Even in Winter

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By Lina Younes

Recently, my youngest daughter went to Great Falls Park, VA with her fifth grade science class. Since the weather forecast called for a cold day, the teacher recommended that the children bundle up in several layers of clothing to fully enjoy their time outdoors. As part of the field trip preparations, the teacher also warned the children about the possibility of ticks in the park. She suggested using insect repellents safely.

Personally, I was puzzled. I didn’t think that ticks and other insects could survive cold temperatures. I always associated bugs like ticks and mosquitoes with the summer months. Outdoor bugs and winter didn’t make sense to me. I asked the experts in our Office of Pesticide Programs for the facts and was even more surprised with the results. Thus, I decided to share the information with you.

How cold does it have to be in order not to risk get bitten by mosquitoes and ticks when you go outside? The answer: Below 4 degrees Celsius (about 39 degrees Fahrenheit) for mosquitoes.

And, how about ticks? “For ticks—they can bite year round. It is less likely below freezing temperatures due to lack of movement, but they can attach if you come in contact with them.”

In my case, I confess, that I will be more vigilant when I hear about outbreaks of tick and mosquito-borne diseases such as lyme disease, West Nile Virus,  and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, when I go outdoors. And, when traveling to subtropical and tropical areas, such as U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and Guam) we need to be careful with mosquito transmitted diseases, such as dengue fever, too.

Furthermore, do you have pets? Do you take your dog for a walk outside? Make sure your pet doesn’t bring any ticks home with him even during winter. Ask the veterinarian for tick control products that will help prevent ticks from attaching to your pet so everyone can stay healthy.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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 Winter Without Snow

By Amy Miller

The lack of snow is a challenge for ski hills around New England, but it is a catastrophe for my backyard ski hill. When I trek five minutes up the hill behind my house I find myself magically at the top of a ski hill with a working ski lift. But there is no rental department, no ski school, and most importantly right now, no snow making. In fact, the hill gets groomed by a snowmobile attached to some rakes or something. When there is snow.

I live in the middle of a village in the part of Maine that real Mainers consider Massachusetts. But somehow, through the hard work a few very handy ski fanatics and the dedication of a few dozen local volunteers, our little town has its own little ski hill. Life tickets? $5 a pop. Beat that. When there is snow.

Powderhouse Hill trails flank an 800-foot rope tow that takes you to a 175-foot vertical elevation. At the top, you are rewarded with a view of bucolic New England. For adventurous young whippersnappers there is a glade run that sends you slaloming between the trees. When there is snow.

The hardest part is that good old fashioned rope tow. Parents with little kids drag them between their legs, and every one of us is challenged to find gloves that last the season. Even with free duct tape disbursed at the lodge, most gloves can’t withstand the friction. And by dark, even the strongest skiers complain about their arm muscles. When there is… ok, you get the picture.

True, skiing can be controversial among environmentalists. It involves clearing trees, creating snow out of precious water and producing energy to move people continuously back to where gravity can do its work. But Powderhouse does not make artificial snow and since it sits in the village, its a sensible use of open space.

As far as energy, the engine that powers the tow sits behind a 1938 rusted out pickup. A drive wheel off the truck’s back spins the rope, although the town bought a new four-cylinder engine years ago.

The slope has provided a friendly learning ground since the 1950s when the Hardy brothers built it on a willing landowner’s parcel. Since then, the town bought the 15-acre site and as the website says, “In these days of unknown weather, every day the hill operates is a good one.”

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the Public Affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

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.

Take Winter with a Grain of Salt

By Christina Catanese

It’s about that time of year when the Mid-Atlantic region starts preparing the snow plows and pulling out the road salt. In most of our region this winter, we’ve had a lot of warm days and no big “snowmageddons” so far, but the season is still young!

When big snow storms strike, how do you fight back? Methods like shoveling, snow plows, snow blowers, and applying sand and deicing salt keep roads clear and people safe. But did you ever think about the environmental impact of clearing snow and ice?

Although rock salt is an effective way to clear roads and driveways, issues can arise when the snow is gone and the salt is left behind. As the snow melts in the spring, the salt dissolves and runs off the road into storm drains and nearby water bodies. This can harm aquatic life like fish and plants. Human health can be impacted as well if the salt reaches drinking water supplies.

Many towns have moved from applying to salt to highways and are now applying brine, which has less environmental impact.  Check out this link to learn more about some innovations in snow removal, including a method being piloted by Maryland that sprays a mixture of sugar beets and brine onto highways.

So when the next big winter storm strikes, strike back, but in an environmentally friendly way. Here are some recommended actions to reduce salt application:

car-snow1. Use the Right Material: There are many options beyond salt and sand, like less toxic chemicals and even things like clean kitty litter.
2. Use the Right Amount: More isn’t necessarily better. Warmer roads need less salt, and roads below 10º F will not benefit from rock salt at all. Applying less salt is also a more economical choice. Snow clean-up costs are reduced, as are damages to cars, roads, and bridges.
3. Apply at the Right Place: Apply salt where it will do most good, like hills, curves, shaded sections of road, and bridges. Use discretion when applying salt near sensitive streams or in drinking water source water protection areas.
4. Apply at the Right Time: Don’t wait until snow is falling to get started. It takes more salt to melt accumulated snow than it does to prevent accumulation.
5. Use Proper Storage Techniques: Salt and sand piles should always be covered to prevent runoff, and should be located away from streams and wetlands.
Read more about best management practices for applying and storing road salt while protecting water supplies here.

Is your municipality practicing smart salt application with these actions? Are you practicing them at your home? Do you know of any other environmentally-friendly ways to clean up snow? Let us know how you’re staying both safe and green this winter season.

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

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.

Where Has All The Summer Gone?

Gosh, where did the summer go? It’s hard to believe that the kids are back in school and summer is almost gone. The warm weather and trips to the shore will soon be a thing of the past. I guess that’s one side of the coin. The other side is that cooler weather and snow could be just around the corner. There has been a lot of discussion about protecting ourselves from the sun, water quality, and other summer time subjects, but let’s not forget to prepare ourselves for the winter time too!

Sun protection should still be a priority (especially in areas with lots of snow to reflect the sun’s rays), but the next several weeks would be a great time to focus on making some changes around your home to prepare for “Old Man Winter”. Do you have a drafty window or two, maybe water pipes in a crawl space that could use some extra insulation, or how about that maintenance to the furnace or heat pump to get ready for those cold winter nights? These are just a couple of the things I’ve had to do to make my home more comfortable in the past year or two. The weeks between the end of summer and the beginning of winter are a perfect time to make these changes.

Being proactive to prevent problems from arising instead of having to react when a problem occurs could save you not only time and money, but energy too! If you are a do-it-yourselfer, the climate is much more cooperative for doing this kind of work. If you rely on others for taking care of these kind of repairs, I’d venture to say you could probably get a better price and a scheduled appointment rather than having to wait for someone to “squeeze you in” and then pay premium prices to get that warm air flowing through your home again.

Check out some of EPA’s Energy Star resources to learn about sealing and insulating and get some answers to questions you might have about other Energy Star topics to prepare your home for the winter months. What improvements have you made that have really made a difference in your home?  Oh, and by the way, button up, this may be a cold one!!

About the author: Kelly Chick has worked for the EPA for many years.  She currently works in the Office of Public Affairs at EPA Headquarters, and manages the EPA blog, Greenversations.

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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.