Lawyer, Scientist, Mom- The Lenses I Use To Protect The Environment

I have worked as an International Environmental Program Specialist in EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs since 2003. For the last 8 years, I have been the project manager for international environmental cooperation with Andean countries, particularly those with which the United States has free trade agreements (Colombia, Chile and Peru). It has been very rewarding to oversee and coordinate capacity building and information exchange efforts with our international counterparts, helping them raise their environmental standards and, therefore, protecting our shared environment. When I see the enthusiasm and dedication that my counterparts show for improving their capacity, promoting environmental and human health, and improving their enforcement and compliance of environmental laws, I feel like my job makes a difference.

It all started with a dream to become a lawyer. As a high school senior, I wasn’t sure about my college major until I sat with my mother and went through a catalog of degrees available at the University of Puerto Rico. I was extremely lucky to have involved parents, particularly a mother who knew how important it was to find something meaningful. The more I read about all the disciplines involved, the more I was convinced that environmental science would perfectly blend my interests and skills. Somehow, even back then, I knew I wanted to work for the EPA after I finished my education.

In a funny twist of events, my first job after law school was at EPA, not as a lawyer, but as an environmental scientist. While I realized that environmental policy fits better with my personality, I have discovered that I still tend to see the issues I deal with at work through a legal lens.

Through the years, my passion for my job has grown and, as a mother to a boy and a girl, I find my job is even more important. Now I find inspiration when I think of the world I want them to inhabit, of the values I want them to hold dear and the environment I want them to be able to enjoy. When I take my 4-year-old daughter hiking, I want her to breathe fresh air and think of how she can help, even as a little girl, to protect our environment. She already knows about recycling! And when my son asks for scientific books, I beam with pride because he understands our interconnectedness to everything around us.

My job here has perfectly blended my science and legal education with my endless curiosity and respect for the environment. I look forward to continue reaching new people as I undertake new projects, and setting an example for my children to take care of and appreciate the amazing environment we live in.

About the author: Nadtya Hong has worked in EPA’s Office of International Affairs since 2003. She has a BS in Environmental Science from the University of Puerto Rico and a J.D. in Law from the George Washington University Law School.

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.

Supporting Economic Recovery in Former Automotive Communities

By: Greg Rudloff

The Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response trust (RACER) was created by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to clean up and position for redevelopment former General Motors (GM) properties. EPA and state environmental programs work with RACER to review, approve and undertake response actions to address contamination at each property. Here are a few of our success stories.

Drawing of buildings, a road, and a parking lot

Artist’s concept of the M1 Concourse facility

One redevelopment project is the RACER Pontiac Validation site located in Pontiac, MI. This 87-acre site is a former GM automotive manufacturing and assembly facility. We issued a Prospective Purchaser Agreement (PPA) in 2013 to assist with sale and redevelopment of the property.

 

Photo of a gray building lined with garage doors

Banks of automotive condos under construction

In 2015, ground was broken for the construction of an auto enthusiast’s development which includes a performance track, more than 250 private garages, restaurants, and an auto-focused shopping village and office space. Over 135 units have been sold and we expect more than 100 workers to be employed at the facility. The facility opened in August, 2016.

Black and white photo of several planes under construction

WW II Bomber Plant

 

A redevelopment project involving the preservation of history is the RACER Willow Run facility located in Ypsilanti, MI. This facility was a former bomber manufacturing plant that was constructed in 1941. After WWII, operations at the plant switched to the production of automobiles and operations continued until 2010. The facility was demolished in 2014-2015 except for the southeast corner. In 2014, we issued a comfort letter to facilitate the purchase of a 3.4-acre parcel containing the undemolished portion of the plant. On December 5, 2014, we issued a PPA to further facilitate the purchase of the parcel. On October 30, 2014, the Yankee Air Museum completed the purchase of the parcel. Construction is currently underway to enclose this portion of the plant for redevelopment as a historical aircraft museum.

Digital illustration of a hangar filled with different types of aircraft

Yankee Air Museum Concept

Photo of a worker in protective gear operating equipment

Interior of Fuyao plant

A redevelopment project that created a significant number of new jobs is the RACER Moraine facility located in Moraine, OH. This 465-acre former GM facility operated from the 1920s to 2008. Many of the buildings have since been demolished. In 2014, we facilitate Fuyao Glass America, Inc.’s purchase of 95 acres of the facility for construction of an automotive glass plant. In July, 2015, Fuyao unveiled the first automotive windshield produced at the former GM Moraine plant. Fuyao has hired 1,400 new employees to date, and plans to hire an additional 500 employees.

Greg Rudloff has worked at EPA’s Region 5 office since 1991. He has spent his EPA career in the Land and Chemicals Division supporting the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Program as both a Permit Writer and a Corrective Action Project Manager.  In recent years, he has also served as the RACER Coordinator for the corrective action program.

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

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

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

50,000 Kilowatt Hours of Solar Power

By Steve Donohue

On a recent sunny Sunday (appropriately enough) the meter for the solar photovoltaic (PV) system on our home showed we had produced 50,000 kWh of clean renewable electricity!

This is a major milestone to me but what does it really mean? The EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator helps translate abstract measurements like these into concrete terms. In our case the carbon dioxide emissions we avoided with our solar panels were equal to the amount captured and stored, or sequestered, by over 33 acres of forest in a year.

That’s a big benefit for the planet and, closer to home, enough “juice” to supply over 85% of our annual electricity needs. We installed the PV system back in July 2010 and I originally wrote about it in 2012 https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2012/07/energy-independence-day/. The table below shows the results of our conservation and efficiency improvements and solar production since we first moved into our house.

Our average annual electricity bill for the last five is about $250 and in 2015 we got it down to $182. Since installation we have also had zero maintenance or operating expenses and with no moving parts I expect our system to last a long time.

That’s good since we still have about another 3 years or so until we re-coup the cost of our initial investment and the system is paid off by our savings.

Sustainability often means taking the long view and in our case it was like paying 10 years of electricity bills upfront so we could get our power from the sun and essentially never pay another bill.

Even more good news is that our system today would be about half of what we paid. This is the penalty we paid for being “early adopters” but I am happy to see my neighbors have started to join the bandwagon. In the last year I am seeing panels sprouting on roof tops all over my neighborhood. One family uses their panels to charge their electric car!

And what I’m seeing locally is a microcosm of what is happening in the world. I read that in 2015 for the first time there was more installed renewable power generating capacity, like solar and wind, than any single fossil fuel powered generating capacity. I’m hopeful that we’ve finally reached a tipping point and there is a bright future ahead for renewable power.

About the author: Steve Donohue has been a senior environmental scientist at EPA for over 25 years. Currently, he works in the Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia where he is focused on improving the sustainability and climate change and improving the efficiency of EPA facilities.

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

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

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

Environmental Justice Comes to Salt Creek

By Michael Wenstrom

Several years ago I traveled to Pueblo, Colorado in response to a request from a local resident. I was asked to sit in on a meeting to hear a discussion about the presence of a legally-permitted auto dismantling yard and aluminum smelter in a residential neighborhood. The neighborhood was Salt Creek.

Salt Creek Neighborhood, Pueblo, Colorado

Salt Creek Neighborhood, Pueblo, Colorado

The Salt Creek neighborhood contains about one hundred homes and is predominantly Latino. Most of the residents are third generation Americans of Mexican descent. Someone in the community reached out to the Region 8 Environmental Justice Program to ask for help, not knowing just what “environmental justice” was, but knowing something needed to change.

Among Salt Creek residents, there was little understanding of what government did and how and why they made the decisions they made. In this case, residents knew that things were happening in and around their community that were wrong and they wanted to know what to do to protect themselves.

Salt Creek is flanked by a steel mill which emitted more than forty percent of Colorado’s airborne mercury, and by a major coal-fired power plant and, additionally, was home to the smelter noted above.
As I sat in that meeting, in the basement of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, listening to the community share their concerns, little did I know that this would be the beginning of a fifteen year-long odyssey. This meeting was the first of many.

Over time I learned that Salt Creek residents are strong and proud people. They persisted, even in the face of adversary.

The EJ Program began to work to help the community find its voice. We co-sponsored community meetings and invited local businesses, representatives from the city and county and from law enforcement. We talked (in English and Spanish) about what the community cared most about. In most cases, the invited guests listened and learned. In some cases, they tried to deflect the concerns and occasionally, they attempted to bully or confuse the residents. But, Salt Creek would not be deterred.

Among other things, EPA brought a Collaborative Problem Solving grant to the community, engaged with our RCRA Program to address nearby contamination, facilitated meetings with the steel mill and under an enforcement action,  $400,000 in community-based Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) benefitted the neighborhood.

Together, over the years, we saw the steel mill dramatically reduce its mercury emissions, and the local power utility implement ground-breaking emissions controls. Oh, and, yes, the aluminum smelter was moved to a more appropriate location.

In that time, I became friends with some remarkable people, who began to raise their voices and make their community safer, cleaner and healthier. And, on a personal level, I was both proud and humbled by the fact that, together, we were able to make a real difference in the lives of community residents. Through collaboration, persistence and caring, I and my EPA colleagues were able to help a community transform itself.

The attached video is one example of how one Salt Creek resident helped to effect this transformation. Nadine Triste used her common sense, her network of neighbors and, support from the EPA to make a difference. Because of Nadine, and others like her, Salt Creek is forever changed.

 

About the author: Michael Wenstrom has been working in the Region 8 Environmental Justice Program for almost twenty years. In that time, he has focused on working in communities facing an amazing variety of environmental insults and challenges. Most recently, he has been assisting Region 5 in its ongoing work to assist the residents of Flint, Michigan to address their immediate concerns relating to the water crisis and other threats to their environment and their health.

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.

Free is free. But Hungry is hungry

By Mike Frankel

I was in line at the supermarket and two women in front of me were talking about their lack of freezer space.  Like many supermarkets, if you spend X dollars by a certain date before Thanksgiving and before Xmas you get a free a turkey, ham or lasagna.

One of the women demanded, “Why can’t they just give us cash? I still have the free turkey from Thanksgiving, and we go to my daughters now for the holidays. So what am I going to do with another 13-lb. bird?”

“Well, you could take the ham,” her buddy suggested.  “But I understand. And at our age who needs the salt. Besides, my freezer is just as jammed.  But free is free!!”

There isn’t a lot of privacy in the checkout line. And as I looked ahead, I saw the banner across the inside store window: “A Proud Partner – Philabundance,” my area’s largest hunger-relief
organization serving nearly 90,000 meals a week. “Ladies, excuse me. What about donating those free freezer fillers to Philabundance?”

I explained that while their kitchens were well-stocked, one-in-six people in Philadelphia and one-in-seven across the country don’t know where their next meal is coming from and are “food insecure.”  At the same time, the average American family wastes nearly 400 lbs. of food a year.  And as a country we waste a staggering 38+ million tons of food each year. And when you throw food into a landfill it rots quickly and produces toxic gases that are
bad for the environment and contribute to climate change.

By this point, the cashier had stopped ringing and was joining the conversation. “Yes — the store gives a lot of food each week to Philabundance, and some other local food cupboards. If you’d like,  I can ask the manager to send your free birds along with this week’s shipment.”

They looked a little skeptical. I chimed back in. “You could also ask your clergy if they know of families or charities in need of food this holiday season and every day.” This seemed like a good idea and my new acquaintances asked how I knew so much about hunger and food donation.

“Well, I work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and part of my job is to help spread the word about food donation and food recovery – not usually in checkout lines – but if it works…In fact I have met the owners of this store through my job and they – like thousands of other stores, colleges, stadiums and people – are doing their part to protect the environment, save money and stamp out hunger. Now you can help too.”

About the author: Mike Frankel just celebrated his 20-year anniversary at EPA. He works as a Communications Coordinator in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office and works on a variety of programs including the Food Recovery Challenge (www.epa.gov/frc).

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.

Finding Value(s) in our Stories and Waters

By Emily Simonson

I’ve never had so many people wanting to talk to me in my life than I did while working the USA booth at the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador. Drawn in by the flag towards the outside of our booth space, people browsed the EPA materials on the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, the Agency’s efforts on climate change, and guidebooks on protecting drinking water sources, materials from USAID and the State Department. A steady stream of people – the general public and conference go-ers perusing the displays at the conference exhibition – were keeping me busy.

“I love New York. I used to study there.”
“In Mexico, water is an important women’s issue, but we need to find ways to engage men.”
“I want to learn how rural and urban governments can work together to manage water here in Ecuador.”
“What can you do for the river in my city?”

 While the topics ranged from polite conversation to details on projects and technical information, a few themes struck me. Boiling it all down, each conversation was about values: opportunity, equity, participation and democracy, striving to do better.

Coming from my ORISE fellowship with the Urban Waters Program at EPA, I was in Quito to learn, volunteer at the USA booth, and support a program partner, the Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust (CLT) from San Juan, who had just won the 2016 World Habitat Award. I got even more out of the experience than I’d hoped.

As part of the group that scheduled the programming for the USA areas, I’d arranged for members of the CLT to present their work in the exhibition space. The CLT’s story of community members organizing to grant land tenure to those living along the Martín Peña channel while working with partners to reclaim the channel from decades of pollution really reflected the values people had expressed all day. Several of those in the audience stuck around to talk with members of the CLT, because their story resonated with challenges they were facing in their own communities.

The CLT’s story and mission reminds me that water is central to both urban livability and sustainability. When people envision a better community they often talk about access to water for recreation, drinking, health and sanitation, and business. The ways people access and interact with water (especially in our cities) can reveal so much about the progress we’re making towards building cities that reflect the values we can all agree upon.

I really appreciated that our booth and the rest of the exhibition spaces were open to the public. The candid conversations happening there revealed just as much, and possibly more, as the high level conference sessions about what it’s going to take to realize the equitable, sustainable, and democratic cities of tomorrow that our communities deserve.

Moments like the ones I experienced do not just put into perspective that the issues we work on at EPA transcend the country’s boundaries. The knowledge and models we contribute at events like Habitat III are shared in a language that also crosses borders and is spoken by people of many citizenships– it’s the language of our values, our daily patterns of living, and our aspirations and actions for our communities.

The Habitat III Conference focuses on the future of our planet’s cities and how to implement the New Urban Agenda, a document on urban sustainability created by contributions from governments and civil society organizations from around the world. EPA lent expertise to this document on several topics, including lead, water, and food waste issues.

About the author: Emily Simonson is an ORISE Participant with the Urban Waters Program in EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. Emily enjoys travel, hiking (urban and scenic), running, and reading.

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

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

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

From Contaminated to Revitalized: The Story of The Yards

By Barbara Smith


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

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

Image provided by EnviroMapper by EPA

Image provided by EnviroMapper by EPA

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


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

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

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

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

Image provided by Kea Taylor/Imagine Photography

Image provided by Kea Taylor/Imagine Photography

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

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

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

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

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

From My Lake to All Lakes: EPA’s National Lake Assessment

By Sarah Lehmann

As I do every year, this summer I spent my vacation on my favorite lake – Rainy Lake.  Rainy is a 228,000-acre lake harboring more than 2,200 islands; it straddles the U.S./Canada border between Minnesota and Ontario.  For me, it’s a place for family and friends to get together and fish, swim, watch wildlife, pick wild blueberries and generally relax without the buzz of cell phones, email, or internet.

This year we had an especially large gathering of family and friends.  We all enjoyed fishing for walleye, northern pike and small mouth bass — and then eating our fresh catch within hours; jumping off “High Rock” into the lake below; seeing bald eagles fly overhead; and hearing the haunting sounds of loons call in the evening.

Unfortunately, according to EPA’s recently published National Lakes Assessment, four out of ten lakes in the U.S. suffer from nutrient pollution.  Excess levels of the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen from sources such as fertilizer, stormwater runoff, wastewater and even airborne industrial discharges can cause drops in dissolved oxygen and harmful algal blooms. These conditions pose a threat to fish and wildlife, as well as human health. The assessment also finds an association between excess nutrient levels and degraded communities of biological organisms such as the small aquatic insects that are an important part of the lake food chain.

Here at EPA, we are working with our federal, state and local partners to reduce nutrient pollution through a mix of regulatory and voluntary programs.  Just a few of these actions include working with states to identify waters impacted by nutrient pollution and develop plans to restore waters by limiting nutrient inputs; supporting efforts by landowners to adopt stream and shoreline buffers that slow erosion and protect waters from nutrient overload; and providing funding for the construction and upgrading of municipal wastewater facilities.

My grandparents purchased this rustic Rainy Lake getaway for my family more than 40 years ago.  I know that our ability to enjoy this amazing gift – and to pass it down in the same condition to future generations – depends on maintaining the lake’s clean water and healthy, natural shorelines.  The National Lakes Assessment provides information we can use to protect and restore all the Rainy Lakes around the country that are so precious to us all.  To learn more, please visit the National Lakes Assessment website including our innovative interactive dashboard to delve into additional findings and learn more about your conditions in your region.

About the author:  Sarah Lehmann works in the USEPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds and is the team leader for the National Aquatic Resource Surveys (NARS).  The recently released National Lakes Assessment  is the latest in the NARS series. 

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.

Bronx River Greenway Groundbreaking

By Abu Moulta-Ali

“A Tree Grows, A River Flows”

Descending the stairs at the West Farms Sq/E. Tremont Ave stop on the 2 train, I thought I had gotten off at the wrong stop. I was told this was the closest stop to Starlight Park where a groundbreaking event was being held to celebrate a multi-million dollar project to restore the Bronx River. I asked a school crossing guard for directions to Starlight Park but she looked at me like I was crazy, so I asked her “Do you know how I can get to the Bronx River?” She said, “There’s no river around here, but behind the school there’s a stream.” While she didn’t know it, that stream was really a tributary of the Bronx River.

A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but a river flows in the Bronx. The Bronx River is New York City’s only freshwater river.  The Bronx River, once a community amenity and center for recreation, quickly became an open water sewer for industrial and residential wastes as New York City’s population exploded during the 19th and 20th centuries. But, in 1974, a band of community activists formed Bronx River Restoration and began the arduous process of cleaning up and restoring the river. Once a dumping ground for abandoned cars, the Bronx River now attracts 5,000 recreational paddlers and rowers each year and serves as an outdoor laboratory to educate local students and the public about the river, and train volunteers to monitor the river’s conditions.

On October 6, 2016, with over $40 million in planning and building, and significant coordination of federal, state, and city agencies under the Urban Water Federal Partnership, about 75 community members, advocates and elected officials came out to celebrate the groundbreaking of Phase 2 of the Bronx River Greenway. Phase 2 will provide pedestrian access from Starlight Park to Concrete Plant Park in the South Bronx. A pedestrian bridge will be built over the Amtrak Acela line (at 172nd Street and Bronx Avenue) which will provide access to nine acres of improved parkland, as well as the river itself. This will mark the completion of a one-mile bike and pedestrian link in a trail system that will run the full 23 miles of the river from Westchester County to Hunts Point.

After the groundbreaking while walking back to the train station, I ran into the same crossing guard. She asked if I found the “river” (New Yorkers like me can spot sarcasm a mile away).  When I showed her a video of the groundbreaking event I captured on my cell phone, her mouth fell open. In the video you can see kids from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School canoeing down the river collecting water samples, hundreds of bunker fish swimming, and joggers running along the newly built Bronx River National Water Trail.

She said she lived only 10 blocks from Starlight Park but had never been there. She thanked me and said she would check it out when she got off work. Now if we can spread the word to the other 400,000 South Bronx residents who live, work, and play within walking distance of the river, the Bronx River could be the 2nd biggest attraction in the Bronx. Sorry…nothing will ever top the House that Ruth Built.

Special thanks to NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver,Congressman Jose Serrano, Lisa Pelstring from the US Department of Interior who leads the Urban Water Federal Partnership, Amtrak, Bronx River Alliance, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice and the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality.

About the author: Abu Moulta-Ali is an Environmental Scientist in EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds where he works on wetland regulations. When he’s not at work he can be found mountain biking, snowboarding, and camping with his wife and two daughters.

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.