Colleagues See Wastewater “Eggs” up Close

By Amy Miller

When my corner of EPA New England – the Public Affairs office – went on a retreat last week, we took our meeting to the great beyond. Instead of meeting in a generic conference room in our office, a dozen or two of my closest colleagues and I went out to the world that gives our work meaning.

EPA staff tour the Deer Island Wastewater Plant in Winthrop, Mass.

EPA staff tour the Deer Island Wastewater Plant in Winthrop, Mass.

To be specific, we met at the Giant Eggs. Most anyone who flies in or out of Logan Airport knows about these huge white containers, a dozen eggs sitting on the edge of the Boston Harbor on Deer Island off of the Town of Winthrop. On a clear day, you can’t miss the sight of these ovals reaching 130 feet high.

What jet passengers may not know is that these containers are filled with human and industrial waste. Each day the Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant accepts an average of 360 million gallons of wastewater from homes and businesses in 43 cities and towns. This facility, run by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, makes sure our sewage is separated enough, filtered enough, treated enough and clean enough to safely enter the Boston’s waters.

To accomplish this, the plant first removes grit, then treats and retreats the wastes, which are separated by gravity into liquids and solids. The effluent is filtered, scum removed from sludge, treated with chemicals and digested using microorganisms, much the way a stomach digests food. Treated solids are sent through a tunnel to Quincy so it can be turned into fertilizer. Water that has been cleaned many times over is sent 10 miles out to sea and discharged through 50 different pipes. And methane released in the digestion process is used to heat the facility.

In welcoming us to the plant, Executive Director Fred Laskey acknowledged there is still work to be done. But he was proud of the tremendous results the plant has seen. Largely because of $3.8 billion invested in Deer Island in the last several decades, the cleanup of Boston Harbor is a national environmental success story. Plant Director Dave Duest eagerly invited us to tour the plant, which sits on 210 acres that includes walking five miles of walking trails, views of the ocean and parkland.

Stqff of EPA New England check out the view from the top of the giant eggs at Deer Island.

Staff of EPA New England check out the view from the top of the giant eggs at Deer Island.

The best part of the tour is what it lacked – any odor. We were grateful for the chance to climb to the top of the eggs, and also pass by two disinfection basins, each about 500 feet long with a capacity of 4 million gallons – and never smell a thing, thanks to the scrubbers and carbon absorbers that remove the smells. In the basins, the treated effluent is mixed with sodium hypochlorite and then finally, sodium bisulfite to de-chlorinate the water to protect marine organisms. After disinfection and dechlorination, the liquid is ready to be discharged.

Deer Island is actually a national park. Folks there welcome visitors and proudly show off their odor-free operations, which by the way are not visible from the nearby residential community of Winthrop.

So it’s not just EPA folks that are welcomed on Deer Island. Tours are offered, by reservation on Tuesdays and Fridays by calling (617) 660-7607.

http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/03sewer/html/sewditp.htm

Boston Harbor cleanup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIN1S5mJoCQ

-30-

Amy Miller, who is in the Office Of Public Affairs of EPA New England, edits this blog.

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.

Memorial Day Launches Annual Trauma for Terrapins

By Marcia Anderson

The seasonal vehicular migration that we humans make to the shore coincides with the beginning of diamondback terrapin nesting season in the northeast, often causing hundreds of turtle fatalities. Most of the terrapins squashed under car tires are pregnant females looking for a high, dry place along the shoulder of the road, above the high tide line to dig their nests and lay their eggs.

Diamondback Terrapin hatchlings rescued along the Mass. coastline by volunteers. Photo: Barbara Brennessel

Diamondback Terrapin hatchlings rescued along the Mass. coastline by volunteers. Photo: Barbara Brennessel

Terrapins are relatively small, harmless turtles that live in salt marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They are closely related to freshwater turtles and are the only turtles that are adapted to living exclusively in the brackish waters of coastal salt marshes. Their range extends along the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod to Southern Texas. These terrapins are true ‘home bodies’ and inhabit creeks within marshes very near where they were born. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, diamondback terrapin populations are considered “critically imperiled”.

Barbara Brennessel of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., author of the natural history of diamondback terrapins “Diamonds in the Marsh,” calls the diamondback terrapin “another example of a “turtle in trouble.” This elusive estuarine species is the focus of conservation efforts on Cape Cod, she said.

Up along the Connecticut and Massachusetts coastlines, terrapin nesting starts right about now. The Mass Audubon Society in Wellfleet has been monitoring diamondback terrapins for over 30 summers. They look for nesting terrapins and protect hatchlings from predators in Wellfleet Bay. The organization has countered the loss of nesting habitat, partly due to development, by creating nesting habit for the terrapins in places called turtle gardens, according to Audubon’s David Prescott. Last year the Audubon released about 3,000 hatchlings from turtle gardens. 

Terrapins are a predator of not only invasive green crabs, but of periwinkle snails that feed on salt marsh grass and are known to destroy thousands of acres of salt marsh, converting marsh meadows into mudflats. The destruction of wetland habitats may lead to increased flooding, ultimately affecting coastal property values.

Terrapin habitat destruction caused by coastal development has led to large numbers of road kills from Memorial Day Weekend through mid July. Female terrapins are killed trying to cross coastal roads in search of suitable nesting habitat.

Students from the Wetlands Institute, a part of New Jersey’s Stockton State College, and local volunteer residents patrol roads during the terrapin nesting season to minimize road kills. They also remove potentially viable eggs from the carcasses of the killed turtles. These eggs are incubated and, after hatching, are raised at a “turtle farm” for at least four months. The young turtles are tagged with an embedded a microchip and released back into the salt marsh. This successful conservation project has been conducted in the Cape May Peninsula since 1969.

Wetlands Institute; Stockton State College

Photo courtesy of Wetlands Institute; Stockton State College

 After much experimentation with barriers and fences, the Wetlands Institute found six-inch corrugated plastic drainage pipe was an effective, inexpensive, and easy way to install barriers. In June 2010 over 7,000 feet of corrugated tubing was installed, and shortly after, road kills were reduced along the entire length of this barrier.

Terrapins are in serious trouble throughout the coastal northeast. It is up to us to ensure their survival. When you see a terrapin crossing the road: slow down, stop, pick her up, cross her in the direction she was traveling, and wish her good luck. Contact the Wetlands Institute or the Massachusetts Audubon Society for more information on the diamondback terrapin conservation projects: Also read The Northern Diamondback Terrapin Habitat, Management and Conservation booklet.

-30-

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.

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.

The White Table is a Reminder

By Amy Miller

I was already feeling a bit sentimental when I walked into work one day this week. I have a big birthday coming up, and a daughter home from freshman year in college. Flowers are revealing their spring colors and neighbors and friends are emerging from our New England winter’s WhiteTablehibernation. And so perhaps this all helps explain why I was so struck by the anguished solitude of the White Table set out in the lobby of my Boston workplace, more this year than in the past.

Every May the federal government puts out the White Table, a tribute to the men and women who have died or gone missing in service to our country. Called the Missing Man Table, or the Fallen Comrade Table, each feature of the setting – from the white table cloth to the red rose to the lone chair – carries symbolism.

The White Table, perhaps not so well known to the general public, had its origins with a group of fighter pilots who flew in Vietnam and it grew out of concern for the Vietnam POW/MIA issue. The table is only set for one person. A poster sign next to the table in the lobby of Five Post Office Square told the meaning of the different aspects of the table.

The white table cloth stands for the pure intentions of soldiers serving. The single rose in the vase represents bloodshed, and also the loved ones left behind. A slice of lemon is there to remind us of the bitter fate of soldiers and salt on the table tells us of tears shed by families.

The poster informed me that the glass was turned upside down to show that the soldier would not be returning to use the setting, and the candle sits as a ray of light in hopes that POWs or those MIA would find their way home.

Each day of our job at the EPA we work to protect the environment, and the health of the Earth’s living. It is a good day when we stop to remember the precious task at hand, the fragility of our planet and the life upon it.

So when I walked into the building where I work in Boston and saw the White Table, this stark reminder of people who gave up so much, it was in some ways a good day. For it was a chance to feel glad for life, and for the chance to make life in New England a little bit cleaner and a little bit healthier.

-30-

Amy Miller works in the public affairs office of EPA New England and edits the EPA New England blog.

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.

Celebrate Those Hidden Pipes and Forgotten Facilities

By Gina Snyder

I’ve never met a group of more hard-working, humble, dedicated professionals than the people I meet from water and wastewater treatment facilities. “Infrastructure Week,” the third week in May, provides an opportunity to celebrate the work they do and the critical services they provide. We make use of our roads, faucets, bridges and bathrooms every day of our life, but how often do we think about infrastructure, this vast array of assets that constantly need our attention.Infrastructure2

Well, a group of dozens of businesses, utilities and other organizations who got together to create Infrastructure Week hope to change that. They hope all of us will start paying attention to these assets and giving them the credit, funding and care they are due. This year’s theme for the week is “Infrastructure Matters.”

And it does! Infrastructure matters, in big ways and small — to our country, our economy, our quality of life, our safety, and our communities. Roads, bridges, rails, ports, pipes, the power grid, all of it matters immensely. As the infrastructure week website points out, it matters “to the goods we ship and the companies that make and sell them; it matters to our daily commutes and our summer vacations; to drinking water from our faucets, to the lights in our homes, and ultimately to every aspect of our daily lives.”

Important as infrastructure is, much of it is hidden. All the underground pipes have been working for us for decades, under cover. These pipes bring water and gas to our homes, and take waste away.

Unfortunately, these important assets get low scores for the poor condition much of them are in.

When construction season begins it may seem we are tackling the problem. Several years ago, my street was dug up and my home was hooked up to a plastic pipe running up my driveway as my town replaced the water line. Now, this spring, the gas company is replacing the gas line in the street.

But all the disruption you see goes only a small way toward closing what’s reported to be a $1 trillion infrastructure investment gap in the U.S.

Perhaps because rain falls freely from the sky, we think water is “free”. But, treating and delivering water is far from free. The same is true for the pipes that carry away wastewater.

Since our water infrastructure is out of sight and out of mind, it is easy to underestimate costs. As one of the largest assets of our cities and towns, water infrastructure deserves more attention than it typically gets.

Our local communities pay most of the cost of water infrastructure, mainly through revenues generated by water rates. These fees will continue to be the primary source of revenue for most community water systems. It is important that we pay the rates that recover the costs to make this service sustainable.

You can help bring this important topic the attention it deserves. For Infrastructure Week, talk about these challenges – and increase awareness of just how valuable our water infrastructure is.

Infrastructrure1Ask your public officials to consider alternative solutions – particularly with the heavy rain storms we can expect with climate change, ask them to use green infrastructure approaches when it’s time to fix the storm drains.

Encourage public officials also to consider smart growth when development comes to town. This means building in places and ways that minimize demands on our water and wastewater systems. Sprawl and poorly planned growth can result in more pipes and plants that are harder and more expensive to maintain. Growing “smartly” can put your community’s infrastructure on a more sustainable footing.

You can also help by protecting your water source, which will also protect public health and reduce treatment needs. The quality of the water that provides your drinking water can be threatened by everyday activities and land uses. Make sure your cars do not leak oil and avoid using chemicals on your lawn.

During Infrastructure Week, remember to appreciate the clean water we all enjoy.

-30-

More information from EPA about Sustainable Water Infrastructure https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-water-infrastructure

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.

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.

Restaurants Go Zero Food Waste in Food Recovery Challenge

 

By Rob Guillemin

When I go to my local self-serve lunch spot, I eat everything I put on my tray, picking the perfect combination of hot entrée items and salad bar treats without an ounce to spare. In fact, I can be pretty smug about my “zero food waste” lunch (a modern version of the Clean Plate Club) until I remember that all the food prep was done for me in the back kitchen.  That’s where piles of carrot and potato peals and other food scraps, along with mounds of uneaten or unused food, typically head to the landfill. Curtcafe

Fortunately, Café de Boston, a buffet and prepared foods eatery in downtown Boston, is one of the few but growing number of restaurants that has shown a real commitment to eliminating food waste. In May, this restaurant joined EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge along with over 800 businesses and organizations, including grocery stores, schools, hotels, hospitals, cafeterias, local governments and food manufactures. (See photo at Café with EPA New England Regional Administrator Curt Spalding). By keeping better track of food inventories and setting food waste prevention goals, participating organizations in 2014 diverted nearly 606,000 tons of wasted food, which included over 88,500 tons donated to people in need.

These waste diversion efforts are a big deal, especially since food is the single largest waste material going to disposal each year. Food waste tipped the scale at 35 million tons in 2012.  It now accounts for 21 percent of the American waste stream, overtaking either discarded plastic or paper.

Once in the landfill, moist organic matter quickly decomposes, releasing methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide (CO2). The US EPA has identified landfills as the single largest source of methane, contributing approximately 34% of all man-made methane released to the atmosphere in the US.

Because food production accounts for 10% of total energy use, 50% of land use, and 80% of freshwater consumption in the United States, every wasted bite also squanders these resources. With this lifecycle perspective in mind, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global food waste (including its production, transportation, and decomposition) is the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases based on 2007 levels data.  This means that 3.3 billion tons of CO2 equivalent is generated needlessly.

So, the next time you eat out, don’t be shy about asking your favorite restaurant to reduce food waste by joining EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. The Café de Boston did and now it is on track to divert over 30 tons of food waste from the landfill this year.  If the one million restaurants in America followed their lead, we could truly dine, food waste free, and take a huge, collective bite out of our greenhouse gas emissions.

https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-frc

Rob Guillemin is an environmental specialist at EPA’s New England office, where he tries to eat what he takes.

 

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.

To the Tide Pool, Following Literary Footsteps

By Phil Colarusso

I recently had the good fortune of visiting Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Before the sun was fully up, I journeyed from my hotel to look through some tide pools.Tidepool

Tide pools in the Pacific Ocean are very different from our pools in the Northeast. The western pools are dominated by colorful sea anemones and large sea stars. These are the tide pools that inspired Ed Ricketts, the real life marine biologist who became the Doc Ricketts character in John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. Ricketts wrote the definitive book on West Coast intertidal organisms, called Between Pacific Tides.

For many budding marine biologists, Doc Ricketts was the quintessential marine biologist. His office was a laboratory with a multitude of fish tanks hosting all manners of creatures. His schedule was dictated by the tides, not by the clock. He was a man, who felt most comfortable in hip boots with a net in one hand and collecting jars in the other. He had an unusually keen sense of environmental issues for his time – the 1940s – railing against overfishing in the book The Log from the Sea of Cortez, which he and John Steinbeck co-wrote.tidepool2

Like Ricketts, I have spent many happy hours flipping rocks in tide pools. I don’t know if Ricketts believed that the answers to many of life’s mysteries could be found in a tide pool, but I suspect that he did. My favorite passage from The Log of the Sea of Cortez reflects Ricketts understanding of the interconnectedness of all things:

And if we seem a small factor in a huge pattern, nevertheless it is of relative importance. We take a tiny colony of soft corals from a rock in a little water world. And that isn’t terribly important to the tide pool. Fifty miles away the … shrimp boats are dredging with overlapping scoops, bringing up tons of shrimps, rapidly destroying the species so that it may never come back, and with the species destroying the ecological balance of the whole region.  That isn’t very important in the world. And thousands of miles away the great bombs are falling and the stars are not moved thereby. None of it is important or all of it is.

As I look into tide pools today, the reflection back is no longer a young marine biologist, but a kindred spirit of Ed Ricketts, who understands and appreciates the interconnectedness of life.

 

About the author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the Coastal and Ocean Protection Section of EPA’s New England office, and is an avid diver.

 

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.

A Picture is Worth… Scientific Data

By Jeri Weiss

I climbed up Heifer Hill in Brattleboro, Vt., on a beautiful summer afternoon and spun slowly around, taking in the spectacular view. It was August and the trees were all leafed out and the meadow was lush.VtPanorama I couldn’t help thinking about what this might have looked like 10 years ago. What will it look like 10 years from now? What will it look like this fall? As it turns out, I will soon be able to get answers. The Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center in Brattleboro will have a tool to tell us all this story.

Bonnyvale, working with EPA New England, is setting up “a picture post” on April 22 to celebrate Earth Day. The picture post, one of dozens in New England and hundreds across the country, will guide visitors in how to take photographs from the exact same spot all times of the day and all days of the year. These picture posts are basically fences post with octagonal tops that show which way is north and invite anyone walking by to add their observations.

This Digital Earth Watch project, developed jointly by NASA and six other institutions, is run by the University of New Hampshire. Picture Post was created as a tool for non-scientists to monitor their environment and share observations. Using a digital camera, visitors take nine pictures – one in each direction and one up at the sky – and then upload them to Digital Earth Watch network. It’s even easier if you have a smart phone and can use the picture post app.

I learned about Picture Post as I was exploring ways any of us can participate in scientific discoveries at the Brattleboro Citizen Science workshop, which EPA helped organize earlier this month.

When I heard about Bonnyvale’s work I was intrigued, so I looked for a picture post closer to home. According to UNH’s Picture Post web page, two such posts sit on either side of the Fresh Pond reservoir in Cambridge, just 10 minutes from my home. It appeared the last time they were used was nine years ago. Last weekend I walked along the trail circling the reservoir, but found only one picture post remaining. I spoke with Fresh Pond Reservation Ranger Jean Rogers who told me one of the posts was removed when the Reservation created an outdoor community classroom and plans are being made to put it back up.

freshpond2007After a bit of hunting, I found the second post. I took a set of pictures, loaded them up to the web site and was able to see some big differences from the pictures taken nearly a decade ago. The once small, scrawny trees now grow outside of the frame. On the web site (and to the right) you can compare the pictures and even watch the scene animated as it scrolls through the photographic history from that post.

Picture posts not only provide information to Bonnyvale’s students or the Rangers at Fresh Pond, but also give freshpond2016valuable data to scientists. Researchers working with Digital Earth Watch network use the photographs to document the plants, clouds, and seasons—and how they are changing in response to a warming climate. It such a simple way for anyone with a camera to contribute to scientific research. Ten years from now we will be able to see the changes in places we care about, whether it’s the top of Heifer Hill, a spot on my walk around Fresh Pond or from a picture post in your neighborhood. http://picturepost.unh.edu

 

Jeri Weiss is a drinking water specialist at EPA and helped organize the Citizens Science Workshop.

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.

Behind the Scenes: Hilton Checks on Data

EPA’s New England Beacon, our blog, addresses issues related to environmental protection and appreciation in New England. We talk about programs in the EPA New England office and places we love across New England. Occasionally, we will introduce you to some of the people who work in our office. These columns will share the jobs and joys of EPA employees. You will hear what we do at work to protect public health and the environment in New England, but you’ll also learn a little bit about who we are as people. I look forward to getting to know many of my colleagues at the same time I introduce them to you.

By Amy Miller

Believe it or not, not all of the work at EPA is as sexy as sludge and superfund sites. Some of the work may not make national news, or even get into small town newspapers. But the less visible jobs are often just as essential to our mission of protecting the environment and the public health.

For instance, there are the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 requirements. Decidedly unsexy. But it is the job of Maureen Hilton in the Office of Environmental Measurement and Evaluation – a fancy way to say the EPA laboratory in Chelmsford – to make sure EPA New England is meeting these standards.Hiltonpic

Before I tell you what the heck that all means, let me just say that Hilton, a quality assurance officer, was recently named regional employee of the month for the great job she did preparing for a three-day audit of the lab’s efforts to meet these ISO standards. Maureen worked diligently with managers and staff to correct problems found in earlier audits, to ensure standard operating procedures were updated, and to organize all required documentation. As a result, auditors found only four minor problems, which have already been corrected. And this was Maureen’s first year on the job.

So what in the world are ISO standards in general and ISO/IEC 17025:2005 requirements in particular?

The International Standards Organization, an independent group, develops worldwide standards that are meant to be applied in a consistent manner for all sorts of scientific work – classifying materials, manufacturing and supplying products, testing and analysis, the use of terminology and the provision of services.

The standards are meant to make manufacturing and supplying products and services more efficient, safer and cleaner; help with trade; provide government with a consistent technical base for health, safety and environmental laws; and assess how well organizations conform to the standards.

In other words, the ISO standards make it so we are all competing and being graded on the same playing field.

These standards are not laws, but are voluntarily followed by government and private organizations so they will be credible around the world. For one example, 175 experts from 45 countries and organizations formulated the 14064 International Green House Gas accounting and verification standard. These experts wanted a clear, consistent directive in reporting greenhouse-gas emissions.

Now, on to the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 requirements. These standards set the requirements for testing and calibrations in laboratories. Labs will use ISO/IEC 17025:2005 in developing their quality systems and customers can be assured that a lab that is accredited by a third party auditor is competent.

As Hilton explains it, when you are certified as complying with ISO standards, you gain a measure of respect and credibility. After only a year in her current job as Quality Assurance Officer Hilton was thrilled to have the audit go so well.

An environmental engineer by training, Hilton worked as an analyst in microbiology most of her 21 years at EPA. She started as an intern while in college at WPI in Worcester and has been in the lab since then. Mostly she did lab and field work testing water for bacteria, as in fecal matter. A year ago she switched to her job as quality assurance officer in charge of quality control regarding microbiology, chemistry and field work.

Her current job keeps her pouring mainly over numbers and papers. Although she misses her time in the lab and in the field, Hilton is glad to be expanding her knowledge to include chemistry and field methods.

In any event, she gets lots of time outside with her husband and three young children – hitting the White Mountains, the beaches of Maine or even the trails near her backyard in Townsend, Mass.

https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/about-region-1s-new-england-regional-laboratory

www.iso.ch/iso/greenhouse.pdf

 

Amy Miller is in the office of public affairs at EPA New England. She is editor of EPA’s New England Beacon, the regional EPA blog.

 

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.

Spring Cleaning Can Be Even Healthier using Green Products

The welcome return of spring sunshine makes me think of one thing – grimy, winter-weary windows. And then there’s the fridge, the baseboards, the carpets, the bathroom grout, the kitchen cabinets. All these little spots we ignored all winter are now ready for a thorough scrub. No wonder nearly 75 percent of Americans like to do a good spring cleaning.

Good thing you can use the EPA Safer Choice label to help you find cleaning and other household products that are made with ingredients that are safer for people and the environment.

Healthy Choices

That’s a great assurance, considering household cleaning products are one source of indoor air pollution, which can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.

Products with safer ingredients improve indoor air quality and can lower the risk of health hazards, including respiratory conditions like asthma; allergic reactions, which can cause skin rashes, hives or headaches; and a variety of other conditions. Children and older people, in particular, are more susceptible to risks — so they’re better off in spaces cleaned with safer products and wearing clothes cleaned with a laundry detergent that uses safer solvents and surfactants.  And what about parents and those who regularly clean and do the wash, coming in close contact with cleaners and detergents? Safer is certainly better for them. Safer Choice recognizes that everyday cleaning products make a big difference to your family’s well-being.

Cleaners also affect the quality of our local streams, rivers and lakes. When Safer Choice products get rinsed down the drain and make their way into the watershed, they are less toxic to fish and other aquatic life. That’s good news for New England’s iconic waterways, whether it’s Lake Champlain, the Charles River or Long Island Sound… or the ponds, streams and wetlands found throughout New England.

IMG_0749

Here’s something that may surprise you. Unlike food producers, cleaning product manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on their containers or make them public. But to display the Safer Choice label, manufacturers must list all of their product’s ingredients either on the product or on an easy-access website.

Safer Choice is the first federal label for cleaning products and it is proving incredibly popular. More than 2,000 products have already earned the right to carry the logo. They’re available in local grocery stores and hardware stores, and include cleaners for use at home, offices, schools, hotels and sports venues.

The agency’s website (https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice) lists all the products that proudly carry the Safer Choice label. We also offer interactive tools to find the best cleaning products for your home and for businesses like schools, hotels, offices, and sports venues. And my personal favorite – cleaners for those grimy windows.

By Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator, US EPA Region 1 (New England Region)

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.

Cockroaches in the School Kitchen

By Marcia Anderson

Cockroaches can be major pests in restaurants, hospitals, warehouses, offices and buildings with food-handling areas. Cockroaches are known to carry human pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can result in human diseases, such as food poisoning or diarrhea.cockroaches on the floor

This message came from the state of Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Really, it could come from nearly any state, any country or any continent. Cockroaches are one of the most common animals on earth.

Late last summer, I visited a school in the Northeast that was overrun with cockroaches. A custodian led us to classrooms, restrooms, storage areas and, finally, the cafeteria and kitchen. Most of it was cleaned during summer break. But when we entered the cafeteria, we found the floor littered with debris – food wrappers, papers, plastic drink bottles, and food.

We flicked on the lights and the floor moved. Thousands of cockroaches were scurrying from the light. We did a dance to avoid the mass of moving bodies.

Custodians had been directed to clean the building from the top down and the kitchen and cafeteria were on the ground floor. They were told not to clean the kitchen – that was up to kitchen staff. As the end of the year approaches, this results could be instructive for this year’s summer cleaners.

The kitchen staff had only a few days at the end of the school year to clean. Countertops, stovetops and sinks appeared clean, but ovens were caked with grease, as were pipes coming from the stoves, and floors under appliances.

Amer Cockroach  Clemson Univ  USDA Coop ex  Bugwood  1233111Large indoor cockroach populations are a leading cause of allergies, asthma and other bronchial disorders. In fact, cockroaches are one of the main triggers for asthma attacks for children in inner cities..

The presence of cockroaches is an indication that food, moisture and save havens for the roaches are present. Conditions in this school kitchen allowed the cockroach population to explode.

We advised the school to reduce the cockroach infestation by incorporating Integrated Pest Management practices. EPA recommends all schools manage pests using this approach.

Cockroach control is best accomplished through prevention, exclusion, sanitation and monitoring. Not only would these measures help prevent an infestation, they would reduce cockroach-related allergens.

Because of the severity of the infestation, we recommended the school get professional advice and service.

Here are some IPM-based actions your school can take to help reduce and prevent cockroaches and other pests. These tips can also work in your home if you have a problem with unwanted insects.

Sanitation. Eliminate sources of food and moisture, as well as hiding places for pests. Every day, sweep and mop areas that could attract cockroaches. Empty trash containers frequently, and line them with plastic bags. Kitchen appliances and areas around appliances should also be kept clean.

Exclusion. Cockroaches easily move through plumbing and electrical connections. Gaps around plumbing, electrical outlets, and switch plates should be sealed. Kitchen staff should scan grocery items for evidence of cockroaches before putting items away. Remove cardboard as cockroaches love to dine on the glue that holds boxes together.

Eliminate Water Sources. The single most important factor in determining cockroach survival is the availability of water. German cockroaches live less than two weeks without water.

Eliminate Harborage. By nature, cockroaches prefer dark, warm cracks and crevices. Any small gap or hole (1/16” or larger) that leads to a void is a prime cockroach living area. These cracks and crevices should be sealed.

Following these simple steps in your school will result in fewer pest problems.

EPA offers information about cockroaches and asthma along with a Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. We also recommend exploring the EPA-sponsored Asthma Community Network website and visiting our school IPM website.

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

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.