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Expectant Moms, Parents, and Everyone Else Should Read This!

By Jessica Orquina

I never thought much about mercury in fish. I like seafood, and have heard there may be some health concerns, but I didn’t really give it much thought. Then, I became pregnant and started reading all the information I could find about health and nutrition for expectant mothers, including about mercury in fish.

I learned that eating fish with high levels of mercury may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system. I also learned what types of fish have higher and lower levels of mercury so I could focus my diet on those fish that were safer to eat.

Last fall, my son was born, and now I’m back at work. I was interested to learn EPA has been working with FDA to recommend new draft advice for fish consumption. In the past, our advice was based solely on the health concerns caused by eating fish with high levels of mercury. The new recommendations still consider that issue, but they also look at the health benefits of eating seafood.

I strongly urge you to read the new draft advice (Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know), share your thoughts with us, and adjust your family’s diet accordingly. While mercury consumption is a big concern for expectant mothers and young children, it can affect everyone’s health.

So, take a minute and read this document. I did.

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

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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Social Media Magic

As an environmental policy major at the University of Maryland, I knew I’d found the perfect internship at the Office of Web Communications.

Working here is showing me a whole new side to the sites and applications I spend so much of my time on. My normal day on social media includes some frankly pathetic attempts at humor on Twitter, some carefully selected photos on Instagram, and an overwhelming amount of posts with sub-par grammar on Tumblr. How EPA uses social media, however, is a whole different story.  Where my “hilarious” tweets fall flat amongst my small following of friends, EPA’s tweets convey important health and environmental information that reaches thousands and get shared constantly.

Take my first day at EPA for example, Monday, June 2, 2014, the day Administrator McCarthy announced the new Clean Power Plan. I’m not exaggerating when I say the internet EXPLODED.  There were tweets, Facebook shares, and comments upon comments of the public’s reactions all flooding in at top speed. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed, but also very intrigued by social media on this scale.  The following week proved to be even more interesting as I got to work on some of EPA’s posts myself. Nothing was more gratifying than seeing a post I helped write on the official EPA Facebook page!

A selfie Maddie took at her desk at EPA.

After just one week here, I’m beginning to see a new picture form about the social media sites I thought I knew so well. I’ve come to realize that social media is not just for teenagers and their endless (beautiful) selfies, but it is a way for the whole world to keep connected to today’s important issues. As I got a chance to explore all the social media outlets the EPA has to offer (check them all out here), I realized that social media is not just about shares and retweets, but is more about participation. Having today’s most important news stories readily available invites a conversation that gets everyone involved. Whether it’s a comment on a Facebook post, a retweet on Twitter, or a video on YouTube, EPA has some great ways to encourage an important conversation with the world.  I am so excited to see and learn more about social media and EPA during my summer here!

About the author:  Maddie Dwyer studies environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland. She works as an intern for EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

 

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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Earth Day Festivities…Waterfowl, Stream Impairment & Smokey The Bear…Oh My!

By Amber Tucker

Earth Day was last month but since we like to tout that every day is Earth Day here at EPA, I am safe in posting this now.  We also love it when the “official” Earth Day rolls around.  Each year on April 22nd, people across the globe participate in various events and activities to raise awareness and promote the environmental movement.  2014 marks the 44th Earth Day Observance.

Prior to the first Earth Day in 1970, there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment.  It was legal and even common for black plumes of toxins to fill the sky, and tons of hazardous waste to be dumped directly into waterways.  These practices had gone on for so long, that finally the detrimental effects on environmental resources could no longer go unnoticed, and concerned citizens felt compelled to take action to protect their environment. In spring 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda. Twenty million Americans demonstrated in different U.S. cities, and their efforts paid off tremendously!  In December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

earthday

In response to the expanding public demand for cleaner air, water, and land, President Richard Nixon and Congress established the U.S. EPA.  EPA was tasked with the challenging goal of repairing the damage already done to the environment and to establish guidelines to help Americans in making a cleaner and safer environment a reality.

Fast forward 44 years to today…from its 20 million strong 1970 roots, more than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world, according to the Earth Day Network (http://www.earthday.org).  On a local scale, EPA is fortunate to be able to participate in local community events each year.

julia

Julia helping out with the Impaired Waterways activity

The Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska held their 2014 annual Earth Day event on Tuesday, April 22nd at their community building in Reserve, KS.  The Sac & Fox Environmental Department has hosted this event for several years in an effort to actively engage children of various ages in learning about the environment.  They have worked closely with and invited outside agencies to participate in this important event.

On Tuesday April 22nd, approximately 90 children ranging from 1st through 3rd grades came to the Sac & Fox community building to celebrate Earth Day.  Three staff members from EPA Region 7, Julia Cacho, Heather Duncan, and Amber Tucker, were privileged to be able to attend and take part in these festivities.  The Sac & Fox Environmental Department secured presenters on a variety of environmental topics such as surface water quality, air quality, Brownfields, recycling, Squaw Creek Waterfowl, and the water cycle.  Environmental Department staff also developed program specific presentations to showcase the Sac and Fox Nation Environmental Department and its functions. All of the attendees were able to soak up some Vitamin D out on the lawn during lunch, where lunch was served (in recyclable brown boxes). The day was topped off by crafts activities and a very welcomed appearance from Smokey the Bear.  Smokey was a big hit, and took pictures with the children, which were printed and incorporated into one of the crafts for the children to take home.  At the end of the day, 90 happy kiddos and several tired presenters were evidence of a successful Earth Day event!

Smokey

Julia, Heather, Smokey & Amber

For additional information about Earth Day, please visit http://www.epa.gov/earthday/index.html.

Amber Tucker is an Environmental Scientist who serves as a NEPA reviewer for EPA Region 7.  She is a graduate of Haskell University and serves as Region 7′s Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native American Employment Programs.

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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Una página principal para la era de los medios sociales

Aquí en la EPA, sabemos que no podemos cumplir nuestra misión sin el insumo y la participación de millones de estadounidenses, desde las comunidades rurales y vecindarios de los suburbios a los centros urbanos. También sabemos cuán importante es nuestro sitio Web para la participación pública y la investigación. En nuestra página principal, queremos ayudarles a llevar a cabo sus tareas y mantenerse informado, mientras facilitamos la manera en la cual se conecta con nosotros mediante los medios sociales.

Hemos decidido hacer unos cambios en el diseño para permitir a los visitantes como usted poder comunicarse con nosotros. El nuevo diseño será publicado en un par de semanas, pero le ofrecemos un adelanto.

Hemos revisado varios mapas del sitio que evalúan la frecuencia de los términos populares y los más buscados que nos han dado ideas acerca de áreas específicas que deberíamos actualizar en la página principal.. La imagen que presentamos es el resultado de nuestros esfuerzos. ¿Qué viene por ahí? Hemos añadido algunos elementos nuevos que le ayudarán a conectarse mejor con nosotros:

·         El banner en el encabezamiento continuará incluyendo algunos de los temas más populares, y le ayudará permanecer informado acerca de lo que está sucediendo. El nuevo diseño clarifica cuáles son los temas incluidos.

·         Nuestras oficinas regionales ahora tendrán un rincón dedicado para proveer sus anuncios relevantes específicos para esas áreas del país. Usted podrá ir directamente a una página para su estado.

·         Estamos contando nuestra historia usando multimedios: fotos y videos que comparten cómo trabajamos para lograr nuestra misión de proteger la salud y el medio ambiente. Esperamos usar estos elementos con el banner y los medios sociales para ofrecer información polifacética sobre nuestros esfuerzos.

La manera en la cual destacamos ciertos elementos claves le ayudará a encontrarnos en los medios sociales, verificar la entrada más reciente a nuestro blog, y a seguirnos por Twitter.

A la misma vez, crearemos una nueva área para ayudarle a informarse acerca de lo que puede hacer para abordar algunos de los asuntos más críticos. Más abajo en la página proveemos enlaces directos a algunos de los temas que ustedes buscan con mayor frecuencia.

En fin, esta nueva página principal refleja nuestra meta más importante: trabajar juntos con ustedes para mejorar la salud pública y proteger el medio ambiente.

Acerca del autor: Jeffrey Levy es el director de Comunicaciones del Web de la EPA. Ha estado con la EPA desde el 1993 cuando se unió a la agencia para proteger la capa de ozono.

 

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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Pequeñas reparaciones, grandes ahorros

Por Lina Younes

Recientemente, me quedé patidifusa cuando vi que la factura del agua había aumentado casi el doble.  ¿Qué había ocasionado ese aumento inesperado en consumo del agua en nuestro hogar? Tenía que haber una explicación lógica.

Revisé nuestras actividades del pasado mes y no encontré ninguna razón para esta subida alarmante. Dado a que todavía estábamos en el invierno, definitivamente no estaba ocupándome del jardín. Tampoco estábamos tomando más duchas o baños que de costumbre.

Entonces, inició una expedición por toda la casa en busca de una posible causa. ¿Podría ser el grifo de la cocina? Yo pensaba que le había dado instrucciones a todo el mundo para que lo cerraran de cierta manera para prevenir las goteras. Todos los inodoros parecían estar funcionando bien menos el del sótano. ¡Encontré el culpable! Mi hija confesó que a veces a veces la cadena se quedaba atascada y el inodoro seguía botando agua. Ella mencionó que usualmente sucedía de noche, pero no me lo había comentado. Entonces, literalmente centenares de galones de agua y nuestro dinero estaban perdiéndose por el alcantarillado.

Mi esposo y yo fuimos a una ferretería local para comprar una aleta del sistema de desagüe del inodoro.  Vi que había una variedad de aletas y kits de reparaciones de inodoro que costaban entre $4 y $20. Por suerte, mi esposo pudo reparar el inodoro sin tener que contratar un plomero. Esta pequeña reparación nos ahorró cientos de dólares y valió la pena.

¿Sabía que en los Estados Unidos se desperdician más de un millón de millones de agua cada año por filtraciones en el hogar? Por eso, la EPA y sus socios quieren recordar al público que verifiquen la plomería en su hogar durante la Semana de Repare el Goteo. ¿Cree que tiene una filtración de agua en el inodoro? Coloque un par de gotas de colorante vegetal en el tanque de su inodoro. Deje que pasen 15 minutos sin alar la cadena. Si el colorante aparece en la taza del inodoro, entonces tiene un goteo. El repararlo le ayudará a ahorrar dinero y a proteger el medio ambiente.

Si piensa hacer reparaciones grandes en los efectos de plomería en su hogar, quizás debería invertir en grifos, cabezas de duchas e inodoros con la etiqueta de WaterSense. Estos son productos de plomería eficientes en el consumo de agua que han ayudado a los consumidores a ahorrar más de 487 mil millones de galones de agua y cerca de $9 mil millones en factoras de agua y electricidad desde que la EPA creó el programa WaterSense en el 2006. Usted también puede ahorrar agua. Cada gota cuenta.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como portavoz hispana de la Agencia, así como enlace de asuntos multilingües de EPA. Además, ha laborado como la escritora y editora de los blogs en español de EPA durante los pasados cuatro años. Antes de unirse a la Agencia, dirigió la oficina en Washington, DC de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales a lo largo de su carrera profesional en la Capital Federal.

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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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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Is Your Child’s School Stuck on a Pest Control Treadmill?

Many schools are stuck on a “treadmill” of never-ending pesticide applications, without addressing the underlying issues that make schools attractive to pests. If we can make it so pests aren’t attracted in the first place, the need for pesticides in schools would be greatly reduced.

Choosing a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach can reduce pests and pesticide risks, create a healthier environment for our children, and save schools money in pesticide treatment and energy costs from improved insulation as a result of sealing cracks and adding door sweeps. We call this approach Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

John McDonogh High

Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and school leaders toured John Mcdonogh High School

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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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Reliable and Affordable Energy

With the severe winter of 2014 as a backdrop, there have been questions about the future affordability and reliability of electricity. But what’s so often missing from this discussion is the reality that technological and economic transitions in the power sector are modernizing our nation’s electricity system. The result?  Clean, affordable energy for generations to come.

As part of this change-over, older coal-burning plants are already being phased out. Some people still wonder whether EPA is to blame for these closures. But the reality is that power plant retirements are business decisions to move away from investing in aging facilities, many of which are more than 50 years old, do not control pollution, and are almost never run anywhere near full capacity. Other factors like low natural gas prices relative to other fuels and slow growth in demand for electricity also contribute to these market-driven business decisions.

We have seen significant progress in the power sector — all while keeping our businesses and homes powered up and our economy growing. For example, new and improved technologies — including more efficient and responsive natural gas plants, lower renewable energy costs, energy efficiency advances, and smart grid growth — are creating innovative ways to generate, transmit, and use electricity.

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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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Where Do Plastic Bags Go?

By Shannon Bond

Each season has its unique traits. Some are good, some are not so good. This depends upon who you talk to of course. One of the benefits of winter is the view, which brings a barren type of beauty. There is no doubt that leaves and green landscapes are appealing, but as an outdoor enthusiast and trail junky (both on foot and on wheels), I can appreciate the outdoors in every variation. There is a lot to be said for increased visibility too. When the trees are bare, you can see the contour of the land and the flow of the trail.

Sadly, I can also see litter; particularly, plastic bags. When you are hiking down a trail it’s easy to reach down and pick that trash or stray bag up. The easy cleanup opportunity is lost when you are barreling down the highway on the way to work though. It is especially discouraging to see hordes of plastic bags clinging to the tops of trees. These bags have obviously been ejected from passing vehicles to be carried by the wind to their final resting place. I’m sure they are present all year, but the winter draws back the veil of leaves to reveal just how much wasted plastic we generate.

What happens to the rest of the plastic bags that don’t get stuck in our suburban forests? And, what can we do to mitigate our waste? For years I was under the impression that we could not recycle these plastic grocery haulers. I’ve reused them as trash bags, lunch bags and anything else I could think of, but ultimately that just prolongs their life before they end up in the landfill. Luckily, just like a lot of our modern day materials, these can be recycled. So plastic bags really end up in three places (like everything else really).

The landfill

In 2011, Americans produced around 250 million tons of waste, 32 million tons of that solid waste was plastic. That’s 4.4 pounds of waste per person per day! It’s up to you to help keep plastic bags and other waste out of landfills.  (http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/MSWcharacterization_508_053113_fs.pdf)

landfill

Recycled into other goods

There is hope because recycling and composting helped prevent 87 million tons of material from reaching the landfills that year. That gives us an average of about 1.53 pounds of recycled and composted waste out of our 4.4 pounds per person per day. About 11 percent of the recycled waste from the overall count was the category of plastics that include plastic bags. Unfortunately, only 8 percent of the total plastic waste generated was recycled in 2011. We can change this. There are more than 1,800 businesses in the U.S. that handle or reclaim post-consumer plastics. Put simply, bring your used plastic bags to the grocery store when you shop and drop them at the bag recycle bin. If your store doesn’t have a recycle service for plastic bags, ask the store manager why not or what the alternatives are. You can also find a curbside drop off. http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/plastics.htm.

Buy Recycled

Where does recycled plastic go? You handle it all the time and probably don’t realize it. Products include bottles, carpet, textiles, paper coating and even clothes.

In the trees (or anywhere else as litter)

Don’t let your bags end up here. It’s an eyesore for your community, dangerous for the animals in your environment and doesn’t contribute to the reduction of source materials needed for plastic manufacturing.

Plastic Bags

What’s the bottom line? Recycle your plastic bags, it’s easy. Why? It helps keep trash off the streets. It helps reduce the need for raw resources in manufacturing and it reduces the amount of waste that goes to the landfill; it even helps generate power. Did you know that you can save enough energy to power your laptop for 3.4 hours by recycling 10 plastic bags? You can find these fun facts and other great information here: http://www2.epa.gov/recycle.

 

Shannon Bond  is a multimedia production specialist with EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs. He has served in a host of roles including military policeman, corrections officer, network operations specialist, photojournalist, broadcast specialist and public affairs superintendant.

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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Sustainable Biofuel to Combat Climate Change

I’m a supporter of on-the-ground work in academia and how student research programs across the United States are helping to solve our country’s environmental problems, often with assistance from the federal government.

That’s why I was delighted to visit with Dr. Sandeep Kumar and his team of graduate and undergraduate students at Old Dominion University Research Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia.  My visit was timely – EPA had just awarded the team a P3 grant for $15,000.

Garvin Old Dominion

EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin with Dr. Sandeep Kumar’s research team at Old Dominion University laboratory.

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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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