monitoring

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By Tom Damm

So why do volunteers put in the time, effort and some expense to wade through streams, scooping up water samples and batches of tiny bugs?Stream-Monitoring

Mostly, it’s “for the love of their local stream,” says Bill Richardson, regional monitoring coordinator in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Water Protection Division.

Bill is helping to coordinate a training conference in Shepherdstown, WV, that will bring together volunteer monitoring groups to share strategic plans, recruiting tips and success stories.  Registration for the August 9-10 conference sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is open until July 26. Abstracts can be submitted until July 12.

Trained volunteers play an essential role in assessing the condition of local streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

You’ll see them slogging along in hip waders or hunched over stream banks to collect samples that help indicate the quality of the water.  They use test kits to measure total nitrogen and phosphorus, special nets to troll for aquatic insects, and hand-held meters to check for levels of dissolved oxygen, pH, and temperature.  Others are busy scribbling field observations of habitat, land uses and the impacts of storms.

The data can help state and local agencies screen water for potential problems, establish baseline conditions or evaluate the success of cleanup practices.

Sound like something you’d be interested in?  You can find volunteer monitoring programs where you live by accessing this link.  For more information on monitoring, contact Bill Richardson at richardson.william@epa.gov

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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Career Advice from Marta

Marta Fuoco

By: Kelly Siegel

When I was young I always had an interest in the environment.  Every summer, my family would take vacations to Bayfield, Wisconsin, a small town on Lake Superior.  I loved swimming in Lake Superior and being able to see the sand bottom.  Bayfield is also home to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  This is a special place to me, and a place that I hope can be preserved forever. 

Now, that I am interning at the Environmental Protection Agency, I see firsthand what goes into protecting our environment and national treasures like the Apostle Islands.  I wanted to learn more about specific careers at the EPA, so I sat down with Marta Fuoco to learn more about her job.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am a Senior Scientist in the Air and Radiation Division in the Air Monitoring and Analysis Section.

What is a typical day like for you?

Typically, my day includes data analysis of criteria and toxic pollutants – specifically hydrogen sulfide and methane.

What is the best part of your job?

I get to work with a great set of knowledgeable coworkers who share many of the same interests.  In addition, it is a great feeling to see measureable results that positively impact the health and environment of the communities that we work with.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

I have always had an interest in the environment, but more specifically on the public health side.  My deeper interest came from the classes I took in graduate school.

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

I use skills from the many classes I’ve taken, going as far back as high school, such as chemistry and math, as well as information from graduate school classes, such as industrial hygiene, environmental and occupational health, and statistics.

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

Start small!  Pay attention to what you do on a daily basis in your own life.  Take the necessary steps to recycle or use green products and observe how the environment affects your health.  Look out for Air Quality Action Days and respond accordingly to help protect the environment.

 

Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends.

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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What’s App? Two New Water Apps!

By Christina Catanese

Two new water apps have recently app-eared on the scene that will help make the health of local waterways more app-arent to citizens everywhere.  It seems app-ropriate that both have been launched around the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act – yes, we’re still celebrating clean water!

Check out the How's My Waterway App from your smartphone, tablet, or PC!App-ease your app-etite for data by checking out EPA’s new How’s My Waterway App.  This app is a new tool that helps users find information on the condition of their local waters quickly using a smart phone, tablet, or desktop computer.  This tool app-roximates your current location with GPS technology (or you can search for the zip code or city of your choice) and shows the assessment status and reported condition of the nearest streams.  The app is designed to make water quality data available, and its meaning app-arent, to everyone, with plain-English terms and explanations.  How’s My Waterway is app-licable anywhere, from the App-alachian Mountains to App-leton, CA.  More background on the tool is available here.

What waterway is the app-le of your eye?  What did you find when you looked up your waterway on this app?  Was the water quality worth app-lause, or was it more app-alling?

The other new water app, RiverView, gives you a more active role in app-raising the health of your waterway. Developed in partnership with EPA by San Diego-based nonprofit Below the Surface, this app allows anyone to post and view photos of rivers and comment on them using social media, all shown on a map of rivers around the country.  This fall, representatives from EPA hit the water (along with federal agencies, paddling and surfing groups, businesses and non-governmental organizations) to launch the app by paddling the entire length of the Anacostia River through Maryland and Washington D.C.  With this app, everyone can app-ly themselves to documenting visual measurements of the recreational use of their waters.  How app-ealing!

I app-solutely hope you’ll make an app-ointment to show your app-reciation for your local waters and check these apps out!   Don’t be app-rehensive!

And, do you app-rove of my use app puns in this blog entry?  It just seemed app-ropos.

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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Test. Share. Protect. World Water Monitoring Day 2012!

World Water Monitoring DayBy Trey Cody

Did you ever wonder how information is gathered on the condition of our streams, lakes, estuaries, and coastal waters?  Or how we know whether it is safe to use these waters for drinking or recreational activities like fishing, swimming, and boating?

September 18th is your day to not only ask these questions, but to get out and be involved in the data collection yourself… because September 18th is World Water Monitoring Day!

You don’t have to consider yourself a scientist to help keep tabs on the health of your local watershed.  As part of World Water Monitoring Day, you can do your own monitoring tests and enter your results into an international database.  Simple monitoring kits are available for purchase by anyone interested in participating.

The health of our water bodies is important more than just one day per year, which is why the World Water Monitoring Day Challenge runs annually from March 22nd (the United Nations’ World Water Day) until December 31st. Events are held, and tests can be conducted and results submitted at any time. The purpose of the challenge is to encourage people everywhere to TEST the quality of their waterways, SHARE their findings, and PROTECT our most precious resource.

Watch this video for background on the event and to learn how to test for the four indicators (Turbidity, pH, Temperature, and Dissolved Oxygen) of the World Water Monitoring Day Challenge.  By just testing these four parameters – and it’s easy to do – we can learn a lot about the health of our waterways.

There are lots of materials out there to help you learn more about the importance of water monitoring. EPA’s Monitoring and Assessing Water Quality page and other outreach materials can help get people excited about water quality.

So get out and assess your waters!  Tell us about your water monitoring experiences and what you found in your data collection.

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.

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of September will focus on Action and Education.

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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Collaboration is Key to Environmental Monitoring

March 2009 marked a memorable month in the 19 years I have worked for EPA’s Office of Water. That is when Environmental Monitoring and Assessment published two articles about EPA’s National Lake Fish Tissue Study. I had the privilege of managing this study for the 8 years required to complete it.

image of men holding fish This study was a unique achievement. It was the first statistically-based national assessment of freshwater fish contamination to be conducted in the United States. It also included the largest set of chemicals (268) ever studied in fish. Field crews worked 4 years to collect fish samples from 500 lakes selected randomly from a statistically-defined set of about 147,000 lakes in the lower 48 states. Tony Olsen in EPA’s Office of Research and Development designed the study and directed statistical analysis of the concentration data. The design of this study generated results that allowed EPA to estimate the percentage of lakes and reservoirs across the country with fish tissue concentrations of specific chemicals, such as mercury, above levels of concern for human health.

Aside from my intense feeling of pride in providing leadership for this major scientific study, I look back in amazement at the number of people who volunteered years of effort to make this study possible. EPA relied on the participation of scientists from 58 state, tribal, and federal agencies for 5 years to evaluate sampling sites and collect fish samples. Their long-term commitment to maintaining the highest standards of quality while participating in the study produced scientific results that earned the praise of senior EPA managers, industry representatives, and members of academia. I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all of the scientists across the country that support EPA. In the end, it was their hard work and dedication that made this study a success.

Leanne Stahl is an environmental scientist in the Standards and Health Protection Division of the Office of Water, where she conducts research on chemical contamination in fish and surface waters.

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 Wind in the Winnebago

About the author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation scientist with EPA, and serves as Chief of the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch in Kansas City.

photo of Jeffery RobichaudOne of my first recollections of Kansas City was sitting at a stoplight while fierce gusts of wind attacked my car and shook traffic signal poles so viciously that I thought they would snap like popsicle sticks. Actually, it wasn’t just the wind but also the ragweed that was assaulting my car and senses. I am violently allergic to ragweed and the stuff grows…well like weeds out here.

My allergies notwithstanding, we have pretty good air quality throughout the Midwest although we do face challenges with ozone and particulate matter in urban areas like Kansas City and St. Louis. Throughout the country, states, tribes, and local governments maintain monitors that sample for pollutants. Since these monitors play an important role in revealing air quality, they must be operated and maintained properly. We assist by auditing stations to ensure that equipment is operating properly. This work requires a platform that can house delicate instruments yet is rugged enough drive to remote locations. After several possibilities we settled on a Winnebago, but there is nothing recreational about this vehicle.

We designed it to operate as a mobile air monitoring laboratory. We’ve used this platform successfully for a number of years and it serves as a great conversation piece when we talk with children about air quality. On-site audits require several hours to complete and we use a gasoline generator to power the instruments. Sometime last year the guys got the idea of supplementing the lab with the abundant source of clean energy that was howling in their ears… wind.

photo of staff mounting the windmill up on the side of the vehicle

Several weeks ago we installed a turbine to harness the clean energy provided by the wind. The turbine generates electricity to recharge batteries stored inside the lab that when fully charged can run the entire lab for up to eight hours without a single wisp of generator exhaust. Thanks to this innovation we will conserve gasoline on each trip (as long as the wind cooperates). As my old high school football coach Sherman SmithExit EPA Disclaimer used to say… if it’s to be it’s up to me. We know that it is up to all of us to find ways to help reduce our carbon footprint both at home and where we work, even if work is sometimes on a dusty road in western Nebraska. Now if we could just find something to use all that ragweed for…

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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