@EPA Awarding $1.3 Million to Revitalize America’s Urban Waters and Surrounding Communities

E.coli Bacterium
E.coli Bacterium

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Tricia Lynn):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding $1.3 million to 22 organizations in 18 states to help protect and restore urban waters and to support community revitalization and other local priorities.

“Often underserved communities in our nation’s cities face disproportionate impacts from pollution, and too often they lack the resources to do something about it,” said Joel Beauvais, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water. “EPA provides support to empower these communities to improve the quality of their waterways and to help reconnect people and businesses with the water they depend on.”

Many urban waterways have been polluted for years by sewage, runoff from city streets, and contamination from abandoned industrial facilities. Healthy and accessible urban waters can enhance economic, educational, recreational, and social opportunities in surrounding communities.

This year’s Urban Waters grantees will inform and engage residents in stormwater management and pursue community-based plans to address pollution in waterways. To accomplish these goals, many projects will address trash in waterways; test rivers, streams and lakes for pollutants; and prepare the next generation of environmental stewards for careers in the green economy. The 22 organizations receiving EPA grant funding are as follows:

Mystic River Watershed Association, Massachusetts ($60,000) will partner with towns and cities near Boston to create a multimedia education program to increase awareness of stormwater pollution for a regional coalition of municipalities.

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Massachusetts ($60,000) will develop a green infrastructure plan for Day Brook in Holyoke to reduce stormwater flow into the brook and resulting combined sewer overflow discharges into the Connecticut River.

NY/NJ Baykeeper, New Jersey ($48,150) will expand its plastic pollution reduction project by identifying, reducing, and preventing plastic transported via stormwater from reaching the lower Passaic River watershed and Newark Bay complex.

Sarah Lawrence College, New York ($60,000) will work with community scientists to investigate the severity and local sources of water pollution while increasing community engagement and stewardship in four underserved urban watersheds in the Lower Hudson River region.

Anacostia Watershed Society Inc., Maryland ($50,000) will educate and train middle-school students from low-income communities in Washington, DC on the problems associated with stormwater runoff and mitigation strategies through a variety of activities.

Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia ($59,773) will develop a community greening and green infrastructure plan for its two urban campuses and the Richmond Arts District.

The Conservation Fund, Georgia ($60,000) will expand community engagement in planning for two future green infrastructure projects aimed at reducing stormwater runoff located in the headwaters of Proctor Creek in Atlanta.

University of Tennessee, Tennessee ($59,995) will, through a community-driven effort, collect nutrient data across the Baker Creek watershed, which will help the City of Knoxville and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation develop a watershed restoration strategy.

Openlands, Illinois ($60,000) will, in partnership with the Healthy Schools Campaign, manage the Space to Grow program which transforms schoolyards into vibrant places that benefit students, communities, and the environment.

The University of Toledo, Ohio ($59,988) will, in collaboration with North Toledo community members, Vistula Management, United North, and the Toledo-Lucas County Sustainability Commission, develop a plan to incorporate green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) at low income, multi-family housing sites in Toledo, Ohio.

Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Lousiana ($60,000) will partner with several New Orleans-based underserved schools to assess neighborhood stormwater runoff. The data from which will be used to improve local pollution mitigation practices.

Amigos Bravos, New Mexico ($55,508) will work with an underserved community located in Alburquerque’s South Valley to address chronic flooding due to poor stormwater management.

Saint Louis University, Missouri ($58,793) will evaluate whether the use of brine pretreatment as an alternative to chloride used as road salt will help reduce local chloride water pollution.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska ($59,935) will improve stormwater and green infrastructure training and assistance for Omaha’s workforce, students, and residents.

City and County of Denver, Colorado ($60,000) will develop the Heron Pond Regional Open Space Master Plan to consolidate and restore into open space approximately 80 acres of land surrounding Heron Pond, with an ultimate goal of reducing urban runoff pollution, improving wildlife habitat, and creating recreation opportunities for the highly urbanized, industrial, and underserved Globeville neighborhood.

Groundwork Denver Inc., Colorado ($60,000) will work with local high school students from Sheridan, Colorado, an underserved community located at the mouth of Bear Creek, and Metropolitan State University, to determine the sources of E. coli feeding into the creek.

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, South Dakota ($58,996) will develop and promote a stormwater and green infrastructure educational program for K-12 and college students and the broader community, culminating in a community design charrette for the planning of low-impact development and green infrastructure practices for the proposed Rural America Initiatives development.

Arizona State University, Arizona ($58,227) will work with students and Girl Scouts Troops to monitor water quality in local waterways and recreational fisheries to develop recommendations for community- based solutions.

Constitutional Rights Foundation, California ($59,673) will, in partnership with Los Angeles Waterkeeper and UCLA, expand its teaching curriculum for local undeserved high school students on community stormwater assessments to include enhanced STEM education, and will conduct local civic-minded community environmental projects.

Heal the Bay, California ($59,998) will partner with Los Angeles Trade Technical College and local high schools to monitor bacterial water pollution in the Los Angeles River, which will be used to make recommendations to local government agencies and watershed stakeholders for improving water quality and protecting public health.

Lummi Indian Business Council, Washington ($56,433) will teach third- through fifth-grade students at the Lummi National Schools about how a watershed works, water quality parameters, sources of impairments, and how this impacts the salmon and shellfish that the Lummi Nation depends on for subsistence, economic, and cultural needs.

The Lands Council, Washington ($45,250) will offer green job training and career pathways through the Green Sleeves Program at the Geiger Correctional Center in Spokane and will work with local high school teachers to develop and teach a year-long environmental science curriculum focusing on stormwater pollution and low-impact remediation.

The Urban Waters Small Grants are competed and awarded every two years. Since its inception in 2012, the program has awarded approximately $6.6 million in Urban Waters Small Grants to 114 organizations across the country and Puerto Rico, with individual award amounts of up to $60,000.

To learn more about the funded projects, visit https://www.epa.gov/urbanwaters/urban-waters-small-grants

Information on EPA’s Urban Waters program: https://www.epa.gov/urbanwaters

The latest eTap newsletter is hot off the presses from @DenverWater

Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum
Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Summer’s heat is off, and so are sprinklers — if you want to prevent costly damage when the first freeze falls. Winterize your irrigation system, hoses and spigots now by clearing them of any water.

Since Colorado winters can also bring periods of tepid temperatures and dry skies, trees and shrubs may still need watering. If you must water, do so the efficient way: by hand, applying water only where it’s needed.

Here are other ways to get your yard ready to weather the winter:

  • Mow. Late-season mowing helps reduce the risk of mold and other diseases. Try to get in one last cut before the next snow flies.
  • Mulch. With one easy step, you can both “rake” and bag while benefiting your yard. Just keep the bag off your mower and mulch the leaves into the grass.
  • Make plans. Start prepping next year’s garden. Consider saving water the tasty, health-conscious way by growing vegetables instead of grass. If you need inspiration, check out this customer’s veggie box haven.
  • You’ll reap the benefits of your prep work when the next growing season springs. (In the meantime, know that we’re employing some forward thinking on customers’ behalf.)

    #AnimasRiver: EPA worker will not face prosecution — The Farmington Daily Times #GoldKingMine

    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]
    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

    From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

    The Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office will not prosecute a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee in connection to the Gold King Mine spill.

    The decision was reached on Oct. 6 and after the EPA’s Office of Inspector General submitted information about whether the employee may have violated the Clean Water Act and provided false statements, according to an update released this week by the Office of Inspector General.

    Jeffery Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado, declined to comment about the decision today. The update does not name the employee or provide details about the allegations.

    The update states the Office of Inspector General will prepare and submit a Report of Investigation to the EPA’s senior management for review. There is no requirement to submit the report by a certain time, Office of Inspector General spokesman Jeff Lagda said.

    EPA officials have taken responsibility for causing the August 2015 mine blowout that released approximately 880,000 pounds of heavy metals into a tributary of the Animas River.

    Congressional delegates from New Mexico remain steadfast in holding accountable those responsible for the spill.

    Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he looks forward to reviewing the Office of Inspector General report and will ensure the EPA acts on the findings.

    “This decision will not affect my work one bit to ensure the people who are still hurting as a result of the spill are compensated,” Udall said in an emailed statement, adding he continues to push the EPA to reimburse state and local governments for responding to the spill.

    Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in an email the EPA’s course of action for cleaning up the mine “fell far short of the standards.” He added communities need reimbursement for response costs and called for reforming outdated policies regarding mine cleanup.

    “We shouldn’t wait for more disasters to strike. Western communities deserve full and complete protection of their water, land and livelihoods,” Heinrich said.

    Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., said he is “deeply concerned” by the EPA’s failures and will “closely” review the report findings.

    “In the meantime, I will continue to fight to make the affected communities whole, to ensure robust long-term water quality monitoring, and to prevent a disaster like this from occurring again,” Luján said in an email.

    Gold King Mine entrance after blowout August 2015
    Gold King Mine entrance after blowout August 2015

    Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye was among those who visited the mine in the days that followed the spill.

    Begaye said EPA administrators and engineers were informed by hydrologists and other experts the mine was unsafe.

    “It was the administrators who had these documents that were aware of potential explosions and the pressure that had built up,” he said in an email. “They knew about this and they did nothing. They allowed a single worker to sit in the backhoe and start to clean out the area.”

    Begaye added that to place blame on one individual is “unfounded.”

    Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates said the decision by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office has no impact on the lawsuit the tribe filed against the EPA and other entities in August.

    “The nation has spoken and is holding the U.S. EPA responsible,” Bates said in a phone interview.

    The action by the attorney’s office also prompted response from leaders of two House committees.

    Reps. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., have asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to meet with the committees by Oct. 26 to explain the decision.

    In their letter to Lynch, they wrote that congressional staff learned about the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s decision on Tuesday during a conference call with the Office of Inspector General.

    During the call, the office stated it found evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the EPA, the letter states.

    “By not taking up the case, the Department of Justice looks like it is going easy on its colleagues in EPA,” the representatives wrote.

    A staff member with the Committee on Natural Resources, which Bishop chairs, said Lynch had not respond to the request as of today.

    On April 7,  2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear. Eric Baker
    On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
    Eric Baker