EPA proposal to limit science studies draws more opposition

Read the full story from PBS.

Democratic lawmakers joined scores of scientists, health providers, environmental officials and activists Tuesday in denouncing an industry-backed proposal that could limit dramatically the scientific studies the Environmental Protection Agency considers in shaping protections for human health.

If adopted by the Trump administration, the rule would allow an EPA administrator to reject study results in making decisions about chemicals, pollutants and other health risks if underlying research data is not made public because of patient privacy concerns or other issues.

Job announcement: Visiting Environmental Assessments Specialist at Illinois State Geological Survey

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) is a premier state geological survey, with over 200 scientists and technical support staff, serving the needs of the public, government, and industry with earth science information and research relevant to natural resources, environmental quality, economic vitality, and public safety. ISGS is part of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign which is centrally located between Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis.   PRI houses five large scientific surveys covering a wide range of expertise including biology, water resources, climate, geology, sustainable technology, and archaeology.  PRI’s mission is to provide objective, integrated scientific research and service, in cooperation with other academic and research units of the University of Illinois and elsewhere, that allow citizens and decision-makers to make choices that ensure sustainable economic development, enduring environmental quality, and cultural resource preservation for the people, businesses, and governments of Illinois.  To learn more about ISGS please visit http://isgs.illinois.edu/.

ISGS is seeking to hire a Visiting Environmental Assessments Specialist (up to five) to perform environmental site assessments (PESAs) and evaluate potential environmental and geologic hazards and risks for Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) infrastructure improvement projects. IDOT’s infrastructure projects range in size and can involve anything from a single property to hundreds of properties across many miles of existing or future highways.  IDOT uses the PESAs completed by ISGS to assess each project’s needs, plan the agency’s short-term and long-term needs, assist in land acquisition decisions, and promote awareness of natural and man-made hazards that may affect the project and its construction.  Position is based in Savoy, Illinois.

Major Duties and Responsibilities:  Collect, review, and evaluate geological maps, regulatory files, as well as site-specific historical and environmental data. Conduct fieldwork, which includes statewide on-site investigations as well as interviews with representatives of industry, government agencies, and landowners. Synthesize and analyze the collected data and information pertaining to potential environmental and geologic hazards and risks related to environmental site assessments. Prepare comprehensive technical reports detailing the findings of the assessments, site-specific historical information, and regulatory information. Participate in other geologic/environmental research.

Travel, including up to a work week of consecutive nights of overnight travel, and conduct field work, some of which may be under less than ideal conditions (inclement weather, remoteness, site security concerns, moderate physical exertion, heavy traffic). Work in areas of potentially unknown hazardous materials.

Qualifications: Required: Bachelor’s degree in geology, environmental science, engineering geology, civil or environmental engineering, physical geography, or related discipline. A background in the geosciences or environmental sciences with experience performing fieldwork. Ability to interpret maps. Ability to accurately collect, analyze, and interpret data from various information sources. Ability to evaluate potential environmental hazards and risks. Ability to write comprehensive technical reports. Ability to prioritize, organize, and handle heavy workloads with multiple deadlines. Ability to use sound judgment in decision-making. Strong interpersonal skills to develop good working relationships. Ability and willingness to effectively contribute and lead as part of a team. Proficiency in word processing, spreadsheet, and graphics software. Ability to work independently with off-site supervision. Valid driver’s license. Adhere to the IDOT property assessment program health and safety plan, which includes having or acquiring 40-hour OSHA hazardous waste site worker training, followed by 8-hour annual refresher training, and undergoing annual physical examinations as part of the medical monitoring program for hazardous waste site workers.

This is a visiting, full-time, contract-funded, academic professional appointment subject to the continued availability of funding and programmatic need.  Position may become a regular position at a later date depending on funding and programmatic need. The starting date is negotiable after the closing date.  Salary is commensurate with experience. Applications must be received by August 3, 2018.  Applicants may be interviewed before the closing date; however, no hiring decision will be made until after this date.  To apply, please visit https://jobs.illinois.edu/academic-job-board to complete an online profile and to upload 1) a cover letter that clearly articulates how your qualifications and experience make you a viable candidate for this position and should address the qualifications listed above, 2) a résumé/CV, and 3) the names and contact information (including e-mail addresses) of three professional references. All requested information/documentation must be submitted for applications to be considered.  Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

For further information please contact Amber Hall, Human Resources, Prairie Research Institute, at amberh@illinois.edu 217-300-4080. The University of Illinois conducts criminal background checks on all job candidates upon acceptance of a contingent offer.

These tiny plastics make their way up the food chain and into your diet

Read the full story in the Indianapolis Star.

They float in our air. They pollute our rivers, lakes and oceans. They lurk in our drinking water and even in your favorite Great Lakes brew. We can’t often see them, but microplastics are everywhere.

Including probably in your stomach.

But what exactly are these hidden plastic pollutants? And are they harmful?

For Plastic Free July — a global movement to reduce plastic use and waste — we are diving into the tiny world of microplastics to better understand what they are, where they are found, and how they affect us and the environment.

These new textile dyeing methods could make fashion more sustainable

Read the full story in Chemical & Engineering News.

Shoppers looking for their next great outfit make their selections on the basis of color, cut, style, and price. They may not know that dyeing clothes requires massive amounts of water, energy, and chemicals. Those chemicals are released in wastewater from dye houses and textile mills in places such as China, India, and Bangladesh. Reports of rivers with unnatural hues have inspired government crackdowns and sustainability pledges from international apparel brands. But changing this $3 trillion industry will require innovation that can be scaled up and adopted without cost or disruption for manufacturers. Read on to learn about greener ways to color clothes that may soon be available from your favorite retailer.

Lehigh Meets Demand for Sustainable Materials with New MRP Production Plant

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

The demand for sustainable material to create products like tires is soaring – and Lehigh Technologies, a specialty chemicals company that produces sustainable raw materials from end-of-life tires and post-industrial rubber, is expanding to meet that need. Production has started at the company’s new Murillo el Fruto Micronized Rubber Powder (MRP) plant in Navarra, Spain. The plant will help the company “meet the rising demand for green chemicals in Europe and beyond,” says Jason Stravinski, Lehigh’s VP of operations.

K-12 Education: Lead Testing of School Drinking Water Would Benefit from Improved Federal Guidance

Download the document.

What GAO Found

An estimated 43 percent of school districts, serving 35 million students, tested for lead in school drinking water in 2016 or 2017, according to GAO’s nationwide survey of school districts. An estimated 41 percent of school districts, serving 12 million students, had not tested for lead. GAO’s survey showed that, among school districts that did test, an estimated 37 percent found elevated lead (lead at levels above their selected threshold for taking remedial action.) (See figure.) All school districts that found elevated lead in drinking water reported taking steps to reduce or eliminate exposure to lead, including replacing water fountains, installing filters or new fixtures, or providing bottled water.

Estimated Percentage of Public School Districts Reporting Lead Testing and Results for Drinking Water

Note: GAO’s survey was administered from July to October 2017 and asked school districts to report information based on the 12 months prior to their completing the survey. Testing estimates have a plus or minus 7 percent margin of error; elevated lead estimates have a plus or minus 10 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level. Elevated lead refers to levels of lead above the school district’s threshold for taking remedial action.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), at least 8 states have requirements that schools test for lead in drinking water as of 2017, and at least 13 additional states supported school districts’ voluntary efforts with funding or in-kind support for testing and remediation. In addition, the five states GAO visited provided examples of technical assistance to support testing in schools.

EPA provides guidance and other resources to states and school districts regarding testing and remediating lead in drinking water, and the Department of Education (Education) provides some of this information on its websites. School district officials that used EPA’s written guidance said they generally found it helpful. Although EPA guidance emphasizes the importance of addressing elevated lead levels, GAO found that some aspects of the guidance, such as the threshold for taking remedial action, were potentially misleading and unclear, which can put school districts at risk of making uninformed decisions. In addition, many school districts reported a lack of familiarity with EPA’s guidance, and their familiarity varied by region of the country. Education and EPA do not regularly collaborate to support state and school district efforts on lead in drinking water, despite agreeing to do so in a 2005 memorandum of understanding. Such collaboration could encourage testing and ensure that more school districts will have the necessary information to limit student and staff exposure to lead.

Why GAO Did This Study

No federal law requires testing of drinking water for lead in schools that receive water from public water systems, although these systems are regulated by the EPA. Lead can leach into water from plumbing materials inside a school. The discovery of toxic levels of lead in water in Flint, Michigan, in 2015 has renewed awareness about the danger lead exposure poses to public health, especially for children.

GAO was asked to review school practices for lead testing and remediation. This report examines the extent to which (1) school districts are testing for, finding, and remediating lead in drinking water; (2) states are supporting these efforts; and (3) federal agencies are supporting state and school district efforts. GAO administered a web-based survey to a stratified, random sample of 549 school districts, the results of which are generalizable to all school districts. GAO visited or interviewed officials with 17 school districts with experience in lead testing, spread among 5 states, selected for geographic variation. GAO also interviewed federal and state officials and reviewed relevant laws and documents.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making seven recommendations, including that EPA update its guidance on how schools should determine lead levels requiring action and for EPA and Education to collaborate to further disseminate guidance and encourage testing for lead. EPA and Education agreed with the recommendations.

Sustainability 101: Storytelling

Read the full post at the GLRPPR Blog.

As a relative newbie to the concept of sustainability, I knew that were would be a whole set of beliefs and expectations I had never encountered before. However, I didn’t anticipate just how many layers and facets there are. My findings this week establish how sustainability exists not only as a measured attempt to avoid the unnecessary consumption of natural resources, but also a verifiable business method.

4 techniques to catalyze sustainable small town redevelopment

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Today, many cities fully embrace redevelopment as a strategy to revitalize whole districts, as we are witnessing in old manufacturing centers such as Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Even smaller cities such as Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, are getting in on the action. Instead of greenfields, brownfields and their classic, historic architecture, their raw industrial grit, are back in vogue. Redevelopment, renewal and adaptive reuse are no longer buzzwords, but well-established strategies with an impressive track record.

Our firm tends to go into places that have not seen the same degree of rebirth and renewal — places where people want to see their towns spring back to life, but cannot quite find the economic momentum to make it happen. Not all of these communities are in the country. A lot of them are in isolated corners of big cities, such as old manufacturing neighborhoods with few residents and low population density. These places have a lot of brownfields and abandoned properties with immense potential, but little in the way of a business model that can overcome the risks of economic stagnation. What is a developer to do? Are these special, historic properties doomed to disuse and eventual dilapidation?

The key word in the above paragraph is risk, although it is one discussed less frequently in economic development circles where the field tends to focus on gains, growth and potential. Just because one redevelops a brownfield does not mean that customers (or tenants) will flock to it if the community is far from customers, if it exhibits signs of social and economic decay or if it lacks sufficient amenities that many modern workers and entrepreneurs expect from their community. Any successful strategy will not only have to meet the market, but address complex risk factors that include social, political and environmental risk. The social and institutional side are discussed less often, so let us turn to those first.

EPA gives states more flexibility to regulate sites storing toxic coal ash

Read the full story from ABC News.

The Environmental Protection Agency has changed a rule requiring cleanup of ponds holding coal mining waste to give states more flexibility and postpone the deadline to close facilities that have contaminated the surrounding groundwater.

Exclusive: Starbucks and McDonald’s team up to rethink cups

Read the full story in Fast Company.

In the world of quick coffee, Starbucks and McDonald’s are as fierce as competitors come. They’re multibillion-dollar global giants, fighting for our caffeinated hearts through drizzles and discounts.

But when it comes to the cup that coffee comes in, they’re now on the same team. McDonald’s and Starbucks are joining forces to build a fully recyclable, compostable cup of the future within the next three years–one that may include not just the cup itself, but a lid and straw to go along with it.