Area of Concern

Balm Before the Storm

By Tom Damm
Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

When it comes to efforts to keep sewage, polluted stormwater and trash from reaching District of Columbia waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay, the past few weeks in the nation’s capital have been quite eventful.

EPA was on stage for two major announcements in the District that will have a big impact in cleaning up the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and Rock Creek, and improving the health of the downstream Bay.

The first event marked the signing of an EPA Clean Water Act permit that includes green infrastructure features designed to make the city more absorbent to rainwater – or “spongier” in the words of District Department of the Environment Director Christophe Tulou.

The second event signaled the start of DC Water’s massive series of underground tunnels that when complete will capture nearly all of the sewage overflows from the sewer system during heavy rains.  The project was prompted by a federal consent decree.

Both initiatives will not only promote clean water, they’ll also create jobs and improve the quality of life in the District.

With efforts like these, we’re looking forward to the day when one of the biggest concerns posed by a storm in D.C. is whether the Nationals game is played or not.

Stay tuned.

Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

Click here to view the DC Water project press release

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Firsthand View

By Trey Cody

Wastewater Treatment 101 

As an intern in EPA Region III’s Water Protection Division, my day typically involved working in the office on projects related to the region’s Healthy Waters Initiative.      

But near the end of my internship this summer, I was able to get a firsthand look at what is being done to treat water in the Philadelphia area. I participated in a tour of the Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant, managed by the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), viewing the processes that allow the plant to clean around 194 million gallons of wastewater per day.

There are the preliminary treatment processes, which remove the large debris like trash and rocks from the wastewater coming into the plant.  Then there is the removal of smaller particles like dirt and grit in a settling tank. And then, biological processes take over, as various kinds of bacteria and microorganisms go to work to consume the organic matter in the wastewater.  Finally, the water is disinfected (usually with chlorine or UV light) before it is discharged to a neighboring stream. The solids that were taken out of the water during the process are referred to as biosolids, which are usually disposed of in landfills, but can be land-applied as fertilizer.  Who knew all this happened to the water once it went down the drain in my house!  I was surprised by how large the plant was; there are so many processes to keep moving and monitor along the way.  And it wasn’t even that smelly most of the time!

The Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant was built in the early 1950’s, then expanded and renovated from 1975 to 1983 to ensure PWD met the requirements of the Clean Water Act.  This treatment plant is one of three of the PWD’s facilities that treat wastewater before it is discharged back into rivers and streams. 

Do you know where your water goes after you use it, and what happens to it along the way before it goes back into our rivers and streams?  Have you ever visited a wastewater treatment plant?  You can take a virtual tour of one of the largest plants by clicking here. http://www.dcwasa.com/about/model_flash.cfm

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Watts up? Bring ‘em down

To learn more, click here to register for a  June 16, 2011 webinar that starts 2:00pm http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=business.bus_internet_presentations.  Click on “View live web conference schedule…”   In the search tool, type “wastewater.”

EPA is offering your town a way to save money on energy costs.

Energy use at wastewater treatment plants (WWTP’s) and drinking water treatment plants (DWTP’s) contribute significantly to municipalities’ total electric bill.  These critical utilities operate large motors that run pumps and blowers used for treating and conveying water and wastewater 24/7.  These facilities offer opportunities for cost-effective operational changes and investments in energy-efficient technologies.

The first step to energy and cost savings is to benchmark current energy usage.  A free and easy way is for towns to use EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager.  This online tool allows managers of WWTP’s and DWTP’s to track energy usage, energy costs and associated carbon emissions and to compare energy usage with comparable plants.

The tool is also helpful in identifying efficiency opportunities within a facility. 

Towns will have an opportunity to learn more during a June 16 webinar.

Encourage your town to participate.  It’s free and it could lead to big savings.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Do some RECON with BEACON!

Click here to visit the EPA Beach Advisory and Closing website!The days are longer, the weather is warmer and Memorial Day is right around the corner. Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff for beach season for millions of Americans. Whether you are going to your family’s traditional beach or making a first time visit to a more exotic locale, it is important to understand and learn about the beach you are visiting.

The EPA has a program called BEACH. The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Program focuses on improving public health and environmental protection for beach goers and providing the public with information about the quality of their beach water.

You can visit the BEACH program by clicking here.

The EPA also has a tool called BEACON (Beach Advisory and Closing On-Line Notification). Users can use BEACON to find beaches and learn more information about the beach. You can find beach closing notices, water quality data and even a map showing where the beach is. There are also state contacts listed with names of people that have more information. Click on the state below to begin researching the beach you frequent to cool off!

Delaware

Maryland

Virginia

Pennsylvania

How can you protect the beach while you are feeling the soft sand between your toes? Here are some eco-friendly reminders and ways to stay healthy at the beach!

  • Use walkovers instead of walking across the sensitive dunes; this will help reduce erosion.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle the things you take to the beach – don’t leave them there
  • Throw away your trash and pet waste — use public trash containers at the beach or take it home with you.
  • Use public restrooms.
  • Pick up trash.
  • Cut the rings off plastic six-pack holders so that animals (like fish, turtles or seals) can’t get tangled in them — leave no solid plastic loops.
  • Join local beach, river or stream clean ups.
  • Dispose of boat sewage in onshore sanitary facilities instead of dumping it into the water.
  • Don’t disturb wildlife and plants – you’re visiting their home.
  • While you are at the beach, wash or sanitize your hands before eating.

What beaches do you enjoy visiting? What concerns you most about the beaches you visit? Share your thoughts and ideas below on our comments page!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Hook, Line and Sinker!

Click here to visit the EPA Fish Advisory Main Page!

The hooks and lines have been in the water for a couple weeks now and spring fishing is in full swing. The Mid-Atlantic Region has some of the greatest fishing in America and if you haven’t been out to try your luck with a rod and reel, then you are missing out. Fishing is an excellent way to relax, experience nature and even catch yourself a meal!

Each state has a great website on fishing. You can visit them below to learn more about the species of fish, get fishing reports, learn about different fishing seasons and how to obtain a fishing license.

Pennsylvania has over 86,000 miles of streams and rivers! Visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for more information on where to catch the whopper near you!

Did you know you can fish for over 40 species of freshwater and saltwater fish as well as 5 different shellfish in Maryland? Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources web site for even more useful information!

In 1975 there were over 11,000 resident Delaware state fishing licenses sold. In, 2008 the number grew to over 45,000. Fishing is alive and well in the “First State.” Visit the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife for more information.

Just last year the new state record Yellow Perch was caught in West Virginia. This proves that monster fish are still roaming West Virginia water bodies. Visit West Virginia DNR Wildlife Resources for more information.

More than 800,000 fishermen make Virginia a destination for fishing every year. That generates over $1.3 billion in revenue for the state! Visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for more information.

DC hosts free fishing days. Visit the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation for more information. Also visit the District Department of the Environment for more fishing information.

Keeping your catch and cooking it is a favorite for many fishermen. Many of the species you can catch in the Mid-Atlantic Region are tasty to eat and, because they are packed with low-calorie protein, they are very healthy for you as well.

One aspect you need to be aware of when eating wild or locally caught fish is the chance of contaminants being present in the fish. Pollutants like mercury or PCBs can build up in the fish’s tissue. These pollutants lie in the sediment of a water body and are passed to fish up through the food chain. At certain levels these contaminants can be harmful to humans who consume the fish.

So what do you need to know about eating locally caught or wild fish? The first thing is that many water bodies have already-in-place Fish Consumption Advisories. These are guides that notify people of how much of a certain species of fish they can safely eat, normally over a month’s or a year’s time. You can visit the EPA Fish Advisory main page to learn more.

Each state publishes its own information on Fish Advisories. Visit the states you are interested in below to learn more!

Pennsylvania Fish Consumption Guide

Maryland Fish Consumption Guide

Delaware Fish Consumption Guide

West Virginia Fish Consumption Guide

Virginia Fish Consumption Guide

DC Fish Consumption Guide

Have any favorite recipes for fish? Know of any great fishing holes? Share your thoughts on our comments page!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Fix a Leak Week March 14-20, 2011

Click here to visit the EPA WaterSense website!

Fix a Leak Week March 14-20, 2011

March 14-20, 2011 is the 3rd annual Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program’s “Fix a Leak Week,” a time to remind Americans to check their household plumbing for leaks.  This is a chance to be Green and save some Green!

Beat the leak!  Check.  Twist.  Replace. 

That’s all it takes to start saving water around the house. Check your home for leaks.  If your water meter changes at all during a two hour period when no water is being used, you probably have a leak.  Twist and tighten your fixture connections.  Tighten fixtures with a wrench or apply pipe tape to ensure that fixture connections are sealed tight. If you can’t stop the drip, it may be time to replace your fixture.  Look for WaterSense-labeled products at a home improvement store near you. 

Did you know???

A showerhead leaking at 10 drips per minute wastes more than 500 gallons per year.  That’s enough water to wash 60 loads of dishes in your dishwasher!  Leaks can account for, on average, 10,000 gallons of water wasted in the home every year.  That’s enough to fill a backyard swimming pool!  The average household spends as much as $500 per year on its water and sewer bill. 

Be sure to look for WaterSense labeled new homes that are designed to reduce residential water use both indoors and out. WaterSense homes allow you and your family to enjoy all the comforts of home while using less water and energy and spending less money on utility bills! 

What Can YOU do???

By making just a few small changes to your daily routine, you can save water, save money, and conserve water supplies for future generations.  Be sure to look for the WaterSense symbol on toilets, showerheads and faucets.  The symbol will soon be on water softeners, pre-rinse valves, and landscape irrigation controllers.

The WaterSense symbol identifies products that not only save water and the environment without sacrificing performance.  You can not only save water, but save Money too!  Look for WaterSense-labeled products at a home improvement store near you. 

We’re For Water!

Join us and thousands of your friends and neighbors in taking simple actions to save water.  Take the “I’m for Water” pledge, and make a resolution this year to save this precious resource.   Take the pledge at:  www.epa.gov/watersense/pledge.  For more information on Fix a Leak Week and the WaterSense program, go to www.epa.gov/watersense.  You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter!  Make 2011 about water and take the pledge today!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the Delaware River Basin Forum

Learn more about the Delaware River Basin ForumWhen you go to your faucet and get yourself a glass of water do you know where your water comes from? It most likely comes from a local water body. It is important for citizens to understand where they get their water so they can take an active role in protecting it. For residents within the Delaware River Basin, there is an excellent and interactive way to learn more about the source of your water.

The Source Water Collaborative is sponsoring a Delaware River Basin Forum on March 10, 2011. The Forum will be a one-day, basin-wide event on issues affecting water resource sustainability for the more than 15 million people who rely on surface and ground water from the basin. The format of the event will reflect a theme of regional-local connection. At the central session in Philadelphia panelists will set the stage by framing current and forecasted influences on water resources basin-wide, such as water demand, land use changes and climate change. They will interact with satellite forums in Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania where stakeholders gather to discuss local issues and needs. Click here to view the locations. Anyone can attend the forum at any location. It’s free and everyone is encouraged to be active participants. Click here to register to participate in a certain location.

Moreover, to promote the concept of “meeting green”, the events at all 8 locations will also be webcast live. If you can’t attend a local meeting, consider tuning in on March 10th via the links that will be posted on the Forum website (www.delawarebasindrinkingwater.org).

Source water protection means protection of drinking water supplies. Drinking water can come from ground or surface water, and a collaborative effort is needed to ensure that our sources of drinking water remain clean for future generations. Taking positive steps to prevent pollutants from ever reaching these sources can be more efficient and less costly than treating drinking water later. States within the Delaware River Basin each have unique authorities and approaches to source water protection. Visit the Source Water Collaborative to learn more about protecting drinking water. You can search for allies of drinking water in your area here.

We hope that you can go to one of the 8 locations to participate in the forum on March 10th. If you can’t, make sure to check out the forum online and be sure to visit www.delawarebasindrinkingwater.org  to get updates. If you are attending the forum, share what site you will be attending and what topics you would like to see discussed on a comment below! Hope to see you there!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Do you have the “RTK”?

Click here to visit the RTK site

By Trey Cody

Yes, you may be up to date with most new chat and instant message shorthand or acronyms used today, like “LOL” (laugh out loud), “BRB” (be right back), and “GTG” (got to go).  But no matter how much of an expert you may think you are, I’ll bet that you haven’t heard of the newest acronym on the block, “RTK!” What “RTK” stands for is, the “right to know.”  Have you ever walked or driven by an industrial factory or plant and wondered if what you see or don’t see being emitted and disposed is threatening to your community?  Do you feel as if you have the “RTK?”  The answer is yes, you do have the right, and with EPA’s newest mobile app “MyRTK,” you now have it right in your hands.

This mobile app can be found on the EPA mobile page under apps.  What “MyRTK” does is allow you to search a specific location for potentially toxic facilities surrounding it.  Say you are in an area near the Chesapeake Bay; with this app you can type in “Chesapeake Bay” or “Chesapeake Bay, MD.”  Once selected, a map will appear with all facilities in the vicinity represented by a pin.  When you select a facility, you’ll be provided with information on the chemicals they handle, what is in their releases, the potential health effects of those chemicals, and a history of the facility’s compliance with releasing the chemicals.

Want the right to know?  There’s an app for that!  So download it now.  Also click here to check out other mobile apps offered by EPA mobile.  Think this app is a good idea, or maybe you have an idea for another app to help people know more about potential water pollutants around them, then let us know.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Isle’s Well that Ends Well

Presque Isle Bay Area of ConcernAn AOR is good. An AOC, not so much.

Presque Isle Bay, on the southern shore of Lake Erie, was once declared by Pennsylvania to be an AOC – an Area of Concern, indicating contamination.

But through major improvements to the local wastewater treatment system, a change in Bay-front use from industrial to commercial and recreational uses, and some good hard work by local environmental groups, Presque Isle Bay is now an AOR – an Area of Recovery. (click on picture for more info)

But the Bay is still not AOK.

There are lingering concerns about contaminated sediment and fish tumors. We’re following the work of researchers to monitor these issues, and we’ll report back to you.

If you’re interested in learning more about this initiative, contact us.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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