EPA’s Science Matters newsletter

Around the Water Cooler: Dive Right Into Our Latest Newsletter!

By Aaron Ferster

Chances are if you hear someone yell out “come on in—the water’s great!” you can be pretty sure they mean that the temperature of the water is delightful. Not too hot, not too cold. But 40 years ago, before the establishment of the EPA and the passage of the Clean Water Act, you might have had cause to wonder if what they were referring to was the quality of the water: that it is free of pollution or other potentially harmful contaminants.

As Dr. Suzanne van Drunick, National Program Director for EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Research Program writes in the latest issue of our Science Matters newsletter:

“Forty years ago, the dire state of the nation’s water resources was a national concern. The assaults were direct and numerous: untreated sewage, industrial and toxic discharges, contaminated runoff, and widespread destruction of wetlands.

For many, the symbol of that decay came in June of 1969, when something perhaps as simple as a wayward spark from a passing train ignited a mass of oil-soaked debris floating on the surface of the contaminated Cuyahoga River—sending thick, billowing black clouds of smoke into the air. A river on fire.” 

As Dr. van Drunick points out, in the 40 years since, much of the nation’s waters have become significantly cleaner and safer. How did the clean up begin? It all started with science.

The EPA science and engineering designed to keep the environmental and human health success story of the Clean Water Act moving forward is the focus of the newsletter. The stories illustrate how EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Research program is providing the innovative science and engineering solutions needed to meet 21st Century challenges, such as the need for more “green infrastructure” to reduce the burden on aging sewer systems, protecting recreational water, combating invasive species from ballast water, and much, much more.

I invite you to “dive right in” and enjoy the latest issue of EPA’s Science Matters  to learn more. 

About the Author: Aaron Ferster is an EPA science writer.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Science Wednesday: Post 9/11: EPA’s Homeland Security Research Program

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Jonathan Herrmann, P.E., BCEE

I have spent almost my entire career in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. During that time, I’ve been involved in many areas of research related to environmental protection and human health. I have also managed various parts of the Agency’s science enterprise from Superfund remediation to mercury risk management. Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my career has been the last ten years dealing with scientific and technical issues for the Agency’s Homeland Security Research Program (HSRP).

When a number of us started the Program, we primarily learned by doing. Sometimes we had false starts. What really helped was the tremendous support from our EPA leaders. There was a clear mission and vision for our efforts and adequate resources were available to do the job. Most importantly, all of us were dedicated to the idea that we could make a difference in protecting the nation and the public with our work.

As Director of EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center, I am proud to announce we have produced a special edition of EPA’s Science Matters newsletter highlighting our accomplishments in homeland security research over the past eight years. The newsletter commemorates the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by reporting on what we’ve learned and accomplished since then.

It starts with a lead article by Debbie Dietrich, the Associate Administrator for Homeland Security providing an overview of how the HSRP fits with EPA’s homeland security roles and responsibilities, health and environmental protection programs and regional response capabilities. In my Executive Message, I offer an overview of the history of our National Homeland Security Research Center’s accomplishments and future direction. Members of our Senior Leadership Team add their views on the importance of our collaborations with other EPA programs, federal departments and agencies.

Additional articles highlight:

  • our advances in developing Provisional Advisory Levels that guide response and recovery actions following a chemical accident or incident,
  • the sampling and analytical methods we’ve developed for laboratories involved in responding to homeland security incidents,
  • several of our innovative water security detection systems and models
  • advances in decontamination science and engineering
  • and, our I-WASTE decision tools that help clean-up teams safely dispose of contaminated debris.

To read the newsletter and learn more about how EPA is science is advancing homeland security, visit.

About the Author: Jonathan Herrmann, P.E., BCEE, is the director of EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center.

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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