New Jersey

New Jersey Fights Mosquito Populations with Help from Tiny Crustaceans

By Marcia Anderson

Tiny copepods can decrease the need for pesticides

Tiny copepods can decrease the need for pesticides

Most people generally do not realize the number of areas around their own homes where mosquitoes can find stagnant water to lay their eggs. If something can hold water for more than a few days, it is a mosquito breeding habitat. If standing water can’t be eliminated, the control of mosquito larvae within the water container is the next best step. Some states have re-introduced natural predators, such as copepods, as part of a smart, sensible and sustainable approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM), in the battle against mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases.

What are Copepods? Cousins of shrimp, copepods are tiny crustaceans that are usually less than 2.5 mm – the size of a pin head. They are used successfully to control mosquito larvae in Vietnam, Honduras, Brazil, Australia, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Many large species of copepods are voracious predators of mosquito larvae. They are an environmentally friendly tool that provides more effective biological control than any other predatory invertebrate. They can actually lessen the need for pesticides.

Raising Copepods Copepods are being grown in large numbers in New Jersey and Louisiana. They are especially effective in small containers or pools of water found in garbage dumps, roadside ditches or piles of building rubble. They are also effective in controlling the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, which can breed in the smallest of places containing water.

Large copepod species thrive in clean containers especially if given a few grains of rice as an initial food supply. If they have devoured all of the mosquito larvae in a container, a few grains of rice will keep them happy and prevent starvation. Copepods survive longer in containers near trees or other vegetation because shade prevents the containers from drying and leaf-fall provides food and a reservoir for moisture.

Mass Distribution of Copepods Thousands of large copepods (Mesocyclops sp.) can be transported in a small container to sites where they are poured, ladled or sprayed into containers. They can also be transported in backpack tanks from which they are squirted into containers with a hand-held wand. Each tank can hold enough copepods to treat a thousand or more containers, ditches, debris storage areas or even rice paddies.

New Jersey is the first state in the Northeast to use copepods. Beginning in 2011, New Jersey began deploying native copepods to county mosquito control agencies, inspired by an extremely successful program in New Orleans, Louisiana. As of 2013, more than half of New Jersey counties had incorporated copepods in their mosquito management programs.

In New Jersey and Louisiana, state and county mosquito control workers release copepods into residential and commercial areas, naturally reducing the numbers of mosquitoes. There are 13,000 species of copepods but, according to professors at Florida State University’s Medical Entomology Lab, not all copepods are effective at controlling mosquitoes. They should be used only if they occur naturally in an area where they can be reproduced and counted on to reliably attack that area’s mosquito larvae. Native copepods exist in every state. Once the species are identified, it takes time to determine which are best for a laboratory breeding program. It takes at least six months to raise enough of them, more than 50,000, to begin deployment in large-scale mosquito control programs.

Much like the mosquito-eating fish used by most states, copepods are used in pools of standing water that are either hard to reach or are in areas too sensitive for pesticides. They’re more a preventive measure than an ultimate weapon, say New Jersey state officials, but they make a difference in narrowing the scale of the mosquito fight. They actually reduce the number of inspections that county workers have to make and reduce the amount of pesticides needed to control mosquitoes. Remember that when considering the introduction of any vertebrate or invertebrate species, local regulations must be followed and care must be taken not to introduce non-native species into natural aquatic environments.

By using the smart, sensible and sustainable steps IPM offers, you can take control of mosquitoes in your own community. First, eliminate breeding habitats with sanitation and maintenance. For areas of standing water that cannot be eliminated, native biological controls can be employed to facilitate a reduction of mosquitoes, resulting in a reduction of mosquito borne diseases and a diminished reliance on pesticides.

For more information on mosquito control in New York City go to:www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/environmental/wnv-community.shtml. In other areas, contact your state cooperative extension agent or local health department for region-specific guidance and visit www2.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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A Walk in the Park

(All photos courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

By Kevin Kubik

Finally it seems that winter is truly done and spring is finally here. As I’ve written about before, May is a great time to do some bird watching especially out at Sandy Hook, NJ. Sandy Hook is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and so many species of birds migrate through on their way to points west and north. My wife and I missed last year’s migration since Sandy Hook was closed due to the damage done by Hurricane Sandy. Equipped with only our binoculars, Jan and I set out for a nice walk in the park. And within minutes we saw three species of warblers: a Black and White Warbler, a Black-Breasted Green Warbler, and a Yellow Warbler.

As we continued on our walk we saw many other colorful birds. And most spectacularly, for 30 minutes we watched two Scarlet Tanagers picking at insects on the top of some trees, amazingly highlighted by the sun. If you think cardinals are red, Scarlet Tanagers are iridescent red.

So get out and explore a park, before summer when it may be too hot!!!

About the Author: Kevin Kubik serves as the region’s Acting Director for the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment out of EPA’s Edison Environmental Center. He has worked as a chemist for the region for more than 32 years in the laborat

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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Memories Stirred Along the Passaic River

By David Kluesner

The team of EPA employees who have been working behind the scenes on the proposal to clean up the Passaic River.

The team of EPA employees who have been working behind the scenes on the proposal to clean up the Passaic River.

Carol Johnston

Carol Johnston

As we gathered along the banks of the Passaic River last Friday to announce the EPA’s ambitious proposal to clean up the most contaminated stretch of the river, I was reminded of two tireless environmental leaders who weren’t present, but joined us in spirit.

Ella Filippone

Ella Filippone

Sister Carol Johnston championed environmental justice for the Ironbound community long before that term was ever coined. Ella Filippone forced us to face the Passaic River decades before anyone wanted to. I felt them both smiling above us on April 11 as we recognized the largest cleanup proposal in EPA history. In my coat pocket I carried my favorite photos of them. They passed in 2013 but they spoke loudly that day. “So many delays but today this is government at its BEST”, I could hear Ella say. “Justice paid this community a visit today. Let’s get going, we have a lot of work to do”, I could hear Carol say. Their lives and lifelong pursuits live on.

 

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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A Chance to Walk the Walk When it Comes to Green Infrastructure

By Tom Damm

What happens in my hometown doesn’t stay in my hometown.

Actions on the land and in the waters of Hamilton Township, N.J. have an effect on the Delaware River, which is a major focus of our cleanup work in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region.

As a possible blog idea, I wanted to look into the pollution impacts of stormwater that enters the sewer drain across from my house.  When I accessed my township website for a contact number, I found something even more interesting.

Class is in session with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program.

Class is in session with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program. Photo courtesy of Jess Brown, Rutgers.

I learned that Hamilton is Ground Zero for a new initiative by Rutgers University to promote green infrastructure techniques that soak up stormwater before it reaches the sewer system and creates nasty problems in our streams and streets.

Better yet, Rutgers was recruiting volunteers to be part of the action in Hamilton and elsewhere.

Green infrastructure is one of the hottest topics I write about at EPA.  We’ve helped communities in our region become national leaders in using green strategies to slow the flow of stormwater.

Now I had the chance to get directly involved.  So I signed up for the training offered by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program.

The course was designed to develop a corps of paraprofessionals to help Rutgers engineers and scientists identify sites ripe for rain gardens and other green techniques to “keep the rain from the drain.”  The classroom training took place at Duke Farms, a model of environmental stewardship, and at Rutgers, where we also stepped outside to examine how a parking lot could be fitted with green features.

Instructor Chris Obropta described the problems posed by stormwater, the solutions offered by green infrastructure, and the role we would play initially in scouting out potential locations through aerial maps, photos, site visits and other analysis, and then writing up our findings.

I have a head start in Hamilton.  Our town officials are supportive of the initiative and the program already has found 72 candidate sites in our six sub-watersheds, including hard surfaces at my local Little League field and firehouse.  Large rain gardens have been installed at two of our high schools, providing real life lessons for students.

With certificate in hand, I’m looking forward to taking the next steps with the folks from Rutgers.

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

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A Look Back at EPA’s work in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

Among the communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy exactly a year ago today was Sayreville, New Jersey and its wastewater pumping station. As the super storm pounded the East Coast, untreated sewage from a pump station for the Sayreville station began flowing into the Raritan River and Bay system – a source of drinking water for many in the area.

In order to stop the toxic flow, two highly-trained EPA contractors were called in to install a six thousand pound gate under water. They performed extremely dangerous dives into 25 feet of raw sewage in a confined space with no visibility and hazardous debris.

They succeeded in installing the gate, which accelerated the restart of the Sayreville Pump station and prevented the discharge of hundreds of millions of gallons of more raw sewage into local waters. This critical work is just one example of countless EPA efforts rising to the occasion during one of nation’s most destructive natural disasters.

More

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Song of the Cicada

(Part two of a series on cicadas)

By Marcia Anderson

Cicadas on Staten Island

Cicadas on Staten Island

Billions of flying bugs known as cicadas are currently sweeping over the East Coast. What were you doing in June of 1996?  Do you remember the terrible sound they made? Cicadas are a true marvel of nature and one that should be enjoyed whenever possible. Once it starts, the emergence typically lasts only four to six weeks: long enough for the males to sing their mating song, the cicadas to mate, the females to lay their eggs, and then they all die, leaving their 2-inch corpses for us to clean up.

The song of the cicada was used to signify summer in Japanese cinematography. Standing near an especially loud chorus of cicadas can be like standing near a motorcycle, with a racket reaching up to 100 decibels. Because cicadas produce extremely loud noises while requiring very little power, they are being studied by the U.S. Navy. They are of particular interest in naval sonar research related to underwater exploration and communication.

How do the cicadas make that sound? First, only male cicadas make the sound. Males have organs that resemble drum-like plates, called tymbals, on both sides of their abdomen. The cicada moves his muscles to pop the tymbals in and out, which creates the sound we hear. These chirping and clicking noises can be heard by females up to a mile away.

The naval research facility in Newport, Rhode Island uses microcomputer tomography to image a cicada’s tymbal. This is like a CT scan that picks up details as small as a micron in size. The tymbal is made of a thin membrane connecting thicker sections known as ribs, each of which is thinner than a human hair. According to researchers, the male cicada pulls all the tymbal ribs inward and together. The ribs make a short, sharp noise when they draw together and again when they snap apart. The cicada repeats the action 300 to 400 times per second, creating the characteristic deafening chirp. Producing noise in this way is unusual in the insect world. For example, crickets, locusts, and katydids rub their legs to create their chirps.

Interestingly, the cicada’s left and right tymbals can act like two speakers that produce sound waves that combine. Imagine two water waves in the ocean, generated by separate storms converging toward each other. Where the peaks of the two waves perfectly overlap, they add together and spike much higher than the peak of either wave alone. We call this very large wave a rogue wave, which is known to have sunken many an unsuspecting ship in the deep sea. Similarly, if the waves are sound waves traveling through the air, the peaks would be spots where the volume is very high. The cicadas may use this effect to pump their volume to very high levels without expending as much energy as if a single tymbal had to do it alone.

Children and adults can experience this phenomenon by catching a male cicada and then gently closing their hands around it to feel the vibrations emitted by its chirping.

Warning: During cicada season they may land on you if you’re using a power tool or lawn mower. Why? Cicadas think the sounds made by power tools and lawn maintenance equipment are made by other cicadas. They get confused and will land on the people using the equipment! So either cut your lawn in the early morning or near dusk when the cicadas are less active, or let the grass grow a little longer for a few weeks.

For more cicada information:    The scientific name for these cicadas is Magicicada. The National Geographic Society supports the Magicicada website: http://cicadiamania.com.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

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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A Return of the Cicadas (Part 1)

By Marcia Anderson

Cicada

Cicada

Billions of flying bugs known as cicadas are currently sweeping over the United States’ most densely populated region, like a Stephen King novel that nobody dies in.

They began emerging in Georgia and South Carolina in early May, and have worked their way 900 miles northward, to Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City and Albany. Wooded properties with adjacent open space like Manhattan’s Central Park, the Bronx Zoo, Staten Island or Newark suburbs all have their share of cicadas. In NJ, I have found Metuchen, Fanwood, and Montclair, NJ to have prime suburban cicada love dens. The timing of their emergence was dependent on the weather.  When the temperature reached 64oF, the insects rose up, wriggled out of their shells and took wing.

Actually, Cicadas are a true marvel of nature and one that should be enjoyed whenever possible. The bugs are mostly harmless to plants and humans. I found a cicada in our yard today and I remember sharing a huge emergence of cicadas with my children and now look forward to sharing the experience with my grandkids! Do you remember what you were doing in June of 1996? That was the last emergence and it was the year this brood was born. Do you recall how the sidewalks in some places were covered and how they crunched underneath your feet?  What about trouble sleeping due to the constant terrible sound they made? (More on the “Song of the Cicada” in part 2 of this story.)

Once it starts, the emergence typically lasts only four to six weeks — long enough for the cicada nymphs to find a tree, shed their crunchy brown exoskeletons, and expand their wings. They will spend their next few weeks mating and laying eggs in tree branches. Then they will all die, leaving their bodies to litter the ground. The tiny newly hatched babies will make their way back to the ground and burrow down for the next 17 years. They bugs will emerge in 2030 to continue the cycle. There are expected to be 30 billion 17-year cicadas this year.

Cicada Nymph

Cicada Nymph

Why so many? One theory called “predator satiation,” suggests that the large number of cicadas is a survival strategy to overwhelm predators.  If predators are never able to eat them all, many will survive to mate and continue the species.

There are 13 year cicadas also. Why 17 and 13 years? Since they emerge only once every 13 or 17 years (brood dependent), it is difficult for predators to synchronize with them as no predator species can anticipate their emergence. The long life-cycles could also help these cicadas avoid extinction from long stretches of fatally cold weather, such as what was experienced during the past ice age. The development of 13 and 17 year emergence cycles is a strange coincidence as both numbers are primes. Also interesting is that of 30 known cicada broods, 17 broods have a 17-year emergence cycle and 13 broods have a 13-year cycle. Cicada broods usually don’t overlap geographically, and it is very rare when they emerge in the same year.

Other cool facts about cicadas:

  • Cicadas have five eyes: Two are large, red, compound eyes, and three are ocelli, which are believed to be used to detect light and darkness.
  • Cicadas actually benefit the health of trees by aerating the soil around the roots, and trimming weak or damaged limbs. They do drink tree fluids, but usually not enough to cause harm to the trees.

The females may harm young trees by splitting the thin bark on slender branches with their egg laying. You can place netting around young trees to prevent female’s access, but this may be impractical for large numbers of trees. Cicadas only feed on woody perennials, so vegetable and/or strawberry crops are not at risk.

  • This could be a very bad year for fruit tree orchard farmers.
  • Animals eat them. It’s going to be a wonderful year for anything that can eat cicadas. City pigeons and songbirds love them, dogs will gorge themselves, squirrels will eat them like corn on the cob, turkeys gobble them up, plus they make great fishing bait.
  • People eat them. If you find yourself with shovel loads of cicadas and do not know where to put them, consider eating some of them. Some insist that cicadas are a delicacy and make delicious high-protein meals. The University of Maryland put together a cook book with recipes like: cicada kabobs, cicada Creole, cicada gumbo soup, pan-fried cicada, and stir fried cicada. There’s pineapple cicada, lemon cicada, coconut cicada, cicada stew, cicada salad, cicada burgers, cicada dumplings and banana cicada bread. You can barbecue, boil, broil, bake or sauté them.
  • If you want to totally avoid them: go to the beach. Cicadas don’t like sand.

Above all, put things into perspective. The density of cockroaches in New York City is far greater than the density of cicadas. There are several million cockroaches per city acre, however they aren’t noisy and don’t fly around much. Once the mommy cicadas lay their eggs, they will die, and you won’t even notice the tiny babies!

For more cicada information:    The scientific name for these cicadas is Magicicada. The National Geographic Society supports the Magicicada website: http://cicadiamania.com.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

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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Furry Friends on Barnegat Bay!

By Sarah Peterson

Seals on Barnegat Bay

Seals on Barnegat Bay

EPA Region 2 is one of several partners assisting the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for the past two years with a water quality survey of Barnegat Bay. We have been sampling weekly from March-October each year and bi-weekly during the winter months. One of the overall goals of this project is to monitor the water quality of the bay because previous data shows that dissolved oxygen and pathogen indicators have exceeded water quality standards in certain areas within Barnegat Bay. Nutrient loading in Barnegat Bay is also a prevalent issue and collaborators on this project hope to identify numeric criteria or nutrient loading targets and revise existing surface water quality standards to set restoration endpoints for the bay.

The EPA has been responsible for sampling at three locations located throughout Barnegat Bay and one located near Barnegat Light. When we are out in the field we take readings for water temperature, pH, specific conductance, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. Surface samples that are collected are analyzed for many different parameters, some of which include: Chlorophyll a, Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorus, Total Organic Carbon, Alkalinity, Turbidity, and Total Silica. Bottom samples are also collected at each sampling location and are analyzed for similar parameters.

Seals on Barnegat Bay

Seals on Barnegat Bay

In late February 2013, we were near Barnegat Light when we saw what looked like driftwood washed up on a mudflat. As we got closer, we realized it wasn’t driftwood at all. It was a pod of harbor seals sunning themselves.  We continued to see this pod of harbor seals for the next five sampling events. As the temperatures have started to increase, recently, the seals have been in the water rather than on the mudflat, but can still be seen near Barnegat Light. Harbor seals are native to the coast of New Jersey but are not commonly seen, approximately 100 harbor seals call NJ home during the winter months. The harbor seals usually migrate further north by the middle of April. The seals we saw on Barnegat Bay were between five and six feet in length and about 200-250 pounds.

About the Author: Sarah Peterson is an ORISE fellow with the Air and Water Quality Assurance Team within the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment in Edison. She has a BS in Environmental Science and Zoology and a Masters in Environmental Science from Miami 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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The State of Our Rivers and Streams

By Tom Damm

A recent EPA survey shows that more than half of the nation’s rivers and stream miles are in poor condition for aquatic life.

Cover of Draft National Rivers and Streams Assessment 2008-2009 Report

Cover of Draft National Rivers and Streams Assessment 2008-2009 Report

The survey – the 2008-2009 National Rivers and Streams Assessment –indicates that among other concerns, our waterways don’t have enough vegetation along stream banks and have too much nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria and mercury.

That’s a concern for many reasons.  Our rivers and streams serve as sources of drinking water, provide recreational opportunities, support fish and wildlife, and play a critical role in our economy.

There’s a way to find out if your local waters are impaired by pollutants.

EPA’s new How’s My Waterway? app can show the condition of your local stream, creek or river – whether you’re standing on the water’s edge with a mobile device or sitting at home with a computer.  I tried it this week and found that my local creek is impacted by arsenic, E coli, lead, phosphorus and low dissolved oxygen levels.

The health of our rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, including stream miles that only flow seasonally or after rain.

These streams feed downstream waters, trap floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, remove pollution and provide fish and wildlife habitat.

Want to do something to help improve water quality conditions?  You can control polluted runoff from your property, adopt your watershed, do volunteer water monitoring, and more.  For information, click here.

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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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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