EPA Updates Science Assessment for Dioxins

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its non-cancer science assessment for dioxins, which was last reviewed in the 1980s. Dioxins are toxic chemicals that naturally exist in the environment and can be released into the environment through forest fires, backyard burning of trash, certain industrial activities, and residue from past commercial burning of waste. Today’s findings show that generally, over a person’s lifetime, current exposure to dioxins does not pose a significant health risk.

Over the past two decades EPA has worked to reduce emissions from all of the major industrial sources of dioxins. As a result of efforts by EPA, state governments and industry, known and measurable air emissions of dioxins in the United States have been reduced by 90 percent from 1987 levels. The largest remaining source of dioxin emissions is backyard burning of household trash.

Most Americans have low-level exposure to dioxins. Non-cancer effects of exposure to large amounts of dioxin include chloracne, developmental and reproductive effects, damage to the immune system, interference with hormones, skin rashes, skin discoloration, excessive body hair, and possibly mild liver damage.

EPA has identified many known sources of dioxins. Working with other federal partners, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EPA has taken steps to address dioxin. This includes supporting research on dioxin exposure and effects; assessing dioxin human health risks; measuring dioxin levels in the environment, our diet and in our bodies; and reducing exposure to dioxin.

The non-cancer health assessment for dioxin released today could be considered in a range of agency activities, from establishing cleanup levels at Superfund sites, to reviewing the dioxin drinking water standard as part of EPA’s regularly scheduled review process, to evaluating whether additional Clean Air Act limits on dioxin emissions are warranted.

More information on dioxin: http://www.epa.gov/dioxin/

Jeanne Gang’s genius take on suburban housing

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

Jeanne Gang, the architect who was named a 2011 MacArthur “Genius” fellow, and Greg Lindsay, a visiting scholar at New York University, frame the role of the single family house in the financial meltdown. The architect and the scholar highlight the reciprocal problem of banks ignoring and undervaluing design in the housing market and architects ignoring and undervaluing housing, especially in the suburbs, as a design market.

In a NYTimes op-ed, Gang and Lindsay write

better design is precisely what suburban America needs, particularly when it comes to rethinking the basic residential categories that define it, but can no longer accommodate the realities of domestic life. Designers and policy makers need to see the single-family house as a design dilemma whose elements — architecture, finance and residents’ desires — are inextricably linked.

As part of the Foreclosed exhibit at MoMA, Gang studied the suburb of Cicero, Illinois, whose population is heavily immigrant and foreign born. Gang outlines her findings to illustrate suburban America’s current problems and possible solutions.

Puerto Rico army bases to get $34.3M energy-efficiency makeover

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

Fort Buchanan and the U.S. Army Reserve Centers in Puerto Rico are the latest U.S. army facilities to embrace energy efficiency projects structured in the form of energy savings performance contracts.

Per Scholas Provides Computers to Underserved Communities, Strengthens Green Economy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck today toured a job training and computer rehabilitation facility run by the nonprofit organization Per Scholas. The tour provided the EPA officials the opportunity to see first-hand how this innovative organization provides technology training and brings low-cost computers to thousands of New Yorkers. The organization provides job training and collects, refurbishes, redistributes, or recycles computers in the New York City area.

“As President Obama has made clear, involving everyone and creating opportunity is the key to an economy that is built to last,” said Deputy Administrator Perciasepe. “By refurbishing computers that might otherwise be discarded and training individuals in skills they otherwise might not acquire, Per Scholas has shown that it’s possible to help build a sustainable economy right here in the Bronx.”

Per Scholas was founded in 1995 as a neighborhood-based effort to increase access to personal computers in the South Bronx—the nation’s poorest Congressional District. Since that time, they have expanded their efforts, and now provide affordable technology to lower-income communities throughout the nation. Per Scholas refurbishes desktop and laptop computers that are then donated or sold at a discounted price. In addition, the organization’s headquarters has become a technology teaching center, providing classes and hands-on lab work to prepare students for various technology certifications.

2012 EPA National Award for Smart Growth Achievement Application Period Now Open

EPA is pleased to announce that the application period for the 11th annual National Award for Smart Growth Achievement is now open. This competition is open to public- and private-sector entities that have successfully used smart growth principles to improve communities environmentally, socially, and economically. Winners will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in December 2012.

  • There is only one application form for all three categories listed below.
    • Programs and Policies
    • Equitable Development
    • Main Street or Corridor Revitalization

In addition, the review panel will choose an Overall Excellence winner from those that apply in these three categories.

  • Application deadline: April 6, 2012.
  • Public-sector winners will receive one complementary registration to the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in 2013.
  • EPA will film short videos of the winning projects, which will be shown at the awards ceremony in 2012 and the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in 2013 and posted on the EPA smart growth website.
  • All entries must be submitted using the application form.
  • The application can be submitted by either a public-sector or private-sector entity, but all applications must include a public-sector partner.

Click here to download the official award guidelines and entry form. 2012 Award Guidelines and Entry Form

Cleanup Brings Milwaukee Area of Concern Closer to Restoration, Delivers Results Under Great Lakes Initiative

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Milwaukee County today announced completion of contaminated sediment removal in Lincoln Creek and the Milwaukee River Channel. This project brings the Milwaukee Estuary closer to being removed from a binational list of Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes.

“The work by state, county, city and other partners over the years has helped deliver real results under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” said Cameron Davis, Senior Advisor to the EPA Administrator. “Thousands of cubic yards of harmful contaminated sediment were removed to help boost human, ecological and local economic health. But we can’t stop here. We’re looking for new partners to match funds to accelerate cleanups in other Areas of Concern in Wisconsin and around the Great Lakes.”

The $24.6 million project under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s Legacy Act removed about 140,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PCBs and PAHs. The contamination led to limits on eating fish caught in the river, as well as loss of habitat and other environmental problems.

“The Great Lakes are the largest source of fresh water in the world. Keeping them clean for the future is a priority,” said WDNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, “We are making major strides cleaning up the Milwaukee River Estuary. I am pleased that we were able to fund most of the non-federal cost share for this project from state bonding, and delighted at the level of public support this project has received. With our partners we will continue to work to bring the Milwaukee River back to provide recreational and economic benefits for the Milwaukee area.”

GLRI Legacy Act funds covered about $16 million. WDNR contributed roughly $8.6 million. The result was the cleanup of the largest known deposit of PCB-contaminated sediment in this Area of Concern.

“This joint effort demonstrates the tangible benefits that can come from cooperation between all levels of federal, state and local government. By working together we are removing the impairments to our waterways that resulted from our long industrial history,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. “This significant portion of the Milwaukee River and its natural resources are now cleaner, safer and more sustainable. We embrace the triumphant return of this park land to the greater use and enjoyment of our citizens.”

The Milwaukee River section of the Area of Concern extends from Cedar Creek downstream through the Outer Harbor. It includes Cedar Creek, Lincoln Creek and portions of the Menomonee, Little Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers. In the 1980s, the U.S. and Canada identified 43 highly degraded shoreline areas along the Great Lakes. Today there are 30 AOCs wholly in the U.S. or shared with Canada.

The Great Lakes provide 30 million Americans with drinking water and underpin a multi-billion dollar economy. In February 2009, President Obama proposed the GLRI, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades.

The Action Plan, which covers FY 2010 through 2014, was developed by a task force of 16 federal departments and agencies to implement the president’s historic initiative. It calls for aggressive efforts to address five urgent priority focus areas:

  • Cleaning up toxics and toxic hot spot areas of concern.
  • Combating invasive species.
  • Promoting near-shore health by protecting watersheds from polluted runoff.
  • Restoring wetlands and other habitats.
  • Tracking progress, education and working with strategic partners.

The plan also ensures accountability by establishing measures of progress and benchmarks for success.

  • For more on this project and the Legacy Act, visit www.epa.gov/glla.
  • For more on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, see www.glri.us.

Super Bowl XLVI Powered by the Wind

Read the full story from Environmental News Service.

The New York Giants won a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl game and renewable energy was the overall winner as electricity at all six major Super Bowl facilities was generated at wind farms located in North Dakota.

Everything from the computers in the Motorola Super Bowl XLVI Media Center to the lights on the field was powered by green energy.

Green Mountain Energy Company was selected to supply 15,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy certificates, or RECs, to offset greenhouse gas emissions associated with the electricity used at the major NFL venues.