water

Have You Heard of Floating Gardens?

I’ve been on a volunteering kick lately.

After two beach cleanups in one week, I switched gears and spent Saturday morning with Urban Rivers planting floating gardens.

We planted a variety of native Illinois wetland plants into floating garden structures, which were then filled in with mulch.

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Basically, the goal of these “plant rafts” is to bring life back to the Chicago River.

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Once the structures are bolted together and placed in the Chicago River, they will create a cozy habitat for fish, birds, mammals, insects, and amphibians.

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Although I didn’t get to actually do any installing of the floating gardens via kayak, I am so excited to see them grow and flourish.

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There will be plenty more volunteer opportunities available once they are all in the water.

Check out their volunteer opportunities here.

What I am most excited for is kayaking the river for trash cleanups! 😉 Apparently, I love picking up trash everywhere. Ha!

Participating in A Climate Science Sweat Fest

Saturday, April 29th, I had the opportunity to be a part of the 200,000 people marching in solidarity with environmental regulations, climate protection, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Thousands joined in sister marches all over the world.

D.C., the home of the President (when not at Mar-a-Lago), and my home for 2 years was plastered with signs defying the administration’s 100 days of damage.

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I have never been a part of such a large-scale protest march before, even though it is now becoming the norm. We overheard another marcher saying they had not been to a protest since Vietnam.

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As the clouds parted, we gathered near the Capitol, trying to stay in the shade of the trees as long as possible, before lining up in the street. Once we were assembled, we baked in the sun, sweat pouring down our backs.

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Everyone we saw and met was kind and generous and strong-willed to be there in the heat. There were babies, dogs, kids, and grandparents marching for clean air and water for their grandchildren.

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It was an extremely peaceful march. I saw zero incidences of conflict or arrests, just concerned citizens. Everyone walked, holding up their signs, frying in the relentless sun.

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There were times when chants were shouted, especially when we passed the Trump International Hotel.

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The Newseum sits on Pennsylvania Avenue. On the outside of the building is a bold reminder of our first amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition the government.  How appropriate.

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The signs, the outfits, and yes, the puppets, were all creative. These people spent hours and days getting ready for their voice to be heard, even if the President was not physically in the District to bother to listen.

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We proceeded along towards the White House at a decent pace, only bottle-necking shortly in front of the hotel.

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The sidewalks were crowded with onlookers and marchers taking a quick break to sit in the shade.

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With the higher than normal temperatures, we had to be very diligent with our water, as we would not get a chance to refill until the end at the Washington Monument.

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Ironically, entrepreneurs were taking advantage of the thirsty by peddling water in disposable plastic bottles to the crowds. Most people had their own or wore CamelBaks (great idea), but sometimes thirst is too overpowering, an issue we are going to have to deal with more and more in the future.

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As we approached the White House, the crowd started to spill out into Lafayette Square to be rescued by the benches and shady trees.

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It was an experience I will never forget, even though it is only a blip on the radar of this administration.

No matter.

I am positive we won’t be backing down soon.

 

 

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The chants we repeated basically said it all.

“We won’t go away.

Welcome to your 100th day.” 

An Ode to That One Planet We Can Live On

Earth Day had always been my favorite “holiday” as a child. I am not even kidding.

I have vivid memories of my elementary school class going outside and planting a tree. We could buy t-shirts with endangered whales, swirling clouds, and towering trees on them.

Our planet Earth provides us with so much that no blog post could ever cover it all.

So instead of writing over and over again of how important this Earth Day is, I am just going to show you its beauty and just some of what it has provided, for me personally, in pictures from my everyday life.

Hey Planet Earth, you provide me with:

A place to play softball.

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National Mall, Washington DC

A forest to ride through.

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Cal-Sag Trail, Palos Park, IL

A place to take it all in.

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Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

The opportunity to enhance it.

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Casey Tree planting, Washington DC

Fond family memories. 

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Lake Wandawega, Elkhorn, WI

Somewhere to splash my toes in. 

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Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL

The reminder of nature in a concrete jungle.

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Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL

How amazing the tide is. 

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Sand flats, Duxbury, MA

Sunsets that are top notch. 

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New Buffalo, MI

And sunrises that are equally fantastic.

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Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

Fall colors make my heart melt. 

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Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

And breathtaking ocean views.

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Big Sur, CA

The power of water.

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Niagara Falls, NY

Planet Earth, you remind us of just how tiny we are.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

 

How are you celebrating Earth Day?

EPA Blog Re-Post #5

Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the fifth one. Originally posted October 21, 2014.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


Turning Back Time: Repairing Water Infrastructure

By Marguerite Huber

I am about to turn 25 years old—the quarter century mark! Yikes! While I may start to feel “old” when I consider that number, I am in considerably better shape than some of the pipes and sewer mains that make up the country’s water infrastructure, some components of which are more than four times my age.

Homes, apartment buildings, and businesses in nearly every neighborhood and city across

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Aging water infrastructure: fixing old, leaking sewer pipes in downtown Washington, DC.

the country are connected to miles and miles of pipes carrying wastewater and drinking water. That’s a lot of pipes to take care of!

The estimated costs of fixing old, leaky, and cracked pipes through the traditional methods of digging them up and patching or replacing them could cost water utilities in excess of $1 trillion dollars over the next 20 years. Innovative, lower cost technologies that could provide alternatives would have enormous impact, but how do utilities know where to turn before they make investments in long-term solutions?

To answer this question, scientists and engineers from EPA’s aging water infrastructure research program reported on innovative and emerging technologies in their study, Innovative Rehabilitation Technology Demonstration and Evaluation Program (Matthews, et. al., 2014). They and their partners conducted field demonstrations to test these new technologies, such as those that aim to repair existing pipes “from the inside out,” under real-world conditions.

EPA’s work with industry partners gathered reliable performance and cost data on technologies that line the inside of the aging pipes to fill in the holes and cracks, prolonging their life. They shared what they learned with water and wastewater utility owners, technology manufacturers, consultants, and service providers.

They tested two types of liner technologies. One was a cured-in-place method that essentially is a pipe-within-a-pipe. The second was a spray-in-place method that uses a computer-controlled robot to apply a new pipe liner.

The researchers provided reliable information on the performance and cost of the emerging technologies. Stakeholders can benefit from the work: water and wastewater utility owners can reduce the risk of trying out unproven technologies by using technologies that have undergone evaluation; manufacturers and developers will realize the opportunity to advance technology development and commercialization; and consultants and service providers will have the information they need to compare the performance and cost of similar products.

Overall, these innovative technologies can be efficient and economical alternatives to full-blown replacements of water infrastructure. I hope I have similar options when I pass the century mark myself!

Read the post in its original format here. 

Literature Cited: Matthews, J., A. Selvakumar, R. Sterling, AND W. Condit. Innovative Rehabilitation Technology Demonstration and Evaluation Program. Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology. Elsevier BV, AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, 39:73-81, (2014).


Read the other posts:

EPA Blog Re-Post #4

Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the fourth one. Originally posted February 13, 2015.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


Storm Water Management Model Gets Climate Update

By Marguerite Huber

Image of a flooded local park

EPA researchers are developing strategies and resources to help city planners, managers, and others address stormwater runoff problems, including those related to impervious surfaces and combined sewer overflows. One powerful tool available is the Stormwater Management Model, also known by its acronym, “SWMM.”

EPA’s Storm Water Management Model is a publically-available rainfall-runoff simulation model that provides a suite of information about urban water patterns. It is used for planning, analysis, and design related to stormwater runoff, combined sewers, sanitary sewers, and other drainage systems in urban areas, and is the basis for the National Stormwater Calculator.

SWMM has the ability to estimate the pollution loads associated with stormwater runoff. Various versions of the model have been in existence since 1971, and it has been used in thousands of hydrology and drainage system design projects around the world.

The tool is designed to be customizable, helping particular urban areas meet local watershed challenges. For example, municipalities and communities can use it to design and size drainage system components for flood control, to design control strategies for minimizing combined sewer overflows, and to control site runoff using low impact development practices.

The Storm Water Management Model Climate Adjustment Tool (SWMM-CAT) is a new addition to SWMM. It is a simple to use software utility that allows future climate change projections to be incorporated into SWMM.

SWMM-CAT provides a set of location-specific adjustments that derived from global climate change models run as part of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 (CMIP3) archive. These are the same climate change simulations that helped inform the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in preparing its Fourth Assessment report.

Both SWMM and the Stormwater Calculator are a part of the President’s Climate Action Plan.

“Climate change threatens our health, our economy, and our environment,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator. “As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, this tool will help us better prepare for climate impacts by helping build safer, sustainable, and more resilient water infrastructure.”

The continued development of predictive modeling tools such as SWMM will provide urban planners and other stakeholders with the resources they need to incorporate both traditional stormwater and wastewater system technologies with the emerging, innovative techniques of green infrastructure. The collective impact will be more sustainable urban areas and healthier waterways across the nation.

SWMM-CAT can be downloaded here.

Read the post in its original format here. 


Read the other posts:

 

EPA Blog Re-Post #3

Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the third one. Originally posted April 10, 2014.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


 

Invaders in the Great Lakes

By Marguerite Huber

Smaller zebra mussels cover a larger native mussel

I grew up in Chicago, where Lake Michigan, or simply “the lake” as we locals refer to it, is a part of everyday life. I swam in it. I ran next to it. I drank the water from it. I even paddle boarded on it.

As fond as I am of Lake Michigan, it and all the other Great Lakes are facing a big challenge. They have been invaded by more than 190 species of aquatic plants and animals not native to the area, and at least 22 fishes and 16 aquatic invertebrates pose a high risk of invading the Great Lakes in the near future.

These invasive species can be introduced deliberately or accidentally through ballast water discharge from commercial vessels, recreational boating and fishing, and pet aquarium releases. These species cause significant ecological and economic impacts in the Great Lakes. For instance, the cost to the Great Lakes region from invasive species is over $200 million dollars annually!

EPA researchers have been studying how to monitor and detect aquatic invasive species through two different studies in the Duluth-Superior Harbor area, the largest Great Lakes commercial port and one under intense invasive species pressure. A Great Lakes-wide early detection program is required by 2015 under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

The goal of the research was to evaluate sampling designs that would help develop an efficient early detection monitoring program for invasive species. To do so, researchers conducted intensive sampling to create a data set that could be used to explore different monitoring strategies.

One study concluded that species detection can be enhanced based on sampling equipment and habitat, making it an important step towards improving early detection monitoring. They found the most efficient strategy was to sample the mix of habitats or gear that produce the most species, but to also sample across all habitats.

In this study, researchers found high occurrences of certain invasive species such as zebra mussel and Eurasian ruffe.

In another study, researchers focused on determining the effort required for early detection of non-native zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, and fish in the Harbor. To do so, the research team tallied and identified roughly 40,000 zooplankton, 52,000 benthic invertebrates, and 70,000 fish during sampling.

In the early detection study, the researchers detected 10 non-native fish species and 21 non-native aquatic invertebrate, some of which were new detections for the Great Lakes. The central finding was that detecting 100% of species is unrealistic given resource limitations, but monitoring at a level that can detect greater than 95% of the species pool is possible. At this level of effort, there is better than a 50% chance of finding a very rare species, such as one that was recently introduced.

Overall, EPA’s invasive species research is yielding a substantial advance in the ability to design monitoring and early warning systems for aquatic invasive species. Together with prevention methods, that should go a long way in maintaining the biological integrity and sustainability of the Great Lakes. That would be welcome news for anyone who relies on “the lake” for their livelihood, their drinking water, or for a place to paddleboard.

 

Read the post in its original format here. 


Read the other posts:

EPA Blog Re-Post #2

Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the second one. Originally posted January 17, 2014.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


Street Trees: More than Meets the Eye

By Marguerite Huber

Tree-lined street

Ever since I took an urban forestry course in graduate school, I can’t help but always look at trees. I look at their bark, their roots, and their leaves. But when I look at trees, I am not just seeing their physical attributes. I also see all the conceptual benefits they provide to our communities.

Trees are not just a pretty fixture in your backyard. They provide many ecosystem services to our cities and towns, including: improving air quality, absorbing and storing carbon, supplying privacy, reducing noise, increasing property value, and decreasing building energy use. Trees are an important aspect of the green infrastructure that helps reduce storm water flow.

Amazingly, you don’t have to be an arborist to calculate tree benefits; you can use i-Tree , a USDA Forest Service model that uses sampling data to estimate street tree benefits.

In the fall of 2013, EPA scientists began research on “street trees” (trees growing in the public right-of-way, usually in between the street and the sidewalk) in nine communities in the Cincinnati, Ohio metropolitan area. The randomly selected communities all differ in geographic setting, socioeconomic characteristics, and street tree management practices.

Their research aims to answer such questions as: Can street tree structure and benefits be explained by management practices, socioeconomic conditions, or historical or geographic factors? How might invasive pests affect street trees and their benefits? How will existing street tree structure and benefits change in the future under various scenarios of tree growth and mortality, management practices, and pest outbreaks?

Researchers sampled more than 53 miles of street right-of-way along more than 600 street segments and inventoried nearly 3,000 trees. The street tree benefits were estimated using i-Tree Streets.

At this time researchers are still analyzing street tree benefits and their relation to community characteristics such as management practices, socioeconomics, and geographic setting. So far they have found management practices to be particularly important, with Tree City USA  participants gaining greater benefits than communities that do not participate. Since analyses are still continuing, the findings on the other community characteristics will be released in the coming months.

When the project is completed, the researchers will have deliverables such as street tree inventory data that can be shared with community officials and an understanding of which community characteristics influence street tree structure and ecosystem services.

I invite you to check out i-Tree for yourself; I suspect as you’ll realize there are more to street trees than meets the eye.

Read the post in its original format here. 


Read the other posts:

 

EPA Blog Re-Post #1

As I stated yesterday, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote when I was working there.

Here is the first one. Originally posted September 15, 2014.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


Tri, Tri, Tri Again for Clean Water

By Marguerite Huber and Dustin Renwick

From the left, cyclist Marguerite Huber, runner Dustin Renwick, and would-be swimmer Sarah Edwards.

When athletes register for a race, they invest money, time, and energy. My fellow EPA blogger, Dustin Renwick, and I signed up to be a part of a relay team competing in the Nation’s Triathlon here in Washington, D.C.

Dustin ran the 10k, I biked the 40k, but our swimmer didn’t even get wet.

Our teammate, and all of the other athletes, did not get to participate in the swim portion of the race because it had been canceled due to unsafe water quality.

The night before the event, the local area experienced storms and heavy rainfall that caused a combined sewer overflow that sent a mixture of sewage and stormwater into the Potomac River just north of the triathlon swim starting line.

The District Department of the Environment Exit informed race officials of the unhealthy conditions late that evening and due to the high levels of bacteria such as E. coli, they agreed to cancel the swim.

Although boating, kayaking, and paddle boarding are allowed in the Potomac River, “primary contact recreation activities,” like swimming, have been banned in the river within the District of Columbia since 1971, when District health officials and EPA sought to protect people and publicize the health hazards of local water bodies.

Since then, clean-up efforts have resulted in a cleaner Potomac. Special swimming events, such as the Nation’s Tri, could apply for exceptions to the rule as of 2007. Event organizers are required to monitor and analyze water quality samples prior to the event and submit a contingency plan in the event the District Department of the Environment determines the river is unsafe for swimming.

Despite the progress, sewer overflows can still harm river quality. The Nation’s Triathlon had to cancel the swim in 2011 as well.

Judging by social media reactions, most athletes felt the Nation’s Tri race officials made the right choice in canceling the swim. Safety is important, no matter how many hours of training you have put in.

But the disappointment of several thousand athletes is only a symptom. This situation really calls attention to the need for improvement in our stormwater infrastructure.

The 772 cities in the U.S. that have combined sewer systems can all be challenged by heavy rains that rush over urban impervious surfaces and into their sewers. This results in stormwater and untreated waste polluting our water bodies.

EPA has worked to promote green infrastructure practices to help minimize and prevent stormwater events that can threaten public health, all while protecting the quality of rivers, streams, and lakes. Green infrastructure techniques such as green roofs, permeable pavement, and rain gardens help slow down runoff and help water more naturally filter out excess nutrients and other pollutants on its way into the ground.

These kinds of activities help protect human health and the environment. Hopefully one day soon, as race contestants, we can count on completing the bike, run, and swim through our nation’s capital and in similar events across the country.

About the Authors: When student contractors Marguerite Huber and Dustin Renwick are not biking or running through the District, they can be found helping the science communication and innovation teams (respectively) in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Read the post in its original format here. 

 

How to: Get Excited Again Post-Election

Many of the people I follow on WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter expected last Tuesday to come out a little different than we thought. I woke up that morning at 4:40 AM to head to my polling place to serve as an election judge. I was excited. I was ready to contribute to and witness history. I had planned on saving my “I Voted” wristband, writing “11/8/16 Election of First Female President” on it and saving it forever.

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So much excitement the morning of. 

 

Unfortunately, when I woke up Wednesday morning my world was a completely different place. I was in denial and not really sure how to accept the next four years of my life. For myself and my colleagues in the environmental field, this was a huge blow. I took Wednesday to sulk,  be sad and eat a bowl of cereal in bed. I avoided watching the news or looking at articles on the internet.

By the time Monday rolled around, I had come to a different place of acceptance. For those of us who care about our planet and climate change, we have to remember that this election was not a vote on climate. It wasn’t a hot topic and wasn’t talked about as much as it should have been. As much as we tweeted and emailed, it was never asked about in any of the 3 presidential debates.

Monday night, I attended a meeting with my fellow Environmental Defense Fund Chicago Ambassadors and others interested in talking about how EDF planned to move forward post-election. This meeting was already planned well before the results of the election were known and our gathering had a much more somber feeling than originally intended.

Everything is a little blurry still, but this is what we know so far:

  • The President-Elect wants to end the “War on Coal”
  • The President-Elect wants to eliminate the Clean Power Plan
  • The President- Elect wants to abandon the Paris Agreement
  • Myron Ebell will be leading the EPA transition

Unfortunately, we are fortunate that the battle for clean air and water has always been a battle. It was never easy in the first place to get the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the EPA established. So this time, it is no different. Fighting for the environment is all we know how to do. Protests, petitions, writing to support legislation, and sharing sound science are actions we are all very familiar with.

Richard Nixon despised environmentalists, yet he was the most pro-environment president the US has ever seen. His administration created the EPA and charged it with protecting human health and the environment. Our outcry was enough for Nixon to give in.

So what we have to do now is stand and fight. EDF will be working hard to defend the work they have already accomplished. This is going to go down to the states. In Illinois, our legislators will be voting on the Clean Jobs Bill after Thanksgiving. SO WRITE TO YOUR LEGISLATORS!

We need the public to tell this new administration we won’t stand for a rollback on environmental rules and regulations. We won’t stand for a president that does not believe in climate change despite the overall consensus from scientists AROUND THE WORLD.

It was a battle from the very beginning and that battle is not going to end in the next four years. Because it is a battle, the wins are that much more worth it. We will keep moving forward and hopefully, our destruction won’t catch up to us.

 

 

 

Packing In A Long Weekend in CA

My cousin got married in California over the weekend, so the majority of our family packed up our things and flew to San Francisco for the nuptials.

 

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The view from the wedding venue

 

Carry On = Minimal Clothing

While packing for a wedding is hard, packing for one in a climate you aren’t familiar with (and in a carry on bag) is even harder.

So this was my attempt at packing light! The most obvious clothing I needed to pack was something for the wedding and family dinner the night before. Otherwise, we would just be doing some exploring and going to see Alcatraz!

To avoid any crazy overpacking, I started with making a list of items I knew I would need, and then items that crossed over and could be used for different purposes.

  • 1 pair of boots
  • 1 pair of moccasins
  • 1 pair of heels for the wedding
  • 2 dresses for rehearsal and wedding
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 4 shirts/sweaters
  • 2 vests
  • 2 scarves
  • 1 regular jacket and 1 rain coat
  • obviously the other essentials

All made it into my carry on without a hitch! Pairing different vests and scarves with different shirts, pants, and shoes, really helped vary my outfit choices over the 5 days. So at least in most pictures, it does not look like I am wearing the same thing every day!

Being Conscious of Waste While Traveling

 

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Taken at the Cliff House, San Francisco, CA

 

Every single restaurant we went to had a sign that stated water would not automatically be served  due to California’s severe drought.  Living in a part of the country that is not under such water restrictions, it was a bit shocking at first, but it makes complete sense. How much water is wasted being brought to customers who don’t even want it?

In other news, my foldable reusable bag came quite in handy throughout the trip. It carried leftovers, souvenirs, jackets, and umbrellas. I refused straws at restaurants and refilled my water bottle where ever I was.

I definitely was not zero-waste perfect on this trip, but I made conscious efforts and shared them with my family.

Many other bloggers do a fantastic job covering how they travel zero-waste. Check them out:

Most importantly, check out the Zero Waster’s Travel Companion! Put together by the Zero Waste Bloggers Network, this guide can help you travel more consciously to 32 different cities around the world!