Site Remediation Goes Global

by Jennie Saxe

Native plants at the Metal Bank site on the banks of the Delaware River.

Native plants at the Metal Bank site on the banks of the Delaware River.

From the road, the Metal Bank Superfund Site doesn’t look like much: a fenced-off parcel of land in an industrial part of northeast Philadelphia. But on an unusually warm October day, the site was actually a destination for travelers from halfway around the world.

The 10-acre Metal Bank site had operated as a scrap metal and transformer salvage facility where a company drained oil from used transformers to reclaim copper parts. These operations released oil to various locations on the property. With the site perched on the edge of the Delaware River, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the soils were also found in groundwater and in sediments in the river, posing a risk to animals, to people who may eat fish from the river, and to workers in the area.

But on the day that I visited the site with the Remedial Project Manager, one of EPA’s biologists, and a delegation from the Republic of Korea, we got to observe how EPA had all of those exposures under control. Construction was completed in 2010, and only the monitoring wells on the site were a visual reminder of the site’s past. We were able to share with the Korean delegation the ways in which EPA addressed risks at the site: soils and sediments were excavated; a sheet pile wall was installed to stabilize the site; “marine mattress” caps were installed to cover any remaining contaminants in the river; and those monitoring wells were installed to keep tabs on PCB levels in the groundwater.The cap on the site was even planted with native plants and wildflowers which were attracting pollinators and other wildlife to the site.

Marine mattress sections were lowered into place by crane.

Marine mattress sections were lowered into place by crane.

EPA hosts international groups to foster the spirit of cooperation across borders and share information that is critical for environmental protection. It’s heartening to know that the work we do in our own backyard may have a role in improving environmental conditions farther from home.

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Office of Communications and Government Relations on tribal and international issues.

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Businesses Gain by Preventing Pollution

by Mindy Lemoine

Starting down the path of an environmental management system p21can lead a business to unexpected outcomes, like an abandoned quarry being turned into a 15-million-gallon rain barrel, sixth-graders being trained to sample aquatic macroinvertebrates, and implementation of a Leak Squad at a brewery.

What does EPA have to do with these voluntary actions?  The link is EPA’s Pollution Prevention (P2) Program, which provides grants to support P2 programs in states.

Some P2 programs send experts out to businesses to identify opportunities to reduce pollution at the source.  Others, like the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Environmental Excellence Program, identify businesses that are environmental leaders, provide training, and publicize their innovations and accomplishments.

Businesses voluntarily decide to apply to Virginia’s Environmental Excellence Program.  Each applicant commits to develop and implement an effective environmental management system (EMS).  The EMS can track environmental measures, including water use and water discharges.

Businesses also commit to the evolution of their EMS.  They usually start at the Environmental Enterprise level designed for businesses in the early stages of implementing an EMS and pollution prevention program.  Over time, many participants “level up” to the Extraordinary Environmental Enterprise level, with a fully implemented EMS, verified by an independent third party.

Businesses appreciate the regulatory fee discounts and recognition events that come with participation in the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program.  EPA is impressed with the pollution prevention results, such as reducing water usage by over 234 million gallons in 2015 from company baselines.

But could the best reward for employees of these companies be wading through a creek with a group of sixth-graders and pointing to the biggest rain-barrel in the world?

 

About the Author: Mindy Lemoine is the Pollution Prevention Program Coordinator in EPA Region 3. She previously worked with local governments on protecting Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River watersheds. She lives in the Tookany Creek watershed, and recently replaced her lawn with a suburban permaculture including sedges, pawpaws, and nut trees.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Solid Waste Law Helps Keep Water Clean

by Mike Giuranna

RCRA1The Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act deservedly get much of the credit for protecting the water you drink, but there’s another law you made not have heard of that’s no slouch either when it comes to keeping your water clean – the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, often referred to as RCRA.

How so?  At EPA my specialty is landfills, so let’s start there. Before RCRA, which marks its 40th Anniversary this year, open dumps were a common method of waste disposal.  It sounds hard to believe now, but back then we did not have widely-recognized systems in place for managing landfills, making it easy for leaks to occur, and our water and land to become contaminated.  Many dumps were responsible for polluting water sources and soils, causing potential harm to public health.  As a result, numerous landfills and dumps became Superfund sites needing cleanup.

In 1991, Congress passed Subtitle D of RCRA, establishing a protective, practical system for disposing of trash in municipal solid waste landfills.  These federal standards had major benefits including a decline in the total number of landfills nationwide from an EPA estimate of 20,000 in the 1970s to less than 2,000 in 2014.

Under RCRA, states have stepped up to the plate in taking the primary responsibility for enforcing landfill regulations.  My job is to make sure the states understand the requirements, providing support and sharing experiences from other states along the way.  Here are some of the water-related protections we review:

  • Making sure that landfills are operating away from seismic fault lines, flood plains or other restricted areas.
  • Using multiple liners like compacted clay and flexible membranes to protect groundwater and underlying soil from any liquid releases from the landfill (known as leachate).
  • Providing guidance on the installation of groundwater monitoring wells to determine whether waste materials have escaped from the landfill.
  • Developing corrective action processes for controlling and cleaning up if landfill releases occur.
  • Monitoring groundwater once a landfill is properly closed after reaching capacity.

RCRA ensures that landfills are contained and operating with public health in mind.  Next time you throw something away, think about all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure your trash is handled properly and your water is kept clean. But better yet, always remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever you can!

 

About the Author: Mike has been with EPA since 1983. He has worked in various EPA programs including Air and Superfund.  For the last 20 years he has worked in solid waste, recycling, landfill regulation and composting

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Down by the Riverside

by Tom Damm

One of the ways I intend to work off my Thanksgiving excess is to bike along the Delaware River.

Washington crossing

Washington Crossing Historic Park

If it’s like the past few weekends, I’ll be carefully riding by families, couples and individuals enjoying nature on a crisp fall day beside one of the nation’s most iconic waterbodies.

On these riverside jaunts, I’ve been able to take in a little history at Washington Crossing Historic Park and window shop in New Hope, Pennsylvania, swigging from a reusable bottle filled with water that originated in the Delaware itself.  I’ve seen hearty kayakers navigating river rapids and bird watchers scanning the skies.

My neighbors have finally packed away their jet skis, but they had been out on the Delaware regularly this fall, riding the waves with wetsuits protecting them against the chilly river waters.

There are a host of recreational opportunities along the Delaware.  They’re not just great fun, they’re big business.  In fact, a University of Delaware professor estimated that recreation provides $1.2 billion in annual economic activity in the Delaware Basin.

That’s one of the reasons EPA and fellow federal, state and interstate agencies are working with non-profit groups, utilities and others to build on efforts to restore the Delaware River and counter threats from stormwater, wastewater, PCBs and other forms of pollution.

CaptureSo if you’re feeling the weight of the holidays, take a stroll or a bike ride along a stream or river near you.  It may not fully compensate for that piece of pie, but it will give you some peace of mind.

 

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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A Bountiful Harvest

by Carol Petrow

IMGP0032Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on nature’s bounty … and wetlands are among the nature’s most productive ecosystems.  The productivity of wetlands is comparable to coral reefs and rain forests and can be thought of as a “biological supermarket.”  They provide great volumes of food that attract and support a wide variety of species ranging from microbes to mollusks to man.

Scientists refer to the dynamic relationships among organisms in the wetland environment as food webs that involve many species of plants and animals.  Here’s how they work:

Dead plants break down in water resulting in small particles of rich organic material called “detritus.”  Detritus feeds many small aquatic insects, shellfish and small fish that are food for larger predatory fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals.

Dining on pollen and nectar from flowers, fruits such as elderberries, blueberries, and cranberries, seeds, leaves, twigs, stems, bark, and roots of wetland plants, wildlife get needed carbohydrates, protein, fats, and vitamins in their diets.

Man is among the species that “shop” in wetlands for foodstuffs. Wetland ecosystems are key contributors to a broad range of wild and cultivated food for people world-wide. Wetlands and their resources, supply us with fish and shellfish, leafy vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, rice, and more.

IMGP0175Can you imagine “shopping” in wetlands for your Thanksgiving dinner?  We’re talking about a large selection of organic, healthy, locally grown foods.  It might not be the traditional fixings but it would be a meal to remember and give thanks for.  I’m thinking paella made with wild rice, fish and shellfish, mushrooms, a salad of leafy greens tossed with seeds and flower buds, and for dessert – a dish of baked mixed berries topped with nuts and sweetened with syrup made from the sap of red maples.

Healthy wetlands provide good quality food to support healthy communities. That productivity depends on sustaining healthy coastal and inland wetlands and ecosystems.  To keep the rich harvest coming, we need to protect and restore our nation’s wetlands.

 

About the author: Carol Petrow is the Acting Team Leader of the Wetlands Science Team in the Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division, Office of Monitoring and Assessment.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

All Hands Needed to Control Nutrient Pollution

by Tom Damm

blue-green-algaeWhen a harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie contaminated the Toledo area water supply two years ago, my first thoughts turned to my niece Jen and her family.

They were among the hundreds of thousands warned not to drink their water, cook with it, give it to their pets or ingest it any way after tests found the toxin, microcystin, above the standard for consumption.

Jen found out about the water ban when she turned on the TV at around 8 a.m.  By then, there were scenes of panicky residents buying out cases of water from store shelves.

Two days later the water was declared safe to drink again.  But the weekend incident served as a wake-up call for many, including members of the Toledo Rotary Club.

The 400-member club – the world’s 11th largest – is putting its considerable people power and resources behind the challenge of preventing another nutrient-driven outbreak of blue-green algae in the lake.

The club invited EPA to its signature event – the second annual Rotary Lake Erie Watershed Conference – to explain to the 300 attendees how excess nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – are being reduced in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Jon Capacasa, our EPA Mid-Atlantic Region Water Protection Division director, relayed the history and progress of the Bay partnership, emphasizing the importance of sound science and collaboration.

He reminded them that they’re not alone – that nutrient pollution is a national problem, a threat to public health, aquatic life and the economy, and to solve it we need “all hands on deck,” including civic groups.

Jon offered some websites where Rotarians and others could find projects and activities to get involved, including watershed projects, volunteer water quality monitoring, and outreach campaigns.

All 50 states have reported harmful algal blooms, and recent research suggests the problem is getting worse as a result of climate change.

Check out this site for more information and for additional ways to help reduce nutrient pollution in your area.


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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Avoiding Holiday ‘Commode’tion

by Tom Damm

septicsmart 3The Halloween costumes weren’t that frightening in our neighborhood this week.  An astronaut, a soccer player, even a happy jack-o-lantern.   Nothing to give me pause in opening the door.

But here’s a truly scary vision as we shift into the main holiday season – a houseful of guests and a malfunctioning septic system.  That’ll generate a scream or two.

One of every five households in the U.S. depends on septic systems to treat wastewater.  If not properly maintained, the systems can overflow or backup, creating far worse problems for you and your guests than spoiling the aroma of the roasted turkey.

Not to worry, though.   EPA has some SepticSmart tips to ensure that your system can handle the everyday and extra loads.

  • Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full.  Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water efficient products.  Too much water use at once can overload your system, particularly if it hasn’t been pumped in the last couple of years.
  • Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain, which can clog your system, or toxic material, which can kill the organisms that digest and treat waste.
  • Have your septic system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have the tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years.
  • Only put items in the drain or toilet that belong there to avoid clogging or damaging your system.
  • Remind guests not to park or drive on your system’s drainfield because the vehicle weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow causing system backups and floods.

A malfunctioning system can kill native plants and fish and shellfish, as well as reduce property values and potentially pose a legal liability.  A system that’s properly maintained helps keep your family’s drinking water clean and reduces the risk of contaminating local waters.

So, as you’re preparing for company by cleaning those areas that don’t get regular attention, be sure to keep your septic system in mind.  It’ll help keep your holiday conversation focused on more pleasant subjects.

 

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Shower Yourself with Savings

by Tom Damm

banner_showerbetter-2015A “Navy shower” is quite efficient.  Get wet, turn off the water, lather up, rinse off and get out.  All done in a few minutes.

My first experience with such a shower was in a trailer near New Orleans during EPA’s response to Hurricane Katrina.  I learned how to get clean in a hurry when the scarce hot water available in our compound ran out by the time I showered each morning.

I’ve since taken more comfortable, but similarly speedy showers at home.  It makes sense since EPA estimates that shortening your shower by even one minute can save 550 gallons of water per year.

Showering is one of the leading ways we use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use.

The City of Charlottesville, Virginia – a two-time EPA WaterSense national award winner for its water saving promotions – challenges its residents to take a five-minute shower, offering a free timer and suggesting they create a five-minute playlist and use a 2-in-1 shampoo-conditioner combination.

But one of the main suggestions from EPA and Charlottesville to save water, energy and money is to replace your old showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model.  Charlottesville offers them at no cost to its residents.

In just one year, a WaterSense showerhead can save the average family nearly 3,000 gallons of water and save enough electricity to power their home for 13 days.  That’s a savings of more than $70 in energy and water costs.

October has been designated Shower Better Month by EPA’s WaterSense program.  Here’s a link for more ways to save water throughout your home – and to avoid that knock on the door to speed it up in the shower.

 

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

It’s RAINing Data in the Ohio River Basin

by Catherine Magliocchetti

RAIN2Want to know about water quality in the Ohio River Basin?  The information is only a few clicks away.

My colleagues and I recently traveled to Pittsburgh to learn more about the River Alert Information Network (RAIN) and its interactive website that tracks the condition of the basin’s six mighty rivers and displays that information in near real time. The website’s monitoring map has a wealth of river data available and accessible to the public.

Users can provide overlay tools like watershed boundaries, rivers, and U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) sites that help put into context the data provided at each monitoring location.  Many of the map overlays provide additional links to pertinent sites maintained by EPA and/or USGS, so associated data can be easily accessed.

Taking the pulse of these rivers is a big deal since Southwestern Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia are home to about two million residents, living and relying upon the Ohio River Basin for drinking water, recreation, and commercial and industrial use.  In particular, many drinking water supplies draw source water from the Allegheny, Monongahela, Youghiogheny, Shenango, Beaver and Ohio rivers.

RAIN is a source water protection organization, whose goal is to better ensure the protection of public health and access to quality drinking water across this vast watershed.  In addition to community outreach and education, RAIN’s primary focus is to continuously monitor water quality and post data on-line.

RAIN was developed as a voluntary effort through collaboration among 33 area water systems, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the California University of Pennsylvania, all of whom recognized the importance of protecting the tributaries of the Ohio River.

Visit RAIN’s website to check on your favorite river in the Ohio basin.

 

About the Author:  Catherine Magliocchetti is a member of the Office of Drinking Water and Source Water Protection (SWP), with a focus on efforts in West Virginia and with the River Action Information Network, and she is currently leads the Potomac Algae Project group.  Catherine and her family live along the Delaware River in Washington Crossing, PA.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Lessons for Students – and the Rest of Us

by Tom Damm

children's healthOctober is Children’s Health Month, an ideal time to check out EPA’s Student Curriculum: Recipes for Healthy Kids and a Healthy Environment.

This nine-lesson program is available to teachers to help students (ages 9-13) appreciate and explore the environments in which they live and play.  Each 45-minute lesson provides basic information on a particular topic and offers ways for students and their families to reduce their environmental risks.

So, you think you’re smarter than a 9-13 year old?  Here’s what you’re up against on water issues:

The “Keeping All of Our Waterways Clean“ lesson helps children understand the importance of water in their lives and describes the life cycle of freshwater.  It also discusses how to keep trash from getting in storm drains and polluting waterways.

After learning the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define rainwater runoff, drainage pollution, freshwater, saltwater and potable;
  • Name three different types of waterways;
  • Explain three ways to stop drainage pollution; and
  • Explain how keeping our waterways clean benefits the entire community.

And then there’s the “Healthy Water Inside” lesson.  It focuses on water safety and conservation, and teaches how to avoid mold and mildew at home.

Our water wizards will be able to:

  • Define mold, mildew and fluoride;
  • List three ways to stop mold and mildew from growing;
  • Explain how water is treated; and
  • Explain some ways to conserve water at home.

Want to go to the head of the class?  Check out the materials in all nine lessons and test your knowledge on issues of concern to all of us – from climate change to household hazards.  And if you’re a scout leader or an instructor in another setting, use the lessons to help your kids become more environmentally savvy.

 

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.