How RCRA Has Transformed America: A Photo Blog

By Liz Sundin

When I began working at EPA earlier this year, I’ll admit I knew little about the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Solid waste and hazardous waste were huge terms with very specific parameters that I had trouble wrapping my brain around. However, as my time in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery grew, I started to see how RCRA’s various programs permeate so many parts of my everyday life. We’ve ensured our country handles, disposes of and recycles waste properly. This includes making sure hazardous waste is safely handled and managed both here in America and when imported from or exported abroad. We’re also leading the collaborative effort to halve food loss and waste in the U.S. by 2030 and making sure communities have a voice in the permitting process of hazardous waste facilities.

Now I see RCRA everywhere I go. I see it when I walk by our local dry cleaner and realize that my neighborhood is safer because RCRA requires strict handling of waste chemicals. When I pass our community garden’s compost barrel and the recycling cans lined up outside every house on trash day, I think of the program’s focus on sustainably managing materials. My life is affected by RCRA every day, I just never knew it until now.

As we celebrate 40 years of RCRA this month, I want to take us on a walk down memory lane to remind everyone what our country looked like before RCRA. In the 1970s, EPA hired photographers to capture images of environmental challenges around our country; the series was called the Documerica Project. Below are some of the amazing photos from the Documerica Project which show snapshots of our country before the passage of RCRA.

America has always been a nation full of beauty and natural wonders worth protecting.

Utah – Canyonlands National Park, May 1972

Rangeley Lake in the Mountains of Western Maine, Seen from Route 4 June 1973

In the years leading up to the passage of RCRA, Americans began to realize the need for better standards for landfills and pollution to keep our environment safe and clean.

Solid Waste Is Dumped Into Trenches at This Sanitary Landfill April 1972

Litter on Gulf Coast Beach, May 1972

Landfill Operation Is Conducted by the City of New York on the Marshlands of Jamaica Bay. Pollution Hazards and Ecological Damage Have Called Out Strong Opposition May 1973

Dimensions of the Littering Problem Are Suggested by This Heap of Cold Drink Cans, Salvaged by Girl Scouts at Islamorada in the Central Florida Keys. (circa 1975)

Seagulls Scavenge at Croton Landfill Operation along the Hudson River August 1973

Dumping Garbage at the Croton Landfill Operation, August 1973

Open Garbage Dump on Highway 112, North of San Sebastian February 1973

The conditions in the images above motivated concerned citizens, forward thinkers, and business leaders to push for regulations and fight for the passage of RCRA.

Along Route 580, near San Francisco. October 1972

Dumping Prohibition Is Ignored on This Hunter’s Point Creek Adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Airport, May 1973

Cleaning Up the Roadside in Onsetm May 1973

Stacked Cars In City Junkyard Will Be Used For Scrap, August 1973

Young People Filling Bags with Litter, May 1972

Children in Fort Smith Are Learning That Protecting the Environment Will Take More Than Awareness, June 1972

On October 21, 1976, President Ford signed RCRA, ushering in a new era of stricter environmental protections in the handling, management and disposal of waste. From that day forward, we worked to protect human health and the environment.

This is the first part in a three part blog series. Be on the lookout for the next blog discussing what RCRA has achieved in the last 40 years.

For more information on RCRA, visit www.epa.gov/rcra

Follow our RCRA 40th Campaign on social media: #ProtectPreventPreserve

About the author: Liz Sundin is a Public Affairs Specialist in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery.

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

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

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

Celebrating Progress to Improve Public Health and the Environment along the U.S. – Mexico Border

By Naseera Bland

Part of EPA’s mission is to make sure all communities have the opportunity to restore polluted waters or provide reliable water services. When I joined EPA’s Office of Water as an ORISE Fellow in 2015 I knew I wanted to make providing assistance to underserved communities a key aspect of my work. Lucky for me, I was offered the opportunity to support the office’s Border Water Infrastructure Program, which works with communities along with U.S.-Mexico border.

Many communities in this border-area are known as Colonias, which are small, unincorporated, and semi-rural subdivisions used as housing settlements. Most Colonias are economically distressed and often lack basic infrastructure, including access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Residents often haul drinking water to their homes and rely on outhouses or inadequate septic systems. This lack of proper water infrastructure poses health risks and can result in the discharge of untreated sewage and pollutants such as ammonia and pathogens into nearby rivers. Since our two countries share the Rio Grande and the Tijuana rivers, it’s important that we work together to ensure the quality of shared waters and the protection of public health.

Since 2006 many Colonias homes in the border region have been connected to reliable sources of potable water and wastewater systems through the combined efforts of individuals, communities, and government agencies, including EPA. So far EPA’s Border Water Infrastructure Program has provided the funding for the planning, design, and construction of first-time drinking water access for approximately 69,365 homes and first-time wastewater treatment services 671,631 homes along the U.S.-Mexico border —significantly improving quality of life and public health and environmental protection.

One Colonia community in particular that I provided program support for is the Las Pampas Colonia of Presidio County in Southwest Texas. Community members and leaders of Presidio County worked with my team at EPA to begin construction of an $875,000 project to address some of their infrastructure needs. The completed project will provide a 300,000 gallon water storage tank, new water service lines, and a system to supply water to homes.

Victor Manuel Juarez, a Las Pampas colonia resident filling up his 500-gallon water tank at water pump station in Presidio County, TX

Victor Manuel Juarez, a Las Pampas colonia resident filling up his 500-gallon water tank at water pump station in Presidio County, TX

The continued effort and collaboration of partners in the border area will help us to improve the quality of life and environmental conditions of families and communities along the border.  I am glad my fellowship at EPA enables me to learn more about this important work.

About the author:  Naseera Bland is an ORISE fellow in EPAs Office of Wastewater Management. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland with studies in Environmental Science and Policy. Prior to her fellowship she was a contractor for EPAs Office of Research and Development.  

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

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

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

Historic Youth Delegation Attends CEC Council Session in Mexico

By Sophie Faaborg-Andersen, Justin McCartney, and Professor James Olsen. Additional work by Aaron Silberman and Sara Carioscia.

In early September, a small delegation from Georgetown University attended the 23rd Summit of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s (CEC) Council. The CEC is a trinational organization dedicated to addressing North American environmental concerns. The delegation to the CEC was organized by the Environmental Future(s) Initiative (EFI) and cosponsored by the Georgetown University Offices for the Vice President for Global Engagement and the Provost. Here are their experiences in Mexico in their own words:

Sophie Faaborg-Andersen

Attending the CEC Session was a tremendous experience that made me proud to be a member of the EFI. The Council Session addressed a number of topics, including climate change action, sustainable communities, and youth and the environment. With the Youth Engagement Project Proposal, the EFI sought to create a two-pronged approach for engaging youth in environmental action centered around their input into policymaking and the development of community youth outreach programs.

Attending the Session heightened my appreciation for the importance of integrating marginalized youth voices into policymaking processes. I was delighted to see the ministers of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico refer to their significant indigenous populations and the contributions they can make to the CEC through traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Additionally, it was an honor to be able to collaborate with our youth counterparts from Mexico and Canada and deliver a presentation to the three Council ministers during the Townhall Session at the conclusion of the conference. The proposal was graciously received, and I am excited by the prospect of our ideas being taken into account in future discussions.

Justin McCartney

My experience at the CEC Council Session was defined by both the conference itself and the prospect for further developing youth engagement going forward. I was delighted when our delegation was given the opportunity to personally meet and speak with U.S. EPA’s Administrator, Gina McCarthy. During our private conversation with her, we discussed our proposal and ideas for how youth engagement can be systematized at the national and international level. I was excited by how clearly Administrator McCarthy understood the importance of integrating youth themselves into the processes for designing youth engagement.

Additionally, I was inspired by our impromptu collaboration with counterparts from Mexico and Canada on a proposal for permanent youth engagement. Huddled around a laptop in the hotel lobby, hashing out our demands: this for me was emblematic of what our time in Mexico was truly about.

Professor James Olsen

It’s hard to overstate how gratifying the experience of leading the delegation to the CEC Council Session was for me as an educator, observing our students’ excitement, dedication, and success as they offered substantive proposals to government officials. While I can’t scale and recreate this trip for each of my students, I’m impressed by the pedagogical principles that can directly inform course design generally, substantively improving our students’ learning and growth.

I am confident that this trip, as well as the principles that governed the trip (including the student-driven nature of the delegation to the development of external partnerships involving real stakes), functioned in a transformative way for these students. I’m just as confident that on a less grand scale, our classrooms can implement similar structural features and foster the positive transformation of our students.

 

All the authors and co-authors were members of Georgetown University’s delegation to the CEC conference this October in Merida, Mexico.

 

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.

That’s Not What My School Lunches Looked Like…

By Wendy Dew

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Salida Colorado School District to learn about the Farm to School Initiative the local community has embraced.  Providing local foods for student lunches is very beneficial for schools, communities and the environment:

  • Reduced carbon footprint by reducing the distance from food source to food consumption
  • Healthier and sustainable food opportunities
  • Environmental, cultural and agricultural education hands-on learning
  • Supporting local communities and economies

My visit to Salida was amazing!  The day was filled with so many environmental and educational best practices and I was completely in awe.

The day started with a visit to the main farm that supplies the school district with healthy foods for school meals.  The farm was created collaboratively by the Salida School District, LiveWell Chaffee County and Guidestone Colorado with additional support from citizens, local businesses, and Colorado foundations. The farm was being harvested and maintained by Guidestone Colorado and the Southwest Conservation Corps volunteers when I was there.  A variety of volunteers, students and citizens help maintain the farm throughout the year.

A collage of people working and taking care of a farm.

A collage of images from daily farm life.

Many types of crops make up the farm:

After leaving the farm we visited the middle school garden and I was able to meet the Salida School District Superintendent who is very excited about the Farm to School Initiative:

The school gardens that are in place at the schools act as outdoor classrooms.  At the elementary school, students learned about how plants grow, how to take care of them and even about the cultural significance of certain plants to Native Americans.

Students visit the school garden for a lesson at the local elementary school

Students visit the school garden for a lesson at the local elementary school

I was then informed that lunch would be provided to us by the local high school to celebrate Colorado Proud School Meal Day.  I have to admit my eyes got a little wide at this announcement.  I am a bit of a foodie and my recollections of school lunches were cardboard-like pizzas and greasy deep fried burritos.  I was a little leery standing in line, but once I got up to the serving area the “lunch lady” proudly told me about all of the great farm fresh ingredients that were going into the various dishes she had created.  I was super impressed!   The meal was low waste:  by using serving trays as plates that are then washed and reused, the students learn about waste reduction.  I also noticed that just enough food was made for the amount of students and that each student got a reasonable-size portion.  This helps contribute to healthy eating and less wasted food.  I wolfed down my very healthy and super tasty lunch with colleagues, teachers and students.

Wendy Dew enjoying lunch with colleagues at the local high school

Wendy Dew enjoying lunch with colleagues at the local high school

One student was very clear about how great it is to know where your food comes from is, and how “creepy” it is to not know:

The day ended with a shopping trip at the Youth Farmers Market, hosted by the Salida Boys and Girls Club, where the other shoppers and I happily went home with bags of veggies.  I snagged two cucumbers, a bag of green beans and two bunches of kale.  My homemade kale chips for dinner that night were my best batch yet!

Buyinig vegetables at the Yout Farmers Market.

A day of shopping at the Youth Farmers Market.

I cannot express how impressed I was with this community and this program.  Guidestone Colorado has managed to generate support from literally every player in the farm to school food cycle within the rural town of Salida.

A LiveWell Garden sign showing the types of vegetables grown on the farm.

A LiveWell Garden sign showing the types of vegetables grown on the farm.

 The educational importance of kids understanding where their food comes from is, to me, one of the most important environmental learning experiences.   Helping to plant, care for and eat locally grown food, teaches children so many different aspects of environmental science.  It is a very personal, hands on educational opportunity that every child should have.  School districts across the country could learn a lot from the Salida community that is raising food-wise, healthy kids.

To learn more about local foods visit: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/local-foods-local-places

To learn more about sustainable food management visit: http://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for EPA Region 8.

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.

Mission Bangkok: 5th Asia-Pacific Mercury Monitoring Network Meeting

By Jack Guen-Murray

On July 25-29, 2016, I attended the 5th Asia-Pacific Mercury Monitoring Network’s (APMMN) meeting and workshop in Bangkok, Thailand. At a working level, my mission to Bangkok was to facilitate the APMMN meeting and provide logistical support to the workshop at the Environmental Research and Technology Center. The primary goal of my mission was to aid in the strengthening and expansion of the network.  My name is Jack Guen-Murray and I work on International Environmental Partnership (IEP) and Greater China programs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs. Outside of my work at EPA, I am a graduate student at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, where I study the nexus of environment, trade/economic development and politics in Asia. The conference was particularly interesting for me as it provided the opportunity to gain ground-level experience in international environmental development.

As it was my first mission, or my ‘maiden voyage,’ as described by my colleagues–I was excited to meet the delegates and have an active role in the construction of the network. APMMN is a network of organizations that have agreed to work together to harmonize air and rainwater mercury monitoring.  In 2014, APMMN was launched by EPA and Environmental Protection Administration of Taiwan. Currently, there are 16 nations that participate in the network.

The U.S. delegation consisted of myself (left), David Gay of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (center), and David Schmeltz (right) of the EPA Office of Air and Radiation (right), and Mark Olsen (not pictured). Both David Gay and David Schmeltz have been instrumental in the establishment and development of the network.

After the Opening Ceremony and individual presentations on the statuses of mercury monitoring in member countries, APMMN delegates were taken to Thailand’s Environment Research and Training Center (ERTC), an environmental research facility on the outskirts of Bangkok. At ERTC, we learned about different methods of wet deposition mercury monitoring and analysis. I am not a scientist by trade, however I now have a better sense of what is required to effectively monitor mercury. The presentations were delivered by the Thai and Japanese scientists in a way that lay-observers like myself could grasp.

APMMN delegates, a combination of researchers and policymakers, were given various demonstrations on how wet deposition mercury samples are collected at ERTC. The amiable cooperation of the group and the genuine interest of each delegate in positively impacting the environment in their respective countries stood out tremendously during this engagement. Observing the harmony that international environmental work can produce makes me hopeful for the success of our program and future programs.

At ERTC, an APMMN delegate observed a mobile ambient mercury monitoring and research station. The mobile monitoring station allows researchers to collect data from unlimited locations. This expanded capability enables researchers to draw a clearer picture of the sources of mercury emissions. After learning about monitoring technology and observing rain water collection training at ERTC, I now have a better understanding of what it will take to establish an effective regional network.

The 5th APMMN meeting was a success for the network. New relationships were created, knowledge was shared and the network expanded. We at EPA are eager to improve upon the existing accomplishments of the network. We sincerely thank our Thai hosts and participating nations for working to see the network to maturity. With increasing interest in joining APMMN from various countries in Asia and beyond, I am hopeful that the network will grow past what has been envisioned.

About the author:  John “Jack” Guen-Murray is currently in graduate school at George Washington University.  He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China and is a graduate of Lake Forest College in Illinois. Jack works on the Asia-Pacific team in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs.

 

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.

Septic System 101 for Homeowners

By Tara Johnson

I knew very little about septic systems until my family and I bought a home with one. At that point, I realized I needed to ‘get smart’ about septic systems and how to take care of them! Luckily, EPA’s SepticSmart program helped me learn what to do, or not do, to maintain our system and protect it. The SepticSmart Outreach Toolkit and materials can help you, too.

Buying a home isn’t like buying a car or a washing machine. A house doesn’t come with an instruction manual. When we bought our home, the home inspector told us to have the septic system pumped every few years. Other than that, we knew very little.

Fortunately for me, I work at EPA where my colleagues manage the SepticSmart program. SepticSmart is a voluntary outreach program that promotes septic system maintenance and education for homeowners. More than one-in-five households in the United States depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater. That is more than 26 million homes.

My coworkers shared information with me on how to take care of my septic system, such as The Top 10 Ways to Be a Good Septic Owner. My grandmother’s rule of not pouring cooking oils or fats down the sink is on that list because pouring these down the sink can clog the system. It also can hurt the good bacteria that help the septic system treat wastewater. The inspector’s advice to regularly pump out the tank is also on EPA’s list. We have our system inspected and pumped every few years since that costs much less than replacing the entire system if it fails.

I’ve learned that septic system maintenance is pretty easy, if you know what to do. Take a look at the tips – in English and Spanish – at EPA’s Septic System website. Septic Sam has a lot of useful information on caring for your septic system, especially now during SepticSmart Week, September 19 – 23, 2016.

By the way, I learned another useful thing that’s not on the top 10 list. If you’re mowing the lawn and run over the lid of your septic system by mistake, it’s very easy to replace. No instruction manual needed!

About the author: Tara Johnson is an Environmental Protection Specialist with EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management.

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 Tools in Environmental Data Analysis

By Jessie Johnson

There is a plethora of sources for environmental data, but it can often lead to a plethora of questions. How do you know where to go for the data? How can you visualize and interpret the data? The website I work on, Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO), has been a resource to help answer these questions since it was launched in 2002. ECHO provides users the ability to search facilities that are in non-compliance with environmental laws and helps make EPA enforcement efforts and regulated entities’ actions more transparent for the public. Comments from ECHO users allow us to continue to improve your access to environmental data.

Our newest update is the new Facility Search Results page called “map filter” that will be launched this fall after testing and review is completed. The EPA ECHO team has worked to create a more user friendly and seamless search that models the new page off of commonly-used search engines. We will be offering easy-to-use filters, access to on-page media-specific search criteria, and customized mapping layer.

So what does all of that mean? With the new results page you will be able to complete a search while looking directly at the map meaning you can see that changes happening in your search occur as you make them, allowing you to adjust your search along the way. The layers include tribal boundaries, hospitals, schools, and other demographic maps to help finish out the story of your map during your search. Our hope is that these changes will lead to a better understanding of enforcement data and more analysis of existing data.

As a geographic information system analyst, I am excited about this tool because I rely heavily on maps and visual aids, and I have found it very helpful to see my search occur on the screen in front of me. I think environmental analysis and decisions are based on many levels of information and not solely based on one facility or one set of data.  These new additions will hopefully help the information stand out more, make it easier to understand and help deliver a more efficient product to our users.

Look out for trainings—you can subscribe to our listserv for updates—that will be coming along with the new search tool in late fall to help everyone make this transition seamless and hopefully help generate as much excitement as we have here for the new ECHO map filtering tool.

Figure 2. Preview of a search result and facility summary on the new ECHO Map Filter search page

About the author: Jessie Johnson is the training and outreach coordinator for the Integrated Targeting and Access Branch in Office of Compliance. She also specializes in GIS technology and is working on mapping and analytical access for the public.

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

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

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

Get Ready! Help Your Water Utility Prepare for An Emergency

By Nushat Thomas, REHS

Can you imagine your life without water?  Probably not because you know you need water to survive. You probably also recognize the importance of making sure that the water you drink is safe, and that without sanitation services, public health in communities would decline at a rapid pace due to increased disease. However, you may not be as familiar with the utilities in your community that deliver clean drinking water to your home and treat the wastewater that goes down your drains. You also may not know that our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure is aging rapidly and at risk to many types of natural and man-made hazards.

As part of National Preparedness Month, today we are stopping to “Imagine A Day without Water.” EPA and water utilities across the country are taking the time today and throughout the month to prepare the types of emergencies that may challenge their ability to deliver safe drinking water and sanitation to their communities.

There are plenty of ways individuals like you or me can help prepare for an water-related emergency too. Here are few easy ways you can get involved:

Find your utility provider’s emergency response number. Know who to call if you are experiencing an interruption in service; keep the number handy along with the contact information of your other utilities.

Store water ahead of an emergency. If you have an emergency kit in your home, make sure that you inventory your emergency water supply. Each person in your household should have at least three gallons of water for use during an emergency—and don’t forget to change the water every few months.

Protect your local water sources. Support watershed protection projects, dispose of trash and animal waste appropriately, and never dump into storm drains. If you see someone doing something strange near any water infrastructure (like fire hydrants, water towers, or restricted access areas), contact your local authorities immediately.

EPA develops tools and resources to help your water and wastewater utilities prepare for all hazards. If you represent a water utility, check out our free resources at https://www.epa.gov/waterresilience. Whether you want to assess risks, conduct training, plan for emergencies, connect with your community, or adapt to climate change impacts, we have something for you. You will also find stories from other utilities who have taken steps to prepare for natural and man-made emergencies.

Don’t wait. Take action today!

About the author: Nushat Thomas has been with EPA since 2009 and serves as the Team Leader for the Active and Effective Team within EPA’s Water Security Division.

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.

Safer Choice Now in Spanish

By Claudia Menasche, ORISE Fellow, Safer Choice Program, US Environmental Protection Agency

I was born in Venezuela and moved to Miami, FL when I was two years old.  Growing up in the U.S. with a Spanish speaking family, being bilingual was a natural outgrowth of my environment.  As owners of a small international business that sells primarily to South American countries, my parents work and communicate in Spanish all day.  I joined EPA’s Safer Choice program last November and have had the privilege to design our new Spanish website.  This website, Safer Choice en español, can help millions of Spanish speaking people, like my father, easily find information on products with safer ingredients.

Safer Choice in español helps spread awareness of safer cleaning and other products to the largest ethnic minority in the United States and to other Spanish-speaking countries.  It is essential that all people, including Spanish-speaking communities, understand the importance of easily finding products with ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment.  By building awareness about the Safer Choice label in Spanish-speaking communities, we can help:

  • Spanish-speaking parents easily find products with ingredients that are safer for their children and families.
  • Workers learn how to protect their health and their communities using products with safer ingredients.
  • People who simply do not have the time, financial resources, or support needed to learn English gain access to information on products with safer ingredients.

Safer Choice en español is our way of helping Spanish-speaking communities find products with safer chemical ingredients.    Products must meet the Safer Choice Standard to be certified to carry the Safer Choice label. This means that every chemical, regardless of percentage, in Safer Choice-labeled products is evaluated by EPA scientists and must meet our rigorous health and environmental criteria.   If you see the label on a product, you can be sure that it’s made with ingredients that are safer for families, pets, workplaces and the environment. In addition to chemical ingredients, Safer Choice-labeled products are evaluated for performance.  This means they work.  Also, surveys have found that institutional purchasers and consumers agree that Safer Choice-labeled products can be just as affordable as other products. Here’s a link to a survey by Consumer Reports.

I want to get all Spanish-speaking communities across the country to look for the Safer Choice label. So make sure to look for the Safer Choice label on products for your home and facilities.  I know my father will.

To learn more about the label (in Spanish!), please visit Safer Choice en español at: https://espanol.epa.gov/saferchoice.

About the author: Claudia Menasche is an Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) participant serving in EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.  She has a background in Environmental Science and plans to focus her future studies and career on the intersection of science and policymaking.

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.

Let’s Talk About Wildfire Smoke and Health

By: Alison Davis

With more than 20 wildfires currently burning in the western U.S., this is a good time to learn more about wildfire smoke and health – and what you can do to protect yourself.

People with heart or lung disease, older adults, pregnant women and children are at greater risk from wildfire smoke – but even healthy people can be affected. Join our live Twitter chat at 1:30 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 22, to learn more about steps you can take to reduce your smoke exposure. Follow @EPAair and the #WildfireSmoke hashtag to join the conversation.

EPA research cardiologist Dr. Wayne Cascio and health effects scientist Susan Stone will be joined by experts from the U.S. Forest Service and the Centers for Disease Control to discuss:

  • What we know about wildfire smoke and health
  • How to find out if wildfire smoke is affecting air quality where you live
  • What steps you can take, before and during a fire, to protect your health

Post questions now in the comment section below, or tweet them when you join us for the chat on Aug. 22. We’ll answer as many question as we can during the chat.

About the author: Alison Davis is a Senior Advisor for Public Affairs in EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning & Standards.

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.