Baltimore

Addressing Crucial Water Issues in Our Communities

This year, we here at EPA celebrate the 20th anniversary of President Clinton signing Executive Order 12898, which directed federal agencies to address environmental disparities in minority and low-income communities. We’ve certainly accomplished a lot since the order was signed, but sadly, too many people still breathe dirty air, live near toxic waste dumps, or lack reliable access to clean water. But we continue to make progress in all of those areas, and here in EPA’s Office of Water, I’m proud of how we’re helping communities across America—both rural and urban—address their most crucial water issues.

Last fall, I was in Laredo, Texas and visited a community near the U.S.-Mexico border called the colonias, which until recently did not have regular access to clean water. Thanks to funding from EPA’s U.S.-Mexico Border Infrastructure Program, 3,700 people in the colonias now have access to a modern sewer system. We also have a program that provides funding for the planning, design and construction of wastewater infrastructure for American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. Providing access to clean water to people who have never had it before is one of the most important things we have the power and resources to do.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Help Us Find the Best Students for Our 2013 Summer Program

By Nancy Grundahl

Do you know a student currently in 7th grade who lives in the Washington, DC, Baltimore or Philadelphia metropolitan area and wants to learn more about the environment? Is that student among the best and the brightest?  Then please encourage them to apply for our Student Environmental Development Program (SEDP). Applications for this summer’s sessions must be postmarked by April 23.

Students who are accepted will spend six weeks learning about the environment from a science teacher, EPA employees and local environmental professionals. Classroom learning will be supplemented by hands-on learning activities and field trips.

Students will learn about environmental issues common to urban communities including contaminated fish consumption, children’s asthma, sun safety, lead, polluted drinking water and hazardous household waste. In addition, they will learn life skills such as public speaking, working with group dynamics and computer literacy. More than 1,000 students have completed our program so far and they have given us rave reviews!

How to apply? Students must be nominated by their middle school. Two letters of recommendation are required. Students are chosen based on their grades, attendance record, extracurricular activities and behavior. Is it competitive? It sure is – only 20 students will be chosen to participate this year for each location. The cost to the students? Zero!

To learn more, go to our website and start spreading the word. Help us find and develop future environmental scientists and engineers.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy is currently the Web Content Coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

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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Algae: A Slimy Solution to Improving Baltimore Harbor’s Water Quality

By Nancy Grundahl

Algae are in the spotlight and – this time – for all the right reasons.  That slimy greenish stuff you sometimes see in lakes and at the beach is now being used in a pilot project to see if it can help clean up the water in the Baltimore Harbor.  Algae blooms are normally in the news as the result of excess nutrients that rob water of oxygen.  But this controlled growth of algae is part of an initiative that aims to make the Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020.

How does it work?  Algae that are naturally in the harbor flows over a mesh screen. There it attaches and grows, removing nutrients and carbon from the water in the process.  Every week, the algae are harvested and then can be used as a fertilizer or converted into fuel.

This innovative pilot is part of Baltimore’s Healthy Harbor Plan to make the harbor cleaner and greener.  And, if it works, plans are to expand the algal pad to at least an acre, filtering millions of gallons of water each day.  If you want to see what a smaller scale version of an algal turf scrubber looks like, view this lively video:

[youtube width=”640″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5w4R0sNPsc[/youtube]

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of June focused on Fishable Waters.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

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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Revitalizing WETropolitan Areas

By Christina Catanese
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Have you ever wondered why development on edges of rivers so often seems to cut people off from the water, rather than giving them access to it?  In Philadelphia, when I walk across the Walnut Street bridge over the Schuylkill River, I sometimes wonder why rivers, the lifelines of our cities, are often under-utilized as a community resource.

Recently, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and leaders of other federal agencies were in Baltimore to launch the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, an exciting new federal partnership to help surrounding communities reap the environmental, economic and social benefits that living near a water body can provide.

Revitalizing urban waters stimulates local economies by helping businesses, promoting tourism, raising property values, and creating jobs.  Access to safe and attractive urban water resources can also improve the quality of life for people living in urban areas, especially in underserved communities.  The value that urban water resources can provide is enormous, particularly in difficult economic times.

EPA’s role in the partnership will focus on using science and the law to protect and preserve water quality and provide assistance in assessing and addressing the legacy of contamination. Learn more about how EPA is participating in the Urban Waters Partnership.

To begin its efforts, the partnership identified seven pilot locations. Two of these are in the Mid Atlantic Region – the Anacostia Watershed and the Patapsco Watershed – and each has strong restoration efforts underway.

The Anacostia River Watershed is one of the most urbanized watersheds in the country. It’s also home to 43 species of fish, over 200 species of birds, and more than 800,000 people.  Current initiatives in the watershed include planting trees, restoring urban streams, and education and jobs for DC youth.  EPA has been partnering with DC and Maryland to reduce trash in the river with the Anacostia River Trash TMDL (as you’ve heard about in our previous blogs).

If you live or work in an urban area, how do you see urban waterways being utilized…or not?  What’s your vision for how urban waters can play a role in our lives, environment, and economy?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

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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Talkin’ Trash

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel being constructedOne Mid-Atlantic community has a “trashy” idea. Salisbury, a small city located in eastern Maryland, recently installed netting devices designed to prevent debris from flowing into the Wicomico River. The Wicomico flows through the city and has had an issue with excessive trash. When rainfall occurs, trash and other debris is flushed into the city storm drains, which carries storm water and trash to streams, rivers, lakes and other water bodies. To resolve this problem, the trash nets fit over the end of the pipes, catching garbage before it flows into the river. They are tended by city crews and emptied periodically. The nets even have an overflow release function, which allows the nets to break away from the pipe if it starts to obstruct water flow. The net still remains tethered to the pipe so it doesn’t float away while water flow is restored. Salisbury was very pleased with the netting devices, and is planning to install more in the near future. Read more about this great way to limit trash flowing into the Wicomico River!

Other cities are getting even more innovative with their trash collection prevention.  The city of Baltimore installed a Water Wheel Powered Trash Inceptor which lifts the trash out of the water and deposits it into a dumpster. After heavy rains, the city noticed huge amounts of garbage floating into the inner harbor area which is a popular tourist destination. As was the case in Salisbury, the trash got there through storm drains causing an unsightly scene. The wheel is propelled by the current of the water body.  In the case of the Inner Harbor, the current was not strong enough to drive the wheel all the time, so solar and wind energy were employed to make the Water Wheel an even greener solution. The dumpster the trash is deposited into is enclosed in a shed which keeps trash out of view. Instead of having a long boom stretch across an area where trash gets stacked up, trash is filtered into the wheel where it is continuously lifted out of the water and into the dumpster.  Crews periodically empty the dumpster. The Water Wheel has been known to collect up to 7 tons of trash after one storm!

Trash in rivers and water bodies is becoming a bigger issue among communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region. EPA worked with communities in the Anacostia River watershed to establish the first interstate trash pollution diet. The diet consists of limiting the amount of trash that can flow into the river. Click here to learn more about the trash pollution diet for the Anacostia River. Do any water bodies near you have an issue with trash buildup? What are some ways you can prevent garbage from getting into the water? Share your thoughts and ideas below!

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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