Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Success Stories: Richmond, California

EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program is aimed at improving the environmental health of communities nationwide while improving the livelihood of the residents who live in those communities. Over the years, successful EWDJT programs have been implemented throughout the country, impacting the lives of many. In his own words, here is how the EPA Brownfields EWDJT program allowed Jonathan Brito to change his career:

Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Success Stories: Richmond, California

Before I started on my journey at the RichmondBUILD Academy, I was a father to a beautiful 3-year-old daughter, and I had just been laid off of my 6-year career as an auto body technician. I ran into many career dead ends and depression set in. I then found myself in the middle of a heavy drug addiction.  I lost everything and found myself on the streets living a very hard life. I knew that I had to make things better and heard about a local job training program through the media. This job training program helped local residents, such as myself, start a career in the environmental remediation and construction industry with good living wages.

Jonathan Brito in his Tyvek suit during EPA funded HAZWOPER 40-hour training.

I was very fortunate to become a student at the RichmondBUILD Academy. I must admit it was not easy to get in the Academy and even harder to endure the twelve weeks of intensive training. They pushed me physically and mentally. They helped me regain my self-esteem and confidence. Through the RichmondBUILD program, I learned the skills and knowledge necessary to enter the environmental industry and earned valuable certifications, such as my Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) 40-hour certification, OSHA 10-hour, work zone safety, and first aid/CPR. The Academy also taught me to follow my passion: Solar!

Since my graduation, I’ve worked on the Freethy Industrial Park, a new, two-megawatt, ground-mounted solar project in Richmond and I’m currently employed with Ally Electric doing residential solar installation. I’ve also interviewed with firms that will install solar panels at a new 49-acre, 10.5 MW ground mount solar farm on a former brownfield site in Richmond, California. Most importantly, I have the love of my daughter and family again!

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the City of Richmond, EPA, and the RichmondBUILD Academy. I don’t know where I’d be today without them. I’m forever thankful for the opportunities that have been presented to me. As I look to the future, I would like to become a local contractor and hire people that have been in the same predicament as me. And I will definitely hire them from RichmondBUILD!

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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. 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.

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Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Success Stories: Tacoma, Washington

EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program is aimed at improving the environmental health of communities nationwide while improving the livelihood of the residents who live in those communities. Over the years, successful EWDJT programs have been implemented throughout the country, impacting the lives of many. In his own words, here is how the EPA Brownfields EWDJT program allowed Ricardo Loza to change his career:

Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Success Stories: Tacoma, Washington

I spent over 20 years of my professional life in the transportation business, working in operations, pricing and management before losing my job during the recession in 2008. In January 2013, after being unemployed for nearly five years, I found myself in Tacoma, WA applying for food stamps for the first time in my life. Like most people, I’ve had good and bad times; this for me was the very lowest point in my life. As I walked out of the Washington Department of Social and Health Services office, I spotted a flyer for the City of Tacoma’s environmental job training program.

I went back to where I was staying and asked the person I was renting a room from to please bear with me while I took a six-week course. Thankfully, they agreed to put off my rent for two months.
On orientation day, I saw all those text books and wondered what I had gotten myself into.

What seemed like an insurmountable task turned into a step by step progression in learning the skill for each certification, thanks to my wonderful instructors, Chris Goodman and Bill Routely, who kept us focused. At age 50, I was the oldest person in my class and I felt I was at a disadvantage. A feeling that was only exacerbated when I went to look for work.

As part of the graduation ceremony, there was a sign-up sheet for TCB Industrial to attend a group interview. I got a call back from my would-be predecessor asking me to attend. With TCB being a temporary labor contractor, my thought was I could gather some money and move forward looking for permanent employment. As our group was leaving, I mentioned to her that when she reviews my resume she will see I have several years of administrative and office experience. I told her I could apply my recent training in the hazardous materials business along with my existing years of experience with the full Microsoft suite to work as temporary office help for TCB.

Unbeknownst to me, she had just submitted her two weeks’ notice to TCB Industrial the day prior. I found out later that she submitted my name and resume to the owner of TCB as her possible replacement. I was called back in for a second interview. It went well. Combining my previous experience and recent environmental training made me the perfect candidate, which has led me to where I am today: The Pacific Northwest Director Operations for TCB Industrial Corporation.

I am certain I wouldn’t have been considered by my current employer without the direct HAZWOPER training provided by the EPA funded brownfields program. It’s a great honor, pleasure and privilege to continue to work with Clover Park Technical College, Goodwill of the Olympics, and EPA. Our combined efforts have allowed TCB Industrial to hire several EPA job training graduates and place them with brownfields projects throughout the Puget Sound region.

None of this would have been possible without the EPA Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program. For that I will be forever grateful.

Sincerely,
Ricardo Loza

 

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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. 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.

Brownfields Job Training is a Win-Win for Job Creation and Environmental Protection

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

For nearly two decades, our Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program has helped put people to work by building a skilled, local environmental workforce equipped to take advantage of the job opportunities created when cleaning up brownfields sites. The program awards competitive grants to nonprofit organizations and other eligible entities to recruit, train and place unemployed and underemployed individuals living in brownfields communities, in a wide range of environmental careers. By doing so, EPA has touched and changed the lives of thousands of local community members, often including low-income and minority residents, and other individuals with extreme barriers to employment, by helping them develop skills they can use to find sustainable careers and opportunities for economic advancement.

Approximately 16,300 individuals have completed training, and of those, more than 11,900 individuals have been placed in full-time employment earning an average starting wage of over $14 an hour. This equates to a cumulative job placement rate of 73 percent of graduates.

EPA is pleased to announce today the selection of 14 new entities that continue this local approach to environmental protection.

To hear directly from individuals who have completed training funded by EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program, please visit:

For more information on Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grantees, including past EWDJT grantees, please visit:
https://cfpub.epa.gov/bf_factsheets/

For more information on EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program, please visit:
https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/environmental-workforce-development-and-job-training-grants

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.

Eight Years Later: EPA Assists Iowa City’s Sustainable Recovery After Historic 2008 Flood

By David Doyle

In June 2008, parts of eastern Iowa were devastated by a 500-year flood, the second such event in 15 years. Total losses from the flooding were estimated at nearly $3.5 billion.

Flooding in eastern Iowa, June 2008

The disaster’s greatest impact was on Cedar Rapids, where more than 5,200 homes and almost 1,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed. However, the flood also affected dozens of other communities along the Des Moines, Cedar, Iowa, and Mississippi rivers and their many tributaries.

My Role in Tornado Recovery

The previous year, I had been assigned to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) long-term community recovery efforts in response to the EF-5 tornado that devastated Greensburg, Kan. This was my first opportunity to participate in a long-term recovery effort in response to a natural disaster.

Aftermath of Iowa flooding, June 2008

EPA’s traditional role after disasters primarily had been responding to the threat and impacts from the release of hazardous materials, along with addressing the impacts on community water and wastewater systems. Long-term recovery was a relatively new role for EPA and involved providing assistance with sustainable community planning to make a community more sustainable and resilient to future disasters.

My role in Greensburg was to help FEMA develop the long-term community recovery plan which was completed after several months of work and quickly implemented, eventually making Greensburg arguably the greenest city in the country.

In 2008, I was again assigned to work with FEMA in Iowa on post-disaster, sustainable long-term planning efforts. I quickly realized that making such plans after a flood was very different than for a tornado.

A Very Different Experience

While Greensburg was a one-square-mile city, much of Iowa was impacted in one way or another by this flood. Fortunately, then Governor Chet Culver established a state government agency called the Rebuild Iowa Office, which spent considerable time immediately after the disaster working with FEMA to determine the long-term recovery needs of communities.

Flooding in eastern Iowa, June 2008

Meanwhile, learning from my experience in Greensburg, I started to reach out to various EPA headquarters offices looking for assistance, knowing there was no funding available from EPA Region 7 to assist with the needed recovery planning.

I quickly found that EPA’s offices of Sustainable Communities and Brownfields & Land Revitalization were willing partners. Both provided funding to bring in technical experts on economic development, transportation planning, and sustainable urban design.

Iowa City Makes the Most of EPA’s Assistance

The Iowa community that took most advantage of these resources was Iowa City, the state’s fourth largest city and home to the University of Iowa and a major medical center. For years, the city had been looking to redevelop an area south of their downtown. The 2008 flood gave them an opportunity to do just that.

This 30-square-block area, renamed the Riverfront Crossings District, includes an aging wastewater treatment plant, recycling center, animal shelter, and various other underutilized properties, many of which were impacted by the flooding.

Diagram from EPA’s “Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure”

After conducting a retail and housing market analysis, along with a transit-oriented development study, both commissioned by EPA, it was decided that this area could be transformed into a mixed-use, pedestrian- and transit-friendly neighborhood. Again, utilizing EPA funding, contractors with expertise in sustainable urban planning initiated a process to develop conceptual plans for such a neighborhood. After considerable interaction with local stakeholders, EPA finalized these plans in May 2011.

Since EPA’s Involvement

As it takes years – not only for plans to be finalized from conception, but also for them to be implemented – I recently asked Karen Howard, Iowa City’s assistant planning director, to update me on what has happened in the community since EPA’s involvement.

She said a Riverfront Crossings District Master Plan was adopted in 2013, along with a form-based zoning code for the district in 2014 (one of the recommendations from the initial EPA technical assistance grant).

Illustration of Riverfront Crossings District restoration after removal of wastewater plant

Since the form-based code was adopted, private investment in new construction totaled about $160 million, with many projects still under construction, and another $100 to $150 million in private investment is in the planning stages. This is only a small fraction of the redevelopment potential of the Riverfront Crossings District that Howard expects in the coming years.

New private building projects include two new hotels, a 6-story Class A office building, stand-alone restaurant, convenience store/gas station, craft brewery, multi-family and mixed-use buildings with ground floor retail space, and a considerable number of residential apartments and condominiums.

Public investment in the district includes the decommissioned and demolished, flood-prone wastewater treatment plant; the first phase of a new riverfront park, a 600-space public parking facility (under construction), new ambulance and medical examiners’ offices (under construction), and a new University of Iowa School of Music (completed in fall 2016). A number of street improvement projects are also in the planning stages.

The old saying, “With disaster brings opportunity,” certainly couldn’t be more applicable to the sustainable recovery efforts that rejuvenated Iowa City after the flood of 2008.

About the Author: David Doyle serves as the Sustainable Communities Coordinator at EPA Region 7. David has a Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering from Syracuse University, and a Master of Science in environmental health engineering from the University of Kansas.

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.

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Planning Catalyst Cleanups to Spur Broad Community Revitalization

Mathy Stanislaus Mathy Stanislaus

By: Mathy Stanislaus

At EPA, we recognize that successful, sustained community revitalization occurs when neighborhood stakeholders, local governments and the private sector work together on a shared plan for community-wide improvement. That is why we created the Area-Wide Planning (AWP) grants program for brownfield sites; a legacy I’m particularly proud of.

The Brownfields AWP grant program is an innovation initiated by the Obama Administration to empower communities to transform economically and environmentally distressed areas, including communities impacted by manufacturing plant closures, into vibrant future destinations for business, jobs, housing and recreation. These grants allow communities to develop revitalization plans that best meet their vision and needs, and execute them in a manner that benefits the community and does not displace long-term residents. In developing this national grants program, we learned from our state counterparts. Our AWP program was inspired by New York State’s Brownfields Opportunity Area (BOA) Program.

For 2017, EPA is investing approximately $3.8 million in 19 communities from across the nation to assist with planning for cleanup and reuse of brownfield sites. Each recipient will receive up to $200,000 to engage their community, conduct research activities and complete a plan for cleaning up and reusing their key brownfield sites.

photo of a grafittied building behind an overgrown field

Several communities selected to receive funding for 2017 have been affected by manufacturing plant closures. They are looking to make environmentally sound cleanup decisions on these properties and reopen them for business, sparking additional redevelopment in surrounding areas. Some of the notable projects involve improving community housing, transportation options, recreation and open space, education and health facilities and renewed infrastructure, which will lead to increased commerce and employment opportunities.

For example, these planning projects include the area around a former electronics manufacturing plant in Indianapolis, Indiana and a closed paper mill in Bucksport, Maine. One area selected in Wayne County, Michigan is anticipating a coal-fired power plant closure and is aiming to get ahead of the economic disruption that it will cause to its community. Others have recently felt the effects of climate change related natural disasters such as flooding in Norfolk, Virginia and Burlington, Iowa.  Communities in Indianapolis and Maine have been working to recover from both natural disasters and plant closures.

The AWP program helps coordinate federal investments, like infrastructure and economic development, that help environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities. Aligning federal resources allows agencies to better meet communities’ needs and lets communities reap the benefits of collaborative investments for area-wide revitalization. This coordination allocates resources based on community-directed plans rather than historic practices of individual infrastructure funding criteria, which can result in urban sprawl.

For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation has committed to prioritizing communities who use the outcomes of the AWP process to inform further transportation projects in their Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant selection process. Carlisle, Pennsylvania is one example of this collaboration. In addition to the Area-Wide Planning grant the Carlisle Borough received in 2013, they received a $5 million TIGER grant in 2016 to help them advance the brownfields revitalization efforts laid out in their area-wide plan. Since 2013, Carlisle has also leveraged more than $10 million through state, local and private funding.

This is the fourth round of grants awarded under our Brownfields AWP program. So far, EPA has awarded a total of over $11 million to 64 grantees. To date, AWP grantees have leveraged over $385 million in additional public and private funding, as well as other EPA resources, to help address key brownfield sites within their communities.

Cleaning up brownfields sites results in significant benefits for communities. Studies have shown that residential property values near cleaned up sites increased between 5 and 15 percent. Data also shows that brownfields clean ups can increase overall property values within a one-mile radius. Preliminary analysis involving 48 brownfields sites shows that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup.

I’m proud of the success we’ve seen across the country and hope to see the continuation of communities utilizing the AWP grant funding to work together with neighborhood stakeholders, local government and the private sector, for a shared vision for community-wide revitalization.

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.

Developing Green Job Opportunities in Brownfields-Impacted Communities

Mathy Stanislaus Mathy Stanislaus

The first seeds of brownfields job training—and of the brownfields program itself—emerged in the early 1990s, reflecting our growing concern for environmental equity (now known as environmental justice). Back then, we provided funds for the assessment and cleanup of abandoned and potentially contaminated sites through brownfields grants. The funds brought job opportunities to those communities where the assessments and cleanups were taking place, but there was one problem. The jobs were going to environmental professionals from other cities because, more times than not, local residents lacked the environmental training these jobs demanded.

So in 1998, based on the urging of local community and environmental justice leaders, we launched the brownfields job training program. We wanted to help ensure that individuals from communities who had dealt with the high unemployment, poverty, historic disinvestment and health disparities that came along with brownfields, could be qualified to take advantage of the job opportunities created when cleaning up these sites. The program simultaneously served as a ladder of opportunity for residents from some of the most economically distressed communities in America for jobs, and one of the first green jobs programs. That first year, we awarded eleven brownfields job training pilots, and by 1999 the program produced its first 100 graduates.

Since 1998, the program has evolved and is now referred to as the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program. The program provides funding to grantees so they can recruit, train, and place unemployed and severely under-employed individuals from these impacted communities in long-term environmental careers. These individuals are single mothers, low-income individuals, minorities, dislocated workers, tribal residents, ex-offenders, veterans, and other individuals with extreme barriers to employment. At this point, more than 14,700 individuals from communities historically affected by environmental pollution have been trained and more than 10,600 have been placed in environmental jobs throughout the country.

The EWDJT program is intended to not only help revitalize the land, but also transform the lives of those living on it. It is with great pleasure that we announce today the selection of 18 new entities that are aiming to do just that. We are awarding approximately $3.5 million in new EWDJT grants. We see this investment as a great way to more directly involve affected communities in their own revitalization.

View this year’s EWDJT selections

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.

The Foundation Has Been Laid: Helping the Community That Made Me Who I Am

By Stanley Walker

Stan WalkerIn 1969, I first walked up the steps to Horace Mann Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo. The steps were strong, sturdy, and built on a foundation of community, love, and support. I was so excited to be able to go to school like the other kids in the neighborhood, more importantly being able to walk with my older brother and sister. It was a great feeling. At five years old, I felt like I was finally growing up by being able to walk up those steps and enter the school as a real Horace Mann student.

For the next eight years, I would be in a learning environment filled with knowledge, wisdom, and street smarts. Day in and day out, I would be in the presence of the best teachers, smartest students, and of course, some of the greatest athletes in the area.Horace Mann Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo.

On Sept. 23, 2015, I had the opportunity to walk up the steps of hope again. However, it was under different circumstances. The Environmental Protection Agency was awarding Kansas City, Mo., a grant to help communities such as the Ivanhoe Neighborhood revitalize that area.

Although the school has been torn down, the bricks have been saved and are being reused on the site. Saving the bricks serves as another symbol for me. The bricks have endured strong winds, blisteringly hot summers, and bitterly cold winters. Like the bricks, many folks in the community have endured the various seasons of life. You can sometimes see the chips and scars left by the seasons on the faces of the community. However, the strength for the community to get up one more time from the poverty, urban flight, crime, and neglect reminds me how Evander Holyfield stormed back after taking a vicious punch from Riddick Bowe. I watch the community get back on its feet before the count of 10 with the addition of the Aldi’s store on 39th and Prospect, and the duplexes being built to replace the school.

While at the celebration, someone Stan Walker poses for photofound a piece of an old chalkboard. It evoked memories of being able to go up to the board and work a problem in front of my class, which was a real honor. For almost 50 years, there were a couple of pillars like Mrs. Margaret May who kept the foundation strong and pieced it back together when it began to crumble. As I stood next to her on that September day, I could not thank her enough for preserving the foundation of a strong community. Much of who I was, who I am, and who I will become will still come back to the foundation built by Horace Mann Elementary School.

About the Author: Stanley Walker manages the Superfund Technical Assistance and Reuse Branch at EPA Region 7. 

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.

Will Aquaponic Gardening Help Solve Food Insecurity in the Future?

Emily Nusz-thumbnailBy Emily Nusz

EPA brings in students every summer to work, learn practical environmental skills, and enhance their educational experience through our Pathways Intern Program. The Big Blue Thread has been proud to feature several blogs written by these interns, focusing on what motivates them to work in the environmental sector and what attracted them to EPA. We’ve posted blogs by Andrew Speckin, Sara Lamprise and Kelly Overstreet. Our final blog in this series is the second one by Emily Nusz, who continues to intern with our Environmental Data and Assessment staff.

Water is an essential component of life. Without it, we cannot survive. In my previous blog, I discussed my experience building a well for clean drinking water in Africa. Many developing countries are challenged by the lack of access to clean water. In some cases, people have to walk miles each day just to reach a source, which is why my church’s mission team and I wanted to provide a water well to a village in Nairobi, Kenya.

Water is not the only essential component of life to which some communities across the globe lack access. Finding abundant food sources also may be a problem. I have thought over and over again about how we can solve food insecurity, while also being eco-friendly. During my undergraduate career, I researched and built a system that may have the potential for doing just that. In fact, my former agriculture professor travels to Haiti about once a month to teach this simple gardening technique, which can be used to provide communities with a self-sustaining food supply. This system is unique because it can work anywhere, anytime, through any season.

It’s called aquaponics, a budding technique that allows you to grow your own local, healthy food right in your backyard while using 90 percent less water  than traditional gardening. If you are wondering what aquaponics is, you are not alone. The term “aquaponics” is not part of everyday conversation, but soon it may be. I was not introduced to the idea until about a year ago when I began to build a system of my own for academic research.

How It Works

Aquaponics

Aquaponic gardening integrates fish and plant growth in a mutual recirculating cycle by combining hydroponics and aquaculture. It is an environmentally friendly way to produce food without harsh chemical fertilizers through a symbiotic relationship. To give you an idea, the fish are able to produce waste that eventually turns into nitrates, which provides essential nutrients for plant growth in a hydroponic environment without any soil. The plants, which are planted in gravel beds, take in the nutrients provided by the fish and help purify the water for the care of the fish. The purified water then flows back to the fish for reuse. Many cultures are able to use this system to not only grow crops, but have a food source of fish as well.

Many types of plants can be grown in the system, such as lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Tilapia are the most commonly used fish because they provide extra benefits other fish cannot, such as high levels of ammonia, which is important for maintaining effective system levels.

My Experiment

When I began to build an indoor aquaponic system, my goal was to research if plants and fish could sustain life in an environment lacking nutrients provided by sunlight. The system contained three separate tanks.

Tank 1 was set up as the “breeder tank.” This tank circulated the Aquaponic Research Setup - Emily Nusznutrients from the fish into the tank containing the plants. Many aquaponic systems do not include a breeder tank, but for my research it was included.

Tank 2 was set up as the “fish tank.” This tank contained all of the fish (about 50 tilapia). Tank 3 was set up as the “plant tank.” All of the plants were planted in the gravel of this tank to absorb the nutrients provided by the fish. The purified water then flowed from this tank back into tank 2 for reuse.

The water quality of the continuous cycle was observed and recorded over a 10-week period to determine the production of plant growth and water quality in an indoor aquaponic system. Measurements of water quality were collected, including pH, electroconductivity, total dissolved solids, potassium levels, nitrate levels, dissolved oxygen, and temperature.

Although my research did not support sufficient growth of plants in an indoor aquaponic system, it has been found to work indoors using ultraviolet light as a source. Year-round results can also occur by having the system set up in a greenhouse. As long as the system is set up in a controlled environment that mimics nature, fish and plant production will flourish.

The Future

The awareness and potential for aquaponics is beginning to soar. Aquaponics may not be part of everyday conversation yet, but it could make a tremendous change in how we grow our food in the future.

In fact, today EPA tries to incorporate this type of gardening technique to redevelop contaminated Brownfield sites. They work with communities on many of the redevelopment projects to set up urban agriculture practices for food production. There are many benefits to constructing Brownfield sites into agricultural growth areas, especially using the aquaponic system. Urban agriculture has two major benefits for contaminated sites: it binds the contaminants, and it contributes to the growth of local food.

Emily Nusz-thumbnailAbout the Author: Emily Nusz is a Student Intern at EPA Region 7, who worked full-time this summer and continues to work part-time during the school year. She is a graduate student at the University of Kansas, studying environmental assessment. Emily is SCUBA certified, and one of her life goals is to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reefs off the coast of Australia.

Sources:

Emily’s First Blog Entry: https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/10/providing-clean-water-to-an-african-village-not-a-simple-turn-of-the-tap/

Brownfields: http://www.epa.gov/brownfields

Land Revitalization/Urban Agriculture Fact Sheet: http://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/fs_urban_agriculture.pdf

USDA Aquaponics Information: https://afsic.nal.usda.gov/aquaculture-and-soilless-farming/aquaponics

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.

EPA’s Grant Program – A Key Contributor for Environmental Results

KarlBrooks Karl Brooks

By Karl Brooks

Here at EPA, we partner with other governments – state, tribal, and local – to share responsibility for protecting human health and our nation’s natural environment. In order to do so, our Office of Grants and Debarment annually transfers grants worth more than $4 billion to other governments, educational institutions and non-profit organizations.

We are proud of our role supporting the efforts taken in 2009 to deal with an unprecedented national economic crisis. When Congress enacted the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) in 2009, they more than doubled our annual grant award budget to $9.8 billion. Our ARRA grants helped communities throughout America direct billions of dollars into shovel-ready projects for environmental infrastructure and cleanup — efforts that enhanced the quality of life in communities and better protected public health.

We met this historic responsibility by obligating 50% more funds than had been usual — $6.5 billion in grants – in barely two-thirds of a normal cycle. To meet Congress’ stewardship expectations and to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, we also instituted a monitoring program that far exceeded our standard process for non-ARRA awards.

After several years of managing ARRA funds, we faced other federal budget constraints triggering sequestration and furloughs in 2011-13. But now that our economy and grant program have entered a period of more normal operations, we are moving forward with a number of initiatives to further enhance our grants management system. In February 2015, we moved to Grants.gov for the submission of initial grant applications and deployed the first phase of our Next Generation Grants System, saving taxpayers $27 million by leveraging existing systems instead of developing new ones.

Working effectively in partnership with states, tribes, and other grantees, we have distributed, overseen, and accounted for more than $36 billion that went to governmental partners, educational institutions and non-profit organizations between fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2014.

In administering this funding, we manage, on an annual basis, over 6,000 active grants involving more than 2,300 separate grantees and approximately 100 different programs. These programs sustain our environmental protection enterprise at all governmental levels, encourage vital scientific research and help communities shape environmental policy. We work with Congress, GAO, and our Office of Inspector General to ensure funds are properly managed. We welcome their scrutiny and continue to work diligently to make our grant program efficient and responsive to the American public.

To learn more about how our grant making is making a difference visit:

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.

Tools Promoting Reuse-Evaluating Clean Energy for Contaminated Properties

Mathy Stanislaus Mathy Stanislaus

By Mathy Stanislaus

Last month while attending the Brownfields conference in Chicago, I spoke with numerous mayors, community members, developers, financiers, and many others working to revitalize their communities. One common theme I heard was the need for tools and resources that could be deployed at the community or site level to help facilitate the cleanup or reuse of degraded or blighted properties. Toward that end I am pleased to announce the release of our RE-Powering America’s Land electronic decision tree tool. It will let communities and stakeholders examine the key considerations associated with solar or wind development on a formerly contaminated property or a landfill.

You may not have thought about siting renewable energy on a landfill or formerly contaminated property but it presents a unique opportunity to transform dormant and degraded properties into productive community assets. To date, more than 150 renewable energy installations have been installed on contaminated lands, landfills and mine sites across the U.S., providing clean energy to power cleanups, on-site operations and community electricity needs. The Agency’s RE-Powering Initiative has supported and continues to advance this trend. Because of these projects, communities across the country have saved millions of dollars in energy costs, created construction jobs, and received new property tax revenue as a result of reusing these sites for renewable energy.

The electronic decision tree is a downloadable computer application that walks users through a series of questions supplemented by tips and links to relevant tools and information sources. The user is guided through various considerations associated with the site, redevelopment process, and criteria specific to landfills and contaminated properties. In addition, it helps users explore how the regulatory context, financial incentives and future electricity usage affect projects. You would think that the amount of sun and the site conditions would mainly determine feasibility; however, these other factors tend to dominate.

This new tool helps communities and other stakeholders explore their sites, engage developers and drive their vision of productive reuse. The tools inform and empower communities to plan and align their desires for economic development within a sustainable land management strategy.

RE-Powering encourages renewable energy on contaminated lands in a variety of ways by:

  • Identifying and screening contaminated properties
  • Disseminating success stories and best practices
  • Clarifying liability
  • Articulating associated environmental, economic and community benefits
  • Disseminating financing strategies and information on incentives
  • Highlighting favorable policies; and
  • Developing partnerships and pursuing outreach

Most of all, RE-Powering brings two important ideas together: the interest in cleaning up contaminated land and in siting renewable energy. And, all this in the context of what’s appropriate for the site and what is desired by the community.

Check out the new RE-Powering website and all its resources, its updated mapper and, of course, the new electronic decision tree tool.

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.