The EPA and U.S. Department of the Army have proposed to extend the effective date of the 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States.” The agencies are proposing that the 2015 rule would not go into effect until two years after this action is finalized and published in the Federal Register. The rule, developed by the Obama’s administration, has been held up in 13 courts nationwide and faces a date in the U.S. Supreme Court.
This action follows the February 28, 2017, Presidential Executive Order on "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule." The February Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution.
The agencies’ proposal is separate from the two-step process the agencies propose to take to reconsider the 2015 rule. The comment period for the Step 1 rule closed in September and the agencies are currently working to review the comments received from the public. The agencies are also in the process of holding listening sessions with stakeholders as EPA and the Army Corps work to develop a proposed Step 2 rule that would revise the definition of “waters of the United States.”
The agencies will be collecting public comment on this proposal for 21 days after publication in the Federal Register and plan to move quickly to take final action in early 2018.
Additional information on this proposal and how to comment are available at this link: http://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule.
20th Anniversary of America Recycles Day
On November 15, the 20th America Recycles Day, the EPA celebrated the importance of recycling to our nation’s economy. “We encourage all Americans to recycle more today, and every day,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. “Reusing, and recycling can help you, your community, and the environment by saving money, energy, and natural resources.”
With a greater focus on recycling, the U.S. recycling rate has more than tripled over the last 30 years to the current rate of 34%. According to our most recent data from 2007, recycling and reuse activities created 757,000 jobs, produced $36.6 billion in wages and $6.7 billion in tax revenues in the United States in that year.
Despite our recent success, much more can be done to increase recycling. Construction and Demolition (C&D) materials are one of the largest generated waste streams in our nation, at 534 million tons as of 2014. Instead of throwing these materials away, we can reuse them to rebuild and improve infrastructure, save money and create jobs. Recycling these materials not only supports the national recycling sector; it also decreases reliance on foreign imports. Reusing and recycling more materials and ensuring that salvaged and recycled-content materials are used in new construction can save resources and create more jobs.
C&D recycling accounted for almost 232,000 jobs, more than $11.6 billion in wages, and nearly $1.9 billion in taxes in 2007, which is more jobs, wages and revenue generated than any other material measured that year, according to the 2007 EPA analysis.
American households can get involved in the effort to help increase the national recycling rate and strengthen the economy by recycling more materials. Recycled content is all around us and is essential to everyday life, as it is a central component of the infrastructure and products that most of us use on a daily basis. For example, recycling just 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for more than 25 hours.
Dont Waste Thanksgiving
No holiday is more associated with food and eating than Thanksgiving. While it’s not the waist issue you might think about, it can definitely be a waste problem.
Food waste is the No. 1 item thrown away by Americans and DHEC leads an effort to cut down on food waste across South Carolina. If you’ve tired yourself out from creating new recipes with your Turkey Day leftovers, try feeding people instead of our landfills. Food donations are a great way to provide surplus food to those who need it while recycling your leftovers.
If you cannot donate or reuse your leftover, try composting it. Sending food waste to a composting facility or composting at home can improve soil health and structure, increase water retention, support native plants and reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
Thanksgiving can also cook up some plumbing disasters if you’re wrongly disposing of your cooking fats, oils, and greases.
While it seems tempting, do not flush a pan full of oil down your sink. There are many recycling centers across our state that will take your old fats, oils, and greases. Keep these tips in mind:
For more information on composting, recycling and DHECs Dont Waste Food SC program, visit www.scdhec.gov/dontwastefoodsc.
U.S. Seafoods Addresses Release Ozone-Depleting Chlorofluorocarbons in Alaska
U.S. Seafoods of Seattle will implement enhanced leak detection practices and replace freezer equipment to address violations of the Clean Air Act resulting from releases of ozone-depleting substances from two of its fish processing vessels in Alaska.
EPA investigators discovered that in 2012 the freezers on two vessels owned by U.S. Seafoods—the F/V Seafreeze Alaska and the F/V Alliance—were leaking an ozone-depleting refrigerant called R-22. EPA found that the vessel owners and operators failed to repair the leaks in a timely manner and failed to confirm that the freezers were not leaking when finally repaired.
Releases of refrigerants like R-22 deplete stratospheric ozone and violate requirements under the Clean Air Act National Recycling and Emission Reduction Program. The National Recycling and Emission Reduction Program governs the management of ozone-depleting substances and implements the United States’ mandates under the 1991 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The ozone layer protects the earth and its inhabitants from the adverse effects of ultra-violet or UV radiation which is known to cause cancers, immune system suppression, and cataracts. In addition, excessive UV radiation can harm crops, plankton production, and the marine food chain.
U.S. Seafoods will pay a $135,000 penalty, replace some or all of its current R‑22 freezers with units that use ammonia, and retire those not replaced. The company will also implement enhanced leak detection and repair practices.
Nature's Path Foods Fined $29,000 for Wastewater Violations
Nature’s Path Foods, USA, Inc. will help the city of Blaine purchase land and restore streambank along Cain Creek, under a settlement agreement with the Washington Department of Ecology.
The $29,000 package of environmental projects will settle the company’s appeal of a 2016 Ecology penalty for $22,000 and a companion order.
Ecology’s penalty alleged that the company violated its state water quality permit, which sets limits on pollutants in wastewater discharged to the city’s sanitary sewer. The company is complying with the order by installing improvements to its pre-treatment system for wastewater discharges.
“We’re pleased to see this excellent progress at the Nature’s Path facility and these valuable enhancements for the city,” said Tom Buroker, who directs Ecology’s Northwest Regional Office. “We value this partnership, because the assistance to the city goes above what our penalty assessed and, more importantly, beyond what’s required to comply with the permit.”
The settlement incorporates an agreement between Nature’s Path and Blaine under which the company will help the city develop Cain Creek Park between Blaine Avenue and I-5. Improvements include:
- $20,000 to help cover the city’s costs to purchase two undeveloped lots along the creek
- $3,000 of funding, plus crews for at least two spring work parties, to restore the lots and other areas along the creek
- Approximately $800 for a pet waste station and three years’ supply of plastic bags
- A $5,000 contribution to the city’s planned stormwater treatment project at the creek’s outfall into Drayton Harbor
- Informational signage at the park’s Mitchell Avenue entrance about the restoration project and the importance of protecting streamside habitat
The settlement and other documents are available on the Dept. of Ecology website.
Depleted Groundwater Adds to Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
We may be adding large amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by using groundwater faster than it is replenished, according to new research. This process, known as groundwater depletion, releases a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has until now been overlooked by scientists in calculating carbon sources, according to the new study.
The study’s authors estimate groundwater depletion in the United States could be responsible for releasing 1.7 million metric tons (3.8 billion pounds) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year.
Based on these figures, groundwater depletion should rank among the top 20 sources of carbon emissions documented by the EPA and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This would mean the carbon dioxide emitted through groundwater depletion is comparable to the carbon generated from aluminum, glass, and zinc production in the United States, according to the study’s authors.
“We were somewhat surprised that this hasn’t been accounted for in the literature and in the [EPA and IPCC] evaluations,” said David Hyndman, a hydrogeologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan and co-author of the new study accepted for publication in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
Groundwater depletion’s impact on carbon emissions is significant yet relatively small compared to the leading contributors, according to the authors. For example, scientists estimate fossil fuel combustion in the United States is responsible for releasing more than 5 billion metric tons (11 trillion pounds) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, close to 3,000 times the amount released from groundwater depletion. Still, the study authors argue that understanding all sources of carbon dioxide emissions is important for making accurate climate change projections and finding solutions.
“It’s not going to change the way we think about global climate change. It’s just another factor involved that we need to consider,” said Warren Wood, a hydrogeologist at Michigan State University and co-author of the new study.
“This is an idea that a number of us have knocked around a little bit, but I think the approach here is really novel,” said Bill Simpkins, a hydrogeologist at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa who was not involved in the study. “[Groundwater depletion] is certainly not a documented source that people feel obligated to put in their climate estimates.”
Groundwater’s carbon cycle:
Rain falling from the sky contains the same amount of carbon dioxide as is present in the atmosphere. But soil carbon dioxide levels are up to 100 times greater than carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, because soil microbes degrade organic carbon into carbon dioxide. When rainwater hits the ground and percolates through Earth’s rocks and sediments, the water dissolves extra carbon produced by these microbes.
If left to its own devices, this carbon-rich water remains below ground for hundreds to thousands of years before surfacing in oceans or freshwater bodies. But humans are now extracting groundwater at an unprecedented pace to sustain a growing population. The United States alone sucks up nearly 80 billion gallons (303 billion liters) of water from the earth every day to supply drinking water and irrigate crops, enough water to fill Utah’s Great Salt Lake five times every year.
Wood’s research has largely focused on the hydrogeology of arid areas, but he recalls suddenly coming up with the concept for the new study one morning after coffee. “It came to me at about 9:30 a.m. and by 11:30 a.m. I had the first draft of the manuscript done,” Wood said.
In the new study, Wood and Hyndman analyzed groundwater depletion and groundwater carbon chemistry data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to calculate how much carbon dioxide is likely transferred from groundwater to the atmosphere each year.
USGS scientists estimate that the United States annually depletes 25 square kilometers (9.7 square miles) of groundwater, which contains roughly 2.4 million metric tons (5.2 billion pounds) of bicarbonate. Wood and Hyndman then conservatively assumed that half of the released bicarbonate is converted to atmospheric carbon dioxide.
From this information, Hyndman and Wood estimated the U.S. releases approximately 1.7 million metric tons (3.8 billion pounds) of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere from groundwater depletion. This is more than the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the generation of electricity used to power 250,000 households in the United States each year.
Scientists know less about groundwater depletion on a global scale, but Wood and Hyndman predict groundwater depletion releases 9.7 to 13.5 million metric tons (21.4 to 29.8 billion pounds) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year globally.
“This linkage between subsurface water and the atmosphere is a very creative and original synthesis. I’m not aware of anyone who has even suggested this in the past,” said Lenny Konikow, a scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey who was not involved with the study.
The researchers note that this study is still just a preliminary step, but they hope their study will provoke in-depth research on the role of carbon dioxide from groundwater depletion.
“If we can understand how humans are having an effect, hopefully we can take that next step and try to mitigate some of these effects,” said Hyndman.
Ohio EPA to Hold Hearing about New Demolition Debris Landfill Rule
Proposed rule changes would require construction and demolition debris (C&DD) landfills to have a certified operator will be the subject of a Nov. 28, 2017, Ohio EPA public hearing. The hearing begins at 10:30 a.m. at Ohio EPA’s Central Office in the Lazarus Government Center, 50 W. Town Street, Suite 700, Columbus. During the hearing, Ohio EPA will accept comments about the proposed rules. Individuals wanting to present testimony can register by calling 614-644-2160. Visitors to the building must present a photo ID.
The rules would address a new requirement for owners and operators of C&DD landfills to designate a certified operator for the facilities. Each landfill would be required to have at least one certified operator on site daily. Qualifications to obtain operator certification include at least 12 months experience at a C&DD or municipal solid waste landfill and 10 hours of education training. The certifications would require annual renewal.
After considering public comments, Ohio EPA will make any necessary changes and finalize the rule changes. Comments on the rules may be presented at the hearing, or submitted in writing to Ohio EPA, Division of Materials and Waste Management, Attention: Michelle Mountjoy, Lazarus Government Center, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049, or by emailing Michelle.Mountjoy@epa.ohio.gov. The public comment period ends at close of business Nov. 28.
More information on the proposed rules update is available online at the Division of Materials and Waste Management Non-hazardous Waste Rules and Laws webpage. See information under the “proposed rules” tab.
Arizona Water Watch Mobile App Allows Collaboration with ADEQ Scientists
ADEQ announces the launch of a new tool, Arizona Water Watch mobile app, allowing "Citizen Scientists" to contribute photos and data that will help ADEQ more quickly discover and analyze water quality issues in Arizona. Anyone can become a Citizen Scientist by collaborating with professionals in scientific research, in just a few minutes on a smartphone.
The app is powered through a geographic surveying platform, Survey123 for ArcGIS. Smartphone users can easily submit photos and data for any stream, wash, river or lake in the state within a few minutes. After verification, the submitted information is plotted on an interactive GIS map of the entire state.
“Arizona is full of dedicated outdoor enthusiasts and we’re excited that ADEQ now enables them to contribute observations that aid in the protection of our streams and lakes,” said Meghan Smart, ADEQ Water Quality Scientist. “With volunteers and state employees working together, we can increase the data collected, cover more of Arizona and expand volunteer opportunities within the new Arizona Water Watch program, it’s a win-win!” concluded Smart.
Submissions through the app are used by ADEQ scientists to update flow patterns in streams and washes, address water quality issues across the state and identify waterbodies for future studies.
To Access the Mobile App:
- Download Survey123 for ArcGIS from the iTunes App Store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android)
- Open the app and sign in with username adeqaww and password adeqaww2
- Select "Get Surveys" and then select "AZ Water Watch"
- Start collecting
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to Fix Lead Lines
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) have entered into a Consent Order and Agreement (COA) including a $2.4 million civil penalty assessment for violations related to lead level exceedances, partial lead service line replacements, and unauthorized changes to its water treatment. Up to $1.8 million of the agreed penalty may go towards community improvements, which could include replacing customers lead service lines.
DEP is committed to ensuring that consumers have drinking water that conforms to all state and federal standards, but we have also placed a priority on long-term improvements to PWSAs system and assistance to homeowners, said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. PWSAs repeated violations of state and federal drinking water regulations have eroded public trust, and with this agreement and penalty, we want to start restoring that faith.
This COA directs PWSA to take specific actions, provides deadlines for those actions, and assesses penalties. With respect to any future partial lead service line replacements, the COA requires PWSA to take extra measures to notify residents and conduct sampling if it performs a partial line replacement.
Through this COA, DEP ordered and PWSA agreed to:
- Notify every owner, resident, and tenant and conduct follow-up testing of the structure when a partial lead line replacement occurs. Provide additional advanced notice prior to the start of any non-emergency partial line replacements and provide water filters and replacement cartridges for at least six months;
- Submit an interim report to DEP by December 31, 2017 and a final report by March 31, 2018 on the results of the corrosion control feasibility study;
- Undertake continuous efforts to confirm the composition of service lines throughout its water system with updated reports to DEP over a period of several years;
- Replace at least 1,341 lead service lines by June 30, 2018 and conduct additional line replacements annually until PWSAs water meets the requirement for lead; and
- Report to DEP information on public notices, public education, and compliance every three months.
The agreement includes a $2.4 million civil penalty assessment, of which $1.8 million may go toward a community environmental project. PWSA is required to submit a detailed proposal for a project, administered by a third party, to provide grant money or low interest loans to low income homeowners for the replacement of private lead lines. Any funds that have not been used for this purpose in three years must be paid to DEP as a civil penalty assessment.
Typically, a community environmental project accounts for not more than half of a penalty assessment, but we felt that this situation warranted a much more robust effort to assist homeowners, upgrade the system, and restore public trust in the water that flows from their faucets, said DEP Acting Southwest Regional Director Ron Schwartz.
PWSAs system provides drinking water to approximately 520,000 people in the Pittsburgh area including 250,000 residential customers.
In addition to disinfecting water for public consumption, water systems like PWSA must use a specific formula of chemicals designed and approved for their individual system to control corrosion in the water pipes to provide optimal protection against the leaching of lead and copper into the water. DEP requires studies and permits prior to the use or alteration of any treatment chemicals by a public water supplier.
In April 2014, PWSA substantially modified its corrosion control treatment by substituting caustic soda for the permitted control, soda ash, without notifying DEP or obtaining the required permit amendments. In 2016, PWSA announced that it had switched back to soda ash for corrosion control.
On April 25, 2016, DEP issued an Administrative Order directing PWSA to investigate lead levels within its system, evaluate the impacts from the change in corrosion control treatment, provide information on its actions to consumers, conduct a feasibility study for optimization of corrosion control treatment, and submit a final report to DEP.
Additionally, PWSA exceeded the regulatory action level for lead during its required monitoring in 2016. These exceedances required PWSA to conduct a materials evaluation to determine the number of lead service lines in the system and to replace a certain percentage of those lines within a year. PWSA did not submit the proper materials evaluation of the system and instead submitted a lead service line inventory estimate of 19,152 lead lines out of the systems approximately 80,000 active service lines. Based on PWSAs estimate, the Authority was required to replace at least 1,341 lead service lines by June 30, 2017, but PWSA only replaced 415 lead service lines, or approximately 31 percent of what was required.
In 2016 and 2017, when PWSA performed non-emergency partial lead service line replacements, it failed to provide 45 days notice for 60 residences, and failed to collect water samples within 72 hours of partial line replacement for 149 residences. Partial line replacements can temporarily increase lead levels in the water, and PWSA will be required to take extensive measures to protect the public whenever PWSA conducts a partial line replacement rather than a full line replacement.
PWSA will continue to offer free lead test kits to its customers. DEP reminds consumers of the following ways to reduce lead exposure in drinking water:
- Flush taps by running cold water for at least one minute prior to drinking or using for cooking
- Use cold water for drinking, cooking, and preparing food or baby formula.
- Use a water filter that is NSF-certified to remove lead.
- Contact PWSA if you plan to replace your side of the lead service line for coordination of replacement of the PWSA portion.
Neutrons Probe Oxygen-Generating Enzyme for a Greener Approach to Clean Water
A new study sheds light on a unique enzyme that could provide an eco-friendly treatment for chlorite-contaminated water supplies and improve water quality worldwide.
An international team of researchers led by Christian Obinger from the University of Vienna used neutron analysis at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, x-ray crystallography and other techniques to study the chlorite dismutase enzyme. This naturally occurring protein can break down chlorite, an industrial pollutant found in groundwater, drinking water and soils, into harmless byproducts, but its catalytic process is not well understood. Understanding how the bacterial enzyme converts chlorite into chloride and oxygen could open possibilities for future applications in bioremediation and biotechnology.
The results, published in ACS Catalysis, also contribute to fundamental research on the enzyme’s ability to produce oxygen. Oxygen generation is incredibly rare in nature, once thought possible only by photosynthesis, so the enzymatic activity of chlorite dismutase has attracted interest from the scientific community beyond its environmental applications for clean water.
Exactly how chlorite dismutase works at a molecular level to break down chlorite has been debated since the enzyme was discovered in 1996. The complexity of the enzyme’s molecular structure and the difficulty of studying proteins with experimental methods present inherent challenges for researchers.
Like most enzymes, chlorite dismutase is a protein that catalyzes a highly specific reaction. The process is often environmentally dependent, meaning it works best within specific parameters, including temperature, concentration and pH ranges. Identifying the ideal parameters for the reaction is key to supporting bioengineering and large-scale production of chlorite dismutase to safely remove chlorite from the environment and potentially exploit the enzyme’s oxygen generation.
The team isolated an unstudied Cyanothece strain of chlorite dismutase and examined the protein’s crystal structure at specific pH values to determine the impact of pH on chlorite conversion.
The researchers used MaNDi, the macromolecular neutron diffractometer, beamline 11-B at the Spallation Neutron Source, a Department of Energy User Facility at ORNL, to collect unique data only obtainable through the use of neutrons.
“Different protein crystals have different degrees of symmetry, which will determine how we go about measuring them. This crystal is unusual in that it has very little symmetry, so an especially large number of reflections have to be recorded individually to get a complete data set,” said Leighton Coates, MaNDi Lead Instrument Scientist. “This would be a challenging and lengthy task anywhere, and it was only achievable in this time frame due to the large area detector coverage of the MaNDi instrument.”
On MaNDi, researchers were able to detect the protonation states of important amino acids thought to support the reaction. “Protonation” refers to a fundamental step in catalysis during which hydrogen attaches to molecules. “This is the important region of the protein, where the chemistry is happening and the chlorite is being broken down,” said Coates.
Protonation states are not easily observed because they involve hydrogen, which is difficult to detect with x-rays or other techniques. In addition, a phenomenon called “photoreduction” occurs when exposing metal-containing enzymes like chlorite dismutase to x-rays, essentially changing the atomic structure of the sample.
Because neutron techniques do not have these limitations, they can give researchers key information that cannot be obtained by other methods. “Neutrons are nondestructive and sensitive to light elements like hydrogen, so they can provide exclusive information about the atomic structure of proteins, which are largely composed of hydrogen molecules,” Coates explained.
“And unlike x-rays that can damage delicate proteins, neutron techniques allow you to collect data at room temperature on an unaltered protein in its active state without the impacts of ionizing radiation and photoreduction,” said Coates. “This experiment really highlights the benefit of using neutrons to study proteins.”
The journal article is published as “Molecular mechanism of enzymatic chlorite detoxification: insights from structural and kinetic studies.” Coauthors include Irene Schaffner, Georg Mlynek, Nicola Flego, Dominic Pühringer, Julian Libiseller-Egger, Leighton Coates, Stefan Hofbauer, Marzia Bellei, Paul G. Furtmüller, Gianantonio Battistuzzi, Giulietta Smulevich, Kristina Djinović-Carugo and Christian Obinger.
The Spallation Neutron Source is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the DOE Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.
Columbus Zoo for Recognized Environmental Stewardship
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of the first two organizations in Ohio to achieve platinum-level recognition for environmental stewardship in Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program.
Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler honored the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium with a flag-raising event to highlight the Zoo’s many achievements in environmental stewardship in the local and international communities.
“The Columbus Zoo is one of the top zoos in the country and a leader in educating us about animals from all over the world. They also are teaching us about sustainable practices at the Zoo, improving natural habitats in our backyards and abroad and improving the lives of animals and people here and around the world,” Director Butler said. “I am pleased to honor the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for its environmental leadership.”
Ohio EPA’s E3 program recognizes businesses and other organizations for completing environmentally beneficial activities and serves as an incentive for companies to commit to ongoing environmental stewardship. The Platinum level requires organizations to expand their environmental program beyond their facilities and demonstrate how their environmental stewardship efforts benefit the local community, region or larger geographic area.
“At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, we take environmental stewardship very seriously as we understand that our actions now directly impact the well-being and future of humans and the world’s wildlife,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf. “We are honored to receive this recognition and remain committed to expanding our sustainable practices and engaging others to join us as together we work to make a positive difference.”
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium adopted a sustainability policy in 2008 with goals of becoming a carbon neutral and zero waste facility. Since then the Zoo has reduced energy and water use and increased recycling rates. The Zoo uses locally sourced products and services, from lighting to animal feed and animal waste composting.
The Zoo’s Mapori restaurant is one of only three restaurants in Ohio to be four-star rated by the Green Restaurant Association. The restaurant composts food waste, uses Energy Star appliances, bamboo dishes and local food suppliers. Lighting for the Zoo’s annual holiday Wildlights event has been updated to LED lights, saving energy and reducing costs.
Zoo staff frequently works with other organizations and provides tours focused on environmental sustainability, including working with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Ohio Environmental Leadership Institute, the Ohio By-Product Synergy Network and the Ohio Green Zoo Consortium, among others.
The Zoo established the “My House” exhibit to teach visitors about nature, recycling, water conservation, wildlife-friendly gardening and using fewer disposable items at home. Similar messaging in the Zoo’s Polar Frontier exhibit shows positive steps individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprints in their everyday lives.
Internationally, the Zoo has partnered with a local company to send water carrying back packs to people in regions where the Zoo has conservation partners, including projects in Kenya and Namibia. The Zoo also provided technical assistance to study the viability of solar power and anaerobic digestion to assist the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
To obtain recognition for stewardship, an organization can work through four levels of recognition including Achievement at the base level; Silver Level recognizing outstanding accomplishments in environmental stewardship; and Gold Level recognizing comprehensive environmental stewardship programs. All levels require a commitment to meet or exceed environmental regulatory requirements.
Through the E3 program, Ohio EPA’s Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance helps businesses receive recognition for environmental stewardship efforts.
NY DEC Announces Winners of 14th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos recently recognized seven organizations for their state-of-the-art programs and commitment to environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and economic viability at the 14th Annual New York State Environmental Excellence Awards celebration, held at Union College's Park Hall.
DEC Commissioner Seggos said, "I am proud to present this year's Environmental Excellence Awards to municipalities and organizations that are demonstrating outstanding leadership by adopting innovative solutions to protect our environment and strengthen our economy. These projects set a high bar for others to follow as we collectively address critical environmental issues such as fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting pollinator habitats critical to our agricultural economy, advancing the use of electric vehicles, protecting the vitality of our waterways, and keeping potentially hazardous materials out of landfills. Congratulations to all of our outstanding award winners."
At the event, the awards were presented by DEC acting Chief of Staff Julie Tighe.
This year's award winners are setting an example for others across the state by implementing innovative energy efficiency programs, engaging students and communities in sustainable practices, harnessing the power of creative partnerships, and generating economic growth. The winners include:
- Bethlehem School District's Green Team (Albany County
- Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development's Stewardship of Aquatic Resources (Chautauqua County)
- Hudson River Sloop Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival Zero Waste Initiative (Westchester County)
- NYS Department of Transportation Region 4 and Seneca Park Zoo Society's Pollinator Protection Project (Livingston County)
- Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority's Go Green School Recycling Program (Oneida County)
- Ulster County's Net Carbon Neutral Operations (Ulster County)
DEC established the Environmental Excellence Awards in 2004 to recognize those who are working to improve and protect New York's environment and contribute to a healthier economy by advancing sustainable practices and forming creative partnerships. To date, DEC has recognized 80 award winners. They are an elite group of committed organizations leading by example and serving as models of excellence within their industry and community. Union College, host of this year's award ceremony, was an award recipient in 2008 for its campus-wide commitment to sustainability. A statewide review committee, made up of 20 representatives from the public and private sectors, shared advice in selecting the award winners from an array of competitive applications received in May.
For additional information about the program and past winners, and to learn about applying for the 2018 Environmental Excellence Awards, visit DEC's website.
No One Safe from Global Pollution Without Concerted Action, Warns New UN Environment Report
Everyone on earth is affected by pollution, according to a new report from UN Environment, The Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, which draws on the latest data from every continent to examine what we know about pollution and lay out key elements of a comprehensive framework of actions for how to beat it.
The Report’s wide reaching policy suggestions are based on analysis of pollution in all its forms, including air, land, freshwater, marine, chemical and waste pollution. Overall, environmental degradation accounts for nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, as well as a barrage of human health problems and widespread destruction of key ecosystems.
“What makes this report different is the breadth of its analysis and the new ambition of its solutions,” said head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim. “It provides a clearer picture than ever before of the scale of the pollution menace – and the scale of action that will be needed. None of us is now safe, so now all of us have to act.”
Everyone is affected by pollution. Some are directly exposed by handling chemicals at work or by living in the 80% of cities whose air doesn’t meet UN health standards. Others are among the 3.5 billion people who rely on our polluted seas for food, or make up the 2 billion who still do not have access to clean toilets.
The health effects are stark. Air pollution alone kills 6.5 million people, the world’s 50 biggest dump sites threaten the lives of another 64 million, and 600,000 children annually suffer brain damage due to the toxic effects of lead in paint. Even exposure to low levels of chemical pollution can create a cocktail with complicated effects on the body that build up year by year.
The Report notes that the most vulnerable people are also the most affected, including children whose mental and physical development can be stunted by exposure to pollution during their first 1,000 days, and the poor, who rely on functioning ecosystems or work in the world’s dirtiest jobs to make a living.
The effect on the environment is equally dire. Our seas already contain 500 “dead zones” with too little oxygen to support marine life. Over 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment without treatment, poisoning the fields where we grow our food and the lakes and rivers that provide drinking water to 300 million people. Stockpiles of obsolete chemicals threaten to further pollute the environment and endanger people’s lives.
Although some forms of pollution have receded, thanks to improved regulation, technology, public awareness and action spurred by international agreements, unsustainable consumption and production practices threaten to undo all our gains.
In the face of these challenges, the Report builds on an analysis of where we have previously fallen short to lay out 50 policy options to address different pollution risk areas. The 5 key messages are:
- political leadership and partnerships at all levels, mobilising the industry and finance sectors;
- action on the worst pollutants and better enforcement of environmental laws;
- a fresh approach to managing our lives and economies through resource efficiency, lifestyle changes, and better waste prevention and management;
- massive new and redirected investments in low-carbon and clean tech, ecosystems based solutions as well as research, monitoring and infrastructure to control pollution; and
- advocacy to inform and inspire people around the world.
“Sustainable development is now the only form of development that makes any sense,” said Mr Solheim. “The energy revolution, increased mobilization around climate change, and the push from governments, businesses and cities toward greener and more sustainable development are all game changers. But those who don’t get on the right team will be left behind in the polluted world of the past – and so will their citizens.”
The Report also notes that without factoring in pollution the world is unlikely to meet the Sustainable Development Goals – a set of 17 targets agreed by all 193 member states in 2015 that guide global development efforts. In this context, environmental governance is a key enabler. It needs to be multi stakeholder and multi-level, involving both formal agreements and voluntary initiatives and commitments for success to be met.
“Sustainable consumption and production is crucial to prevent and reduce pollution” said Ligia Noronha, one of UN Environment’s coordinators for the Report. We can produce more food while preserving the health of our soils and our waters for the well-being of all current and future generations.”
“The only answer to the question of how we can all survive on this one planet with our health and dignity intact is to radically change the way we produce, consume and live our lives.”
In order to work toward this change, and a pollution-free planet, UN Environment will convene the third UN Environment Assembly from 4-6 December in Nairobi, Kenya. As the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, the Assembly will bring together governments, business leaders, civil society and other stakeholders to share ideas and commit to action against pollution.
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