the Mystic River and Chelsea Creek.  Another settlement provided over $1 million toward the 4.5 acre Condor Street Urban Wild along the heavily industrialized Chelsea Creek, providing an urban oasis for the citizens of East Boston.  And thanks to a settlement requiring installation of a boardwalk in Belle Isle Marsh, citizens will soon be able to explore the largest surviving salt marsh in Boston in greater detail.

Sun shines on the shores of the Mystic.

Sun shines on the shores of the Mystic.

If the Mystic River was going to get healthier, we knew it would need many champions. So, in 2009 EPA led the formation of a Mystic River Watershed Steering Committee. The Steering Committee, including community groups, nonprofit organizations, local, state and federal partners, since then has guided the improvements of the Mystic River Watershed, establishing strategy, priorities and key projects and actions needed to improve the Mystic. The focus of this group has certainly helped us realize the tremendous improvements we have seen on the Mystic, and they continue to work diligently on water quality improvement. For example, the Mystic River Watershed Association just received a national EPA Urban Waters grant to help create a multi-media stormwater education collaborative to increase awareness of stormwater pollution throughout the watershed.

EPA's Water Quality Monitoring Buoy collects and streams live water quality data on EPA’s Website (LINK: https://www.epa.gov/mysticriver).

EPA’s Water Quality Monitoring Buoy collects and streams live water quality data on EPA’s Website (LINK: https://www.epa.gov/mysticriver).

Another exciting development we are proud of is that in 2015, we launched a Mystic River water quality monitoring buoy in front of the Blessing of the Bay Boathouse in Somerville. The buoy measures water quality parameters including temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, specific conductance, and chlorophyll. The buoy is also used to monitor for and track cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms. The data can be viewed by the public in near real time on our Mystic River website.

The data collected over the years, from a number of different partners, has informed the work done to improve water quality on the River. It contributes to our understanding of the River, which is especially important when tracking toxic algae blooms, a current EPA priority.  Algae blooms are often the result of excess nutrients entering the river, and this fall, we awarded an extensive technical assistance contract to help assess and reduce phosphorus entering the Mystic watershed.   This information will help guide future water quality projects in the area.

To improve water quality we also need better, flexible yet protective permits. Last April, we updated the Clean Water Act permit for small “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems” (MS4s) in Massachusetts, including for the 21 communities within the Mystic Watershed. Better management of stormwater will protect rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and wetlands from pollutants, including elevated levels of nutrients.

Our work to improve conditions in the Mystic Watershed has extended beyond water quality. We’ve invested nearly $16 million in cleaning and developing formerly contaminated and abandoned sites known as brownfields. This work throughout greater Boston has brought life back to long abandoned sites with industrial pollution. We’ve also been cleaning Superfund sites along the Mystic River Watershed for decades. Two of the most famous sites we’ve cleaned – the Wells G&H and Industri-plex sites in Woburn – are in the Mystic River Watershed. Both have been and continue to be cleaned up and returned to productive use.

The Boston Harbor Cleanup was just the first step in EPA’s focus on cleaning waterways in the Greater Boston Area. We’ve all made tremendous strides to reduce direct bacterial pollution harming our urban rivers, even as these rivers are still in recovery from legacy pollution. The Mystic, Neponset and Charles River watersheds have robust watershed organizations employing citizen science and leveraging public/private partnerships. Still, more work lays ahead. The tributaries that feed all three rivers continue to be investigated for sources of pollution. We now understand that stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution to our waterbodies. EPA will continue its work towards healthier and cleaner watersheds that are a valued resource for the communities.

 

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 England can prepare ash trees before Emerald Ash Borer attacks

By Marcia Anderson

I was recently in a conference of certified tree experts to discuss the invasion and progressive devastation of our nation’s ash trees by a creature known as the emerald ash borer. While much of the country has already suffered the death of their ash trees, New England has time to react.

Emerald ash borer adult.  Photo: David Cappaert. www.forestryimages.org

Emerald ash borer adult.
Photo: David Cappaert. www.forestryimages.org

Think back. First, it was Dutch elm disease. Later, chestnut blight, the gypsy moth, followed by the Asian longhorn beetle. Now, the emerald ash borer is approaching and has already ravaged much of the nation. While common in cities across much of the US, native ash trees (Fraxnus sp.) have little natural resistance to this pest. In addition, the Asia native has no natural enemies in the US.

A major problem with an emerald ash borer infestation is that most people do not see it is coming, and by the time the trees show signs of decline, it is too late. Some 95 percent of ash trees hit with it will be dead within five years. The only way to save your favorite ash trees is to prepare.

Ground zero for the invasion was near Detroit in 2002. The borer has already swept through the midwest and devastated almost every ash tree in its path. It is now in 34 states and 2 Canadian provinces. It has not yet reached New England.

At the conference I attended in New Jersey Dr. Jason Graboski of Rutgers University said some parts of New England that are not yet affected can benefit from the lessons learned by Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

If trees are within 20 miles of an infestation, they are at risk. That is when to take action. By the time people notice thinning in the canopy, the borer has already caused considerable damage.

There are three options for managing urban ash trees: removal and replacement; treatment with insecticides until they can be removed; and treatment with insecticides for the duration of the infestation.

An Integrated Pest Management program reduces both pests and unnecessary pesticide use. This approach stresses monitoring, maintenance, and sanitation. But pesticides, when needed, can also be used. Treating for the borer falls into this “when-needed” category, in lieu of removing all ash trees. Even large ash trees can be protected by insecticides. Milwaukee, Wisc., saved most of its trees by using pesticides

AshborermapThe emerald ash borer attacks trees of all sizes, starting with large trees, devouring the insides of every ash tree in its path. It first attacks stressed trees. The females lay 30 or more eggs in the cracks of bark, which hatch leaving larvae that bore into and feed on the phloem that conducts nutrients throughout the tree. Gradually, the infestation moves into inner layers of the tree. The larvae spend one or two years feeding inside the tree before emerging as adults in spring. Once you see exit holes at eye-level, the infestation has probably been there several years. Symptoms that aid in early detection are yellowing leaves, loss of leaves or death in the canopy, and eventually a dying tree.

The borer is often found near highway rest stops. One once landed on my windshield at a rest stop. It was the first time I had seen one, and I marveled at its size and metallic green color. They easily hitchhike on trucks and rail cars so are commonly dispersed along railroad and other transportation thoroughfares.

New Jersey, New York, and the New England states are now the latest targets of this pest.

There are a few ways to prevent the spread of the borer. 1) First and foremost quarantine all ash wood, including firewood. 2) Replace all ash trees with a diameter of 12 inches or less even if it is not infested. If your community decides not to treat with pesticides, those ash trees will die, and become hazardous. You can remove them now or later at a higher cost. 3) Infected trees should all be removed, the largest first. The wood should then be chipped or kiln dried. Ash makes good pellets for wood burning stoves and can be used in furniture and baseball bats.

The important thing is to prepare ahead, before the emerald ash borer is already doing its deeds.

Marcia Anderson, who has a doctorate in environmental management, works with EPA’s headquarters on issues related to pest management in schools. She formerly worked in pesticides for EPA Region 2 and has a home in Lyman, Maine

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https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource004434_Rep6323.pdf

 

 

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.