Reflecting on a Year of Environmental Achievements

By Sophia Rini

Gowanus Canal

Removing debris from the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY.

It’s the season when people often think back over the year’s events and take stock. Here at EPA Region 2, we had a very busy 2016 – from responding to environmental emergencies to successful green jobs training. Below are some highlights of our favorite moments protecting human health and the environment around our region this past year:

  • Major milestones in the cleanup of the Passaic River in New Jersey: We issued a final plan to remove 3.5 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the lower 8.3 miles of the Passaic River and secured $165 million to perform the engineering and design work needed to begin the cleanup.
  • Updates to the Worker Protection Standard: We visited farms in both New York and New Jersey and held a meeting with agricultural workers in Utuado, Puerto Rico to highlight the important updates to the standard. Working in farm fields day after day should not be a health risk for farmers, farmworkers, or their families. With these updates, the nation’s two million farmworkers are better protected against toxic pesticide exposure.
  • Great progress in Trash Free Waters: This year, as part of our Trash Free Waters program, we awarded a $365,000 grant to the New England Water Pollution Control Commission and awarded grants in New York and New Jersey. We also held a Microplastics/Citizen Science workshop on October 11 in Syracuse and a Caribbean Recycling Summit on December 1 & 2 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We’re getting the word out and expanding the conversation about plastic pollution.

    Fortune Society

    Graduates of the Fortune Society’s green jobs training.

  • Green Jobs Training: We provided funding for successful green jobs training programs. Forty students graduated from The Fortune Society’s training in Long Island City and we awarded $120,000 to PUSH Buffalo for green jobs training and environmental education.
  • South Jersey Ice emergency response: We safely removed 9,700 pounds of toxic ammonia gas from a storage and refrigeration facility located in a residential neighborhood and protected the public from potential harm.
  • Protecting Clean Water: In 2016, we gave millions of dollars to New York, New Jersey, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for water infrastructure projects. We also provided more than $1.5 million in funding for projects to help support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
  • Cutting Diesel Pollution at the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico: We gave more than $1.6 million to the University of Puerto Rico for projects to reduce air pollution around the Port of San Juan.
  • Progress in the Gowanus Canal Cleanup: We began debris removal in the first step of a multi-year cleanup process.
  • Millions to Preserve and Protect Long Island Sound: We announced $1.3 million in grants to local governments and community groups to improve the health and ecosystem of Long Island Sound. The projects will restore 27 acres of habitat, improve water quality and reduce pollution in the Long Island Sound watershed, one of our nation’s national treasures.
  • Environmental Champion Awards: We recognize the environmental achievements of committed people in our region every year. In 2016, we awarded six people or groups from New Jersey; 28 individuals or groups from New York; seven individuals and organizations from Puerto Rico; and two organizations from the U.S. Virgin Islands. The dedication and accomplishments of these environmental trailblazers is impressive. We will continue to recognize the hard work of people in our region for their commitment to protect public health and the environment. To nominate somebody for the 2017 Environmental Champion Award, visit our website: https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epa-region-2-environmental-champion-awards.

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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Cruise Reveals Impressive Work for a Healthier Harbor

By Maureen Krudner

The Bayonne Golf Club is an example of beneficial reuse. Silt from recent port-dredging projects has helped to reshape the site.

The Bayonne Golf Club is an example of beneficial reuse. Silt from recent port-dredging projects has helped to reshape the site.

Over 50 friends and supporters of the Hudson River Foundation gathered in Battery Park on a stormy October morning to take an interesting and informative NY Waterway Taxi ride through the NY/NJ Harbor and Raritan Bay. Representatives from government agencies, environmental groups and academia gave presentations on their work to improve the health of the waterways surrounding our city.

The body of work shared with the group was impressive. Starting out north on the Hudson, we viewed Hudson River Park, where we learned that researchers from Rutgers University actually have paddled under the piers to conduct fish surveys. Yes, I’m impressed. Turning south and heading back into the Harbor brought a few presentations by the Army Corps of Engineers. We heard about the 50 foot deepening of several channels throughout the Harbor and stopped by the Bayonne Golf Club, located on a Brownfields site and made possible, in part, from the beneficial use of silt from these recent port-dredging projects.

EPA and NY/NJ Baykeeper provided an update on the Passaic River Superfund Project, one of the largest Superfund cleanups ever proposed. Bank-to-bank dredging of the Passaic River would remove more than 4 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the river bottom and has a $1.7 billion price tag. Yes, I’m still impressed.

Shooters Island, at the end of Newark Bay, is home to a bird sanctuary.

Shooters Island, at the end of Newark Bay, is home to a bird sanctuary.

Many of our remaining stops were focused along the shores of Staten Island. NYC Parks discussed the Saw Mill Creek Wetlands Mitigation Bank and waterfront access at the Conference House Park. We heard presentations about resiliency measures being taken on both the north and south shores of Staten Island and interesting research projects that looked at coastal flooding and historic sedimentation. Staten Island was also the backdrop for a presentation on the restoration of Prall’s and Shooters Islands, two bird sanctuaries providing a sharp contrast to the nearby ship graveyard.

And what would a tour of the Harbor be without mention of combined sewer overflows? We heard about the good work of the City of Perth Amboy, New Jersey is doing to address these discharges by installing green infrastructure to manage its stormwater.

Lastly, we heard some great stories about Raritan Bay and the interesting fisheries in the area. Despite the excellent quality of all the presentations, the most impressive aspect of the trip was the dedication and commitment these organizations have to sharing knowledge for a healthier Harbor. Thank you to the Hudson River Foundation for hosting us.

About the Author: Maureen Krudner works in Region 2’s Clean Water Division and is the Region’s Green Infrastructure Coordinator. 

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.

Memories Stirred Along the Passaic River

By David Kluesner

The team of EPA employees who have been working behind the scenes on the proposal to clean up the Passaic River.

The team of EPA employees who have been working behind the scenes on the proposal to clean up the Passaic River.

Carol Johnston

Carol Johnston

As we gathered along the banks of the Passaic River last Friday to announce the EPA’s ambitious proposal to clean up the most contaminated stretch of the river, I was reminded of two tireless environmental leaders who weren’t present, but joined us in spirit.

Ella Filippone

Ella Filippone

Sister Carol Johnston championed environmental justice for the Ironbound community long before that term was ever coined. Ella Filippone forced us to face the Passaic River decades before anyone wanted to. I felt them both smiling above us on April 11 as we recognized the largest cleanup proposal in EPA history. In my coat pocket I carried my favorite photos of them. They passed in 2013 but they spoke loudly that day. “So many delays but today this is government at its BEST”, I could hear Ella say. “Justice paid this community a visit today. Let’s get going, we have a lot of work to do”, I could hear Carol say. Their lives and lifelong pursuits live on.

 

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.

A New PATH to Local, Green Jobs

Job candidate Evonna being interviewed by WNYC reporter on the first day of candidate training. (EPA photo)

By David Kluesner

After about 15 minutes on a PATH train from the city to Newark, you can’t help but notice remnants of New York and North Jersey’s industrial past. Abandoned factories and scarred tracts of land amid the marshlands and mounds of earth resembling old landfills. After crossing the Hackensack River, off to the left, you see the old Diamond Alkali Superfund site in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood.  Perched along the Passaic River, the site is a mere patch of gravel covered property with potted Christmas trees. It’s innocent looking enough, but it’s considered to be one of the worst dioxin sites in the country. After passing the site, on the approach to Newark Penn Station, you can’t help but notice the New York Red Bulls new “futbol” stadium. It’s the new, emerging in the shadows of the old. On February 13 this PATH took me to the offices of the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark to visit the 15 candidates that are going through the Passaic River Superfund Jobs training program, a national EPA jobs training initiative that is new to our Region.  Fifteen candidates were selected from more than 500 applicants.  Twelve of them who graduate on March 1 will get jobs working on the cleanup of river sediment contaminated by the site decades ago.

Job candidates were tested on physical fitness on tryouts day. (EPA photo)

These 15 bright, eager unemployed or under employed residents had to endure multiple tests, orientation sessions and a day of tryouts to be selected.  Some have pasts filled with challenges and bad choices.  All of them need a job and most really need a second chance. One 58-year- old candidate told the class that when he got the call that he was selected to go through the training he sat down on his sofa and cried,  “Who would hire me, a 58- year- old, unemployed man with a past. There are guys here far younger than me?” Later that day, on Day One of training, a 22- year- old Newark resident told his classmates “You know what I like about this class? I get to be around older people. Not the 20-somethings I always hang with. You older guys have so much wisdom that we younger guys could benefit from.”  One of the 50-somethings replied, “Do you know when the last time someone told me that I had value?  A long, long time ago.” Bringing these local jobs to Newark residents is not only giving them a second chance, its bringing together the new with the old.

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.

Job Creation and Superfund Cleanups – A Good Fit

By Melissa Friedland

In all the years I worked for EPA in the Superfund program I never thought about local hiring as a part of a Superfund cleanup. Now, as one of two Program Managers for the Superfund Job Training Initiative (SuperJTI), I think about it all the time. This program works hand in hand with Superfund cleanups by providing free training to people living in communities affected by site contamination.

EPA Community Involvement Coordinator, David Kluesner (far right) leads a jobs training course in Newark, NJ.

I’ve known over the years that there are a lot of job training programs out there, but SuperJTI uses a totally different model. We actually don’t start any of our projects unless we’ve got a commitment up front from cleanup companies who are willing to take a very serious look at hiring graduates of our program and tell us before we start how many jobs they will have available for people in the community. Once we know that jobs are available, we look for someone we call a community partner, typically a local organization, to help out with recruiting people to participate in and oversee the program on the ground. After a rigorous selection process, participants receive training to prepare them for work at the cleanup. After graduating, they interview with the company doing the actual cleanup and, hopefully, they are placed into jobs. Our community partner stays in touch with the graduates after the program to make sure they are doing a good job.

In fact, over the next few weeks we are training local residents to work in  Newark, New Jersey on an initial portion of the Passaic River cleanup. This is the first time EPA is running a SuperJTI in Region 2. Our community partner, Ironbound Community Corporation has done an excellent job with recruitment and outreach. The Remedial Project Manager for EPA, Elizabeth Butler, and Community Involvement Coordinator, Dave Kluesner, have championed the project every step of the way. Graduation is scheduled for March 1 and we’re on schedule to have the graduates working by April. I’ve seen other SuperJTI projects and it’s always exciting because people come in looking to change their life, and take a step in the right direction. After completing the program many go on to careers in the field.

Personally, I think this is an important part of what EPA does – helping people to join the workforce. In just a few weeks of training, participants acquire a skill set that makes them desirable to cleanup employers. Graduates have said that this program changed their life, and it has been gratifying for me to see their transformations and be a part of SuperJTI.

About the Author: Melissa Friedland is the National Program Manager for SuperJTI representing EPA Regions 1-5. She has worked for EPA for more than three decades and she is based in Washington, DC.

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.