Posts tagged with "EPA":

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AIA calls for blanket ban on asbestos after online uproar

In response to a rush of online outrage on Tuesday, the American Institute of Architects has issued a formal statement detailing its stance on the U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos. Today the organization submitted its comment in opposition to the recent decision via the EPA’s online public commentary portal. The comment takes the form of a letter from Sarah Dodge, the AIA’s senior vice president of advocacy and relationships, to acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. In it, the AIA urges the agency to “establish a blanket ban” on asbestos in the country and phase it out of use. “Either by existing authority or through a significant new use rule, the EPA should review and eliminate the use of asbestos in domestic or imported materials,” the letter says. Dodge explains that it’s the responsibility of architects to ensure the inclusion of healthy materials within building projects, and in instances where hazardous substances already exist inside renovations, it’s up to design professionals to guide involved parties in the safe removal of those toxins. AIA 2018 President Carl Elefante, FAIA, released a separate statement reiterating Dodge’s letter:
The EPA has offered no compelling reason for considering new products using asbestos, especially when the consequences are well known and have tragically affected the lives of so many people. The EPA should be doing everything possible to curtail asbestos in the United States and beyond—not providing new pathways that expose the public to its dangers.
Wheeler wrote in a tweet yesterday that the recent hype regarding the SNUR has been inaccurate. He noted that the SNUR would actually restrict new uses of asbestos, not encourage it. According to the FAQ linked in the tweet, the potential uses for asbestos that would be banned from the market through the SNUR include asbestos-reinforced plastics, extruded sealant tape, millboard, roofing felt, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, roof and non-roof coatings, and other building products. Items such as corrugated paper, rollboard, and flooring felt have already been banned outright in the United States. The FAQ doesn't quite hold up to recent reports on the Obama administration's involvement in restricting these toxic substances and the subsequent products. Under the 2016 amendment to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA), the EPA began the process of evaluating the first 10 toxins listed in order to decipher whether or not they should be banned entirely or further restricted. This week's frenzy over asbestos comes directly from the EPA's May report indicating how the agency would move forward in evaluating those chemicals.  As of yesterday, 154 comments were submitted to the EPA regarding the SNUR. Today, that number has increased to 698. You can still submit a comment to the EPA through tomorrow, August 10. Thereafter the agency will review all comments and further evaluate the initial toxins up for review in the TSCA. Final details of their deliberations and a new version of the rule will be released in December of next year.  
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Asbestos outrage turns toward AIA on Twitter

Architects have taken to Twitter calling out the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for staying silent on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s recent decision to allow asbestos back into the manufacturing process for building products on a case-by-case basis. People are now wondering why the AIA has yet to speak up in the wake of national buzz, although at least one AIA official has informally responded online. Architect Donna Sink first brought up the issue of professional ethics: Then the Architecture Lobby, a national nonprofit focused on labor and social issues in the field, responded to Sink's tweet, which provoked an outcry of criticism against the AIA's silence: Some even went so far as to say that any architects who specify asbestos-containing products for their buildings shouldn't be licensed: Even the firm Brooks + Scarpa weighed in: According to a tweet, 2019 AIA vice-president/2020 president-elect Jane Frederick, FAIA, has spoken with current 2018 President Carl Elefante via email to discuss the organization's involvement with the discussion on asbestos. The Architect's Newspaper received word from the AIA as of 1 p.m. today that they will be releasing a comment soon. Stay tuned. The EPA is taking public comments on the Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos through this Friday, August 10. At the time of publication, 154 comments have been submitted. Let the EPA know your thoughts here.
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The Gowanus Canal is being cleaned up for the first time in its long, polluted life

What's more Brooklyn than several thousand tons of toxic sludge channeled down a concrete chute being portrayed as a developer's Riviera? If you're confused which horribly polluted body of water in Brooklyn we're referring to, we'll save you some time: it's the Gowanus Canal. You know, the same canal nicknamed "Lavender Lake" in the early 20th century due to the pastel hue it turned while absorbing immense amounts of slaughterhouse slurry, coal tar, and a cocktail of human and chemical waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more straightforwardly called it "one of the nation's most seriously contaminated bodies of water.” The Gowanus Canal is long overdue for a makeover. The first week of October, preliminary dredging began on a large-scale environmental renewal of the site, which will cost around $500 million in total. Since early 2010, the body of water has been a federally-designated Superfund site, meaning it has been identified a significant hazard to people, animals, plants, and everything alive – in short, an environmental and public health disaster just a rainy day away from cross-contamination. This will be the first time the city has ever endeavored to clean the canal since its channelization in the mid-1800's (though humans have technically cohabited with the canal since it was a creek in the early 17th century). The surrounding neighborhood has been experiencing paradigm shifts of its own. Residential development has been far from deterred by the site's chemical underpinnings. The neighborhood's first luxury high-rise opened in the summer of 2016 at 365 Bond Street. Shortly after, the Department of City Planning initiated Plan Gowanus, a direct community engagement platform to look at rezoning the neighborhood in light of increased interest in waterfront development. The city expects this engagement process to continue for at least another two years. How and whether Gowanus' rezoning will align with the cleanup process is not entirely clear yet. According to the EPA's progress page for the Gowanus Canal, the site has not even received a preliminary assessment or site investigation, despite the fact that dredging has begun. A developer at Property Markets Portfolio (an owner of many waterfront properties along the canal) estimates that the process will wrap up in roughly five years. What remains to be seen is whether more attention will be paid to the health risks involved in developing a Superfund site at the canal's scale. At present, 26 million gallons of raw sewage flood into the canal per year, which the advent of new underground sewage tanks is expected to reduce to 11 million gallons per year. Flooding is still a common occurrence for nearby residents–in fact, there are a series of informal underground waterways winding through the basements of locals, spreading out as far as Prospect Park. Eymund Diegel, an urban planner fascinated with the history of the canal, mapped them out in a recent New Yorker piece. Landscape architects have imagined the remediation of the canal from slightly more utopian angles, from DLANDstudio's Gowanus Canal Sponge Park, a more traditional waterfront park that would simultaneously help clean the canal, to SCAPE's Gowanus Lowlands, an adaptive design allowing direct interaction with the waterfront.
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Chicago park will finally be cleansed of radioactive waste

Chicago has a bit of a thorium problem. The radioactive element, once heavily used in the making of gas light mantels, can now be found in contaminated superfund sites across the city. One of those sites also happens to be the long-delayed and much-anticipated DuSable Park in the downtown Streeterville neighborhood. While the park is on the Chicago Park District’s website, it has not been programmed or developed in any way. Now, 30 years after its founding, the park is set to finally be cleared of its radioactive waste, enabling its development into a usable public space. Located at the mouth of the Chicago River, immediately east of Lake Shore Drive, DuSable Park is named after the first non-native settler of Chicago, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. An African-French-Haitian, DuSable was born on the island of Haiti around 1745 to a French mariner and a slave. After marrying and starting a family with a Potawatomi woman, DuSable settled at the mouth of the Chicago river. There he maintained a successful trading post and farm. Today his name adorns many civic institutions, including the DuSable Museum of African American History. Unlike that celebrated museum, DuSable Park has had a hard go since its founding in 1987 by then-mayor Harold Washington. Over the past 30 years, dozens of proposals have been made for the 3.24-acre site. At one point, it seemed that the park would be designed by Santiago Calatrava as part of the failed Chicago Spire development, which was to be directly west of the park. In 2001, Chicago artist Laurie Palmer established an open call for proposals for the site. That call resulted in an exhibition and book outlining 65 other ideas for the site. Yet it is still unclear what the future holds for the little park on the lake. First and foremost, the thorium contamination—first identified on the site in the 1990s—must be cleaned up. As part of a cooperative agreement signed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 2017, the agency will be providing $6.8 million to the Chicago Park District to facilitate that cleanup. While this is not the first attempt to clean up the park, it is hoped that attempt will completely remediate the site. Thorium, a naturally occurring radioactive element, is notoriously hard to clean up, in part because of how it gets into the soil in the first place. As with many other sites around Streeterville, DuSable Park's thorium is likely from the Lindsay Light Company, which processed the material from raw ore and manufactured gas light mantles in the area from 1904 through 1936. Some of the waste from the refining process is a sand-like material called thorium mill tailings, which was often used as infill in the low-lying Streeterville. It is likely thorium mill tailings were used as part of the fill on the DuSable site, which is reclaimed land from the lake. A second costly factor in removing thorium is that is can only be trucked to a few disposal sites in the United States. The only one that is likely to take the waste from DuSable is in Utah. The money earmarked by the EPA for the cleanup comes from $5.1 billion settlement with the company that acquired Lindsay Light, the country’s largest environmental contamination settlement to date. Despite moving out of Streeterville in the 1930s, the company continued to give away the radioactive fill to home builders in the west suburbs. While thorium is far from the only environmentally disastrous legacy left by Chicago’s industrial past, it is one that is particularly troubling to builders. In most cases, the contamination is not a direct hazard to the public until the soil and concrete covering it are disturbed. On sites known to formerly be industrial, developers often have to conduct extensive testing before breaking ground. As is the case with DuSable Park, this can add time and money to already long projects. With the EPA’s help, there is now hope that Chicago will have a new growing, rather than glowing, lakefront park.
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While Google is photographing your street, its cars will also be mapping the air city dwellers breathe

Will we call it Air View? Google is collaborating with San Francisco–based, pollution-tech start-up Aclima to begin assessing air quality in metropolitan areas across the United States. Cars Google uses to capture its popular Street Views have been equipped with Aclima's environmental sensors and will be able to detect pollutants such as Methane, Carbon Dioxide, and Black Carbon. https://youtu.be/Ggkab1lKj6g In a test drive back in August 2014, three Google cars equipped with these sensors collected 150 million data points after driving 750 hours around Denver. The study, conducted by NASA and the EPA, successfully mapped the change in outdoor air patterns and has confirmed the effectiveness of mobile sensing."We have a profound opportunity to understand how cities live and breathe in an entirely new way by integrating Aclima's mobile sensing platform with Google Maps and Street View cars," Aclima CEO and co-founder Davida Herzl said on the company's blog. The Aclima–Google Street View cars are said to be maneuvering around the Bay Area next. They will eventually branch out to other cities to collect data that could help create healthier cities for people to live in. In the future, Aclima hopes to make the data accessible to the public.
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Detroit gets its feet wet with “blue infrastructure”

Detroit's Water & Sewerage Department hopes an experiment in so-called blue infrastructure will help the cash-strapped city stop flushing money down the drain. The Detroit Free Press reported that a pilot project in the far east side area of Jefferson Village will divert stormwater runoff into a series of small wetlands and pieces of green infrastructure to reduce the pressure on an overloaded city sewer system. Such experiments in alternative stormwater management could save owners of large, impervious surfaces like parking lots tens of thousands of dollars each year in forgone drainage fees, while the city could save millions by scaling back or scrapping expensive, "gray infrastructure" investments like newer sewer pipes. But the plan, which is expected to be ready in a few months, is not a done deal, writes John Gallagher in the Detorit Free Press:
It is by no means a simple problem to solve. Multiple licenses and approvals would be needed from a variety of agencies, including the city itself, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and others. But there is great enthusiasm among experts for trying the experiment. Blue infrastructure is a key recommendation of the Detroit Future City visionary framework and has been much talked about in recent years, but nothing of this magnitude has been done so far in Detroit. So far, "blue infrastructure" in metro Detroit has meant the creation of porous parking lots and so-called "green alleys" that allow rain and snowmelt to filter down into the ground beneath instead of running off into sewers.
Across the nation urbanists and landscape designers are embracing innovative stormwater capture and retention techniques as concerns over climate change, flooding and drought collide with a renewed interest in public spaces and site design.
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EPA picks 5 cities to join green infrastructure program

Five state capitals will get help from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop green infrastructure that could help mitigate the cost of natural disasters and climate changeResiliency, whether it be in the context of global warming or natural and manmade catastrophes, has become a white-hot topic in the design world, especially since Superstorm Sandy battered New York City in 2012. EPA selected the following cities for this year's Greening America's Capitals program through a national competition: Austin, Texas; Carson City, Nev.; Columbus, Ohio; Pierre, S.D.; and Richmond, Va. Since 2010, 18 capitals and Washington, D.C. have participated in the program, which is administered by the EPA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In each city, EPA will provide technical assistance to help design and build infrastructure that uses natural systems to manage stormwater. Here's a bit on each of the new projects via EPA:
· Austin, Texas, will receive assistance to create design options to improve pedestrian and bike connections in the South Central Waterfront area, and to incorporate green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff and localized flooding, improves water quality, and increases shade. · Carson City, Nev., will receive assistance to improve William Street, a former state highway that connects to the city's downtown. The project will help the city explore how to incorporate green infrastructure through the use of native plants, and to enhance the neighborhood's economic vitality. · Columbus, Ohio, will receive assistance to develop design options for the Milo-Grogan neighborhood that use green infrastructure to improve stormwater quality, reduce flooding risks, and encourage walking and cycling. · Pierre, S.D., will receive assistance to redesign its historic main street, South Pierre, in a way that uses green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff and improve resiliency to extreme climate conditions. · Richmond, Va., will receive assistance to design options for more parks and open spaces, and to incorporate green infrastructure to better manage stormwater runoff on Jefferson Avenue, a street which serves as the gateway to some of Richmond's oldest and most historic neighborhoods.  
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An Inland Beach for Los Angeles’ Silver Lake Neighborhood?

[beforeafter]silver-lake-reservoir-beach-01silver-lake-reservoir-beach-02[/beforeafter] Thanks to new EPA regulations, Silver Lake is saying goodbye to it reservoir. But resident Catherine Geanuracos hopes the community will soon be saying hello to something new: a body of water repurposed for recreation, complete with lap lanes, an open swim area, and a miniature beach. As the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) prepares to drain Silver Lake Reservoir and the adjoining Ivanhoe Reservoir and reroute the city’s drinking water supply through underground pipes, Geanuracos’s organization, Swim Silver Lake, is urging city officials to transform the area into a destination for serious swimmers and casual beach-goers alike. Geanuracos says that she, like many Silver Lake residents, has often wondered how the Silver Lake Reservoir Complex might be put to public use. “Every time I run [around it], I’m like, ‘why can’t I go swimming in it?’” she said. “It’s an amazing space that hardly anyone has access to.” This fall, when Geanuracos first heard about plans to drain the reservoir, she realized the time for action was here. She launched Swim Silver Lake less than a month ago, at her own birthday party. Over 700 people have signed up online to support the project. Swim Silver Lake will be presenting their proposal to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in February. In the meantime, Geanuracos is scheduling meetings with key government players, including the LADWP, the Los Angeles City Council, and the mayor’s office. She recognizes that the novelty of her idea poses a particular challenge. “It’s not like there’s a precedent for how you do this, because we haven’t had this opportunity before,” she said. Geanuracos is also looking for assistance from the local design community. “I’m not a planner, not an expert, but hopefully we’ll find some folks [with the right skills],” she said. “It could be an amazing project for a student team or a young firm.”
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Is the River Revitalization Trend Skipping Youngstown?

Across the country cities are revamping formerly industrial riverfronts. Plans are underway for Philadelphia's Schuylkill, the Mississippi in Minneapolis, Town Branch in Lexington, and in downtown Chicago to reclaim urban rivers for mutual goals of ecology and urbanism. That hasn’t yet caught on in Youngstown, Ohio. Sean Posey takes a look at the situation along Youngstown's Mahoning River for Rust Wire. In northeast Ohio, where the twin legacies of sprawl and industrial decline have constrained economic growth, there are of course budget issues. But as state and federal dollars fund environmental remediation projects along the Mahoning, Posey sees an opportunity:

"Water bodies are prime physical assets for cities. In a report entitled Restoring Prosperity to Ohio’s Cities, the Brookings Institute called for creating statewide “Walkable Waterfronts” initiatives in Ohio. The report mentions Youngstown specifically… If at all feasible, creative uses for recreation and economic development should be considered for the downtown riverfront."

The nearby city of Warren has set an example with paths for pedestrian and cyclists, as well as a concert venue along the river. Meanwhile, he says, Youngstown has proposed parking lots. Remediation is a critical first step, but cleaning up the river itself is only the beginning.  
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Obama Appoints EPA and Energy Heads

obama_cabinet_01 President Obama is expected to announce Gina McCarthy (above, right) as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Ernest Moniz (above, left) as the Secretary of Energy. McCarthy now serves as an assistant administrator at the EPA where she oversees regulating air pollution, including helping to double fuel-efficiency standards for cars, according to NPR. Moniz is currently a nuclear physicist at MIT, where he directs the university's Energy Initiative, according to the Washington Post. He has been a proponent of alternative energy sources, but some environmentalists are wary of his support for natural gas and "fracking." (Photo: Courtesy MIT / EPA)
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EPA Proposes Encasing Gowanus Canal Sludge in Concrete for $500 Million

Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal is a Superfunded mess, filled with contaminants and often overflowing with sewage. But a new plan from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that with proper dredging to remove contaminants and a mere $500 million, the former industrial hub could potentially become the borough's inland waterfront. The EPA proposes targeting the canal cleanup in three phases to minimize disruption to the neighborhood. According to the NY Times Green blog, "For the first two, more heavily contaminated segments, the agency plans to dredge or 'stabilize' the sediment in some areas by mixing it with concrete or a similar material and then capping it with layers of clay, sand and gravel. The third segment would be dredged and capped with sand." Additional improvements to the city's sewer outflows at the canal could drastically improve sewage discharges by up to 74 percent. Two public meetings have been scheduled for late January to discuss the plans.
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Ahoy! Treasure in the Gowanus Muck!

The Enviornmental Protection Agency is beginning its analysis and cleanup of the filthy yet fascinating Gowanus canal. It's proving to be full of all kinds of junk, including horrendous carcinogenic chemicals and, as the Brooklyn Paper reports, a 60 foot long sunken ship! Located where Fifth Street meets the canal, the wooden ship likely dates from the 19th century, the channel's shipping heyday. What we're calling the S.S. Superfund was discovered through sonar scanning, its outline is clearly visible in the image above. This is the second time in a year that New York's maritime past has resurfaced. Last summer another submerged ship was found buried at the World Trade Center site.