May 2008, Vol. 20, No.5

Briefs

Pharmaceutical Industry, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Launch Drug Disposal Campaign

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA; Washington, D.C.) recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the American Pharmacists Association (AphA; Washington, D.C.) to encourage proper disposal of medication. The organizations announced a new campaign, “SMARxT DISPOSAL,” which they said will inform the public about how to dispose of medicines in the trash safely and will highlight the environmental threat posed by flushing medicines down the toilet.

“Trace amounts of chemical compounds often associated with medications have been increasingly detected in our waters,” said Gary Frazer, assistant director of Fisheries and Habitat Conservation at USFWS. “While uncertainty still exists about the impact of these chemicals, USFWS, PhRMA, and the APhA recognize the value of getting in front of the issue by passing along a few easy steps: Don’t flush those medicines; crush the medicines in a plastic bag; add coffee grounds, sawdust, or kitty litter; seal the bag, and put it in the trash. In other words, crush; don’t flush.”

The partnership was announced at AphA’s annual meeting in San Diego.

New Multimedia Portal Launched on U.S. EPA Web Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a new Web multimedia portal, www.epa.gov/multimedia, that provides access to the agency’s environmental video, audio, podcasts, and photography.

The portal also includes interactive features, such as “Ask EPA” and the deputy administrator’s blog, “Flow of the River.” Another feature, “EPA in Action,” goes behind the scenes, following the jobs performed by the EPA work force and examines some of the most pressing current environmental issues.

Video is integrated into the site, while photos of events and EPA work are posted in a series of online galleries. Users also may subscribe to several podcast series or select from several individual podcasts featuring EPA experts and senior officials.  

U.S. EPA Calculator Puts Greenhouse Gas Savings in Everyday Terms

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a Greenhouse Gas Calculator to help turn greenhouse-gas savings into more easily understood everyday terms. The calculator converts greenhouse-gas-related savings estimates, typically presented in “million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents,” into familiar terms, such as greenhouse-gas emissions, according to an EPA news release.
Using the calculator, one can figure out the emissions from

  • driving a particular number of cars for a year, 
  • using a particular amount of gasoline or barrels of oil, 
  • using a particular number of tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline, 
  • providing energy to a particular number of homes for a year, 
  • growing trees across a particular number of acres for a year, 
  • recycling a particular quantity of waste instead of sending it to the landfill, and 
  • generating electricity from a particular number of coal-fired power plants for a year.

Users can enter savings in emissions, electricity consumption, gallons of gasoline, or number of vehicles into the calculator and determine up to 13 different ways to express the magnitude of the savings, according to EPA. The calculator uses the latest emission factors, approaches, and statistics available through 2007.

As an example, if a typical household switched all its incandescent light bulbs to Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs, it would save about 75% of the lighting electricity use, or about 1463 kW•h a year.

For more information, see www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html.  

Helping Communities Increase Water System Sustainability

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing tools and information to help communities improve the sustainability of their water systems, according to an agency news release. Two new documents that describe how EPA is carrying out efforts to help are the “National Capacity Development Strategic Plan” and “Analysis on the Use of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Set-Asides: Promoting Capacity Development.” EPA said it works with various partners, including organizations that provide technical assistance to small public water systems, to improve technical, managerial, and financial capacity of systems.

The “National Capacity Development Strategic Plan” describes how EPA, state drinking water programs, drinking water system owners and operators, and technical assistance providers will work together to achieve the objectives and anticipated outcomes of the national capacity development program. The strategy also outlines how EPA and its partners will promote proactive communication and outreach to help ensure that water systems have the capacity to demonstrate long-term sustainability, according to the agency.

Funding made available through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program can be critical in advancing capacity development programs at the state level. The other report, “Analysis on the Use of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Set-Asides,” provides information on how states have used their funds and will help state drinking water personnel, drinking water system owners and operators, and technical assistance providers to better understand how the Drinking Water SRF can support capacity development programs and EPA’s sustainable infrastructure initiative.

For more information, see www.epa.gov/safewater/smallsys/ssinfo.htm.

Urban BMP Performance Tool

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a new Web-based tool to provide stormwater professionals with easy access to approximately 220 studies that assess the performance of more than 275 stormwater best management practices (BMPs).

The tool, EPA notes, provides access to studies covering a variety of traditional and low-impact BMP types, including retention and detention ponds, biofilters, grassed filter strips, porous pavement, wetlands, and others. Users also will find a series of essays aimed at improving understanding of BMP performance and the importance of volume reduction and infiltration in these assessments. EPA said it plans to add more studies during the coming year, focusing on expanding the collection of studies of low-impact development or green infrastructure BMPs. The Urban BMP Performance Tool is accessible at www.epa.gov/npdes/urbanbmptool.

Report Cites Steady Growth in Desalination

The global market for seawater and brackish water desalination plants was worth $1.9 billion in 2007, according to a recently released report, Seawater and Brackish Water Desalination, by BCC Research (Cambridge, Mass.) BCC expects this market to increase to more than $3.6 billion by 2012.

According to BCC, less than 1% of the world’s water supply is produced through desalination, but this percentage is changing rapidly. The report states that global capacity has risen about 45% in the past 5 years and is slated to increase at about the same rate during the next 5 years. Current global brackish water and seawater desalination capacity is approximately 42 million m3/d, of which approximately 2 million m3/d were added in 2007.

Currently, more than 24 million m3/d of desalination capacity are on the global drawing board and slated for construction within the next 5 to 10 years. During the next 5 years, BCC anticipates that 40% to 50% of this plant capacity will be constructed, depending on world region. 
 
For more information, see
www.bccresearch.com.  

Taking Action on Green Infrastructure

Partners for Green Infrastructure has developed an action strategy to reduce stormwater runoff, combined-sewer overflows, and nonpoint source pollution. The alliance is composed of American Rivers (Washington, D.C.), the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (Washington, D.C.), the Low Impact Development Center (Beltsville, Md.), the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.), the Natural Resources Defense Council (New York), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The action strategy, which covers research, outreach, demonstration projects, and more, is accessible at www.epa.gov/npdes/greeninfrastructure/general.  

Easier Electronic Filing for Stormwater Permits

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently introduced a new version of its “eNOI system,” which allows construction sites and industrial facilities seeking coverage under EPA’s stormwater permits to file their forms electronically. The new system will make it easier for permittees to obtain and terminate permit coverage under EPA’s Construction General Permit, modify and amend previously filed forms, and calculate and file a low-erosivity waiver, among other things, according to the agency. The new system will be expanded to include the Multi-Sector General Permit for Industrial Activities when this permit is finalized, EPA said. To use the new eNOI system, see www.epa.gov/npdes/eNOI.

U.S. EPA Awards Nanotechnology Grants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded 21 grants totaling $7.34 million to universities to investigate potential adverse health and environmental effects of manufactured nanomaterials.

The grants were awarded through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results research grants program in partnership with the U.S. National Science Foundation’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which awarded another eight grants, for a total of 29. Nine grants focus on potential toxicity, while 12 focus on the fate and transport of nanomaterials in the environment.

The list of awardees is available at es.epa.gov/ncer/nano/2008recipients.html.  

States Can Create Individual Water Quality Standards Database

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted the ninth and last release of the Water Quality Standards Database (WQSDB) in December.

According to EPA, having direct access to water quality standards (WQS) information has benefits, including enabling more informed public participation in establishing and revising state WQS, as envisioned by the Clean Water Act. As part of EPA’s efforts to enhance access to WQS information, the agency is assisting states in establishing state-level WQS databases on their own Web sites, so that the information can be kept current as states revise their standards.

The WQSDB organizes and displays WQS information in tables and maps, waterbody by waterbody. EPA and the states are transitioning into a new way of providing public access to WQS information in which states can use either their own database or a copy of the WQSDB to manage and share their WQS information. Information on individual state WQS programs is available at www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/wqslibrary/links.html, and WQS documents are posted at www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/wqslibrary.