Delaware

Powerful Partnerships

By Walter Higgins

The Selbyville Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of five that had an energy audit.

The Selbyville Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of five that had an energy audit.

This blog, the second of two Healthy Waters blogs this week, focuses on energy efficiency to reduce carbon pollution, a driver of climate change.

The power of partnerships means making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. When it comes to adapting to a changing climate and slowing the changes already underway, we’ve found that partnerships provide one of the best tools we have.

EPA has partnered with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and Delaware Health and Social Services (DHSS) and other partners to assist water and wastewater treatment plants, and the communities they serve, save energy and money.

These facilities use a lot of energy to treat and move drinking water and wastewater, and they are typically the largest energy consumers for municipal governments, accounting for 30 percent of all the energy they consumes. Energy efficiency and renewable energy from these facilities also cuts carbon pollution as outlined in EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Over the past year, the Delaware Water/Wastewater Energy Efficiency Partnership has conducted energy assessments of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities. These energy assessments have helped operators and managers better understand energy usage at their plants, and identified low- or even no-cost options for achieving reductions. The partnership has shared these energy-saving practices with a wider audience through workshops for plant operators and managers.

The assessments have also generated a list of potential energy-saving projects offering serious savings, but with a higher initial price tag. Where can utilities find money to fund these projects? The partnership will offer a free workshop focused on funding energy efficient projects at water utilities on September 30. This workshop is a great opportunity for town managers in and around Middletown, Delaware, to hear about financing options for energy efficiency at water and wastewater utilities.

We hope our partnership with Delaware agencies inspires similar partnerships in other parts of the mid-Atlantic region and across the country. These types of energy efficiency projects at water and wastewater utilities have demonstrated undeniable environmental, economic and public benefits and provide fundamental investments in a more sustainable way of life.

About the author: Walter Higgins has been with EPA since 2010, working in the Water Protection Division on grants that fund water quality and drinking water projects. He also works with water and wastewater facilities on energy efficiency. Walter recently earned his Pennsylvania certification as a wastewater operator.

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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Radon Awareness Success in Region 3

January, as National Radon Action Month, is a time to ramp up on radon awareness and celebrate the successes of the state indoor radon programs throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

Our mid-Atlantic partners have reached out to more than 2 million residents with information on what they can do to protect themselves from the dangers of radon.

Radon is a naturally occurring colorless, odorless radioactive gas, and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, but testing for radon and reducing elevated levels when they are found can make your home healthier and safer.

Recognizing this, EPA and its state partners are highlighting radon testing and mitigation as a simple and affordable step to significantly reduce the risk for lung cancer.

For 2014, EPA awarded a total of $923,160 in State Indoor Radon Grants to the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, Virginia Department of Health, and the District of Columbia Department of the Environment.  These grants will fund the states’ radon programs to address radon risk assessment, risk reduction and radon resistant new construction in homes and schools.

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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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Making a Difference – One Rain Garden at a Time

By Sue McDowell

The Rain Gardens for the Bays Campaign has gone local!

The Borough of Ambler, Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Ambler Environmental Advisory Council, is helping to install rain gardens to improve local water quality in the Wissahickon Creek watershed, a tributary to the Schuylkill River, which leads to the Delaware Bay.

Through local volunteers and partnerships with state and local governments, Ambler is well on the way to its goal of 100 rain gardens over the next 10 years.

A rain garden is a garden designed as a shallow depression to collect water that runs off from your roof, driveway and other paved areas. It’s a sustainable and economic way of dealing with rainfall as nature intended.

Check out this video about Ambler’s ambitions!

The Rain Gardens for the Bays Campaign is greening our neighborhoods and protecting our streams by dotting the landscape with thousands of demonstration rain gardens in local watersheds. Town Halls, libraries, schools and other public institutions are showcasing this natural way to manage stormwater on the property that generates it.

The campaign is a partnership with EPA’s three mid-Atlantic National Estuary Programs (Delaware Bay, Delaware Inland Bays and Maryland Coastal Bays), the state of Delaware, the University of Delaware and other organizations.  One of our prime goals is encouraging residents and other property owners to install their own rain gardens.  You, too, can help your local watershed and our bays and rivers, one garden at a time.

For more information about Rain Gardens for the Bays Visit: http://www.raingardensforthebays.org/

About the author: Susan McDowell joined the EPA family in 1990.  Her work on community-based sustainability throughout her career includes the award-winning Green Communities program which has traveled across the United States and internationally.  She brings her ‘ecological’ perspective to her work including Pennsylvania’s nonpoint source pollution program the mid-Atlantic National Estuaries, and the G3 Academy (Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns).

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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Adapting to Sea Level Rise in Delaware: Your Chance to Engage in the Discussion

By Christina Catanese

 

Are you curious about how sea level rise will affect the beach towns you visit in the summer, and how coastal communities can adapt to these impacts?  If you’re in the Delaware area, you’ll have this opportunity in the coming weeks.

Impact of Sea Level Rise Scenarios on Mid Atlantic Coastal Wetland areas

Impact of Sea Level Rise Scenarios on Mid Atlantic Coastal Wetland areas

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources is holding a series of public engagement sessions to give residents a chance to hear more about Delaware’s vulnerability to sea level rise and adaptation strategies that the state can take.  DNREC invites the public to ask questions, discuss potential options, and provide feedback at these sessions.  There will be displays, presentations, and discussion – get a preview and more information on this page.

Yesterday’s session in Lewes, DE kicked off this series, but there are still two opportunities to attend:

February 19, 4-7 p.m.

New Castle Middle School

903 Delaware Street

New Castle, DE 19720

February 25, 4-7 p.m.

Kent County Levy Court

555 Bay Road (Rt. 113)

Dover, DE 19901

For more information on ecosystem impacts of climate change in the First State, you can also learn more about how the Delaware Estuary is preparing for climate change through the Climate Ready Estuaries program.

Not a Delaware resident?  You can still learn more about the Impacts of Sea Level Rise, other climate change science, and look out for similar opportunities where you live.  The impacts of climate change will vary by region – check out climate impacts in the Northeastern U.S. and in the Mid-Atlantic Region here.  What is your community doing to get ready?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

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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Embarking into the Christina River Basin

By Andrea Bennett

Flowing through rolling hills, forests and farms, small and big towns, the Brandywine, White Clay and Red Clay Creeks, and the Christina River constitute the watershed of the Christina River Basin, which then empties into the Delaware River. This beautiful watershed is historically significant as a site where Revolutionary battles were fought, as well as the area where one of America’s most famous painters, Andrew Wyeth, flourished.  This watershed also provides over 100 million gallons of drinking water per day for over 500,000 people in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Barclay Hoopes Dairy Farm Before and After Restoration

Barclay Hoopes Dairy Farm Before and After Restoration

Many nonprofit and governmental organizations are implementing projects and programs to protect the watershed and its sources of drinking water.  Several years ago, these groups received an EPA Targeted Watershed Grant of $1 million to support the health of the watershed by restoring streams and installing agricultural and stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce runoff flowing into streams and groundwater.

I had the opportunity to see some of these BMPs in action recently on the annual Christina River Basin Bus Tour, sponsored by the Chester County Conservation District (CCCD), the Brandywine Valley Association, the Water  Resources Agency at the University of Delaware, and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. As we traveled through the watershed, Bob Struble, executive director of the Brandywine Valley Association, pointed out stream restoration and watershed protection projects.

At the Barclay Hoopes dairy farm, Mr. Hoopes showed us 1,500 feet of stream bank fencing installed to reduce manure loading to White Clay Creek. United Water Delaware and the City of Newark worked with the CCCD to install these fences to help prevent Cryptosporidium (a protozoan that can cause gastrointestinal illness) from entering the water.

We also stopped at the Stroud Water Research Center where we saw a brand new LEED-certified education building – the Moorhead Environmental Complex. The Center manages stormwater run-off through natural landscaping with porous surfaces, a green roof, and rain gardens with native vegetation.  The new building has a plethora of energy efficient technologies, including radiant heating, natural ventilation, solar power, and high efficiency windows.  Wherever possible, the center uses materials that were found locally, sustainably harvested, reclaimed, or recycled, and have low emissions of pollutants.

Kennett Square Golf Course Before and After Restoration

Kennett Square Golf Course Before and After Restoration

We visited the Kennett Square Golf Course and Country Club where Paul Stead,  the Superintendent, gave us a tour of the stream bank and flood plain restoration of the section of Red Clay Creek, which flows through the golf course. Because Mr. Stead educated the club membership about the importance of protecting the watershed, this project was funded not only by a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener Grant, but also by members of the golf club itself. The result is improved flood control, less impact to Red Clay Creek during storm events, and a more scenic golf course.

These are just some of the projects going on right now in the beautiful Christina River Basin.  Not only do they help to protect sources of drinking water, they also ensure that the basin remains a wonderful place to visit. The basin is one of my favorite places to go kayaking, hiking, and birding, and it’s easy to see how the White Clay Creek was designated as a National Wild and Scenic River in 2000.

As I left Myrick Conservation Center that day, it was fitting that I saw a Bald Eagle, a national symbol of America’s environmental treasures.  It’s one more reason to protect the waters of the Christina River Basin, so that eagles, as well as humans, have a clean and safe water resource today and in the future.

About the Author: Andrea Bennett has been with EPA for over twenty years as an Environmental Scientist in the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, she conducted ornithological research and produced films. When outside of the office Andrea enjoys birding and playing the mandolin.

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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The Beach Awaits

By Trey Cody

Enjoying a day at the beach

When thinking of a beach threat, I typically think of jellyfish.  Once on a family beach vacation, my sister was stung by a jellyfish, and the memory has stuck with me since.  Some people on the other hand may think of crabs or sharks when asked about dangerous things at the beach.

But potentially the most harmful threat at the beach is one we cannot see: bacteria.  A majority of beach closings and advisories issued last year were due to elevated bacteria levels in the water.  An unusually elevated bacteria level in beach water is typically the result of uncontrolled human or animal waste. In wet weather events, stormwater runoff pollutes beach water by bringing bacteria along the way as it runs off through streets and through sewers. To protect the health of beachgoers, monitoring is conducted at many beaches, and advisories are posted to alert the public when it isn’t safe to swim because of high bacteria.

The good news is that for the seventh consecutive year, in 2011, the nation’s coastal and Great Lakes beaches were open and safe for swimming 95 percent of the time during the swimming season.

Beach water quality is a priority here at EPA. We work with state and local partners to control potential sources of pollution to the beaches.  For example, we help communities to build and properly operate sewage treatment plants, and implement a national storm water program and promote green infrastructure to reduce runoff and minimize sewer overflows.  On our Region III Beaches page, you can find out information on beach sampling data, beach closings and advisories, beach water quality standards, and much more!

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) uses data and information from EPA and the States to publish an annual report on the quality of beach water in the U.S.  It rates popular beaches and awards the ones with exceptionally low violation rates and strong testing and safety practices. Three of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s very own beaches have been particularly vigilant about minimizing the threats from bacteria.  Delaware’s Dewey and Rehoboth beaches and Maryland’s Ocean City at Beach 6 all received a 5-star rating from the NRDC.

At these beaches and many others in Region 3, national standards were not only met, but exceeded, making them some of the cleanest beaches in the country. So before the summer slips away, grab your swim suit, towel and sunscreen and head down to your favorite stretch of shoreline!  Share stories of your time at the beach this summer in our comments section, and contribute your photos to EPA’s State of the Environment Photo Project.

About the Author: Trey Cody has been an intern with EPA’s Water Protection Division since graduation from high school in 2010. He is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University.

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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Celebrate Shad!

By Nancy Grundahl

American Shad, photo courtesy of the National Park Service

American Shad, photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Every spring around this time folks in the Delaware Valley pay homage to shad. Why? We are celebrating their return after many years of reduced populations due to polluted rivers and the construction of dams that blocked their migration upstream to spawn. Healthier waters and fish ladders have been instrumental in their comeback and so we celebrate.

How? By eating shad, of course! Restaurants serve all sorts of yummy dishes that use shad, like seared shad and shad croquettes. On the web there are tips on where to fish, when to fish and how to fish for shad. And there are festivals. Lots of them. Here are a few you might want to visit this weekend.

Lambertville, New Jersey Shad Fest(on the Delaware River just across from New Hope, Pa.)
April 28 & 29, 2012
12:30-5:30 pm

Fishtown Shadfest 2012 – Penn Treaty Park (on the Delaware River in Philadelphia)
April 28, 2012
noon-6 pm

Schuylkill River Shad Festival (on the Schuylkill River in Mont Clare, Pa.)
April 28, 2012
11 am – 5 pm

Can’t make it to the festivals but want to celebrate in your own special way? Then take a look at Philadelphia’s Fish Cam. If you are lucky, you will see shad migrating upstream by using the river ladder on the Fairmount Dam. And listen to our podcast for more about the fish ladder.

Take a look. Take a listen. Celebrate shad.

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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Giving Fish a lift

By Brian Hamilton

The Fairmount Fishway under construction. Click here to bookmark the fish cam!

How would you react if you were driving home one day and there was a roadblock stopping you from making your destination?  You’d feel confused and would probably try to find an alternate route.  What if every other route you knew was blocked as well?  For many fish species this is a real problem they encounter when facing dams on rivers and streams.

Most migratory fish species swim from saltwater to freshwater to spawn, and dams can impede their natural path.  One way to help fish bypass a dam and complete their journey is to construct a fish ladder.

Fish ladders are structures that are on or around artificial barriers, such as dams. The ladders allow the fish to gradually swim into successive upstream chambers and avoid the impediment.  The styles can vary, but the end goal is to get the fish up and over the dam.

The Mid-Atlantic region is home to several fish ladders, including one in Philadelphia constructed in 1979 and renovated in 2009 to help boost fish over the Fairmount Dam on the Schuylkill River.

The Philadelphia Water Department operates a monitoring program to check on the resurgence of key migratory species, and even has a “Live Fish Cam” you can bookmark by clicking here.

The 2010 fish passage season at the Fairmount Fishway was a record-breaking year, with 2,521 American shad ascending the fishway. This was the highest ever recorded and more than seven times greater than passage numbers prior to the renovations.  Hickory shad, listed as a state endangered species in Pennsylvania, also showed an increase in passage and exceeded all previous records.  In addition to migratory species, fish passage for key resident species, such as walleye, topped previous marks and was more than three times greater than pre-restoration.

Learn more about the Fairmount Dam Fishway by clicking here.

About the Author: Brian Hamilton works in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support at Region 3. He helps manage the Healthy Waters Blog, and assists in reviewing mining permits and does other duties as assigned. Brian grew up in Central Pennsylvania. He has worked for the EPA since July 2010.

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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Taking Drinking Water to the Streets

By Christina Catanese

How many gallons of water do you think you use each day?

Do you think your water supply is safe?

Do you think there is enough water?

How might climate change impact water resources?

What could you do to influence your public water supply?

MOSdrinkingwater

These are the questions that we asked the public one day on the Independence Mall in Philadelphia!  A group of EPA employees including myself took to the streets to get your views on drinking water – and we found some interesting stuff.  Most people were surprised by how high the average amount of water use per person per day is.  I was somewhat taken aback by some of the responses  but I was given hope by the responses to others.

Watch this 3 minute video to see what our participants said, then tell us your answers in the comments section!

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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The Climes They Are a-Changin’

By Brent Heverly

Get more information about how climate change could impact water resources

Managing water resources is a challenging job under any circumstances.  You have to account for the many different uses of the water (drinking, industrial, agricultural, and ecological, just to name a few) and make sure that both the quality and quantity of the water are adequate to make sure all these sectors have enough clean water.  But changing conditions can make water management even more complex.  Climate change is (literally) a hot topic these days, with a lot of discussion of rising global temperatures, carbon emissions, and renewable energy.  But what impact could climate change have on water resources?

Here are just a few of the potential water-related effects of climate change in the U.S:

  • Changes in precipitation: greater variation of precipitation (increased heavy rainfalls as well as intense droughts), changes in the size of vital water bodies and wetlands, water quantity (reductions in ground and surface water), and water quality (increased runoff that causes erosion and sedimentation)
  • Increased water temperature: lower dissolved oxygen levels, increased algal blooms, and altered distribution in aquatic species (since most species are adapted to survive in a certain range of temperatures)
  • Rising Sea Levels: increased coastal erosion, displacement of coastal wetlands, and salt water intrusion in drinking water supplies

Want to learn more?  You can find much more information about the potential impact of climate change on water resources and EPA activities related to water and climate change.  EPA’s Watershed Academy has also done a number of webcasts on water issues related to climate change that are full of information.

So what is EPA doing about it? EPA has developed a national water program strategy for the adaptation to climate change, mitigation of greenhouse gases, as well as further research and education on how climate change relates to water, with 44 key action items.  EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) program provides resources for the water sector to develop and implement long-term plans that take climate change impacts into account.  Resources include a climate ready toolbox and a software tool to assess climate-related risk (Climate Resilience Evaluation and Assessment Tool, or CREAT).

There’s also the Climate Ready Estuaries Program, which focuses on the specific impact of climate change to these unique ecosystems.  In the Mid Atlantic region, we are lucky to have the Delaware Estuary as one of these distinctive natural resources.  To assess how vulnerable this estuary is to climate change and explore strategies to mitigate the risks, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary joined with EPA as one of six national pilots in the Climate Ready Estuaries Program in 2008. Last year a Climate Change and the Delaware Estuary report was published which examined three case studies (tidal wetlands, drinking water, and bivalve shellfish) as examples of natural resources that could be affected and have an impact on habitats, humans, and aquatic life.

What are others doing about it? There are efforts all across the nation. The Source Water Collaborative includes EPA and 22 other national organizations that have an interest in safe drinking water.  As you’ve heard in our previous blogs, the Source Water Collaborative is sponsoring the Delaware River Basin Forum on March 10th.  This basin-wide event will address the issues that affect water resource sustainability that millions in the region rely on every day.  One of the issues to be highlighted is the regional impacts of climate change.  Visit the DRBF website for event locations and more.

And what is the Healthy Waters Blog doing about it? We’re striving to bring you the most current information possible on important issues like climate change that concern your water resources.  We’ll also have a live blog the day of the Delaware River Basin Forum with frequent updates of happenings at the central Philadelphia location and satellites.  Check back here throughout the day on March 10th!

So what are you doing about it? You can start by getting informed.  Tune into the conference, either by attending in person at any one of the locations, or by viewing the live webcast of the forum online from wherever you are!   Here’s even more you can do.

About the Author: Brent Heverly is a fourth year student at Drexel University studying environmental engineering. He is working at Region 3 under EPA’s Student Career Experience Program and hopes to convert to a permanent employee after graduation. He grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs near Perkasie, Pa. Someday Brent plans to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

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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