rain garden

The Clean Water Act’s Big 4-0

By Tom Damm

Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary Banner

The Clean Water Act is celebrating its 40th anniversary next week.  Can’t think of the perfect gift?  We’ve got some ideas.

  • Save water around the home.   Save water and protect the environment by choosing WaterSense labeled products and taking simple steps to conserve.
  • Dig a rain garden or install a rain barrel. With a rain garden or a rain barrel, capture stormwater before it carries yard and street pollutants into sewer systems and out to local rivers and streams.
  • Volunteer in your community.  Find a watershed organization and volunteer to help. Use EPA’s Adopt Your Watershed to locate groups in your community.  If you can’t find a group to join or want to organize your own activity, check out the Watershed Stewardship Toolkit with eight things you can do to make a difference in your watershed.
  • Pick up after your pet.  Pet waste contains nutrients and bacteria that can wash into local waterways if left on the ground.
  • Do a stormwater stencil projectStencil a message next to the street drain reminding people “Dump No Waste – Drains to River” with the image of a fish. Stencils are also available for lakes, streams, bays, ground water and oceans, as well as the simple “Protect Your Water” logo with the image of a glass and faucet.

To celebrate this big milestone in the life of the Clean Water Act, get involved.  We can all do something to build on the remarkable strides made in water protection over the past four decades.

You can check out more items on the Clean Water Act’s “gift registry” here. And let us know of other steps you’ve taken to further clean and safe water.

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 Apple Day of Service, How Cool!

A lot has changed since I’ve been in school. When I was in school we didn’t recycle, we didn’t have a rain garden or have native plants on school grounds. I doubt we had energy efficient lighting or created signs about environmental awareness.  Schools now are doing all those things and more. Private and public K-12 schools across the country can sign up to participate in the Center for Green Schools  Green Apple Day of Service .  On September 29, schools are encouraged to create a sustainability service project and work with their community to create positive environmental change. The hope is that the Green Apple Day of Service will create a lasting awareness of the importance of green schools. I was impressed with the amount of suggestions available. Hosting a bike tune up, conducting a water audit and even pulling weeds can count as projects.

What’s your school planning on doing September 29? I’d love to hear all about it.

Megan Gavin is the environmental education coordinator at EPA in Chicago. She lives across the street from one of the winners of the Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.

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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Conserving Water Resources With Green Infrastructure

Environmental Science Center at Ft. Meade, Maryland

By Trey Cody

EPA employees in Fort Meade, Maryland at the Environmental Science Center recently added some unique environmental features to their building, which is home to Region III’s chemistry and microbiology labs. EPA staff helped construct a rain garden with native grasses, goldenrod, coneflowers, and http://www.epa.gov/greeningepa/glossary.htm rerouting rooftop drainage pipes to a rain barrel to help reduce splash erosion as stormwater falls from roof gutters to the garden. The rain garden makes for a beautiful sight for workers at the front of the building and is watered both naturally and with the rain barrel.

These improvements and more are helping this facility in its effort to meet the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings as well as working towards achieving a U.S Green Building Council, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design existing building certification.

Read about more environmentally positive features of the Environmental Science Center.

This is just one way that EPA is helping to improve water quality by the construction of green infrastructure in our region. There are numerous other examples of how new products, technologies, and practices can use natural systems to enhance water quality. Some of these can be implemented in your local household or business. The great thing about green infrastructure is that while it is improving water quality, you can save water, money and energy.

Below are some examples of green infrastructure that you can implement to your house to promote water quality. You can click each one to view more information, fact sheets, benefits, examples and web sites.

  • Downspout Disconnection: The rerouting of rooftop drainage pipes to drain rainwater to rain barrels, cisterns, or permeable areas instead of the storm sewer.  Home owners can disconnect and reroute these pipes with little to no effort!
  • Rain Gardens: Shallow, vegetated basins that allows for the collection and absorption of runoff from rooftops, sidewalks, and streets.  Rain gardens mimic natural hydrology by infiltration, evaporation, and returning water vapor to the atmosphere.  They can be installed in almost any unpaved space. This is a great way for a homeowner to beautify their homes and improve water quality!
  • Permeable Pavements: Paved surfaces that allow infiltration, treating, and storage of rainwater where it falls.  Permeable pavements may be constructed from pervious concrete, porous asphalt, and several other materials.

Have you installed any of these or other examples of green infrastructure in your household?

Leave a comment and tell us about your experiences!

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 August will focus on Science and Innovation.

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.

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 Philadelphia Story: Using Green Infrastructure to Slow the Flow

By Tom Damm

Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Howard Neukrug, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Region 3 EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin, U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, and Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler at the signing of the partnership agreement; photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Water Department.

Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Howard Neukrug, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Region 3 EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin, U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, and Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler at the signing of the partnership agreement; photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Water Department.

The only good thing about sitting through a miserable, wind-blown drizzle watching the Phillies lose to the Dodgers Monday night was that the rain wasn’t heavy enough to bring out the tarp.  That would have meant a later night than expected for our EPA group and a groggier commute in the morning.

When it comes to downpours in Philadelphia, though, there are much greater concerns than some inconvenienced baseball fans… maybe even greater concerns than the Phils’ slow start to the 2012 season.

More than half of the city’s sewers carry both storm water and sewage, and when the system gets inundated during a rain event it can overflow, sending a stew of contaminants into streams and rivers.

What to do? In Philly’s case, the goal is to slow the flow.

Our EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, came to Philadelphia in April to sign an agreement with the city that represents a $2 billion investment in methods to intercept rainwater before it chugs into the sewer system with pollutants in tow.

Considered a national model, the 25-year Green City, Clean Waters plan will sprout green roofs, tree-lined streets, porous pavement, grassy swales and other features, transforming many of the city’s hard surfaces into absorbent green areas.

The city’s spongier footprint will not only mean fewer sewer overflows, it’ll also help spruce up the community and give a boost to the economy.

If eventually one of the biggest concerns from a storm is waiting out a rain delay at Citizens Bank Park, I can handle that.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

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 Tracks for Maryland’s Light Rail

By Nancy Grundahl

Read more about green initiatives proposed in, “Design Green! Best Practices for Sustainability, Safe Street Design for the Red Line.”

The Maryland Transit Administration is testing a “Green Track” concept, establishing vegetation between and adjacent to light rail tracks.  Among the positive outcomes is a reduction in polluted stormwater running into local streams.

The question is: will the turf grass and/or sedums planted between the tracks survive in the railway environment and become established well enough to present a dense and attractive growth in Maryland?  If so, green tracks are to be considered for incorporation into portions of the Red Line, a 14-mile light rail transit line proposed in Baltimore City. Additionally, the Green Track concept is being considered for portions of the Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail project in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. (Read more about green initiatives proposed in, “Design Green! Best Practices for Sustainability, Safe Street Design for the Red Line.”)

Green tracks are not uncommon in Europe, most notably in France and Germany. The benefits are many.  Some stormwater that would otherwise run off will be captured by the vegetation and soil. The temperature in the immediate area will be moderated, being a little cooler in the summer, reducing the urban heat island effect.  And, the noise from the trains will be dampened. Regular monitoring of Maryland’s Green Tracks test areas is currently underway.

Interested in seeing the green track test segments in person?

In mid-town Baltimore go to the Cultural Center Light Rail Station which is near the intersection of North Howard and West Preston Streets. There are two test areas here.

There is another test area in the suburbs near the Ferndale Light Rail Station in Anne Arundel County.  The test area is located between South Broadview Boulevard and Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard south of the station and the firehouse.

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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Longwood Gardens has Largest Green Wall in North America

By Nancy Grundahl

For more information on the green wall at Longwood Gardens, click here. Photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens.

Longwood Gardens in southeast Pennsylvania has established the largest green wall in all North America.  Located in Kennett Square about 30 miles from Philadelphia, Longwood Gardens is an oasis of landscaped beauty.  Built by Pierre du Pont between 1907 and the 1930’s, the gardens were turned over to a foundation in the 1940’s to ensure that the general public would be able to enjoy them for years to come.

The idea for the green wall started as a sketch on a cocktail napkin. Longwood desired a grand new entrance to the East Conservatory Plaza.  And, because they handle almost one million visitors a year, there was also a need for more restrooms. The result is a curving structure with 17 restroom pods strung together. The walls consist of 3,590 modular panels mounted on a steel framework. Each panel houses a carefully selected variety of plants, about 47,000 plugs in total. The plants are fed by drip irrigation of water enhanced with liquid fertilizer.

The living walls – which have multiple water benefits – help connect visitors with plants, dampen noise in the area, provide moisture and oxygen to the air, and moderate the temperature of the microenvironment in that area. Green walls are one of the tools used by architects and planners to create more sustainable communities. Depending on the design and whether they are indoors or outdoors, green walls can enhance the water environment by slowing down a significant amount of stormwater runoff, resulting in healthier streams. Green walls can also be a way to reuse grey water, such as wastewater collected from washing and runoff from roofs. The plants can purify the water and the system can reduce overall water consumption.

For more information on the green wall at Longwood Gardens, go to:  http://www.longwoodgardens.org/EastConservatoryPlazaPR.html.

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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Bay Website Focuses on Action

By Tom Damm

Click here to view a brochure produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee featuring examples of local actions to cut nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.

There’s a new look to EPA’s Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” website.

The pollution diet, or Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), was established by EPA in December 2010, based largely on action plans provided by the watershed’s six states and the District of Columbia.

The website now has a greater focus on activities at the local level happening around the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed to reduce pollution impacting the Bay and its vast network of connecting rivers and streams.

One of the new additions is a brochure produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee featuring examples of local actions to cut nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.

Check out those case studies and the other new items on the site, and let us know what you think.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

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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Leave it Be!

Don't bag your leaves, use your lawnmower to mulch them!

By Brian Hamilton

Many homeowners use chemicals to fertilize their lawn in the fall. These chemicals can get washed into rivers, lakes and streams by rain causing negative impacts to those water bodies.

Did you know there is a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly way to give your lawn a nutrient boost? Plus the supply is free, endless and consistent?

The answer literally grows on trees. LEAVES! Leaves are packed full of many nutrients that people pay hefty prices to spray on their lawn.

Instead of getting out the rake in the fall, get out the lawnmower. Set the height to around 3” and mow right over the leaves. Let the clippings lie where they are. The leaves will decompose and deposit nutrients that will feed your lawn for months to come.
Give it a try and let us know how it works for you!

About the Author: Brian Hamilton works in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support at Region 3. He helps manage the Healthy Waters Blog, and assists in reviewing mining permits and does other duties as assigned. Brian grew up in Central Pennsylvania. He has worked for the EPA since July 2010.

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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Roots of Success

plantmoreplantsWe’re all part of the solution.

That was one of the messages at this week’s gathering of state and federal leaders coordinating the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and its vast watershed.

On the agenda at the Chesapeake Executive Council’s annual meeting on Monday were updates on the “pollution diet” for the Bay watershed and the first set of two-year milestones of cleanup activity.

But the theme of the high-level meeting was how you and I can help in the restoration effort.

One of the initiatives showcased was the Chesapeake Bay Program’s “Plant More Plants” campaign.

The campaign encourages us to plant native trees, shrubs and perennials to help slow down and filter the rain water that charges from our roofs, driveways and sidewalks during a storm.  Unrestrained, that rain water picks up fertilizers, dirt, oil and other contaminants as it rushes into storm sewers and out into our favorite streams and rivers.  The pollution not only affects our local waters, it eventually creates problems downstream in big bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay.

The Plant More Plants website offers free, downloadable landscaping plans as well as tip sheets for watering, fertilizing and mowing with conservation goals in mind.  They’ve also got a blog that we really dig.

So grab your trowels and shovels, put on your gardening gloves and pitch in to improve water quality.  Your lawn and your local stream will thank you.

And share with us your best tips on good gardening!

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 smArts and Crafts: Build Your Own Rain Barrel!

treyrainbarrelBy Trey Cody

Looking for a “rainy day” project?  Get your tools ready – we’re making a rain barrel.  Not to worry.  It involves little cost and little labor and the benefits are huge.

A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater directly from your roof via your gutter.  It’s also a great green craft that protects the environment and saves you money!

A rain barrel can save most homeowners on average 1,300 gallons of water during the summer months because you can store and use the water from the rain barrel instead of water from the tap to water your garden or lawn or wash your car.  So sav­ing water with a rain barrel not only helps to protect the environment, it saves you money and energy because of decreased use of treated tap water.

Some other benefits of having a rain barrel are that water from storm drains is diverted into the barrel instead of adding to runoff to streams.  Also, your garden can stay healthy with water that is free of chlorine, lime or calcium.  So whether you want to show off your creative side and build your very own rain barrel or want to buy a ready-made one, a rain barrel is the right step towards your newer, healthier and greener garden!

To create your own rain barrel all you need are these basic materials:

  • 55 gallon polyethylene plastic barrel
  • 2 inch male threaded by 2 inch pipe adapter
  • Tube silicone sealer/cement
  • Outdoor faucet valve
  • 1/2 inch threaded bushing
  • 1/2 inch female threaded socket
  • Teflon tape
  • Screen fabric
  • Cinder blocks
  • Optional – paint to match your house color

And these basic tools:

  • Jig Saw
  • Power Drill with 3/4 inch Spade Bit
  • Scissors
  • Pipe Wrench and Pliers
  • Screw Driver
  • Hack Saw

This green craft is simple to construct.   Just click here to get the simple assembly instructions to make your rain barrel.

Making a rain barrel at my house was easier than I imagined and I had fun while doing it. So much fun that I actually constructed three! What I find most enjoyable is watching how quickly it fills up on a rainy day. Also, once it’s filled, using it and knowing that I created this rain barrel myself gives me great pleasure. I would recommend it to all who are looking for a fun and easy project that will help protect our environment and save them money.

There are other EPA employees in our Philadelphia office that have also been showing their handy sides and installing rain barrels at their homes and in their communities.  They all talk about how great their barrels work and how they either want to get or already have gotten a second barrel to store more water.

One of my co-workers cut up an old hose to use as a device to convey the water from the barrel to her garden.  She told me, “When I want to water the garden, I open the valve & let gravity do the rest.”  Other colleagues are such expert rain barrel craftsmen that they have set up rain barrel programs in their communities.  Fred told us that his Township Environmental Advisory Committee assembles homemade rain barrels using local volunteers and sells them to residents at $35 a piece (also check out Fred’s blog about rain barrels from last summer).

Want to take your garden to an even higher level, with an even greater environmental impact?  Having a rain barrel that drains right into a rain garden is the best combination for managing stormwater on your property.  Check out our blog on rain gardens to see how you can join the Rain Gardens for the Bays Campaign to green our neighborhoods and protect our streams and bays by creating thousands of rain gardens in local watersheds!

Do you have a rain barrel at your house?  What other green projects have you done or can you think of?  Share your ideas in the comments section!

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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