Technology

Water Savings on Tap for Fix a Leak Week 2013

By Kimberly Scharl

Fix a Week 2013 bannerMarch 18-24, 2013 is the EPA WaterSense program’s 5th annual Fix a Leak Week, a time when we remind you to check your household plumbing for leaks.  American households waste more than 1 trillion gallons of clean drinking water each year due to leaky pipes, toilets, showerheads and other fixtures. But fixing leaks can be easy and inexpensive, and can save you nearly 10 percent on utility bills!   Need some ideas to mark the occasion of Fix a Leak Week?   We’ve got some for you…

Save water in your own home!

Being handy around the house doesn’t have to be difficult. Common types of leaks found in the home are worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves.  These types of leaks are often easy to fix.  You might only need a few tools and hardware, and these fixes can pay for themselves in water savings.  Check out this video by Spartanburg Water on detecting a leaky toilet.

Check it out!

There are tons of events happening all over the country to celebrate Fix a Leak Week!  Here are two in the Mid-Atlantic Region:

Charlottesville, Virginia is hosting the “Fix a Leak Family 5k”, an event where runners and non-runners alike can learn about water conservation.  Besides the trail run itself, the event will feature local vendors and non-profits sharing information on water and energy savings.  This event is also featuring face painting, a DJ, and a nature trail making it fun for the whole family!

The West Virginia Public Service Commission in Charleston will be visiting local elementary schools to discuss the importance of water conservation with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Hands-on demonstrations will illustrate scarcity of potable water, areas of the country where shortages of water are a problem, and how those shortages affect individuals in other regions of the country.

Do you know of other events happening near you next week?  Tell us about them in the comments!

Come Chat with Us!!!

To kick off Fix a Leak Week, WaterSense is holding its 2nd Annual Fix a Leak Week Twitter chat on Monday March 18th from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Eastern.  Log into your Twitter account during that time and use the hashtag #fixaleak to tweet messages about your plans to make a difference during Fix a Leak Week!

Flo, our spokesgallon, will be joining in too!  Throughout the Twitter chat, we’ll be posting pictures of Flo as she travels around the Mid-Atlantic Region sharing water saving tips.  Here’s a sneak peak of Flo, can you guess where she is?

Our Spokesgallon Flo with the Liberty Bell

So join in the conversation!  Make sure to follow @EPARegion3 to catch all Flo’s journeys in our region, and follow @EPAwatersense and the #fixaleak hashtag to get more tips during the chat.

Take the Pledge!

Join us and thousands of your friends and neighbors in taking simple actions to save water.  Take the “I’m for Water” pledge, and make a resolution this year to save this precious resource.

For more information on Fix a Leak Week and the WaterSense program, go to www.epa.gov/watersense.  You can also follow WaterSense on Facebook and Twitter!  Make 2013 about water and take the pledge today!

Tell us how you are saving water this Fix a Leak Week in the comments!

About the Author: Kimberly Scharl has worked at the Environmental Protection Agency since 2010, after moving to Pennsylvania from Mississippi.  She is a financial analyst and project officer for the Water Protection Division, Office of Infrastructure and Assistance.  She is also the Regional Liason for the WaterSense Program.  Kim enjoys bowling and spending time with her family.

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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Water Treatment Ahead of its Time

By: Trey Cody

Fairmount Water Works

Fairmount Water Works, Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service

As in intern in EPA Region III’s Water Protection Division, there are always ample opportunities to learn about environmental protection. One of my most recent adventures was a trip to the Fairmount Water Works Interpretative Center in Philadelphia with other interns in my program.

The original Fairmount Water Works was considered at the time of its opening in 1815 to be a wonder of the world.  After witnessing its magnificent architecture and design, I would argue that it still is today. During the trip we learned about how, with advanced technology for its time, the Water Works facility allowed Philadelphia to be the first municipality in the nation to take on the responsibility of distributing fresh drinking water to the public. This was done with the use of two steam engines which pumped water from the Schuylkill River to a 3-million-gallon reservoir to house it.  In 1822, a 1,600-foot dam was built across the Schuylkill in order to direct water to three water wheels, which had replaced the steam engines.  Another innovation for its time was the use of hydropower–the facility itself was powered by the river.  And I learned that Fairmount Park was created to preserve open space to protect our water supply.

It is clear that the availability for clean drinking water has been a priority for centuries.  I knew that Philadelphia gets its drinking water from both the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, but it was nice to learn about the history behind this.  It gives me pride to know that the Mid-Atlantic Region was home to a facility ahead of its time that is still to this day a model for drinking water facilities across the U.S.

Do you know how your drinking water is treated and which source it comes from?  Do you have a similar story to a visit to a drinking water facility?  Leave us a comment and tell about it!

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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Sensors and Sensibility

By Vasu Kilaru

Around us every day are technologies that give us access to more information at our fingertips than any generation has ever had.  As an EPA scientist, I’m pretty thrilled about these innovations and what they mean for environmental protection.

One exciting new initiative in that realm here at EPA is called Apps and Sensors for Air Pollution or ASAP. This new aspect of our research came out of the recognition that the advances in sensor technologies are unfolding at the same amazing pace that we all see with new cellphone and smartphone technologies.

Cellphones already have a variety of sensors built in:  light sensors and proximity sensors to manage display brightness, accelerometers used as switches or to characterize motion, GPS to provide mapping and locational services, compass and gyroscope to provide direction and orientation, microphones for audio, and a camera for video/photography.

These capabilities have led to the logical coupling of other sensors, such as for air pollution monitoring or biometric measurements, with smartphones.

Traditionally, air monitoring technologies were costly to setup and maintain, and therefore were put under the purview of governments (federal and state). Now, new miniature sensor technologies are more affordable and have the advantage of being highly portable. These developments in sensor technology present an exciting new frontier where monitoring will be more democratic and available much more widely. Parallel to these developments are sensors that measure physiological conditions such as heart rate or blood oxygen levels.

Pairing environmental sensors with ones that measure biological conditions could herald a new era for both environmental protection as well as healthcare. Future developments in these sensor technologies ultimately have the capacity to help people make better decisions regarding their environment and their own health.

So we are excited to do our part in bringing new technologies to you.  If you’re going to the World Maker Faire in New York this weekend (September 29-30), stop by our EPA booth, we’d love to talk about how DIYers, makers, inventors can help make a greener future.

About the Author: Vasu Kilaru works in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He is currently working on the apps and sensors for air pollution initiative (ASAP) helping the Agency develop its strategic role and response to new sensor technology developments.

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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Encouraging Design Thinking to Develop Integrated Green Infrastructure Solutions

By Ken Hendrickson

Campus Rainworks Challenge - click for more information!When you hear the words “design” or “designer”, what comes to mind?  The latest couture on the runway?  Swiss furniture with names that are hard to pronounce?   While you may envision the products of design, I tend to think about design thinking – the process of working through a complex problem. In many cases, I believe the understanding gained during this process is more important than the product or end result.  Design can result in beautiful or interesting things, but design thinking can help to integrate multiple disciplines, create positive change and advance our understanding of the world.

We’ve all heard the phrase “thinking outside the box” – to be creative and not use the same old thinking to solve complex problems.  Design thinking takes that a step further.  It helps to reframe the problem, consider information from several fields and test possible solutions.  It’s a perfect vehicle for advancing ideas in new and unexpected ways.  This explains the popularity of design competitions as a way to encourage creative thinking around a particular set of environmental problems.

One example is the use of design competitions to explore the possibilities of green infrastructure to address urban stormwater. These green techniques use vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage stormwater close to its source.  They also have the potential to provide additional social and environmental benefits.  Design competitions are helping to build an interdisciplinary discussion around the potential of green infrastructure – thinking outside the pipe.

Region 3’s Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) Initiative did a webcast this spring exploring how design competitions can be powerful tools to spur innovation and adoption of green infrastructure communities. View the archived webcast by visiting http://www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/watersheds.htm#g3academy and clicking “G3 Academy Studio.”

The Community Design Collaborative, Philadelphia Water Department, and EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office are partnering to host Infill Philadelphia: Soak it up!, an exhibition of best practices in green stormwater infrastructure.  The goal of the exhibition is to showcase projects that soak up stormwater while creating healthy, engaging, and visually-appealing urban places.  Selected entries will be on display at Philadelphia’s Center for Architecture this fall. The exhibition is also a build up to a national design competition.

Design competitions can also engage and educate students.  The EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge seeks to engage college and university students from multiple disciplines to develop green infrastructure solutions.  This design competition is an exciting opportunity for college and university students to be on the cutting edge of a real-world issue and contribute to the discussion.  Students must form teams and register to participate.  Registration for the competition is open from September 4 to October 5, 2012, and entries will be due on December 14, 2012.   Visit the Campus RainWorks website for more information about the competition.

Have you ever thought about designing something to solve a problem?  How did your thinking change from when you started designing to when you developed your solution?  What kinds of things did you have to consider?  How would you design green infrastructure for your neighborhood?

About the Author: Ken Hendrickson has worked at the EPA since 2010 and is the Green Infrastructure staff lead in the Office of State and Watershed Partnerships.  Ken has a background in landscape architecture, geology, and watershed management.  He enjoys working to empower communities to improve their environment and finding solutions that create more resilient social, environmental, and economic systems. When not in the office, Ken enjoys challenging and rewarding outdoor activities and creative indoor hobbies.

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.

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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Spongier Surfaces Reducing Stormwater Runoff

By Trey Cody

Think about the sponge on your kitchen sink.  When you hold it under the running faucet, it absorbs a surprising amount of water.  But what if the sponge was covered in plastic wrap?  The water would hit the surface and flow right off.  We can see this same concept at work in our urbanized watersheds where, in many areas, green space that once absorbed rainfall has been replaced by hard surfaces that water can’t penetrate.

There are lots of ways that cities and towns are trying to get closer to their original, spongy state.  Having a surface that is porous and permeable reduces the effects of stormwater runoff on receiving streams, like stream bank erosion and negative effects on aquatic plant and animal life.

That’s why porous paving projects are popping up all over the place.  Permeable paving refers to a different way of mixing or constructing concrete or asphalt that allows water to flow through the pavement and into the ground instead of over it.

One project can be found in our neighboring EPA Region 2’s Laboratory in Edison, New Jersey (above), where three permeable surfaces are being tested on the site of a former concrete parking lot. The performance and capabilities of these systems are being documented as part of a long term project to study the effects of paving materials such as porous asphalt, porous concrete, and interlocking concrete paver blocks. The parking lot will be monitored for its ability to accept, store, and infiltrate stormwater, water quality performance, urban heat island mitigation, maintenance effects, and parking behavior.

Closer to our regional office home, the first porous street in Philadelphia was recently unveiled.   And Washington D.C. has done a number of Green Alley Projects using permeable pavement for the street surfaces.  Have you seen other examples of pervious pavement near you?

To learn more about permeable pavement and other green infrastructure techniques, and how it benefits water quality, check out EPA’s Green Infrastructure Page.

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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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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Saving Water and Energy – the Trickle Down Effect on Your Wallet

By Matt Colip and Walter Higgins

Just like homeowners, wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities have to control their energy usage because their budgets are so tight.  While you and I can install attic insulation or turn off lights when they aren’t in use to lower bills, plans for reducing energy use can be a little more complicated at water and wastewater treatment facilities. Still, there are many strategies available to reduce energy usage at water treatment facilities.  Oh, and you can help too.

One way a treatment facility can trim down its energy use is to start from the source and reduce the overall community demand for drinking water and waste water to be treated.  Less water used in communities means a lower cost to you on your water and sewer bill.  By promoting the use of water efficient WaterSense products and water conservation practices by the citizens within their service area, water utilities can reduce energy use significantly. Just think about how much less water facilities would have to treat and the energy that could be conserved if all of us used even a little less!

Have you ever driven by a waste water plant and noticed a large flame coming off one of the stacks?  That’s gas that is produced in the operations of the plant and is typically burned off.  Instead of flaring, it can be beneficially used to run turbines that can generate heat and electricity for the plant (otherwise known as Combined Heat and Power).  Also, some facilities are beginning to install solar photovoltaic panels on the plant grounds to offset the total electricity used by the plant.

On May 8th, EPA, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, hosted an Energy Roundtable Conference in Harrisburg for wastewater treatment operators interested in reducing their facilities’ energy costs and ultimately their carbon footprint.  This conference highlighted several areas related to energy efficiency along with innovative solutions to wastewater treatment.

Interested in hearing more about what happened at the conference? The presentations can be found on our website. For additional information, please contact Walter Higgins at Higgins.walter@epa.gov, or by phone at 215-814-5476.

About the Authors: Matt Colip works in the region’s NPDES Enforcement Branch and focuses primarily on enforcing wastewater and stormwater regulations. Originally a Texan, turned Pennsylvanian, Matt graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., with a BA in Special Studies – Public Health and is currently working on an MS in Environmental Protection Management at Saint Joseph’s University. Walter Higgins is in Region 3′s Water Protection Division where he manages grants that fund water quality and drinking water projects.  He is also involved in working with water and wastewater facilities on energy efficiency and has been with EPA since 2010.  Prior to EPA he was a soil scientist with the Montgomery County Health Department, in Pa.

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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Spring Cleaning and Greening: How to Get Rid of Your Old Electronics and Household Hazardous Waste

By Dan Gallo

Click the map to find HHW and e-waste collection events near you!It’s that time of  year again – time to clean out old items from those closets, basements and garages!

In your spring cleaning, you’ll likely come across old electronics – like TVs, computers, printers, scanners, fax machines, and cell phones – or Household Hazardous Waste – like paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides – and you may not be sure how to properly dispose of them.

Electronic products are made from valuable resources and highly engineered materials, which require energy to mine and manufacture.  Reusing and recycling electronics conserves natural resources and energy and averts any pollution involved in the manufacturing process. Some of the materials in electronics (such as lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury) could pose risks to human health or the environment if disposed of improperly.

Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered to be household hazardous wastes.  These too require special care when you’re purging them from your home, so resist the inclination to leave them on the curb with the rest of your trash, and do not pour such liquid products down the drain!
If you have old items like these, they can be taken to upcoming household hazardous wastes collection events.  Used electronics can also be taken to certain household hazardous wastes collection events.

The counties of southeastern Pennsylvania have recently developed a new, interactive web map to inform residents of upcoming HHW and Electronics Collection events near them.  The Mid-Atlantic Region’s eCycling web page also has links to electronics recycling information in each Mid-Atlantic State and the District of Columbia.

Find out more about eCycling here!  What are you doing with your old electronic devices and household hazardous wastes?

About the Author: Dan Gallo has been with EPA since 1989 and has been the Electronics Recycling Coordinator for the region’s Land and Chemicals Division since 2007.  He has also served as Enforcement Coordinator for the region’s TSCA Lead-Based Paint Program.  Dan has also been involved in sustainability partnership activities with federal agencies and private institutions, along with a federal green building certification project.  When not in the office, Dan likes running, golf and volunteer work.  He and his family reside in Brookhaven, PA.

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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Surfin’ Your Watershed

By Christina Catanese

For those who many not have the opportunity, or the ability to surf the big waves, there is an EPA website that allows you to do a slightly different type of surfing.  The website gives you the tools you need to easily Surf Your Watershed!

Find your nearby watershed by using the simple form located on the page.  Once you locate your watershed, there are many links filled with information for you to search.  For example, I searched the Wissahickon Creek that I bike and hike near on the weekends. Then I followed the first link, “Citizen-based Groups at Work in this Watershed,” and found out that there were 36 different organizations that are working to protect its water quality.  Now I can contact one of these groups to find out about cleanups, monitoring activities, restoration projects and other activities!  This was only one example of the thousands of surfable watersheds in the country.  You can surf until your legs…well, hand… gets tired!  And there’s no risk of getting water up your nose or embarrassing yourself in front of a beach full of people.

Tell us what you find when you Surf YOUR Watershed!


About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.