EPA Launches New Websites

EPA’s Pollution Prevention and Toxics website has a new name, look, and address. Our old website, previously found at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/, is now the new Chemicals under TSCA website. Many EPA stakeholders have noticed the gradual move to new versions of content as part of the larger EPA effort to build a more user-friendly website.  With the new Chemicals under TSCA website, information should now be easier than ever to access, regardless of the type of electronic device you use, including tablets and smartphones.

With the transition to the new site completed, web page addresses will be different. This may cause links and bookmarks to break. EPA is working to fix any broken links on their website. The majority of the old pollution prevention and toxics pages will redirect to the new web areas, but they encourage you to update your bookmarks.  Their new “Page Not Found” notification will help you find what you are looking for by providing suggested search terms, links to EPA’s A-Z index, and other helpful links.

If you have trouble locating information, try using the search feature available on every EPA web page and in the archive (archive.epa.gov).  To help you find some of their most requested information, below are the updated URLs for some of their most popular web areas:

Grants Management: EPA Has Opportunities to Improve Planning and Compliance Monitoring

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What GAO Found

Of the 17 performance goals in its 2009–2013 grants management plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fully met 2, partially met 6, and did not meet 1. EPA did not measure its progress for the other 8 goals. EPA officials provided several reasons for meeting relatively few of the performance goals and not measuring the others. For example, according to officials, EPA did not measure progress for some goals because it redirected resources from achieving grants management goals to managing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 grants, under which EPA more than doubled its grants in 2009. For 5 goals where EPA either did not meet the goal or did not measure performance, officials reported that there was no impact on the grants management program because EPA took mitigating actions or the negative effect of missing the goal was minimal. However, for 10 goals, GAO found a negative effect of EPA not measuring or partially meeting the goals, including an absence of data on compliance with policies, inefficient processes that increased workload, delayed processes for awarding grants, and delayed training and policy implementation.

As of May 2015, EPA’s draft 2016–2020 grants management plan partially follows four relevant leading practices for federal strategic planning that GAO identified from prior work and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance. Specifically, the draft plan

  • sets 5 strategic goals but has yet to link them to an overarching mission statement,
  • includes strategic objectives but has yet to define strategies to address management challenges or identify resources needed to achieve the goals,
  • ensures leadership accountability for just 1 of the 5 strategic goals, and
  • includes 11 performance measures but has so far only one measurable target.

By fully incorporating these leading practices, EPA could have better assurance that it has established an effective framework to guide and assess its efforts to meet its grants management goals and help address long-standing grants management weaknesses.

EPA has made progress monitoring grants management directives agencywide since GAO’s 2006 report. For instance, EPA electronically tracks unspent grant funds and the timely submission of grantee reports. However, two key challenges hamper EPA’s efforts to monitor such directives. First, 8 out of 10 regional offices use paper files to document compliance with grants management directives, so monitoring these offices’ compliance requires resource-intensive manual file reviews. Second, the limited reporting and analysis capabilities of its IT systems leave EPA without agencywide information for most of the 212 directive requirements GAO reviewed. Although EPA deployed two web-based reporting tools to pull data from its IT system, it uses them to track 8 percent, or 17, of the 212 grants directive requirements GAO reviewed, making it difficult for managers to compare actual performance to expected results agencywide. EPA plans to fully implement an updated IT system by 2017, but it has had similar plans since 2009 and has not yet done so. By developing ways to more effectively use existing web-based tools until it implements its new IT system, EPA could better monitor compliance with grants management directives agencywide.

Why GAO Did This Study

In 2014, EPA disbursed about $4.6 billion in grants through its headquarters and 10 regional offices to states and others, in part to implement laws. In 2006, GAO identified weaknesses in EPA’s grants management program, including the absence of goals, and made recommendations to address them. As part of its response to GAO’s 2006 recommendations, EPA issued a 2009-2013 grants management plan.

GAO was asked to follow up on its 2006 review. This report examines (1) the extent to which EPA met the goals in its 2009–2013 plan, (2) the extent to which its draft 2016–2020 plan follows relevant leading practices for strategic grants management planning, and (3) the progress EPA has made since 2006 in monitoring agencywide compliance with grants directives.

GAO analyzed EPA’s 2009–2013 plan and obtained EPA officials’ responses to a standard set of questions regarding progress in achieving the goals; compared the draft 2016–2020 plan to four leading strategic planning practices relevant to grants management; compared 212 requirements from relevant grants directives to requirements tracked in EPA’s grants management systems; and interviewed agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends, among other things, that EPA fully follow leading strategic planning practices in its draft 2016–2020 plan and develop ways to more effectively use its web-based tools for monitoring compliance with directives. EPA generally agreed with GAO’s findings and recommendations.

EPA Office of the Inspector General Releases Reports on Green Chemistry Challenge and Pollution Prevention Grant Programs

The U.S. EPA’s Office of the Inspector General has released two reports of interest to ENB readers.

In EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program Lacks Adequate Support and Transparency and Should Be Assessed for Continuation, the OIG found that all Green Chemistry Awards results are self-reported by award recipients. The EPA does not verify or validate the results, and award recipients are not required to conduct any quality-assurance certification on results they report. Moreover, these self-reported results are included in the agency’s summary of P2 Program accomplishments.

They recommend that the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention discontinue using data from the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program in the EPA’s P2 performance metrics until data quality controls are in place. The EPA should also assess the need and value of the awards program for supporting agency goals.

In EPA Needs Accurate Data on Results of Pollution Prevention Grants to Maintain Program Integrity and Measure Effectiveness of Grants, the OIG found that EPA is unable to determine the extent to which P2 grants achieved pollution prevention goals. Neither headquarters nor the regions reviewed consistently implemented EPA quality control guidance and practices when compiling P2 grant results. In addition, they found reporting and transcription errors.

They recommend that the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and
Pollution Prevention: (1) implement the P2 GrantsPlus database to begin the process for enhancing the reporting and recording of its P2 grants, and (2)
develop and implement controls to ensure accurate reporting of regional results to headquarters and documentation of revisions made by headquarters.

EPA Statement on Colorado Data from Gold King Mine Release

To assess the impacts of the release at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, water quality samples were collected at numerous intervals beginning on Aug. 5, 2015.  Samples were taken prior to the plume’s arrival to establish a baseline for water quality comparisons. Each surface water sample was analyzed for 24 metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.

Analysis now shows that water quality for the Animas River from the Silverton, Colo. area to the Durango municipal water intake has returned to pre-event water quality levels. These results are based on validated sampling data collected from Aug. 5 to Aug. 9, 2015.

EPA has shared this data with state, local and tribal officials in Colorado to assist them in their decisions regarding the on-going use of water resources. EPA plans to continue to monitor, analyze and share data for downstream river segments as it becomes available.

For more information, visit http://www2.epa.gov/goldkingmine/epa-statement-colorado-data-gold-king-mine-release.

For more information on EPA’s response, visit http://www2.epa.gov/goldkingmine/roles-epa-and-other-responders-after-2015-gold-king-mine-release.

EPA Grants: Systems-Based Research for Evaluating Ecological Impacts of Chemicals

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One of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s priorities is to support  research that will result in a better understanding of the vulnerability of organisms and ecosystems to chemical exposures. Recent scientific advances provide new approaches for evaluating how exposures to chemicals influence the health of ecosystems. EPA research in this area is developing and applying innovative approaches to improve the evaluation of ecological resilience and impact analyses.

Through the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant program, EPA is providing grant funding to six universities to complement its research in this area. The six recipients are developing and applying innovative methods and models to better understand and predict biological and ecological consequences of exposures to chemicals in environmental systems. The universities are researching how to apply different metrics, methods and models to characterize the interactions between spatial and temporal distribution of chemicals and ecological receptors and predict the consequences.

EPA Says It Released 3 Million Gallons Of Contaminated Water Into River

Read the full story at NPR.

In an event that has led to health warnings and turned a river orange, the Environmental Protection Agency says that one of its safety teams accidentally released contaminated water from a mine into the Animas River in southwest Colorado.

The spill, which sent heavy metals, arsenic, and other contaminants into a waterway that flows into the San Juan National Forest, occurred on Wednesday. The EPA initially said that 1 million gallons of wastewater had been released, but that figure has risen sharply.

Job announcements: Two EPA internships available

GIS Analyses of Wetlands and Streams–Research Participation Program (Post-MS internship)

A postgraduate participant project is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), Region 4 office in Atlanta, GA. The research participant will serve in the Ocean, Wetlands and Streams Protection Branch (OWSPB) of the Water Protection Division.

The OWSPB manages and conducts key wetlands, coastal, and ocean activities under the Clean Water Act Section 404, the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) Sections 102 and 103 and the Ocean Dumping Program, the Section 403 Ocean Discharge Program and the Section 312 Marine Sanitation Device Program. The OWSPB provides regional expertise in stream and wetland restoration and mitigation, manages and implements marine and wetlands regulatory and restoration related issues and grants associated with numerous interagency/stakeholder workgroups, committees, and task forces.

This project will provide the participant with training and experience in: GIS analyses of wetlands and streams based on landscape position, ecosystem processes, ecological significance, wetness, soils, and physical disturbance; development of a searchable index of the Wetland Program Development Grants database that improves the ability of EPA programs to locate grant products; perform specific geospatial analysis for certain locations where ground-truth data exists for validation; and complete field work to obtain ground truth data.

Water Quality Standards Uses, Antidegradation and Variances Research  Participation Program, Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Post-Bachelor’s internship)

 

A postgraduate internship project is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water in Washington, DC. The internship will be served with the Office   of Science and Technology (OST) in the Standards & Health Protection Division.

The Standards and Health Protection Division directs the national water programs for water quality standards and advisories for safe fishing and swimming.  The intern will be trained in the Division’s National Branch (NB), one of the two branches that work on water quality standards.

This project will involve science, policy, and analysis on water quality standards program issues that have national implications, particularly those pertaining to uses for surface waters, antidegradation and Water Quality Standard (WQS) variances. This would include research and development of pertinent technical and policy materials.