Creating a Green Urban Oasis

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Design concept for Green Infrastructure Plan in Philadelphia

By Matthew Marcus

After interning in the Office of Environmental Justice this summer, I reflected on how environmental justice issues affect my beloved home city of Philadelphia.  There are pockets of communities throughout Philly that face challenges such as poverty, unemployment, a lack of educational opportunities and crime. They also face many environmental concerns such as foul air from cars and industry and polluted streams disproportionately affecting poorer neighborhoods.  However, Philly is rising to this challenge in unique and creative ways, and deserves praise for its efforts.

Untitled-3For instance, Philadelphia is addressing waterway pollution in innovative ways. Philly has old water infrastructure that combines storm water pipes with sewage lines, and during periods of heavy rainfall or snow melt, the volume of wastewater in a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the sewer system or wastewater treatment plant. When this happens, combined sewer overflow (CSO) and discharge sewage goes directly to nearby water bodies. These overflows can contain not only storm water, but also untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials and debris.

To address this problem, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), with support from the EPA, developed a strategy called Green City Clean Waters (GCCW) to mitigate this problem while remaining in compliance with the Clean Water Act. Traditionally, this would be done by building more “grey” infrastructure: bigger pipes underground that do nothing for the community.  The PWD has instead opted for a green infrastructure approach that simultaneously addresses many community needs. Howard Neukrug, PWD commissioner, told me that environmental and economic justice issues in poor urban areas are so closely related that they must be understood and tackled together.

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Proposed design for rooftop in Philadelphia

Green Infrastructure (GI) consists of designing urban buildings and spaces that allow storm water to permeate into the soil rather than runoff into the pipes.  Usually this takes the form of bioswales, rain gardens, or green roofs that convert impervious surfaces to pervious ones.  This green process/technique improves water quality and protects community residents from exposure to raw sewage, which is a long-term investment in public health and clean water. So far, more than 100 construction projects have been completed, converting more than 600 acres of impervious surface to green infrastructure. The result of this project will include 5-8 billion gallons of CSO avoided per year, as well as the restoration of 190 miles of wetlands, and 11 miles of streams that flow adjacent to surrounding low-income communities.

The projects’ benefits transcend water. GCCW is attempting to integrate all aspects of community planning to produce a favorable outcome to the environment and people. One can see these benefits emerging in the New Kensington neighborhood.  A large block was turned into a beautiful GI site, a LEED platinum high school was built; and now a grassroots movement has begun to make this area the greenest point in Philly.  Students’ work has improved in the new school, and the community has something to cherish together.

Another example is the Herron Park Spraygound.  Formerly an old dilapidated pool, it’s been transformed into a green square with sprinklers throughout the playground.  Children run through the fountains safely in this beautiful green oasis on hot summer days, and on rainy days, the water infiltrates into the soil.  To the community, the sprayground adds beauty and a safe recreating spot, and to the PWD, it reduces river pollution. GCCW’s approach to sustainability is beginning to affect all parts of life, and environmental justice is addressed. I am hopeful that this great work will continue in Philly and provide an example nationally to address urban EJ challenges.

About the author: Matthew Marcus interned with the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice the summer of 2013. He is currently studying his Masters of Applied Geosciences at the University of Pennsylvania.

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.

Trying to go “plastic free”

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Greetings from New England!

Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Robin Johnson

Like most people, I use a lot of plastic. Virtually all of my food comes wrapped in it; it houses my toiletries; and some even sneaks in as cups, straws and bags despite my efforts to choose alternatives. Let’s not even mention the plastic in my appliances and gadgets.

Hearing about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a huge flotilla of garbage floating in the ocean – and albatross chicks dying from ingesting plastic reminded me that the environment pays the ultimate price for our love of disposable plastic.

When I heard about a campaign to use less single-use plastic, I was intrigued. Could I eliminate it from my life for a month? Only one way to find out!

So far, it’s been a mixed bag. Most plastic can be avoided by carrying a water bottle and reusable shopping bag. My bag can be packed into its own pocket, so it doesn’t take up room in my purse. Morning coffee is more challenging. I have to make my coffee at home, or stop in the office to pick up my travel mug.

At home, I’ve come a long way, but it hasn’t been easy. I switched to milk sold in reusable bottles. I bring “empties” to the store and get the $2 deposit back, but I have to recycle the plastic lid. From the milk, I make yogurt, which is pretty easy. Finally, I’ve started making my own almond milk and protein bars.

I may be green, but I still love pizza, Thai, falafel, and other foods. Getting takeout without disposable plastic usually means getting it in my own container. I purchased a reusable plastic clamshell container that I take to my favorite restaurants. Most restaurants are happy to fill my container, and some even give me extra food or a discount. After all, I’m saving them money.

Personal care products may be the biggest hurdle. Few shampoos and sunscreens are available without plastic packaging, and those that exist are online. I’m going to use what I already have, while looking for better options.

I’m keeping a “dilemma bag” filled with plastic garbage I couldn’t avoid. At the end of the month, I’ll continue to look for alternatives.

Could you go without single- use plastics for even a week? What would be the biggest stumbling block for you?

More info on plastic marine debris from EPA

About the author: Robin Johnson writes wastewater discharge permits under the Clean Water Act.  She lives in the Boston area with her husband and two cats.  She spends her time vegetable gardening, swimming, and knitting.

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.

The Sounds of Recovery in Boston Harbor

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Phil Colarusso

For more than two centuries, Boston Harbor has had a variety of things dumped into it. In 1773, colonists famously dumped shiploads of tea to protests taxes. But in recent decades, the harbor has received less tea and more sewage. In the 1970s, 43 communities sent their wastewater to Boston where it was barely treated before its release into the harbor. The harbor’s pollution was so severe that local newspapers dubbed it “The Harbor of Shame” in the 1980s! But nowadays, after almost 25 years of intensive work by government and local organizations, sewage is no longer discharged into Boston Harbor and, as a result, the harbor has made a miraculous recovery.

As a marine biologist for the EPA, I’ve had the opportunity to see one of the most hopeful signs of that recovery up close. In the early 1980s, one area of the harbor near Logan Airport called Deer Island Flats was known for having industrial chemicals in the bottom sediments and fish with correspondingly high rates of tumors. Today, Deer Island Flats is covered with graceful shoots of eelgrass that form dense meadows akin to green wheat fields growing underwater, swaying in the current.

The presence of eelgrass at Deer Island Flats is noteworthy because scientists routinely use it as an indicator species. It is particularly sensitive to water quality, so scientists interpret its presence as evidence that water quality in that location is good. Deer Island Flats has gone from being grossly polluted to supporting one of the marine environment’s most sensitive species.

The benefits of eelgrass extend well beyond just being an indicator of clean water. Many fish and crustaceans use it as a spawning and nursery habitat. Other sea creatures use it as a refuge from predators, while still others, such as striped bass, use it as a restaurant drive-through, coming in to forage for food with each high tide. Like all plants, eelgrass performs the miracle of photosynthesis, taking the waste product carbon dioxide and with the help of the sun, converting it into simple sugar molecules. Eelgrass growth can be prolific, so the quantities of carbon dioxide converted to sugar can be large. This conversion process has important implications for much larger geochemical processes, such as global climate change and ocean acidification. Thus, the health of our coastal ecosystems is important, not only for the marine animals that may live there, but also for the planet in general.

As I climbed back into the boat, airplanes were landing at the nearby airport—but if you listened very closely you could hear the pleading call of a seagull overhead. And, in my mind, I also imagined I could hear the murmur of eelgrass meadows gently swaying in the water below. The sounds of a healthy harbor.

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About the author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the Coastal and Ocean Protection Section of EPA New England, and is an avid diver. He’s living the dream in Wenham with wife JoAnn, two kids, dog and white picket fence.

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.

Getting an Up Close Look at Innovative Solutions in Seattle

By Nancy Stoner

Earlier this month, I spent several days in Seattle meeting with EPA’s staff that work on water policies and programs in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to our meetings, they took me to visit the High Point housing development in West Seattle. High Point is a mixed income Seattle Housing Authority community that has lovely views of the city center, is highly walkable and features natural stormwater drainage designs that give the development a beautiful visual appearance and virtually no polluted runoff. Working with municipalities to address stormwater issues, which can vary greatly across the country, is a priority for EPA.

The natural drainage at High Point is not only filled with blooming flowers and greenery that make it a desirable neighborhood for home buyers, but it has performed much better than anticipated to limit pollution flowing into downstream waters that empty into Puget Sound.

My visit to Seattle also included a tour of Puget Sound, one of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems in North America. EPA works closely with state, local, federal and tribal partners to protect and restore the sound through the Puget Sound Partnership. We traveled out to Commencement Bay to see former Superfund sites that are now being developed for mixed uses. Nearby beaches are trash-free thanks to frequent community cleanups.  It was great to see that area come back to life, not just economically, but also for the bald eagles, sea lions, seals and ducks that were also enjoying the cool spring day.

My trip to Seattle ended with a visit to the stormwater research lab at Washington State University.  They have some exciting research underway on how to clean highway runoff to protect salmon. The Pacific Northwest is, of course, known worldwide for its salmon fisheries. Salmon are quite sensitive to water pollution, and the Pacific Northwest has made great strides in protecting water quality and habitat using natural drainage systems, transfer of development rights programs and many other efforts.

We talk a lot about finding innovative solutions here at EPA—we recently released a blueprint for integrating technology innovation into EPA’s national water program—so it was especially heartening to see all of the progressive work happening in Seattle to address key environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water.

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.

Communication Challenges 1: Harmful Algal Blooms

By Jessica Werber

At EPA, there is a lot of discussion about connecting the dots. How do you help people go from A to B to a desired conclusion? When it comes to communicating the importance of harmful algal blooms, helping the public make connections between the health of their water bodies and their own health is a formidable challenge.

Algal blooms are confusing because they are simply the result of “too much of a good thing.” A little bit of algae is actually good for a water body, but too much becomes harmful.

Let’s say a landowner applies excess fertilizer on his or her land, or applies it at the wrong time. Then it rains and nitrogen in the fertilizer trickles into a nearby stream. That stream also receives nitrogen from stormwater, wastewater, and other sources like pet waste, and it becomes saturated. Algae feeding on the nitrogen proliferate, blocking the sunlight, depleting oxygen in the water, causing bacteria and…Well, the visual result is green goop, or surface scum on the water, which is pretty common in many states around America:

After the algal bloom subsides, the waterbody may still be overloaded with nitrogen. Certain types of algae, such as blue-green algae, create toxins that can make people and animals sick. When popular lakes and ponds are covered with scum, the local economy loses out because tourists will be unable to play or fish in the water.

The reality is that most people don’t think about water pollution in their everyday lives. Do I think that people care about their water? Yes, but they do so in different ways. Some care because they place an inherent value in the natural world. Others care because they have a vested interest; their child or pet is getting sick or their business is affected by the pollution. To successfully explain why harmful algal blooms are so detrimental, it is increasingly important for EPA to investigate the motivations behind why certain people care, to adapt our messaging and outreach efforts accordingly, and to clearly connect the dots in our own minds before we reach out to the public.

EPA’s new nutrient pollution website contains local stories about nutrient pollution and suggested actions you can take. So tell me…why do you care about harmful algal blooms and what can you do to make a difference?

About the author: Jessica Werber is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Participant in EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. She is also a licensed attorney. This post does not represent the views of the EPA or Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

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.

Southern Hospitality Can Host Great Partnerships for Water

By Nancy Stoner

I recently visited Three Mile Creek in Mobile, Alabama to see projects involving EPA’s Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. Like all of our NEPs, Mobile Bay focuses on partnership with state and local officials, utilities, universities, environmental groups, and many others. This was apparent when our boat trip up Three Mile Creek was overbooked with local partners eager to participate.

Three Mile Creek used to be the drinking water source for many Mobile residents, but is now severely polluted from a wastewater treatment plant and stormwater. The result is muddy water and lots of trash. But restoration prospects are bright. First, the land along the waterway is undeveloped and much is owned by the city or by a church, and is managed in its natural condition as a floodplain. The sewage treatment plant is moving its discharge to a larger waterway, eliminating the largest single source of pollution. And the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is keeping the City of Mobile moving forward to reduce stormwater that carries trash from streets, parking lots, and other public areas into the waterway.

The talk on the trip was about making improvements and getting more people out to enjoy this potentially lovely amenity for residents, including those in underserved neighborhoods who are close enough to walk to the creek to fish or boat – and maybe eventually to swim.

Our second stop was at Joe’s Branch, the site of an innovative stormwater management project, paid for in part by EPA Section 319 funds, which will address one of the most severe cases of streambank erosion many of us had ever seen. The design incorporates a state-of-the-art approach – a series of step pools to slow down the flows, let the pollutants settle out and infiltrate water into the ground. It will be the first of its kind in Alabama and engineers evaluated prototypes from across the country to devise this design.

This project is another example of the economic benefits of environmental protection. Nearby retirement homes previously had beautiful views.  But now there is a 40 foot-wide chasm that fell dozens of huge trees and washed tons of sediment to Mobile Bay.  As a result, many apartments went unoccupied – in 2011 the retirement community had 100 months of unoccupied homes, costing over $300,000 in revenue.

Whether in urban Mobile or in the rural area across the Bay, partnership is making improvements possible.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Paving the Way in American Manufacturing

By Nancy Stoner

On a cold February day, I stood in a driveway in an industrial complex in Bladensburg, MD, just outside the nation’s capital. Water from a 500-gallon container was gushing onto the ground in front of me. But rather than forming large puddles and flowing across the parking lot, the water was simply disappearing – not into thin air, but into a special system of permeable pavers called PaveDrain.

Instead of letting rain flow off hard surfaces and carry pollution into local waterways and stormdrains, this innovative product captures it and allows it to slowly filter into the ground. Ernest Maier, a Bladensburg, MD company, manufactures the PaveDrain system and had hosted me for a demo. They are exactly the type of company that President Obama spoke about in his State of the Union address when he laid out a blueprint for an economy that is built to last – one built on American manufacturing, American energy and the skills of American workers.

When the President laid out proposals for how we’ll bring about a new era of American manufacturing, with more good jobs and more products stamped Made in the USA, Ernest Maier is the type of company the President was talking about – a successful American company that manufactures products in America and employs American workers.

This system of permeable pavers that greatly reduce water pollution can be found at the nearby town hall in Bladensburg, in residential driveways in Pennsylvania and in the parking lot of a Ford factory in Louisville. In addition to manufacturing products that reduce water pollution and recharge groundwater, Ernest Maier is taking steps to use clean energy and protect the environment – reusing water at the factory, putting biodiesel in their off-road vehicles, utilizing recycled materials, and working with The Conservation Fund to offset carbon dioxide emissions.

Manufacturers of environmental technology are critical to an economy built to last. In fact, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer and consumer of environmental technology goods and services. The U.S. environmental technology industry is a significant economic engine comprised of approximately 119,000 firms, 99 percent of which are small and medium-sized companies. According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. environmental technology industry in 2008 generated approximately $300 billion in revenues, $43.8 billion in exports, and supported almost 1.7 million jobs.

Let those numbers soak in…they show that our environment and economy can thrive together.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Success on Santa Fe River Reflects Power of Partnership

By Nancy Stoner

One of the best parts of my job is when I get outside of Washington, D.C. to travel to see water issues firsthand and meet the wide spectrum of people involved in protecting waterways.

During a recent trip to New Mexico, I saw the incredible progress in improving the lower Santa Fe River over the past 10 years. Previously, grazing cattle prevented plants from growing along the river to filter pollution and provide wildlife habitat. An upstream wastewater treatment plant contributed to water quality problems. The result was a barren, erosion-prone stretch of the river with an unhealthy pH, too much sediment, and not enough dissolved oxygen.

Enter a diverse array of stakeholders: the New Mexico Environment Department, the County and City of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Soil and Water Conservation District, the WildEarth Guardians and private landowners, as well as community volunteers and school groups. They all met me that day to celebrate the restoration.

And enter EPA’s 319 program under the Clean Water Act, which provides grant money to tackle water pollution problems through activities such as projects, training, technical assistance, education and monitoring. EPA made $175 million in grants available in 2011. I am sure that most readers aren’t in New Mexico, but here is a list of 355 similar success stories from 319 grants around the country.

For the lower Santa Fe River, about $257,000 in 319 grants from EPA led to about $320,000 in matching funds for projects. Fencing was installed to keep livestock out of the area. Native vegetation — more than 5,000 cottonwood trees and 15,000 willow trees – were planted to filter pollution and provide wildlife habitat. Levees were removed to allow water to reach the floodplain, wetlands were created, and outreach and education activities occurred. The result is a lush corridor and cleaner water, along with the return of waterfowl and beavers to the area.

The State of New Mexico has removed the pH and sediment impairments and is proposing to remove the dissolved oxygen impairment in 2012. You can read more here .

While the improvements to water quality and the natural environment are critical, what truly inspired me – and everyone standing along the river that day – is the story of partnership. The federal, state and local government, along with environmental groups and private citizens, all worked together. It shows that water is vital to all of us and success in stewardship is a collective effort.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water and grew up in the flood plain of the South River, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Investing in Our Communities and Creating Jobs

This post is cross-posted from The White House Blog

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Ed. Note: Check out this slideshow of former abandoned waste sites that have been revitalized with EPA investments.

Every American wants their air and water to be clean and the land where they live, work, play and learn to be free of pollution. But President Obama knows that these cleaner, healthier communities are also better places to buy a home or start a business – boosting local economies and creating jobs often in areas where they’re needed most. That’s why this Administration is investing in clean, green, sustainable communities that will help us win the future.

Since EPA’s brownfields program began less than a decade ago, it has spurred almost 70,000 American jobs. To build on this record of success, I’m in Lansing, Michigan today where I’m announcing $76 million in clean-up grants that will be used for projects throughout the nation.
With the help of local workers, we’ll turn tainted factories, deserted gas stations, closed smelters and some of the more than 450,000 other abandoned or contaminated sites throughout America into vibrant residential and retail districts filled with opportunities for American workers.

I chose Lansing to make this announcement because of the progress they’ve seen thanks to EPA and local funding that has helped to revitalize a distressed community. In recent years, a troubled auto industry put many Lansing residents out of work, while leaving in its wake vacant and often contaminated lots. But the community rallied back, and with the help of a $2 million brownfields grant, they leveraged about $230 million in private investments. Today they’re receiving additional funding to continue expanding their success.

We’ll soon see stories like this one unfold throughout the nation with the help of the funding being awarded today. Like in Chicago, where 575 children will benefit from a new school being built in a disadvantaged neighborhood where a vacant industrial property now lies. Or like in Nassau County, New York, where a park, hotel, affordable housing, and restaurant and retail space will be built on top of unused waterfront property – creating more than 7,700 local jobs. Eight-hundred more jobs will be created in Milwaukee, where a modern business park will replace a contaminated site that’s threatening the health of locals. And in Springfield, Missouri, a clean-up grant will transform a former rail yard into parks and leverage $6 million in private investments.

In reinvigorating these abandoned and often polluted sites – and hundreds of others across our country – we’ll improve our health at the same time that we strengthen our economy. These cleaner, healthier and more prosperous communities will also be more resilient and sustainable for our future.

Find more information on EPA’s brownfields program.

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.

Living without Meat

I used to eat meat throughout my childhood, but never really enjoyed the taste. Only after a graphic showing of a pig slaughter I witnessed in elementary school did I stop eating pig, and once I was in high-school I became of full-on vegetarian. My main reasoning for this was more that I disliked the taste of meat, but the ethics against killing animals was a reasoning as well.

I soon learned that there was another great motive to becoming vegetarian; the negative environmental effects of meat production . There are a variety of different environmental impacts that occur due to the production of meat:

  • Air pollution due to dust and liquid manures.
  • Fossil fuels, water, and land over-use
  • Rainforest erosion and destruction for pasture land
  • Water contamination due to animal waste
  • Grain and corn grown for animal feed instead of addressing world hunger

The two natural resources that are perhaps most tapped by meat manufacturing are land and water. According to the British group, VegFarm, a 10-acre piece of land can feed 60 people when used for the production of soybeans, 24 people when used for wheat, 10 people when used for corn, and only a mere 2 people when used for cattle. Similarly, the amount of water used is severely disproportional when comparing wheat to meat. In a book written by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, one pound of wheat uses approximately 60 pounds of water while one pound of meat requires about 2,500 to 6,000 pounds of water.

Another issue that the EPA is specifically interested in is the pollution that feedlots and animal wastes are causing in waterways . The runoff from feedlots and animals feces-covered fields is causing some of our waters, such as areas in the Chesapeake Bay, to become unhealthy.

Regulations can be made to help prevent the effects of meat production, but the easiest way to lessen the environmental impacts is to become a vegetarian or vegan. The vegetarian/vegan alternative can be easily accomplished in today’s markets and restaurants. Meat substitutes including tofu, seitan, and soy-based products are more easily accessible in grocery stores and especially in the rising organic food markets. Also, many restaurants are now providing vegetarian options to better suit those who do not eat meat. Making the change can be difficult, but persistence in becoming a vegetarian can lead to a more eco-friendly lifestyle

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

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