water research

Upcoming Events at EPA

By Michaela Burns

Interested in attending some of EPA’s public meetings or webinars? Here are a few that we are hosting at the end of April.

C-FERST bannerCommunity-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool
Wednesday, April 20, 3:00 p.m. ET
Tune in for a webinar spotlighting the Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Tool (C-FERST), an online tool that when completed will help inform communities about their environmental and public health issues. C-FERST will include maps and tables with data on sources of pollution, environmental concentrations, estimated exposures and potential risks, demographics, and community characteristics. Register to attend the webinar and learn more.

Disinfection Byproduct Regulatory Issues and Solutions Webinar
Tuesday, April 26th at 2:00 p.m. ET
water coming out of faucetMark your calendar for this month’s small systems webinar—the topic is Disinfection Byproduct Regulatory Issues and Solutions. Gastrointestinal illnesses with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, cramps can be caused by pathogens and viruses that are often found in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. This water must therefore be treated with disinfectant in order to be safe to drink. However some disinfectants react with naturally-occurring materials in the water to form byproducts that are associated with health risks.

EPA environmental engineer Michael Finn will review the Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule, a series of regulations aimed at limiting public exposure to these disinfectant byproducts. Jolyn Leslie, a regional engineer for the Washington State Department of Health Office of Drinking Water, will discuss the challenges for small systems dealing with disinfectant byproducts in Washington State and the possible solutions.

Bonus—attendees may have the option of receiving a certificate for participating in this webinar. Register now!

EPA Research Tribal bannerTribal Science Webinar Series
Tuesday, April 26th at 3:00 p.m. ET
Checkout this month’s Tribal Science Webinar. Speakers will discuss the environmental work in the Strong Heart Study, the largest and longest study of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors in American Indian communities. Cynthia McOliver, an EPA environmental health scientist, will be joined by Ana Navas-Acien, a physician-epidemiologist with a specialty in preventive medicine and public health, and Joseph Yracheta of Missouri Breaks Industries Research, Inc. Register soon!.

Water Research Webinar
Wednesday, April 27th at 2:00 p.m. ET
Scientists doing water researchJoin EPA’s Dr. David Mount for this month’s Water Research Webinar. Dr. Mount will give a presentation on the effects of inorganic ions on aquatic organisms. Natural geochemical weathering introduces several inorganic ions to natural waters. These ions become part of the basic chemistry of surface waters. The problem begins when land uses, such as energy and mineral extraction, increase concentrations of these geochemical ions. The ecological effects of increased ion concentrations are being explored through several inter-related research efforts. This webinar provides an overview of EPA’s research in this area, and some of the implications for predicting ecological risks and informing management decisions. Register to learn more.

Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice Meeting
Thursday, April 28th at 11:00 a.m. ET
Shafer_Lab_02Interested in the latest research on neurotoxicity? Then you don’t want to miss this month’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice Meeting. Drs. William Mundy and Timothy Shafer will present EPA research focusing on new approaches to characterize neurotoxicity from exposure to chemicals. Contact Monica Linnenbrink (linnenbrink.monica@epa.gov) to register.


About the Author: Michaela Burns is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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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This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research Recap graphic identifierWas your team already knocked out of March Madness? Then you must have plenty of time to catch up on the latest in EPA science. And if they’re still in it, there’s always halftime!

Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History month and this year’s theme is “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.” Here at EPA, there are quite a few women scientists and engineers who truly are helping us achieve a more perfect union. We asked some of them to share a few words about what inspired them to pursue a career in science. Read what they said in the blog Women’s History Month: Honoring EPA Women in Science.

Water Reuse and Conservation Research
In honor of World Water Day this week, the White House held a water summit to raise awareness about water issues and potential solutions in the US, and to catalyze ideas and actions to help build a sustainable and secure water future through innovative science and technology. In conjunction with the summit, EPA announced $3.3 million in funding to support water reuse and conservation research. “The research announced today will help us manage and make efficient use of the water supply in the long term,” said Thomas A. Burke, EPA Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator for our Office of Research and Development. Read more about the grants in this press release.

EPA’s Student Competition Lights the Way
A former team that competed in EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) student design competition was just named one of the most innovative companies of 2016 by Fast Company Magazine. The P3 team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was initially funded in 2006 with a $10,000 grant. The student lead, Patrick Walsh, leveraged that funding, research, and experience to ultimately form the company Greenlight Planet. Patrick Walsh was also named to the 30 under 30 list by Forbes Magazine in 2012. Read more about EPA’s P3 student design competition.

Homeland Security Research
EPA’s Gregory Sayles recently wrote about a homeland security research demonstration. Along with the Department of Homeland Security, EPA researchers demonstrated a toolbox of options to mitigate and decontaminate urban, wide-area radiological contamination stemming from an event such as a dirty bomb detonation or nuclear power plant accident. Read more about the event in the article EPA and DHA Partner in Radiation Decontamination Event.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.

Around the Water Cooler: Keeping Stormwater In Place

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

Raining in the city

No where to run: stormwater has no place to go but the sewer.

In the first post of my series on EPA water research, I gave a little history lesson and introduced green infrastructure. This week, we’re going to focus on the cost of combined sewer systems—to our health, our environment and even our economy.

There are hundreds of cities across the country that have combined sewer systems. For example, in New York City, more than 27 billion gallons of raw sewage and polluted stormwater discharge out of 460 combined sewer overflows into the New York Harbor alone each year. Think about all the impermeable surfaces in the city: sidewalks, streets, roofs, patios. It’s a concrete jungle.

To manage stormwater—and set up scenarios to see the impact of development—EPA scientists are developing the Stormwater Calculator that estimates the annual amount of stormwater runoff from a specific site and provides city planners, developers, and property owners a way to calculate the result of specific actions on our waterways. The online tool will be available later this fall.

As stormwater flows over the surface of your property, driveways, parking lots, roofs, etc, it picks up lots of sediments, such as animal droppings, tire residue, motor oil, brake dust, deicing compounds (in the winter), fertilizers, pesticides, trash, heavy metals and other pollutants and carries them to the nearest storm drain.

Obviously, there are things that cities can do to help reduce stormwater run off, and the steep price tag that goes with the cost of separating the combined sewer systems.

For example, in Omaha, the city is testing green infrastructure throughout the city to help reduce the $1.7 billion sewer system separation project. EPA scientists are testing and monitoring soils in Omaha, and other cities such as Cleveland and Cincinnati, to measure how successful green infrastructure is at keeping the combined sewer overflows to a minimum.

City of Omaha

Cities like Omaha are looking for ways to use green infrastructure to reduce stormwater costs.

There are steps you can take too.

According to the University of Nebraska, for every 1,000 square feet of impermeable surface on your property, every 1 inch of rainfall generates approximately 626 gallons of water. If you add two 55 gallon rain barrels to your property, you now have water to irrigate your gardens. Add a rain garden, and you probably take care of much of the excess. Now, rain is absorbed back into our aquifers instead of rushing into the nearest storm drain, keeping waterways clean and ecosystems functioning.

Many states and counties subsidize the installation of green infrastructure on property, so check with your county and state government. It’s worth it to make sure we have clean water for generations to come.

About the Author: Known around the office as “AguaGirl,” Lahne Mattas-Curry works with EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources team and  communicates water research to anyone who will listen or read her blog posts.

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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Around the Water Cooler: Leaving the Outhouse Behind

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

Stormwater flows from a large pipe.

Green infrastructure helps keep stormwater in place.

This week, and every Thursday that follows, I’ll introduce you to the EPA scientists and engineers who work to make sure our water stays clean and that we have enough for generations to come.

Today I’m kicking off a series on green infrastructure while we recognize the role of science and innovation in the Clean Water Act, which turns 40 this year.

What is green infrastructure? It’s actually just a fancy term for rain gardens, rain barrels and cisterns that keep excess water out of our storm drains.

But let’s start with some history. In the mid-1800s, flush toilets came to America. Everyone wanted one so that no one would have to make that nightly cold, dark trek to the outhouse. Soon, though, it became obvious that when you “flush” the toilet inside the nice warm house, the waste has to go somewhere. Initially that somewhere was our streets.

Thankfully, that did not last long.

Motivated by smelly city streets, municipalities added underground pipes to carry the wastewater from homes and businesses and deposit in waterways where it could be diluted and carried away in the current. The pipes, though, also carry stormwater that rushes off the streets during heavy rain.

Welcome to the combined sewer system.

There are approximately 800 cities and towns across America that still use combined sewer systems, including big ones such as New York and Chicago, and smaller ones like Omaha and Louisville.

Today, these systems don’t feed directly into our waterways. The water is first sent to a treatment plant where it is cleaned.

The problem with these combined sewer systems is that when it rains hard, the polluted wastewater doesn’t always make it to the treatment facility, and instead goes directly to our rivers, streams and other waterways. (A violation of the Clean Water Act. And also pretty gross.)

But changing out all these networks of pipes—called gray infrastructure—is costly. EPA scientists and engineers have been working with several municipalities around the country to find alternatives—innovative solutions to efficiently and inexpensively reduce runoff flowing into combined sewer systems.

Each Thursday over the next few weeks I’ll highlight green infrastructure research and best practices while sharing ways you can make a difference in your community.

In the meantime, check out this interactive tool from the Arbor Day Foundation to compare the difference between a community with increased green infrastructure in the form of more trees versus a community with less. Which would you rather live in?

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry works with  EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources team, drinks a lot of water and  communicates water research to anyone who will listen.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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.