green infrastructure

Think and Link Green

by Jeanna Henry

G3 webpage 4Have you heard the term “green street” and wondered what gives it that special designation?  Is your community interested in green technologies and sustainable practices?  If so, a new EPA website can help.

Launched last month, the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) website has information for community leaders, residents and professional service providers on the benefits of green streets in improving local waters, neighborhoods and job prospects.

Green streets have proven especially popular here in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region – from small towns like Etna, Pennsylvania, to big cities like Baltimore, Maryland.  The region’s Office of State and Watershed Partnerships created the national website to highlight green streets as an effective way to manage stormwater runoff.

The G3 website includes general information on how to plan, design, build and maintain green streets, photographs of green streets and a video on ways communities can reduce stormwater runoff and increase economic vitality through the use of green infrastructure practices.  Green streets can also help mitigate the impacts of climate change by controlling flooding, reducing heat from hard surfaces and saving energy.

The website identifies potential funding opportunities, such as the G3 Grant ProgramClean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), and Urban Waters Small Grants.

EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resource, have awarded more than 90 G3 grants over the past six years, resulting in nearly $18 million in green projects and the construction of more than eight collective miles of green streets.

A number of those projects are featured in the G3 grants section of the website.

Check them out and see how your community can benefit from a green street.

 

About the author: Jeanna Henry joined EPA in 2000 as an Environmental Scientist. She currently works in the Water Protection Division focusing on stormwater management through the use of Green Infrastructure. Jeanna loves nothing more than spending time outdoors with family and friends hiking, kayaking or spending a day at the beach.

 

 

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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Redemption for Streams, Communities

by Tom Damm

Site design for Harrisburg project

Before and After: Poster with new site design stands at project location in Harrisburg.

Local residents couldn’t help but wonder why some 40 people were gathered under a tent at the site of a neighborhood eyesore in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

One resident came by on foot, another drove up in his car to check out what was happening on this large asphalt parking lot flanked by dilapidated and shuttered buildings.

What they heard was good news.

The gathering was to announce the award of 17 Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) Partnership grants, including one for design work to help the Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital Region relocate its operations to this abandoned site at the corner of 29th Street and Rudy Road.

According to the Salvation Army, the site is ideally situated near those most in need of its services, is accessible via a central bus route, and is in close proximity to several local schools.  And – the reason for the gathering – the site will include green features to reduce stormwater runoff and improve the livability and vitality of the community.

This G3 grant will be used to design a stormwater management system that will include 20,000 feet of rain gardens, 100 trees, 1,100 native plants, a walking trail, cisterns and other means to capture an estimated 6 million gallons of rainwater each year.  That rainwater would otherwise stream from the property with pollutants in tow, impacting local waters like Spring Creek in Harrisburg that eventually flow to the Chesapeake Bay.

This is the sixth year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, have awarded G3 grants.  The more than 90 grants given to date are resulting in nearly $18 million in green projects, including more than eight collective miles of green streets.

As EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin told the crowd of awardees who came to Harrisburg from states throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, “This is an amazing partnership.  We’re improving water quality, but we’re also improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods and communities.”

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

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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This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_GI_shark

Need a break from Shark Week? Check out the latest in EPA science.

Goats Help EPA Protect Pollinators
EPA’s research facility in Narragansett, Rhode Island recently enlisted the help of a highly skilled landscaping team to create more pollinator-friendly habitat on the premises: a herd of goats! Learn more about ‘goatscaping’ in the blog It’s a Lawn Mower! It’s a Weed Whacker! No…it’s a Herd of Goats!

EPA Researchers at Work
Meet EPA Researcher Richard Judson! Dr. Judson develops computer models and databases to help predict toxicological effects of environmental chemicals at EPA’s National Center for Computational Toxicology. Read more about his research in this Researchers at Work profile. And meet more of our scientists on our Researchers at Work page.

EPA’s Net Zero Program
Researchers with EPA’s Net Zero Program are working with the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas Unified School District 475, and others to test and demonstrate green infrastructure technology, such as permeable pavement, at Fort Riley in Kansas. Read more about the program in the Science Matters article Leaving the Gray Behind.

Toxic Substances Control Act
Last Wednesday, President Obama signed a bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the first update to any environmental statute in 20 years. Read EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s blog, and the President’s remarks at the signing, during which he mentioned research being done on zebrafish.

White House Impact Report on Science, Technology, and Innovation
Last week the White House issued a list of 100 examples of leadership in building U.S. capacity in science, technology, and innovation. Some of EPA’s work was highlighted—our use of challenges and incentives,  citizen science and crowdsourcing efforts, the Wildfire Science and Technology Task Force Final Report, and the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Comprehensive Research Plan.

Shout Out to EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program
Before Ecovative became a leading biomaterials company, they were just two recent college graduates with a big idea—to use mushrooms to grow an environmentally-friendly and sustainable replacement for Styrofoam. Early in their business, they were awarded with one of EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program contracts. Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and Chief Scientist at Ecovative Design, recently wrote the letter thanking all their supporters along the way. Read the letter: Investing in the Growth of our Collective Future.

Green Infrastructure Research
EPA has been helping the city of Philadelphia advance innovative urban stormwater control. Researchers with EPA’s Science to Achieve Results program are working with the Philadelphia Water Department to place sensors in the city’s rain gardens, tree trenches, and other green infrastructure sites to monitor and measure soil and water changes. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently highlighted the research in the article Philadelphia Keeps Stormwater out of Sewers to Protect Rivers.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She is a regular contributor to It All Starts with Science and the founding writer of “The Research Recap.”

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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EPA and Muscatine, Iowa, Work Together Toward Green Development

By Marc Kingston

Muscatine meeting

EPA employees and contractors, along with community members, discuss green solutions for Muscatine at the April workshop

Muscatine, Iowa, is one of 51 communities across the country selected to participate in EPA’s Making a Visible Difference in Communities program, which focuses on building partnerships with community stakeholders to improve public health and the environment.

I worked with EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities and the city of Muscatine to arrange a Green and Complete Street Workshop in April 2016. Jonathan Smith, engineering manager of Tetra Tech’s stormwater services, served as facilitator.

We started with a tour to identify areas of Muscatine that are ripe for green development and sustainable practices. After the tour, we met with members of the community and city leaders who were interested in learning about green solutions, such as diverting rainwater from entering the sewers and allowing more of it to soak into the ground where it can provide moisture for plants.

Muscatine meeting

Jonathan Smith, Tetra Tech (EPA contractor), speaks with Muscatine community members

A number of technologies are available to reduce the impact of rainwater runoff. These include permeable pavement that allows precipitation to soak through into the ground, rain gardens, rain barrels, green roofs, and other green landscape features. New curb bump-outs were also discussed at the meeting. They help channel rainwater into rain gardens, where water collects and soaks into the ground.

The community is considering implementation of green infrastructure practices based on concepts provided during the workshop. EPA and the city realize that green infrastructure in the public right-of-ways will help divert rainwater from the sewers and help prevent sewer overflows.

Muscatine meeting

Muscatine community members share ideas with EPA employees and contractors

Another goal of the workshop is to create a more sustainable, pedestrian-friendly environment along the Mississippi Drive Corridor and other transportation corridors in Muscatine.

Together, we want to change the way rainwater is managed, make downtown Muscatine more beautiful, send less polluted runoff to neighbors downstream, and use less energy to treat water at the wastewater treatment plant.

The environmental projects in Muscatine will truly make a visible difference in the lives of Muscatine residents. And I look forward to continuing my work with the community, which complements the city’s interest in green solutions.

About the Author: Marc Kingston serves as a Making a Visible Difference facilitator at EPA Region 7. He also serves as a grant management specialist in the Region’s Office of Policy and Management. Marc has a degree in environmental studies from the University of Kansas.

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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Green Streets Make a Visible Difference in Norfolk

by Andrew Wynne

EPA’s Building Blocks program is helping to turn streets - like this one in Norfolk’s Chesterfield Heights neighborhood – into green streets

EPA’s Building Blocks program is helping to turn streets – like this one in Norfolk’s Chesterfield Heights neighborhood – into green streets.

The occasional pop-up shower or thunderstorm is commonplace here in the mid-Atlantic during the spring season. While these dreary, rainy days can seem to linger and provide ample time for a good book or movie marathon, they also provide important resources for our gardens, lawns, and trees. In more urban environments, green infrastructure helps to mitigate stormwater runoff and flooding, while providing environmental, social, and economic benefits.

In low-lying communities and those with high percentages of impervious surface cover, even mild storm events can wreak havoc, leading to storm sewer overflows and flooding. Sitting at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and bound by numerous tributaries, Norfolk, Virginia is already beginning to feel the effects of a changing climate, as rising sea levels and tidal waters combine to create a wet and potent cocktail for the coastal city.

EPA is collaborating with Norfolk city leaders and local stakeholders to build community and infrastructure capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change, improve water quality, and enhance quality of life in neighborhoods. Recently, EPA’s mid-Atlantic office coordinated with the City of Norfolk on a Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities technical assistance workshop as part of the Making a Visible Difference (MVD) in Communities effort.

The workshop brought together community members and various city departments to identify and implement green and complete streets, seeing green infrastructure practices as opportunities to manage stormwater, reduce flooding and pollution, increase green space, and lower demand on the city’s stormwater drainage system, while also making roadways safer, more inviting, and able to accommodate multiple users and modes of transportation. These practices are integral to the city’s plans to address resilience and prepare for sea level rise.

Interested in learning more about how you can incorporate green infrastructure practices into your own home or community? Check out EPA’s Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWIZ) tool and additional green infrastructure resources, including fact sheets, design and implementation guides, and funding opportunities. You can find out more about our work in Norfolk and other communities around the mid-Atlantic region via our EPA Smart Growth webpage.

 

About the author: Andrew Wynne works in EPA Region 3’s Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division on community-based sustainability and climate adaptation programs. An avid traveler and road-tripper, he enjoys exploring unique environments through SCUBA diving and cross-country skiing.

 

 

 

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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Green Streets: A Road to Clean Water

by Tom Damm

As seen from my cubicle, the project is nearing completion.

As seen from my cubicle, the project is nearing completion.

The busy backhoe operating outside my cubicle window in Center City Philadelphia offers the latest and, for me, the loudest evidence of the work communities are doing to turn their main streets into more absorbent green streets.

In this case, the far sidewalk along the signature Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 16th to 19th streets near City Hall is getting churned up as the Philadelphia Water Department makes room for a greener walkway with a system to capture stormwater in a series of underground storage and infiltration trenches.

When completed, rain from a storm will flow into a “green inlet” that leads to the underground trenches and either infiltrate through the natural subsoil or be stored and then released back slowly into the sewer system.  The trenches will help prevent the combined sewage/stormwater system from getting inundated and spilling its contents into local waters.

Green streets are catching on in the mid-Atlantic region as a way to alleviate flooding, prevent sewer overflows and give an economic and aesthetic lift to downtown blocks.

EPA and its state and non-profit partners are helping to create green streets in big cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore and the District of Columbia, and smaller communities like the port towns along the Anacostia River.

The Borough of Etna, just outside Pittsburgh, last week earned a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for its Green Streetscape Initiative.  That project, supported with EPA funds, is transforming the borough’s flood-prone downtown with green techniques to intercept runoff from rooftops and paved surfaces.  The borough manager says she no longer introduces herself at meetings as Mary Ellen from “Wetna.”

Other communities are tapping into the novel Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) program – an EPA partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Trust, supported by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  In its first five years, the G3 program has provided more than $6 million and leveraged an equal amount in matching funds for green street design, construction and research.

Check out this new EPA video highlighting a few of the existing green streets projects and the people behind them.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

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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Green Infrastructure: Innovative Solutions to Stormwater Pollution

By Barbara Pualani

EPA identifies stormwater as the number one threat to our waterways. Stormwater pollution is the result of development and the heavy use of impervious materials, such as concrete and metals, in our everyday construction. These surfaces discourage water from soaking into the ground, so when it rains, stormwater runs off these surfaces and into our water bodies, carrying solid waste and pollution with it. Green infrastructure provides an effective solution to the stormwater pollution problem by taking advantage of nature’s inherent properties. By using pervious surfaces that allow water to soak into the ground, pollutants can be filtered out before entering waterways. In a joint project, Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation produced an educational film “Stormwater Pollution and Green Infrastructure” (shown below), in order to highlight this very important issue. Director of the Clean Water Division at EPA Region 2, Joan Matthews, featured in the video, touts the success of green infrastructure projects everywhere – “green infrastructure works and it helps to reduce pollutants.” Watch, learn, enjoy – we all have a role to play in reducing stormwater pollution.

To learn more and for more stormwater education resources, visit: www.NassauSWCD.org

About the author: Barbara Pualani serves as a speechwriter for EPA Region 2. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She resides in Brooklyn and is a graduate of University of Northern Colorado and Columbia 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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Go With the Flow—Green Infrastructure in Your Neighborhood

By Chris Kloss

Ten years ago, we didn’t see much green infrastructure for water resources around our neighborhoods. It was more of a novelty than a focused approach to sustainable development and construction. A few cities started using and experimenting with green infrastructure techniques such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, and bioswales which are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. The green was a complement to the gray infrastructure, the established system of underground tunnels and sewers. Together, green and gray infrastructure provided a holistic approach to manage stormwater for cleaner water.

Tools, Strategies and Lessons Learned from EPA Green Infrastructure Assistance Projects booklet coverAs the word spread about the early successes of these communities, a growing cadre of public works pioneers joined the movement to apply its principles and techniques to managing their water resources. EPA joined in their discussions, providing support to these pioneers through our technical assistance program. Today, EPA is releasing a summary report of the results from this program that we hope leads to even greater growth in green infrastructure.

Tools, Strategies and Lessons Learned from EPA Green Infrastructure Assistance Projects 

Many of the green infrastructure thinking and practices we see today are not new. Gardens, rain barrels and permeable pavement were standard practices for harnessing and managing water hundreds of years ago. They were old-time technology that let water do what it naturally does —seep back into the earth where it can flow back naturally to streams and rivers, replenish groundwater, or be absorbed by plants and trees.

Communities are now relearning these techniques, and green infrastructure is working for communities across the urban spectrum, from smaller cities like Clarksville, Georgia to midsized, midwestern cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin and large metropolitan regions like Los Angeles, California.

The summary document outlines how these and other community green infrastructure projects are successful. It also highlights benefits, offering examples for city managers to think creatively about how they can design their communities for better health, abundant water resources and improved quality of life.

We can all be part of better design for our communities. It just takes a different way of looking at things. When I’m out with my kids, I talk about how when it rains the water runs off streets, parking lots and other hard surfaces and flows down the stormwater drains into the sewer systems where it can’t be used for anything else. Now armed with the information, they’re always on the lookout for the missed opportunities in our neighborhood for letting the water go where it wants to, where it can do the most good for the watershed where they live.

I hope this report contributes to a movement where green infrastructure becomes standard practice. Every time we set out to design or build, repair or remodel our water systems let’s remember to think green infrastructure and let water do what it naturally does.

Learn more at www.epa.gov/greeninfrastructure and check out the 2016 Green Infrastructure Webcast Series for in-depth presentations throughout the year.

About the Author: Chris Kloss is Acting Chief of the Municipal Branch in EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management. The branch oversees the wet-weather permitting programs (stormwater, combined sewer systems, and sanitary sewer systems) and the green infrastructure program. Chris has nearly 20 years of experience in the clean water field including time in the private and nonprofit sectors prior to joining EPA.

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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Building Bridges: Environmental Justice

By Andrew Geller, Ph.D.

I know I’m not alone in that I’ve found my mind wandering a bit this week eagerly anticipating my plans for Thanksgiving festivities. Whether you are like me and will be travelling to visit family elsewhere, or rushing to get a big bird in the oven in time for hosting others, the best part of Thanksgiving is seeing friends and family.

And of course, catching up always includes talking about what we’ve been up to at work over the past year or so.

As an EPA scientist immersed in the broad, and sometimes hard-to-explain arena of research designed to advance sustainable and healthy communities, I find Thanksgiving a good opportunity to hone my science communication skills. Once I remember to drop the acronyms and jargon and engage my 90-plus-year-old father in a casual conversation about EPA research, I know I’ve done a good job.

Just this week, I got an assist from my local paper. The headline in the Durham Herald-Sun immediately grabbed my attention: “Community activists tackle ‘environmental justice’ issues in Durham.”

Providing data and scientific tools to advance environmental justice—ensuring that every community enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and has equal access to the decision-making processes it takes to have a healthy environment—is a top EPA priority.

As the article points out, moving environmental justice from a process to action depends on resources such as visualization tools that communities and other stakeholders can use to pinpoint how particular neighborhoods might be disproportionately impacted by proposed actions.

EnviroAtlas showing urban tree cover of Durham, NC.

EnviroAtlas showing urban tree cover of Durham, NC.

EPA’s researchers are delivering just those kinds of resources. For example, our EnviroAtlas is a web-based mapping tool built on a robust platform of more than 300 data sets that help users explore place-based environmental conditions and impacts. It is designed to help us all to see and make decisions about the many benefits we derive from natural ecosystems themselves and in relation to our built environment and the people who live in a community.  The Eco-Health Relationship Browser, part of EnviroAtlas, illustrates scientific evidence for linkages between human health and ecosystem services.

Users can use both of these resources, and others, to see how local conditions differ from surrounding areas, and to find potential solutions to existing challenges.

One place that has already made great progress is the Proctor Creek neighborhood in Atlanta. The city and local civic groups partnered with EPA’s Regional Office and Agency researchers to conduct a Health Impact Assessment, a systematic process to guide investigations on how to maximize the health and well-being benefits (or minimize the detrimental impacts) of a proposed action.

In the case of Proctor Creek, EPA researchers and the Region produced a Health Impact Assessment to help the community reduce flooding and the contamination associated with combined sewer overflows through the use of innovative techniques that increase or mimic the natural ability of ecosystems to absorb and cleanse storm water runoff, collectively known as “green infrastructure.”  This solution has the added benefit of adding shade and green space to sun-baked streets, increasing walkability and the attractiveness of the area to local businesses to raise the local economy.

Those are just a couple of examples that I can point to where EPA research is advancing environmental justice and making a visible difference in communities. I’m eager to share more here on the blog, and even with local reporters, in the near future. But first I have to pack for a trip to see the family.

About the Author: Dr. Andrew Geller is the Deputy National Program Director for EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) research program and lead author on EPA’s Environmental Justice Research Roadmap.  Dr. Geller led SHC’s strategic planning effort to develop science and tools to help communities identify and reach sustainability goals.  Andrew can often be found riding a bike across the trails, fields, or roads of Durham NC and the surrounding area.

 

 

 

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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Walk your waterway today!

by Virginia Thompson

A view from the trail, high above the Schuylkill River

A view from the trail, high above the Schuylkill River

There’s nothing better than going for a walk in the fall to take in the cool, crisp autumn air.  We are fortunate that Southeastern Pennsylvania has an abundance of trails along the region’s waterways that make it fun and easy to explore a wide variety of scenic, historic, and cultural resources.

Along the Schuylkill River, the Cynwyd Heritage Trail demonstrates that these trails offer more than waterfront recreation: they also provide economic development, opportunities for regional coordination, and improved air quality.  The recently opened Manayunk Bridge, connecting the Cynwyd Heritage Trail – an abandoned portion of a rail line – to the Manayunk section of Philadelphia, now offers residents in both areas easier access to restaurants, parks, shops, and services, along with a breathtaking view from high above the river.  What used to be an area of manufacturing on both sides of the Schuylkill River (including the road that would become the Schuylkill Expressway) has given way to growing communities of residents, recreational opportunities, restaurants, and more. A weekly farmers’ market is now located on the Cynwyd side of the bridge, accessible to both city and suburban residents. Interpretive signs along the trail provide photos and descriptions of the history and geography of the area with information from the Lower Merion Historical Society.  The trail even incorporates green infrastructure: the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will plant a rain garden of native flowers and shrubs in a striking palette of colors to help prevent stormwater run-off.

The trail provides easy access to all of these amenities without use of a car!  Perfect for walkers, bikers, and strollers, the trail is such a direct path between Cynwyd and Manyunk that it is now shorter and easier to walk or bike than drive between the two areas. Less traffic means cleaner air. And as we’ve blogged before, cleaner air contributes to cleaner water, too.

The Cynwyd Heritage Trail is one of many that connect to a large regional trail network that is part of the East Coast Greenway. Many of the Pennsylvania segments of this trail network snake along waterways like Darby Creek, Cobbs Creek, and the Delaware River. As more trails are built and connect to this network, more travelers can choose to walk or bike, further reducing the number of automobile trips and helping to clean our air.

I am looking forward to more walks–in all seasons–to explore the rich trail system and the waterways of the Philadelphia area.

 

About the Author:  Virginia Thompson works at EPA Region 3 to help protect the natural resources of our country.  She enjoys walking and biking whenever and wherever she can.

 

 

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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