The EPA Blog https://blog.epa.gov/blog The EPA Blog Fri, 24 Jul 2015 19:39:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 This Week in EPA Science https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/this-week-in-epa-science-30/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/this-week-in-epa-science-30/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 19:39:11 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30406 By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_250

The dog days of summer are upon us. Need a break from the heat? Check out some of our cool EPA science!

Here’s what we are highlighting this week.

  • A Small Program with a Big Mission
    EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) team recently attended the 2015 National SBIR/STTR Conference and met with environmental entrepreneurs and successful SBIR awardees who have gone from an innovative seedling to a growing green business.
    Read more about the conference in the blog Seeding Environmental Innovation.
  • Report on the Environment
    EPA’s Report on the Environment is a tool to effectively communicate information regarding the environment and human health conditions in the United States. It contains a compilation of objective, scientific indicators compiled from a variety of sources, including federal agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations.
    Read more about the report in the blog Bridging the Gap: EPA’s Report on the Environment.

Photo of the Week

Biologist Peggy Harris of EPA's dive team helps to survey coral reef conditions off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. EPA studies coral reefs because they are great indicators of water quality and the overall health of coastal watersheds.

Biologist Peggy Harris of EPA’s dive team helps to survey coral reef conditions off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. EPA studies coral reefs because they are great indicators of water quality and the overall health of coastal watersheds.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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Reunión de la CCA es una victoria para la salud pública en Norteamérica https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/reunion-de-la-cca-es-una-victoria-para-la-salud-publica-en-norteamerica/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/reunion-de-la-cca-es-una-victoria-para-la-salud-publica-en-norteamerica/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:10:55 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30402 Por Gina McCarthy
Administradora de la EPA

 

Administradora Gina McCarthy en la clausura de la sesión ordinaria del órgano rector de la CCA en Boston.

Administradora Gina McCarthy en la clausura de la sesión ordinaria del órgano rector de la CCA en Boston.

La semana pasada, tuve el placer de servir de anfitriona para la ministra del Medio Ambiente de Canadá y el subsecretario del Medio Ambiente de México en la vigésimo segunda ordinaria del Consejo de la Comisión de Cooperación Ambiental (CCA) en mi ciudad natal de Boston.

La CCA es una organización creada por los Estados Unidos, Canadá y México para abordar las preocupaciones ambientales en Norteamérica—porque la contaminación no lleva pasaporte. Como presidenta, representé al Gobierno de EE.UU. en el Consejo y tomé la delantera para discutir nuestro futuro como vecinos y aliados en la protección de la salud pública y el medio ambiente.

Los impactos del cambio climático, tales como más sequías extremas, un mayor número de inundaciones, incendios forestales y tormentas, amenazan las comunidades vulnerables en Norteamérica y más allá. Y a lo largo del camino aquellos que tienen menos son los que más sufren. Es por eso que nuestras tres naciones están comprometidas a trabajar juntas para abordar los retos climáticos. Y estamos esperando poder continuar nuestra cooperación en París a medida que trabajamos para lograr una acción internacional concreta sobre el clima.

En la sesión este año, el Consejo endosó un nuevo marco quinquenal que nos ayudará abordar juntos los retos medioambientales a los cuales nos enfrentamos. Nos enfocaremos en el cambio climático: desde la adaptación a la mitigación; desde la energía verde al crecimiento verde; de las comunidades sostenibles a los ecosistemas saludables. El plan presenta nuestras prioridades compartidas para maximizar los esfuerzos de cada uno por abordar los retos ambientales.

Mirando hacia el futuro, discutimos la posibilidad de usar la CCA como un medio para abordar los impactos climáticos sobre otros importantes retos ambientales como la cantidad y la calidad del agua, la energía renovable, la eficiencia energética y los océanos.

Administradora Gina McCarthy con Leona Aglukkaq, ministra del Medio Ambiente de Canadá, y Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, secretario del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales de México, en la 22nda sesión anual del Consejo de la Comisión de Cooperación Ambiental de Norteamérica

Administradora Gina McCarthy con Leona Aglukkaq, ministra del Medio Ambiente de Canadá, y Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, secretario del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales de México, en la 22nda sesión anual del Consejo de la Comisión de Cooperación Ambiental de Norteamérica

 

Durante nuestras conversaciones, el programa de EPA denominado “Aguas Libres de Basura” capturó la atención de los demás ministros en el Consejo. Mediante los esfuerzos comunitarios de alcance público y educación, la EPA está trabajando para reducir la cantidad de basura que llega a nuestros lagos, arroyos y océanos. Discutimos maneras en las cuales podremos ampliar y desarrollar aún más nuestros logros y expandirlos a otras ciudades en Norteamérica.

El Consejo también reafirmó el Plan Operativo de la CCA para el 2015-2016, que está enfocado en producir resultados tangibles y medibles. El plan propone 16 nuevos proyectos que reunirán a nuestros expertos en labores relacionadas a la reducción de las emisiones de transporte marítimo para proteger nuestra salud de la contaminación del aire, y el fortalecimiento de protecciones para las mariposas monarcas y otros polinizadores.

Nombramos un grupo de expertos en conocimientos ecológicos tradicionales de Canadá, México y Estados Unidos. En conjunto con las ciencias, los conocimientos tradicionales nos ayudan a entender nuestro medio ambiente, ayudándonos así a mejor protegerlo. Los peritos trabajarán con el Comité Consultivo Público Conjunto (CCPC) de la CCA para asesorar al Consejo sobre maneras para aplicar los conocimientos ecológicos tradicionales a las operaciones y recomendaciones de políticas de la CCA.

También anunciamos el tercer ciclo de subvenciones de la Alianza de América del Norte para la Acción Comunitaria (NAPECA, por sus siglas en inglés), un programa que apoya los proyectos prácticos en comunidades de bajos ingresos, marginadas e indígenas a través de América del Norte. Esta programa apoya las actividades comunitarias relacionadas al clima y fomenta la transición hacia una economía baja en carbono.

Al finalizar la reunión, México asumió la presidencia para el siguiente año. Es un honor trabajar con nuestros vecinos para abordar los retos ambientales directamente y asegurarnos de que Norteamérica lidere la acción climática global. Cuando lo hacemos, protegemos la salud de nuestros ciudadanos, nuestra economía y nuestra manera de vida. Infórmese aquí.

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Talking Clean Water With My Kids … on Vacation (Yeah, They Loved It) https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/talking-clean-water-with-my-kids-on-vacation-yeah-they-loved-it/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/talking-clean-water-with-my-kids-on-vacation-yeah-they-loved-it/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:37:13 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30387 By Jeffery Robichaud

A couple of years ago, I wrote that we took a staycation and probably would not be able to get away with that again. I was right. We visited my folks in North Carolina this year, but at least we got a place within walking distance from the beach. So even though we flew, I was able to cut down on all the car rides from the usual condo where we stay, reducing our carbon footprint. Since the weather was perfect the entire time, we also took no extra trips down to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to kill a day.

While I was gone those few weeks, there were quite a few blog articles about the Clean Water Rule, both in our region and across the nation. Honestly, I felt bad leaving work with so much going on, but I couldn’t get away from water even if I wanted to.


We spent a week at the beach, where my kids romped in the surf, collected shells, and dug holes in the sand. Sunset Beach, N.C., is located partly on Bird Island. Its pristine shoreline, dunes, and marshland provide important habitat and nesting for species that are threatened and endangered, including two types of turtles (Loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley).

It was easy to explain to my kiddos why protecting the backwaters and marshes of the island was so important. I think I lost them to the allure of the ocean, when I started saying that one of the things we’re working on back at EPA is a rule that more clearly explains which waters were protected by the Clean Water Act. (Some kids don’t like to hear their dad talk about work at the beach.)

When our beach time ended, we headed back up the coastline to Wilmington, N.C. The city is near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, which circuitously winds its way west, then north, then west again and finally past my folk’s house south of Raleigh.

I tried to break up the long drive by pointing out how each of the different rivers and creeks we crossed connected to each other and the ocean (Burgaw Creek to the Northeast Cape Fear River to the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean). Basically, I made a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game out of the system of tributaries. I’m pretty sure I only amused myself, since both boys’ heads never seemed to rise from their devices.

We rounded out our trip by heading up into the mountains just as the temperature was climbing into the triple digits. My dad took great pleasure in showing the boys that we were coming up upon the Eastern Continental Divide, quizzing them on what that meant. When they gave him the right answer, he looked a little sad that he wasn’t able to impart that bit of wisdom on them. I realized I was more like my father than I thought.


We had a great time in the Appalachians wading through some streams, skipping rocks, and enjoying the cooler weather. This was on the spur of the moment, so we weren’t able to take advantage of the rafting excursions that dotted the valleys between the peaks. However, it was pretty clear that these thriving businesses relied on the cool, clean and clear water that sprang from the mountains. I tried to point this out, but by that time, my boys were rolling their eyes and saying, “We get it, Dad. Protecting water is important!”

So even though I left for vacation as EPA announced the Clean Water Rule, I actually spent my entire summer vacation talking about it anyway – if only to an 11- and 13-year-old. From my home in the Heartland to the mountains and beyond to the ocean, clean water is a blessing we have here in the United States. It is something I am proud to be working to protect, and something that we need to be sure to safeguard for our children – if only so I can ask my grandkids someday, “Hey guys, do you know what the Eastern Continental Divide is?”

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second-generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. His summer trips to the beach as a youth were at the decidedly colder Long Sands Beach in York, Maine.

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County Health Rankings: A Breath of Fresh Air https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/county-health-rankings-a-breath-of-fresh-air/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/county-health-rankings-a-breath-of-fresh-air/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:23:38 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30384 By Donald F. Schwarz

http___www.epa3

Air pollution has long moved on from being a concern reserved for proactive environmentalists. Today, it has become a more visible personal health issue for millions of families and a major and growing public health concern for communities who live in close proximity to pollution sources.

The quality of air that we breathe determines, in part, how long and how well we live. Unfortunately, for residents of predominantly low-income and/or minority counties across the country, the impact of polluted air leads to the biggest concerns. Because many mobile and stationary sources of air pollution tend to be concentrated around the residential areas of low-income and minority communities, certain geographies have a greater threat of damaged health.

That’s why the County Health Rankings, an online tool which uses a variety of indicators to rank public health for almost every county in the nation, includes air pollution as an indicator to measure the health conditions of a county. It recognizes that an important aspect of the health of a community includes factors beyond the control of an individual person. The tool highlights regions by their health quality to help focus local government action.

CountyHealthRankings example

(courtesy County Health Rankings)

Air pollution is not a health concern that exists in a bubble — it has impacts on human health in several realms. For example, we know the links between polluted air and asthma. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about nine people die from asthma in the U.S. every day. The toll on lives is acute, as is the effect on how well people in impacted regions live. Air pollution also causes decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis, and other adverse pulmonary effects. The impact does not end with individual homes and families but over time affects our communities and our economy. In fact, asthma costs us about $56 billion in medical costs, lost workdays, and early deaths each year. These are not expenses that people who are already struggling to make a living are able to comfortably “take on,” nor should they have to.

There are also correlations between air pollution and the quality of life for children, many of whom are low-income or minority, who live, learn, and play in close proximity to pollution sources. There is a strong correlation between birth defect rates and proximity to air pollution, likely because pregnant mothers are a more susceptible population to environmental hazards. For older children, education is a concern based on the fact that more than 10.5 million school days each year are lost among 5- to 17-year-olds due to asthma complications.

Our hopes are that by using the county ranking tool, state and local governments can find ways which to share ideas to improve public health from place to place. For example, a recent study from our home state of New Jersey found that programs like the E-Z Pass open-road tolling (which result in fewer cars idling around toll plazas) have been connected to lower premature birth rate among moms who live nearby. By indicating within states those counties with similar pollution control problems, there is an opportunity for increased collaboration between governments and decision-makers. We hope that knowledge like this can contribute to improved public health for all.

We can hope for brighter futures for marginalized communities by taking direct action in the right areas. Want to know if you are breathing clean air in your county? Check out the 2015 County Health Rankings to see where your county stands in your state for air pollution.

Learn what you can do to improve the air in your community, check out the step-by- step guidance from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps--What Works section or the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps--Action Center where you will find tools, resources, policies, and programs to help you make your community a healthy place to live, learn, work, and play.

Learn what you can do to improve the air in your community, check out the step-by- step guidance from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps–What Works section or the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps–Action Center, where you will find tools, resources, policies, and programs to help you make your community a healthy place to live, learn, work, and play.

About the Author: Donald F. Schwarz, MD, MPH, MBA is Director, Catalyzing Demand for Healthy Places and Practices at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Welcome to the Weekend! https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/welcome-to-the-weekend-2/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/welcome-to-the-weekend-2/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 20:19:45 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30378 Looking for more ways to appreciate the summer around NYC? Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA!

Friday – July 24, 2015

Land_Slide Art Gallery
Brooklyn
6 – 9 p.m.

Land __ Slide features Caroline Voagen Nelson’s and Rebecca Sherman’s dynamic representations of moving environments in a sustainable, eco-conscious era. Both artists used sustainable products and materials (including sustainable inks and wood) and no harmful chemicals during the process and production of the artworks in this exhibit.

Observing with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York
Manhattan
7 – 10 p.m.

See Jupiter, Venus and the Moon through members’ telescopes which will be set up on the plaza just north of the fountain at Lincoln Center.

Billopp Shores: The Ebb and Flow of Man and Nature
Staten Island
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

This retrospective exhibition offers a glimpse of man and nature’s impact on the development of the waterfront in Conference House Park.

Saturday – July 25, 2015

Being Green at Home
Hillsborough Township, NJ
9 a.m. – Noon

Have you ever wondered what you could be doing at home to be more sustainable? Join Duke Farms staff member, Clifford Berek, and discuss three main areas where small changes make a big impact. During this program, we will discuss the four “R”s, your options when it comes to power and your impact on your local water resources.

Yoga on the Green with New York Sports Club
Queens
9:30 10:30 a.m.

Summer’s here so join us for some yoga on the Center Green in Glendale. Classes are free. If the weather is questionable or rainy the class will be moved inside NYSC. You don’t need to be a member of NYSC to participate.

Coffee & Tea | Bed-Stuy Community Forum
Brooklyn
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

This environmental, arts, and educational initiative calls on citizens to co-produce creative and open ways to share skills and showcase recent cultural and environmental initiatives happening locally in order to amplify the diverse voices and encourage future civic engagement.

NYC Poetry Festival
Governors Island
Saturday – Sunday
11 a.m.

The Poetry Society of New York will once again invite New Yorkers to come together for this two day festival to celebrate NYC’s vibrant poetry community. The event will include over 60 poetry organizations and 250 poets on its three stages; a Vendor’s Village where local booksellers, artists and craft makers will sell their wares; a beer garden sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery; healthy and delicious food options; poetic installation art throughout, the Ring of Daisies open mic; and last but not least, the Children’s Poetry Festival, complete with writing games and its own fourth, all-kids stage.

Sunday – July 26, 2015

6th Annual Butterfly Day
Lyndhurst, NJ
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The highly-anticipated butterfly festival is back!  Join us for a fun-filled day of butterfly walks and FREE kids activities. Kids activities include a scavenger hunt, face painting, a butterfly costume contest (12 and under), and butterfly crafts. Onsite experts to help identify the various butterflies and provide gardening tips.

Family Art Project: Butterfly Habitat Hats
Bronx 
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

See them and sketch them, flying and sipping the nectar of their favorite shrub or flowering bush. Then learn about local butterfly species and make a butterfly habitat hat.

Wave Hill Garden Highlights Walk
Bronx
2 – 3 p.m.

Join us for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights.

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CEC Meeting a Win for Public Health in North America https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/public-health-north-america/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/public-health-north-america/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 17:21:14 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30371 Administrator Gina McCarthy closes the 2015 CEC Council Session in Boston.

Administrator Gina McCarthy closes the 2015 CEC Council Session in Boston.

Last week, I was thrilled to host the Canadian Environment Minister and Mexican Environment Deputy Secretary at the 22nd Regular Session of the Council for the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) in my hometown of Boston.

The CEC is an organization created by the United States, Canada and Mexico to address environmental concerns in North America—because pollution doesn’t carry a passport. As Chair, I represented the U.S. Government on the Council and took the lead in discussing our future as neighbors and allies in protecting public health and the environment.

Impacts from climate change like more extreme droughts, floods, fires, and storms threaten vulnerable communities in North America and beyond. And along the way, those who have the least suffer the most. That’s why our three nations are committed to working together to tackle climate challenges. I’m looking forward to continuing our cooperation this fall in Paris as we work to bring about concrete international action on climate.

At this year’s session, the Council endorsed a new 5-year blueprint to help us tackle environmental challenges our nations face together. We’ll focus on climate change: from adaptation to mitigation; from green energy to green growth; from sustainable communities to healthy ecosystems. The plan presents our shared priorities to make the most of each other’s efforts to address environmental challenges.

Looking toward the future, we discussed the possibility of using the CEC as a way to address climate impacts on other important environmental challenges like water quantity and quality, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and oceans.

During our conversations, EPA’s Trash Free Waters program caught the interest of the other ministers on the Council. Through community outreach and education, EPA is working to reduce the amount of litter that goes into our lakes, streams and oceans. We discussed ways we could build on its success and expand it to other cities in North America.

Administrator Gina McCarthy with Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's Minister for the Environment, and Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, Mexico's Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, at the 22nd Annual Council Session of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

Administrator Gina McCarthy with Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister for the Environment, and Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, Mexico’s Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, at the 22nd Annual Council Session of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

The Council also reaffirmed the CEC’s Operational Plan for 2015–2016, which is focused on producing tangible outcomes and measurable results. The plan proposes 16 new projects that bring together our experts on work like reducing maritime shipping emissions to protect our health from air pollution, and strengthening protections for monarch butterflies and pollinators.

We named a new roster of experts on traditional ecological knowledge from Canada, Mexico and the United States. Alongside science, traditional knowledge helps us understand our environment, helping us better protect it. The experts will work with the CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) to advise the Council on ways to apply traditional ecological knowledge to the CEC’s operations and policy recommendations.

We also announced the third cycle of the North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action grants, a program that supports hands-on projects for low-income, underserved and indigenous communities across North America. The program supports communities’ climate-related activities and encourages the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We ended the meeting with Mexico assuming chairmanship for the upcoming year. It’s an honor to work with our neighbors to address environmental challenges head-on, and to make sure North America leads on global climate action. When we do, we protect our citizens’ health, our economy, and our way of life. Learn more here.

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Technology Innovation for a Sustainable Water Future https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/sustainable-water-future/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/sustainable-water-future/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 14:44:06 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30360 Alan Johnston from the City of Gresham Wastewater Services Division gives a tour of the energy positive Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oregon. In the background is the receiving station for fats, oils, and grease from local food establishments that increase biogas production for conversion to electricity Photo credit: Jim Swenson, New Media Magic LLC

Alan Johnston from the City of Gresham Wastewater Services Division gives a tour of the energy positive Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oregon. In the background is the receiving station for fats, oils, and grease from local food establishments that increase biogas production for conversion to electricity
Photo credit: Jim Swenson, New Media Magic LLC

By  Jeff Lape

This week, I visited the City of Gresham, Oregon’s wastewater treatment plant. This year the plant became the second facility in the country this year and the first in the Pacific Northwest to generate more energy than it needs to treat its water. Gresham has joined the growing number of facilities across the country and the world to value all of the inputs to the plant not as waste, but as a resource, and to capitalize on those resources, in the form of clean water, renewable energy, and nutrients that can be used to grow our food.

It’s vital that we continue to support innovative efforts like Gresham’s. The challenges that increasingly face our water resources will require new ways of doing things, holistic ways of managing water, and valuing water in all forms for the resources contained within in order to maintain a clean source of water for this generation and the ones to come.

Alan Johnston shows me the treatment plant is generating 112% of their total energy demand at that moment. Photo credit: Jim Swenson, New Media Magic LLC

Alan Johnston shows me the treatment plant is generating 112% of their total energy demand at that moment.
Photo credit: Jim Swenson, New Media Magic LLC

In April 2014, Administrator Gina McCarthy issued Promoting Technology Innovation for Clean and Safe Water: Water Technology Innovation Blueprint – Version 2, to demonstrate the extent of risks to water sustainability, the market opportunities for innovation, examples of innovation pioneers and actions to promote technology innovation. These actions included ways that we will be a positive contributor to the effort along with utilities, industry, investors, academics, technology developers and entrepreneurs.

This week, we released “Promoting Innovation for a Sustainable Future – A Progress Report.” This document highlights even more examples of innovative pioneers and their efforts towards water sustainability over the past 12 months. You can find the Progress Report on our website, where we continue to showcase utilities and cities across the country who are getting creative in the ways they manage water.

If you have examples from your community, we’d love to hear from you! We’ll be at WEFTEC 2015 this year collecting stories from communities across the country on ways folks are working towards water sustainability. Come see us in September to tell us yours.

About the Author: Jeff Lape serves as Deputy Director of the Office of Science and Technology, Office of Water (EPA) where he helps lead water quality criteria development, water quality standards implementation and development of technology based standards. Jeff also leads efforts to promote technology innovation for clean and safe water. 

Previously with EPA, Jeff served as Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He has supported water resource protection efforts with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and three private sector firms. Jeff has a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science (SUNY Plattsburgh) and Master’s in Environmental Science and Engineering (Virginia Tech). Jeff grew up in the Adirondacks of New York, on Lake George and Lake Champlain, where he gained an early and keen appreciation for the natural environment.

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Experience history and nature on rail-trails https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/experience-history-and-nature-on-rail-trails/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/experience-history-and-nature-on-rail-trails/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 13:04:30 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30344 by Virginia Thompson

A view from the Heritage Rail Trail County Park.

A view from the Heritage Rail Trail County Park.

My husband is a huge fan of biking on rail-trails created by the conversion of unused railroad rights-of-way.  Within the past year alone, he has ridden on many trails in the Philadelphia suburbs, as well as throughout the Mid-Atlantic states.  On a recent trip, we rode on two rail-trails in southcentral Pennsylvania.

The Heritage Rail Trail County Park in York County, recently ranked by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy as the top rail-trail in the U.S. for American history, carried President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg for his famous address and also carried his funeral party to Springfield, Illinois, following his assassination.  The trail follows the South Branch of Codorus Creek, connecting the City of York and many small communities with beautifully restored train stations that now serve other purposes.  The trail, next to an active rail line, also continues across the Mason-Dixon line and connects with the Northern Central Rail Trail in Maryland.

The Safe Harbor Dam as seen from the Enola Low-Grade Trail

The Safe Harbor Dam as seen from the Enola Low-Grade Trail

Another trail we biked recently was in Lancaster County—the Enola Low-Grade Trail—which parallels the Susquehanna River as it approaches the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.  One of the interesting facets of the trail is the juxtaposition of older and new forms of electric power.  On the cliffs above the trail are several large windmills, taking advantage of the height and open space to generate electricity.  Just below the windmills sits the Safe Harbor dam, reliably providing hydroelectric power since December 1931.  The fish congregating at the dam attract bald eagles, which can be seen flying above the dam. There’s nothing quite like experiencing history and nature by biking or hiking a rail-trail. At one stop on the trail, as I looked up at the windmills and down to the river and generating station, I felt small and insignificant in one respect, but also an important part of the natural balance.

Turning formerly used rail lines into biking and hiking trails is a great way to bring people closer to waterways in their regions. EPA’s Brownfields program has had a hand in converting unused rail lines, which often snake along picturesque rivers (our nation’s original highways), into prime recreational areas. The Harrison Township Mine Site in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania was assessed through a Brownfields grant, and is now part of the Rachel Carson trail, attracting area visitors as well as hiking and running events. Allegheny County is even acquiring additional land so that the Harrison Hills Park Mine Site will ultimately connect three trails – the Rachel Carson Trail, the Butler-Freeport Trail, and the Baker Trail.

Leave a comment below to let us know about rail-trails in your area.

 

About the author: Virginia Thompson works at EPA Region 3 and accompanies her husband on his rail-trail adventures as often as possible.

 

 

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Seeding Environmental Innovation https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/seeding-environmental-innovation/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/seeding-environmental-innovation/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 14:14:44 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30356 By April Richards

EPA's Small Business Innovation Research team at the conference.

EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research team at the conference.

I love my job, but every so often it’s a good idea to get one’s professional batteries re-charged. Recently our EPA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) team had the chance to do just that when we attended the 2015 National SBIR/STTR Conference. We spent three days getting our annual dose of inspiration by meeting environmental entrepreneurs, the managers of the other 10 federal SBIR programs, and many successful SBIR awardees who have gone from an innovative seedling to a growing green business.

The conference kicked off with a celebration of successes—the announcement of the annual Tibbetts Awards. Small Business Administration (SBA) officials, SBIR program managers and awardees gathered in one of the stunning 19th century rooms of the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Surrounded by marble walls, 800-pound bronze sconces and elaborately tiled floors, we recognized the companies, individuals and organizations who received one of the 32 “Tibbies” awarded this year. PCI Corporation, a past EPA SBIR company, was among this year’s winners.

While it was gratifying to see one of EPA’s SBIR companies recognized, I was inspired personally by the special recognition of Roland Tibbets, the “Father of SBIR.” The SBIR program was an innovation in 1976 when Tibbetts piloted the program to champion small business’ access to federal funding for research and development. SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet honored Tibbett’s memory saying, “His work revolutionized the innovation landscape in this country and further improved its economic vitality.”

After the awards, conference participants attended workshops and panel discussions on nuts and bolts, future directions, and SBIR success stories. During the conference keynote address, the SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet highlighted one of those success stories. She briefly told the story of one EPA SBIR awardee, Ecovative Design, that is using mushrooms to create sustainable building materials and said, “That’s what SBIR is all about!”

I wanted to stand up and cheer, “That IS what EPA’s SBIR Program is all about – seeding innovation AND making a difference for the environment.” But I just smiled like a proud parent, remembering how every day EPA helps small businesses translate their innovative ideas into commercial products that address environmental problems.

Later in the day, we got down to the business of talking to small business owners. Over two days we spoke to over a hundred entrepreneurs about their ideas for environmental technologies and how the process for SBIR funding works.

The most asked question – “Is my idea a good fit for EPA’s program?” EPA’s next solicitation opens this summer and includes a broad range of topics. My hope is that our presentations and one-on-one communications will help the next group of small businesses navigate their way to success.

I like to say that EPA’s SBIR is a small program with a big mission. Now that we’re back in the office, re-inspired and re-charged, we’re more ready than ever to get back to the awesome work of seeding innovation to protect the environment.

 

About the Author: April Richards joined EPA in 2001 and is Program Manager for the Agency’s SBIR Program.  She appreciates the practicality and commercial edge that small businesses bring to environmental protection.

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This Summer Prevent Pests by Reducing Moisture Outside of Your Home https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/this-summer-prevent-pests-by-reducing-moisture-outside-of-your-home/ https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/07/this-summer-prevent-pests-by-reducing-moisture-outside-of-your-home/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 19:55:36 +0000 http://blog.epa.gov/blog/?p=30329 By Marcia Anderson

Clogged gutters provide the standing water that mosquitoes need for egg laying and larval growth

Clogged gutters provide the standing water that mosquitoes need for egg laying and larval growth

Like most suburban dwellers, I spent the past few weekends trimming vegetation, mowing the lawn and making sure gutters and other areas around the house were clean of debris and standing water. I soon realized that the mosquito, black fly, and other insect populations were blooming along with the flowers. But where were all of these pests coming from?

Bugs and rodents go wherever there is water. If you have a water leak in or under your house, and the wood stays wet, it will attract pests such as: wood lice, carpenter ants, and termites. Pests that eat wood are particularly interested in moist wood because it is easier for them to chew. They also rely on the moisture in the wood as a source of water. Termites and carpenter ants are known for burrowing through wood and forming nests inside the wood structures. Once holes are made because pests have found wet, weakened spots, rodents may enter the home through those gaps. Have your home’s crawlspaces checked for pests when plumbing problems are detected.

Insects and other small pests need to draw life-sustaining moisture from their surroundings, so they avoid dry places and are attracted to moist areas. If the soil around your house is dry, it’ll be less attractive to insects, spiders, centipedes and other pests.

Buckets provide great habitats for mosquito breeding

Buckets provide great habitats for mosquito breeding

Downspouts and gutters are the first places to look for breeding pests. Termites thrive in the moisture often found around your home’s downspouts. Direct water away from your home by turning the downspouts away from the house and use downspout extensions (splash blocks) to disperse rainwater and prevent soil erosion around the foundation. Also watch for leaks and clogs in your gutters that may eventually lead to water damage. Make sure all other drains, including the air conditioner drain lines, flow away from the home and that the pipes extend at least two feet from the foundation.

I found a few standing water sources on my property.

  • The drainage holes on the bottom of a planter were clogged with leaves and collecting rain water.
  • My grandson’s plastic pail and other play equipment had been forgotten outside and had filled with rainwater and mosquito larvae.
  • One of my sprinkler system’s underground lines was leaking, creating a puddle in the yard.
  • Water was collecting in a cavity in one of our trees.

Everyone should take steps to eliminate places where water collects outdoors, such as: tires, garbage cans, tree holes, buckets, wash tubs, even table umbrella stands, etc. This will not only eliminate mosquito breeding habitats, but also water sources for cockroaches and termites. Empty out any water you find to eliminate this problem.

I also had to remove some mulch that was piled too close to the house and trimmed the plants that were growing too close to the siding.  Mulch traps moisture and should be raked away from windowsills, siding and any other wood. Keep a two-foot pest-free strip around the building by trimming branches, and making sure mulch doesn’t touch the foundation.

Tree cavities provide an unexpected breeding spot for mosquitoes

Tree cavities provide an unexpected breeding spot for mosquitoes

Plants growing against the house will also keep siding damp so trim back bushes and trees. Make sure that the soil is sloped away from the house at least six inches every 10 feet. This will reduce soil dampness near your foundation and keep your basement drier.

Lastly, monitor irrigation systems. Ensure sprinklers are adjusted to spray away from the foundation walls and the house.

Be PestWise! Regular maintenance and sanitation are key components of a smart, sensible and sustainable pest management program. Recognizing the value of pest prevention is an important first step. Preventing the accumulation of moisture outside of your home protects you from pests, saves water, and helps the environment. Visit EPA’s website for more information on controlling pests in and around your home.

About the Author: About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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