Water Quality

Healing Old Wounds

by Tom Damm

The day’s light was fading along with our chances of spotting a bull elk when out of the tall grass rose a pair of majestic antlers.  We quietly got out of our small caravan of cars, pointing and speaking in hushed tones.  The animal gave us a long, disinterested look and then ambled back down the hill.

Bull elk emerging from high grass

Bull elk appears for tour group

We had seen a scattering of elk cows and calves over the past half hour.  But the brief encounter with the antlered male was the perfect cap to a full day of touring old surface mines being restored in western Pennsylvania, including this popular state game land in Benezette Township known for its resurgent elk population.

Vast acres of the land before us had been scarred and abandoned by mining operators prior to a 1977 federal law requiring environmental remediation of active sites.  Now, after a series of re-mining and reclamation projects, our view was a sweeping vista of hilly forest and grasslands that serve as an attractive habitat for an elk herd 1,000 strong.

For our team of mostly federal and state regulators, the game land in Elk County was the last stop on Day 2 of a nearly week-long fact-finding tour arranged by EPA as part of a multi-agency effort to consider next steps for mine reclamation activity, including potential funding and other incentives.

Earlier in the day, Mike Smith, district mining manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, led us on an often bumpy, dusty off-road tour of mining sites on either side of Route 80 between Snow Shoe and DuBois that similarly were abandoned and are now in various stages of re-mining and recovery.

In the reclamation process, operators receive permits to mine portions of the old sites that still have viable coal reserves in exchange for strategic and insured work that restores the full sites with trees and grasses and in many cases improves the quality of water impaired by acid mine drainage.

Most of the sites we saw were relatively small in size – not the type generally supported by a pool of money financed by industry and government to address mine-related safety and economic issues.

Two of the veteran operators said that with their thin, if not break-even profit margin this will be their last hurrah.  Said one, whose work included the elk-rich game lands, “When you look at this project and the good that it’s done, I don’t know who’s going to do this when we’re gone.”

But for this day, with roaming elk, a once-acidic stream segment stocked with trout, a former “moonscape” covered with grass, and even some head-bobbing wild turkeys, it was a time to appreciate the progress at hand.

 

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.

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.

Citizen scientists test Warwick, RI, water

By Amy Miller

It’s not every day you can get your training as a citizen scientist with the regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency standing beside you. So residents of Warwick were pretty excited when Curt Spalding, administrator for EPA’s New England office, showed up for their one-day session on how to join professional scientists in keeping their region’s ponds healthy.

EPA scientist Hillary Snook, Regional Administrator Curt Spalding and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian participate in day of training for citizen scientists.

EPA scientist Hilary Snook, Regional Administrator Curt Spalding and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian participate in day of training for citizen scientists.

Spalding was pretty happy himself to be out there in the field, watching the work citizens are doing so they too can help out in reducing the amount of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, in local waterways. Curt is a big advocate of the program and loves the idea of hands-on citizens involvement, noted Hilary Snook, EPA New England’s lead scientist on this project.

Hilary and other EPA scientists have been traveling around New England this summer in a shiny white mobile lab, teaching citizens how they can play a part in monitoring for this bacteria, which is clogging our region’s and nation’s waterways. The team has already been to several locations around New England including White Pond in Concord, Mass. whose town beach was shut down for the entire 2015 season due to cyanobacteria.

Curt decided to tag along on the trip to Warwick, where a handful of citizens joined local, state and federal representatives for what turned out to be a rainy day of training at Gorton Pond, just behind the Warwick police station.

Warwickvisit2EPA’s new mobile laboratory was outfitted with the computers, microscopes and monitors that provide the on-site training. The mobile lab is designed to take people through all of the main parts of the program, with hands-on experience right at their local body of water.

A video presentation introduced the program to the group, with a so-called “Mi-Fi system” providing direct connection to webpages used for the program. Microscopes inside the vehicle let citizens identify samples taken from Gorton Pond and then upload them to citizen science databases.

Hilary showed volunteers how they could upload EPA’s bloomWatch app to their own devices then and there to submit photos of blooms.

The data collected by volunteers is useful for EPA and other environmental agencies trying to clean waterways and reduce bacteria levels. The system is simple enough that everyone from middle school students to academics and lake associations can participate.

EPA hopes added information will help determine where cyanobacterial blooms exist, whether they contain potential toxin producing species, and whether the existing blooms are toxic.

Through the Northeast Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program, volunteers were invited to get involved at three different levels. Besides the bloomWatch app, they can learn how to take water samples and then study them under a microscope. Some volunteers took home a kit that includes a microscope. Finally, volunteers can collect samples and then send them to EPA for further study using the program’s established protocols.

Citizen scientists in New England join volunteers around the country and world who are helping in this effort. Cyanobacteria blooms are caused mainly by nutrients, particularly phosphorus. With climate change and heavier rainstorms, more nutrients are running off the land into freshwater lakes and ponds. The toxins that can be produced by these bacteria can cause skin rashes and liver damage.

All of which means it’s important to Curt, it’s important to EPA and it’s important to all of us to address the increasing occurrences of harmful cyanobacteria blooms in our nation’s and region’s lakes and ponds.

-30-

Amy Miller works in the office of public affairs at EPA New England

 

More information is available at: https://blog.epa.gov/blog/tag/citizen-science/

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.

Bay-Cationing

by Gwendolyn Supplee

My family has been vacationing on the southern eastern shore of Maryland at Janes Island State Park since 2013.  The first year, we had an almost one-year old daughter and weren’t quite comfortable getting out on the waters of the Tangier Sound with a little one.  So we enjoyed the beauty of the Bay from the land, but were still able to partake in many of the activities that make a “Bay-cation” so appealing, at least to us – fishing and crabbing!

As we began to plan our 2014 vacation, my husband suggested we buy a boat to really experience the Chesapeake Bay where it was meant to be enjoyed, on the water.  I was open to the idea, until he came home with a used boat he found with so much dirt, weeds, and small trees growing out of it, I wasn’t sure if he had purchased a boat or a planter for our front yard.  Alas, he got the boat sea-worthy for our trip, and we were able to experience the open Bay.

He’s made improvements to the boat every summer, and similarly, the Chesapeake Bay has shown some great improvements in many of its water quality indicators in the last several summers, as well.  That’s a big deal considering the impact of a cleaner Bay on the region’s economy, including drawing more families like mine to its shores.

Since 2010, the six Bay states and the District of Columbia have been taking significant steps to meet the clean water goals of the historic Bay TMDL “pollution diet.”   The TMDL is designed to reduce excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that leads to murky water and algae blooms, Bay Crabblocking sunlight from reaching and sustaining underwater Bay grasses and creating low levels of oxygen for aquatic life, such as fish, crabs and oysters.

I eagerly read the reports about the outlooks for fishing and crabbing this July before we set out on vacation, and when we got to the park, we quickly made friends with our camping neighbor to learn the best spots for casting our poles and nets.

As a Marylander who frequents the waters of the Bay up and down the Eastern Shore, our new friend commented the Bay had the best clarity and abundance of Bay grasses he had seen in years, and expressed optimism that the cleanup seemed to be working.  The next day we reeled in a male blue crab, 6 ¼” point to point, and had to agree, things on the Bay, especially our nightly vacation dinners with crab on the menu, were definitely looking up!

Check out this site for some simple ways to help restore the Bay and keep those blue crab meals coming.

 

About the Author: Gwendolyn Supplee is a Life Scientist who has been with EPA for six years and currently works in the Air Protection Division. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors on land and on the water 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.

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.

Bridge soars over restored Maine river

By Amy Miller

I was driving south on Maine’s coast checking out Down East’s picturesque seaside towns when a bridge appeared through the fog, quite like Oz on the horizon. This was not the covered bridge of a quaint New England town, nor the familiar antiquated railroad bridge. This was a looming modern

The observatory of the Penobscott Narrows Bridge can be reached through the Fort Knox Historic Site.

The observatory of the Penobscott Narrows Bridge can be reached through the Fort Knox Historic Site.

structure more reminiscent of the Zakim Bridge into Boston. The closer we got the more I wondered at the size and stark beauty of this structure.

As it turns out, my husband and I were heading toward the 2,120-foot long Penobscot Narrows Bridge, and for good reason it conjured the Zakim. This 10-year-old bridge is one of only three of its kind in the world: constructed with a cradle system that carries the strands within the stays from bridge deck to bridge deck. The other two bridges of this kind are the Zakim and the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway in Toledo, Ohio.

Towering 420 feet over the town of Bucksport, the bridge’s public observation tower is also the only public bridge observatory in the country and one of four in the world (the others are in China, Slovakia and Thailand). The tallest of the four, it is reached by the fastest elevator in northern New England and gives you 360-degree views of Maine’s coastline, islands and lots of hills and mountains.

But just as impressive as these views is the far less visible but no less superlative accomplishments flowing below the span. The 109-mile Penobscot River tells the story of America’s environmental tragedies, as well as the equally compelling stories of how health and beauty can be restored to our waterways.

The restoration of the Penobscot involved an unprecedented effort to remove two dams and build a state-of-the-art fish bypass around a third. In addition to the Howland Dam bypass, the Milford Dam has a state-of-the-art fish lift installed as part of the restoration project.

A bypass was created for fish around the Howland Dam.

A bypass was created for fish around the Howland Dam.

As a result, hundreds of miles of habitat along the Penobscot and its tributaries have been restored, opening the way for sea-run fish, helping the ecology as well as the communities along the river.

In 1999 when Pennsylvania Power and Light purchased a series of dams in Maine, the company approached the Penobscot Indian Nation and several conservation organizations with the idea of working together to relicense the dams. Four years later the company announced it would remove dams along the lower part of the river while keeping hydropower upriver.

The non-profit Penobscot River Restoration Trust was formed, including the Penobscot Indian Nation and six environmental groups — American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited, who worked with a variety of state and federal agencies, including EPA, on the restoration project.

The Trust in 2010 purchased the Veazie, Great Works, and Howland dams. The first two were removed and a bypass was created around the Howland Dam in 2015 marking the end of this model restoration program.

Before the 1830s, there were no dams on the Penobscot and Atlantic salmon ran upstream in schools numbering 50,000 or more. Shad and alewives migrated 100 miles upriver. Twenty-pound striped bass and Atlantic sturgeon also swam into the river.

Since the restoration, fish have retraced those routes. The salmon run today is considerably smaller than it had been, but still qualifies as the country’s largest Atlantic salmon run. And the population is likely to grow. As this happens, other wildlife that feeds on migrating fish will also do better.

When the restoration is over, 11 species of sea-run fish will have renewed access to habitat that runs from Maine’s high point on Katahdin down to the bay near the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, though not all the species may make it to Katahdin.

The Penobscot Indians fished for American shad as long as 8,000 years ago and sturgeon 3,000 years ago. The logging, dams, and industry along the river put thousands of years of activity to a stop by the 1950s.

Only a generation ago this river was regarded as one of American’s most endangered. It is now considered one of America’s most significant river-restoration efforts.

As you stand in the observatory, turning to look out in 360 degrees, remember to look down at the Penobscot. Sometimes the biggest changes lurk beneath the surface.

http://maine.gov/mdot/pnbo/

http://bangordailynews.com/2016/06/14/outdoors/hundreds-celebrate-completion-of-penobscot-restoration-project/

http://www.penobscotriver.org/

Amy Miller is in the public affairs office of EPA’s New England office.

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.

Three Ways Climate Change is Harming Marine Species

By Brittany Whited

Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.5°F over the past century. EPA’s Climate Change Indicator project tracks changes in our environment related to this warming, including observable changes on land like wildfire severity, snowfall, and heavy precipitation. A new indicator on marine species released in the 4th Edition of EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the US report shows that marine ecosystems are also feeling the heat. We may not be able to “sea” it, but climate change is also affecting our oceans. What does this mean for fish and other marine species?

1. Oceans are getting hotter. Changes in water temperature can affect the environments where fish, shellfish, and other marine species live. As climate change causes the oceans to become warmer year-round, populations of some species may adapt by shifting toward cooler areas.

According to the fourth edition of EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States report, American lobster, black sea bass, red hake, and over a hundred other populations of marine species have already shifted north to cooler waters. And we’re not talking a mile or two – in fact, these three economically important species have shifted their average center of biomass northward by an average of 109 miles over just 32 years. For all 105 marine species studied, the average center of biomass along U.S. coasts shifted northward by about 12 miles between 1982 and 2014. At the same time, these 105 species moved an average of 18 feet deeper.

2. Oceans are becoming more acidic. The acidity of seawater is increasing as a direct result of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the air from human activities, like burning fossil fuels. Concentrations of carbon dioxide are higher than in the last 800,000 years. Carbon dioxide dissolves in water, changing seawater chemistry and decreasing pH (making seawater more acidic). The ocean’s increased acidity results in thinner shells and more shellfish die as they become easier for predators to eat.

Corals are also very sensitive to rising acidity, as it is difficult for them to create and maintain the skeletal structures needed for their support and protection. Corals provide vital fish spawning habitat and support for thousands of marine species. EPA’s Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action states that without action on climate change, dramatic loss of shallow coral cover is predicted to occur. For example, coral cover in Hawaii is projected to decline from 38% (current coral cover) to approximately 5% by 2050 without significant global action on climate change.

3. More severe storms and precipitation can pollute coastal waters. Warmer oceans increase the amount of water that evaporates into the air. When more moisture-laden air moves over land or converges into a storm system, it can produce more intense precipitation—for example, heavier rain storms. Heavy rain in coastal areas can lead to increases in runoff and flooding, impairing water quality as pollutants on land wash into water bodies. Some coastal areas, such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay, are already experiencing “dead zones” – areas where water is depleted of oxygen because of pollution from agricultural fertilizers, delivered by runoff. The phrase “dead zone” comes from the lack of life – including fish – in these waters.

Click to learn what EPA is doing to mitigate climate change and protect ocean water quality and marine species.

About the Author: Brittany Whited is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) participant hosted by the Climate Science and Impacts Branch in the EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs. She recently completed her Master’s degree in Public Health from George Washington University and is wicked excited to spend less time studying and more time outside.

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.

EPA and USDA Pledge Actions to Support America’s Growing Water Quality Trading Markets

By Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and Ellen Gilinsky, EPA Office of Water Senior Policy Advisor

In September of 2015, EPA and USDA sponsored a three-day national workshop at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska that brought together more than 200 experts and leaders representing the agricultural community, utilities, environmental NGOs, private investors, states, cities, and tribes to discuss how to expand the country’s small but growing water quality trading markets. Recently we released a report that summarizes the workshop’s key discussions and outlines new actions that we and others will take to further promote the use of market-based tools to advance water quality improvements.

Over the last decade, states and others have discovered that they can meet their water quality improvement goals through lower costs and greater flexibility by using a voluntary water quality trading program. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs (like a wastewater treatment plant or a municipality with a stormwater permit) to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing lower cost environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions (or credits) from another source, including farms that use conservation practices to efficiently reduce the movement of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from their fields into local waterways. For example, Virginia’s nutrient trading program to offset stormwater phosphorous loads from new development has saved the Commonwealth more than $1 million in meeting state water quality goals while providing economic incentives to local agricultural producers to reduce soil erosion and runoff.

It’s a proven approach that creates new revenue streams for America’s farmers and ranchers while delivering significant environmental results.

While relatively few robust state and tribal water quality trading programs are in existence today, there is growing interest in markets as a tool for achieving water quality and ecosystem sustainability goals.

Our report summarizes the primary obstacles to market expansion and participants’ recommendations on how to simplify development of trading markets in their states.

It also captures the participants’ recommendations to the Administration on steps it can take to promote the use of environmental markets and water quality trading, which include:

  • Supporting a national dialogue series over the next three years, convened by the National Network On Water Quality Trading, to advance collective understanding of water quality program design, implementation, and operation across sectors and communities;
  • Increasing state awareness of water quality trading, through support of the  Association of Clean Water Administrators working directly with state agencies;
  • Highlighting successful trading programs that have attracted private capital, or are otherwise financially sustainable;
  • Compiling a list of known, voluntary conservation program design frameworks that use market-like approaches;
  • Pursuing efforts to develop a national registry for water quality trading programs;
  • Forming a stakeholder group to develop a list of tools that meet the minimum requirements of the federal and state agencies that must verify trades Increase targeted stakeholder engagement; and,
  • Working with federal and state partners to actively engage in locations where increasing participation in market-based programs may result in more rapid nutrient decreases to address immediate problems such as harmful algal blooms.

These recommendations complement the USDA-EPA Water Quality Trading Roadmap and EnviroAtlas, products our agencies have jointly developed to simplify stakeholders’ efforts to establish their own trading markets.

States, communities, and farmers and ranchers who’ve championed this innovative idea are creating momentum for others to follow.  We look forward to supporting the expansion of these markets to help  America more efficiently protect its water quality while supporting a vibrant agricultural economy in communities nationwide.

For more information, visit the USDA Environmental Markets website and EPA’s Water Quality Trading website.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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.

The future holds a cleaner Lake Champlain

By Curt Spalding

To stand at the edge of Lake Champlain, looking at the rich blue water in the foreground and the Adirondack mountaintops in the background, is to behold one of New England’s most beautiful landscapes.

On a brilliant summer day, I have seen anglers trolling here for bass, sailors riding the wind and Champlain4children frolicking along the shores. I have seen the commerce that comes with half a million tourists and commuters who are ferried across the lake to New York each year.

But for years, this exquisitely beautiful source of economic growth, local pride and drinking water for 145,000 people has been compromised by too much phosphorus. Runoff from farms, rooftops, parking lots, roads, and forests, eroding stream banks and discharges from wastewater treatment facilities have all added to phosphorus overload.

Most of our regions’ lakes, rivers and streams contain some amount of naturally occurring phosphorus. But each waterbody can hold only so much phosphorus before it creates an ecosystem choked with algae that suffocates wildlife and makes waters unsafe for swimming. Lake Champlain has been over its limit for decades now, especially in the narrow, southern portion of the lake, and St. Albans and Missisquoi Bays.

However, we have reason to feel assured that the future will bring a cleaner and healthier Lake Champlain. This month my colleagues at EPA issued the final version of a new plan that spells out how much phosphorus the various parts of this lake can support. This document, called a “Total Maximum Daily Load” plan sets new required pollution reduction targets for the Vermont sources of phosphorus to the 120-mile-long lake that separates northwestern Vermont from northeastern New York.

Cham[plain2The new limits, along with a state law passed last year give the state responsibility for reaching the targets, and for coming up with the controls necessary for achieving these goals. I have watched state and environmental leaders work long and hard to shape the plans and policies and I am confident that the programs, regulations and permits they are now working to put in place will succeed in reducing phosphorus levels from farms, commercial developments, roads, and forests.

The new limits were developed in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, who each have a role in the success of this plan. The new plan reflects years of work and input from many organizations and people across the Lake Champlain basin.

While the new limits are a major milestone on the path to reducing phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain and in preventing the algae blooms, much work still has to be done to make the lake as healthy as it can and should be. Nearly everybody who lives, works or vacations in the basin contributes to the problem in some way and it will take an “all in” effort to bring the lake back to good health. Our EPA staff will be there to help our partners and ensure we achieve the desired levels. And we’ll issue report cards to help all of us and the public keep track of the progress.

One of my biggest joys in working at the New England office of the Environmental Protection Agency is witnessing the restoration of our beautiful lakes. Lake restoration happens slowly and requires effort over many years, particularly for large lakes like Lake Champlain, but I’m optimistic that the key ingredients are in place to bring about gradual recovery of this special body of water.

-30-

Curt Spalding is regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

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.

An EPA where the “P” stands for Partnership

By John Kemmerer

As you know, partnerships with local communities and agencies at all levels are critically important to EPA’s protection of public health and the environment.  EPA is one of 14 agencies working to revitalize urban waterways and surrounding communities through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

I engage in this work, as do our partners, because we’ve seen that when all stakeholders have a seat at the table, we can make a substantive difference.  I nominated the Los Angeles River Watershed as one of the first Urban Waters Partnership locations in 2011 after being impressed by visionary, yet practical, local initiatives to revitalize the river.  Our partnership in the Los Angeles River Watershed provides a real opportunity for us to help make this natural asset the centerpiece of a healthy and sustainable community.

The partnership initially coalesced around a single priority, an ongoing Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the City of L.A.  Completion of this study would be the first domino to fall to begin river revitalization in earnest, but federal funding was lacking.  The newly formed partnership collaborated on strategies for bridging this funding gap and a local NGO received a private donation which was transferred to the USACE to finish the study.  Once the study was completed, in 2013 the partnership built public awareness for the locally preferred project alternative ultimately accepted by the USACE. Implementation of this restoration plan will dramatically change the landscape, result in wide-ranging recreational benefits, help the river adapt to climate change, improve water quality, and replenish local groundwater supplies.

Already, members of the partnership have been able to expand recreational opportunities to bring people to the river, including kayaking programs and the certification of Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, and are making the watershed more resilient to the impacts of climate change via programs such as the Bureau of Reclamation and Los Angeles County’s Los Angeles Basin Stormwater Conservation Study.

As the lead federal agency in the L.A. River Urban Waters Partnership, EPA has provided funding for a dedicated coordinator, known as the Urban Waters Ambassador, ensuring each stakeholder has a place in the partnership and facilitating collaboration towards common goals.  Pauline Louie, an employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has been the Ambassador here since 2012.  Pauline has been dedicated to building relationships among partners and finding opportunities to leverage investments, greatly increasing our collective ability to focus on underserved communities and opening doors that will enable continued progress in years to come.

Our Ambassador has even brought the finance world into the partnership.  For example, our new relationship with the Federal Reserve Bank recently gave the partnership the opportunity to showcase our work to the banking sector at the Community Reinvestment Conference in Los Angeles and discuss how the private sector can engage to advance long-term community priorities along the river.

Cultivating long-term and new relationships allows the Urban Waters Partnership in Los Angeles to not only address past challenges but also be prepared for the challenges in the future. We are motivated to realizing a healthy L.A. River Watershed and hopeful for the exciting transformations that these partnerships catalyze in Los Angeles and urban waters locations across the country.

About the author: “With over 30 years of EPA experience, John Kemmerer is the Associate Water Director for EPA’s Region 9. John’s focus includes water issues in Southern California and sustainability of local water resources.”

 

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.

Colleagues See Wastewater “Eggs” up Close

By Amy Miller

When my corner of EPA New England – the Public Affairs office – went on a retreat last week, we took our meeting to the great beyond. Instead of meeting in a generic conference room in our office, a dozen or two of my closest colleagues and I went out to the world that gives our work meaning.

EPA staff tour the Deer Island Wastewater Plant in Winthrop, Mass.

EPA staff tour the Deer Island Wastewater Plant in Winthrop, Mass.

To be specific, we met at the Giant Eggs. Most anyone who flies in or out of Logan Airport knows about these huge white containers, a dozen eggs sitting on the edge of the Boston Harbor on Deer Island off of the Town of Winthrop. On a clear day, you can’t miss the sight of these ovals reaching 130 feet high.

What jet passengers may not know is that these containers are filled with human and industrial waste. Each day the Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant accepts an average of 360 million gallons of wastewater from homes and businesses in 43 cities and towns. This facility, run by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, makes sure our sewage is separated enough, filtered enough, treated enough and clean enough to safely enter the Boston’s waters.

To accomplish this, the plant first removes grit, then treats and retreats the wastes, which are separated by gravity into liquids and solids. The effluent is filtered, scum removed from sludge, treated with chemicals and digested using microorganisms, much the way a stomach digests food. Treated solids are sent through a tunnel to Quincy so it can be turned into fertilizer. Water that has been cleaned many times over is sent 10 miles out to sea and discharged through 50 different pipes. And methane released in the digestion process is used to heat the facility.

In welcoming us to the plant, Executive Director Fred Laskey acknowledged there is still work to be done. But he was proud of the tremendous results the plant has seen. Largely because of $3.8 billion invested in Deer Island in the last several decades, the cleanup of Boston Harbor is a national environmental success story. Plant Director Dave Duest eagerly invited us to tour the plant, which sits on 210 acres that includes walking five miles of walking trails, views of the ocean and parkland.

Stqff of EPA New England check out the view from the top of the giant eggs at Deer Island.

Staff of EPA New England check out the view from the top of the giant eggs at Deer Island.

The best part of the tour is what it lacked – any odor. We were grateful for the chance to climb to the top of the eggs, and also pass by two disinfection basins, each about 500 feet long with a capacity of 4 million gallons – and never smell a thing, thanks to the scrubbers and carbon absorbers that remove the smells. In the basins, the treated effluent is mixed with sodium hypochlorite and then finally, sodium bisulfite to de-chlorinate the water to protect marine organisms. After disinfection and dechlorination, the liquid is ready to be discharged.

Deer Island is actually a national park. Folks there welcome visitors and proudly show off their odor-free operations, which by the way are not visible from the nearby residential community of Winthrop.

So it’s not just EPA folks that are welcomed on Deer Island. Tours are offered, by reservation on Tuesdays and Fridays by calling (617) 660-7607.

http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/03sewer/html/sewditp.htm

Boston Harbor cleanup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIN1S5mJoCQ

-30-

Amy Miller, who is in the Office Of Public Affairs of EPA New England, edits this 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.

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.

Celebrate Those Hidden Pipes and Forgotten Facilities

By Gina Snyder

I’ve never met a group of more hard-working, humble, dedicated professionals than the people I meet from water and wastewater treatment facilities. “Infrastructure Week,” the third week in May, provides an opportunity to celebrate the work they do and the critical services they provide. We make use of our roads, faucets, bridges and bathrooms every day of our life, but how often do we think about infrastructure, this vast array of assets that constantly need our attention.Infrastructure2

Well, a group of dozens of businesses, utilities and other organizations who got together to create Infrastructure Week hope to change that. They hope all of us will start paying attention to these assets and giving them the credit, funding and care they are due. This year’s theme for the week is “Infrastructure Matters.”

And it does! Infrastructure matters, in big ways and small — to our country, our economy, our quality of life, our safety, and our communities. Roads, bridges, rails, ports, pipes, the power grid, all of it matters immensely. As the infrastructure week website points out, it matters “to the goods we ship and the companies that make and sell them; it matters to our daily commutes and our summer vacations; to drinking water from our faucets, to the lights in our homes, and ultimately to every aspect of our daily lives.”

Important as infrastructure is, much of it is hidden. All the underground pipes have been working for us for decades, under cover. These pipes bring water and gas to our homes, and take waste away.

Unfortunately, these important assets get low scores for the poor condition much of them are in.

When construction season begins it may seem we are tackling the problem. Several years ago, my street was dug up and my home was hooked up to a plastic pipe running up my driveway as my town replaced the water line. Now, this spring, the gas company is replacing the gas line in the street.

But all the disruption you see goes only a small way toward closing what’s reported to be a $1 trillion infrastructure investment gap in the U.S.

Perhaps because rain falls freely from the sky, we think water is “free”. But, treating and delivering water is far from free. The same is true for the pipes that carry away wastewater.

Since our water infrastructure is out of sight and out of mind, it is easy to underestimate costs. As one of the largest assets of our cities and towns, water infrastructure deserves more attention than it typically gets.

Our local communities pay most of the cost of water infrastructure, mainly through revenues generated by water rates. These fees will continue to be the primary source of revenue for most community water systems. It is important that we pay the rates that recover the costs to make this service sustainable.

You can help bring this important topic the attention it deserves. For Infrastructure Week, talk about these challenges – and increase awareness of just how valuable our water infrastructure is.

Infrastructrure1Ask your public officials to consider alternative solutions – particularly with the heavy rain storms we can expect with climate change, ask them to use green infrastructure approaches when it’s time to fix the storm drains.

Encourage public officials also to consider smart growth when development comes to town. This means building in places and ways that minimize demands on our water and wastewater systems. Sprawl and poorly planned growth can result in more pipes and plants that are harder and more expensive to maintain. Growing “smartly” can put your community’s infrastructure on a more sustainable footing.

You can also help by protecting your water source, which will also protect public health and reduce treatment needs. The quality of the water that provides your drinking water can be threatened by everyday activities and land uses. Make sure your cars do not leak oil and avoid using chemicals on your lawn.

During Infrastructure Week, remember to appreciate the clean water we all enjoy.

-30-

More information from EPA about Sustainable Water Infrastructure https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-water-infrastructure

About the author:  Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental Stewardship, Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and serves on her town’s climate committee.

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.