EPA Honors U.S. Virgin Islands Environmental Champions

Contact: Jennifer May-Reddy (212-637-3658), may.jennifer

(New York, N.Y. – May 13, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today honored two organizations from the U.S. Virgin Islands with Environmental Champion Awards for their achievements in protecting public health and the environment. EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined by Murray Fisher, founder of the New York Harbor School, to present the awards to this year’s recipients at a ceremony at the EPA’s offices in Manhattan. The awards are presented annually.

“It is a privilege for EPA to be able to recognize the dedication and accomplishments of these environmental trailblazers,” said Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “These individuals and organizations from the U.S. Virgin Islands are an inspiration, encouraging us to do our best to protect the environment every day.”

The Environmental Champion Award winners from the U.S. Virgin Islands are:

Clean Sweep Frederiksted

Clean Sweep Frederiksted is a grassroots initiative with the mission to support the economic development and revitalization of the Frederiksted Historic District through targeted litter cleanups. The organization has developed a program called Adopt‐a‐Spot, where individuals, schools,

businesses, civic groups, or churches commit to keeping a specific area clear of litter. They also transformed Cruzan rum barrels into trash receptacles that are painted by local volunteers. To date, volunteers have donated over 4,000 hours of service valued at over $95,000.

Gifft Hill School

The Gifft Hill School teaches environmental stewardship to students from preschool to 12th grade through gardening and nutrition education. The school instills in its students an understanding of their relationship with the environment. The school also established an Energy Initiative that will save the school $1 million over 20 years through energy efficiency improvements, a solar photovoltaic system, and a Community Campus Arboretum of 60 native and regionally significant trees.

For more details, visit: www.epa.gov/aboutepa/environmental-champion-awards.

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EPA Funding Available to Prevent Plastic Trash in New Jersey and New York Waters

Proposals are Due May 10, 2016

Contact: Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias

(New York, N.Y. – March 23, 2016) The EPA has provided $365,000 to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) to fund local projects that will prevent plastic trash polluting water bodies in New Jersey and New York. Projects may include a variety of plastic trash prevention solutions, including those that: implement source reduction and demonstrate prevention of trash from entering water bodies. Projects that are replicable and focus on upstream plastic trash prevention, and projects that benefit low-income communities near waterbodies will be prioritized. The deadline for applying through NEIWPCC is May 10, 2016.

"Our oceans and lakes and rivers are being choked with plastic debris,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Estimates are that by 2025 there will be 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish in the world’s oceans. This funding will help jumpstart real solutions that will reduce plastic waste at the source.”

Aquatic plastic pollution is getting worse every year. It is estimated that over 8 million metric tons of plastic pollution enter the world’s oceans annually. By 2025, this amount is expected to more than double. A recent study by NY/NJ Baykeeper showed that at least 165 million plastic particles are floating in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary at any given time.

The EPA funding is being awarded through a competitive grant process run by New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission will help stimulate creative, common sense solutions to the burgeoning problem of plastics in lakes, streams, harbors and oceans. Academic and educational institutions, local governments, and non-profit organizations are all eligible to apply for the funding. Funding requests should be a minimum of $45,000. To view the request for proposals and to apply, visit dpeckham.

This $365,000 in funding is being provided through the EPA’s New York/New Jersey Aquatic Trash Prevention Grant Program, which is designed to fund projects that help meet the goals of the EPA’s Trash Free Waters program. This grant program is focused on projects that will support the Trash Free Waters initiative’s goal of reducing the volume of plastic trash entering fresh and marine water environments, approaching zero-loading of trash into U.S. waters within 10 years.

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The Sweet Smell of Lamprey

There’s something frightening in the water.

You might be used to targeting invisible pollutants—dissolved metals, say—or more readily apparent things like sediments and nutrient-caused algae blooms. But it’s a safe bet that nothing else you’ve dealt with looks quite like this. The Great Lakes are having a lamprey problem.

As this New York Times article vividly describes, “Lampreys look like the stuff of horror films: a slithering, tubular body topped with a suction-cup mouth ringed with row upon row of hooked yellow teeth. With this mouth, a sea lamprey anchors to its fish prey and uses its rasping tongue to drill into the victim’s flesh. It remains there for up to a month, feeding on blood and body fluids. Even if a fish survives the attack, the gaping wound left behind often results in death.”

Many non-native species have invaded the Great Lakes—the Asian carp, the zebra mussel, the small herring known as the alewife. Lampreys are especially costly, as they can decimate fisheries. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which was founded in the 1950s largely to deal with the lampreys, spends $20 million a year to control them.

The lampreys arrived in Lake Ontario through the Erie Canal in the mid-1800s and in less than 100 years had spread throughout the Great Lakes. They have no natural predators in this environment, but plenty of food. As the Times article notes, at one point they were killing more than 100 million pounds of fish each year and drastically reducing harvests of lake trout, whitefish, and other species.


Researchers with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission tested thousands of chemicals to find something deadly to lampreys but more or less benign to other fish. They found a larvicide that works, and that—along with other measures like physical barriers—has greatly reduced the parasites’ numbers. But broadcasting this “lampricide” around the ecosystem is expensive and sometimes results in collateral damage to other species.

For some time now, they’ve been experimenting with synthesized pheromones to lure the lampreys to a concentrated area where they can be trapped or killed en masse. Lampreys choose where to spawn based on the scent of already-existing larvae that are buried in the mud. As Michael Wagner, a fish ecologist with Michigan State University, explains in the article, “It’s like choosing where to raise your kids based on a neighborhood’s crime rate and quality of schools. The odor larvae release says, ‘We’re thriving here.’” Scientists are using the scent of larvae to attract the lampreys in one direction, and they’re also using a scent based on dead or decaying lampreys in other areas to drive the lampreys away, essentially creating traffic patterns that allow them to achieve the same results with less application of poison.

Similar scent-based techniques have been used on insects but never before on vertebrates. Although it’s still in the research stage, a member of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission says, “This is the beginning of what could potentially be a new era in invasive species control.” If it’s successful, the pheromone technique could also be used to help lampreys in their native habitats where populations are declining because of habitat degradation.

EPA Provides $691,000 to Protect Wetlands throughout New York State

Contact: John Martin, (212) 637-3662, martin.johnj

(New York, N.Y. – December 9, 2015) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $690,940 to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Research Foundation of SUNY, to better protect wetlands throughout New York.

“Wetlands play a critical role in alleviating harmful effects of climate change, protecting against flooding and storm surges," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "These grants will help strengthen shorelines and the health of wetlands, protecting water quality and fish and wildlife habitats."

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe will use a $212,156 grant to develop water quality criteria for wetlands throughout its jurisdiction. Water quality standards define the goals of water bodies by designating how specific water bodies are used (for fishing, swimming, boating, etc.), setting environmental criteria to protect those uses, and establishing provisions to protect water quality from pollutants. To meet EPA approval, state and tribal water quality standards must include definition of designated uses, water quality criteria, anti-degradation requirements and general policies in their water quality standards.

With a $155,337 grant, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will analyze wetlands and stream networks and categorize them by their susceptibility to the impacts of storm water. NYC Parks will also identify factors that lead to wetland vulnerability and prepare guidelines for storm water management that will best protect downstream wetlands. NYC Parks is responsible for managing almost half of New York City’s freshwater wetlands. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will contribute $52,000 towards the total cost of this project.

The Research Foundation of SUNY at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry will use a $323,447 EPA grant to develop criteria to determine if vernal pools are of “unusual local importance.” Vernal pools are small, temporary bodies of water that are typically found in forests. The Research Foundation of SUNY will work in partnership with the New York Natural Heritage Program on this project and will contribute $133,032 towards the total cost of this project.

Since 1990, EPA’s Wetland Program Development Grants have provided financial assistance to help build or refine state and local government wetland programs. These funds provide opportunities for states to conduct research and help build the science behind comprehensive wetlands programs at the state level.

For more information on the EPA’s Wetland Program Development Grants, visit: http://www2.epa.gov/wetlands/funding-and-other-resources

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EPA Funds Project to Support Sustainability in New York City Restaurants

EPA Funds Project to Support Sustainability in New York City Restaurants Information Also to Be Shared with Restaurants in Puerto Rico

Contact: John Martin, (212) 637-3662, martin.johnj

(New York, N.Y. – November 24, 2015) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $69,500 to the New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to help New York City restaurants support sustainable practices and prepare for the impacts of climate change, such as storm surges.

“Pollution prevention is some of the most important work being done to protect the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “This project will help restaurant owners reduce food waste and reduce the use of pesticides and chemicals, while also conserving energy and water. By taking steps to eliminate waste at the source, New York City restaurants can become models for sustainable practices.”

The grant will build upon previous EPA-funded grants to educate restaurant owners about preventing pollution. Under the grant, the New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will work with New York City restaurants to reduce their water and energy consumption; cut back on their use of hazardous materials for cleaning or pest control; and reduce the risk of releasing hazardous chemicals during a storm or catastrophic event. The New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s education and outreach programs provide trainings, as well as informational brochures and webinars. Additionally, a green restaurant handbook will be made available to restaurateurs.

The focus of this project will be restaurants in communities that are highly susceptible to flooding, including Red Hook, Brooklyn, and The Rockaways. In addition to training New York City restaurants, The New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will share information learned with restaurants in Puerto Rico through its partnership with the Puerto Rican Restaurant Association.

This grant to the New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is part of the approximately $5 million in grants the EPA awards each year to prevent pollution across the nation.

For more information on the EPA’s pollution prevention program, visit http://www2.epa.gov/p2

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Women Businesses-Owners Lead the Way with Safer Products


A Push to Clear Abandoned Boats From New York’s Waters

New York Times, November 3rd, 2015

A Push to Clear Abandoned Boats From New York’s Waters


The sleek military transport vessel inched up to the edge of the marshland and flipped down its front gate, as if to discharge troops.

Instead, a lone scuba diver stepped off the decommissioned Navy craft and dragged heavy straps out to a 22-foot Catalina sailboat, the initial steps in pulling the abandoned vessel from the waters off City Island in the Bronx.

The sailboat, a red day-sailer named Lady Rage, had been left stranded there by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and never reclaimed, one of hundreds of storm-strewed boats littering city waterways three years after it barreled across the region.

It was hauled away on a recent weekday as part of a new initiative by New York City to remove the many unwanted vessels sunken in the waters around the city or languishing along the shorelines. Work began this summer on a project to finally start cleaning up New York’s watery graveyards.

Hurricane Sandy exacerbated what has been an intractable problem for decades: the large numbers of abandoned boats polluting some of the nation’s busiest waterways.

“They are navigational, environmental and public safety hazards,” said Nate Grove, a senior manager for the 14 public marinas managed by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

After Hurricane Sandy, the city had about 115 boats that posed immediate public safety hazards removed from waterways, he said.

But many more remain. Mr. Grove put the tally around 600 citywide, but he said a precise count was unavailable in part because no single agency was responsible for taking them away. Recreational boaters, environmental advocates and even government officials have long complained that it was a nearly impossible task.

Lisa Scheppke, the local restoration project coordinator for the American Littoral Society, a conservation group, said extensive surveys of the waters and marshlands of Jamaica Bay revealed 133 abandoned boats and wave runners, and an additional 132 boat fragments.

John Lipscomb, a patrol boat captain for Riverkeeper, an environmental group, said discarded boats were one of the organization’s biggest issues.

“It’s a regulatory no man’s land: No one wants to deal with these boats, and there hasn’t been an easy way to get any of the regulating agencies to pay attention to them,” Mr. Lipscomb said. “The problem is, these boats are mostly fiberglass, and in the old days, a wooden boat would rot away.” Fiberglass boats, he added, endure “for the rest of time.”

The Army Corps of Engineers removes abandoned vessels that block federal navigation channels, like those in the East and Hudson Rivers, while the United States Coast Guard moves recreational boats that pose environmental risks, primarily because they are leaking fuel, or that impede commercial traffic. That still leaves plenty of boats closer to the shoreline or in less heavily trafficked waterways.

Compounding the problem are the layers of bureaucracy required to remove a boat, including the issuance of environmental permits and the legal filings needed to declare vessels abandoned property.

“It’s a horrible fact of these bays and inlets that there’s no real mechanism to get rid of them,” Dan Mundy, vice president of the environmental advocacy group Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, said of the boats. “Right now, it’s nobody’s job. You ask anyone and they’ll tell you, ‘Nobody does this.’ ”

The recession has contributed to the problem. Boaters who do not have the money for dock fees, maintenance and gas, and face a poor resale market and expensive disposal costs, can simply remove the state registration and hull identification numbers to make the boat untraceable and then leave it at a dock or along a shoreline.

It is a crime that carries large fines, but it can be difficult to prosecute.

In Jamaica Bay, for example, it is simple to get rid of an unwanted boat, Mr. Mundy said. “They just wait for an east wind and push it out so it floats toward Brooklyn,” he said. “Anyone who has a junky boat, half sinking, is inclined to let it go instead of paying a few thousand dollars for a Dumpster.”

Mr. Mundy said he had long had more success removing beached boats by persuading local towboat companies to help him move them to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, where they are picked up by city sanitation workers.

“After Sandy, nobody really addressed the boats,” he said. “Everybody looked at each other, and no one had a mechanism to remove them.”

Until now. After years of work, New York City has developed a contracting system to streamline the removal process and make it easier to comply with regulatory requirements, allowing workers to start chipping away at the large inventory.

“Everyone who tried to do this for decades was trying to figure it out on their own,” said Keith Kerman, a deputy commissioner at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, who along with Mr. Grove, of the parks department, developed the contract.

The first phase of the city’s project, financed with a $2 million federal grant, is focused on the removal of more than 50 boats in several pressing areas, including Eastchester Bay in the Bronx, College Point in Queens and Shell Bank Creek and Gerritsen Creek in Brooklyn. The city is applying for part of another $2 million federal grant to expand the cleanup to other notorious boat graveyards, in Coney Island Creek and the Arthur Kill along the North Shore of Staten Island.

The sailboat near the City Island Bridge was one of the boats recently removed by a crew from Custom Marine, a salvage company based in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., that the parks department hired for the first phase of the cleanup. Its mast had jutted several feet out of the water at low tide but remained submerged at high tide; local boaters learned to steer clear of it and had attached a large foam float to the boat as a warning.

After Mr. Grove’s workers noticed fuel leaking from an abandoned sailboat at World’s Fair Marina in Flushing, Queens, he was able to contain the spill and have the vessel quickly removed. Without the contract with Custom Marine, the process could have taken a year, involving the solicitation of bids, the awarding of a contract and the arrangements that had to be made for the work.

After nonresponsive agencies ignored a 25-foot motorboat beached for weeks near their waterfront properties, homeowners along a Gerritsen Beach inlet in Brooklyn resorted to calling news outlets, and word reached Mr. Grove. He had the boat removed within hours.

Still, the contracting process does not resolve the thorny issue of what agency is responsible for removing the boats, in part, it seems, because no one wants to assume the cost.

The parks department hired Custom Marine after the company came in with a low bid and an impressive fleet of barges and cranes, which included the decommissioned military landing craft. Designed as amphibious assault and transport vessels, the vehicles can haul up to 80 tons and need only a few feet of water in order to float. A front gate that flips down allows equipment and cargo to be easily moved off and on. Boats are plucked from the water and taken to local marinas to be sent to waste transfer stations.

Dwayne Reith, the owner of Custom Marine, who bought the Navy landing craft from a military salvage auction, agreed to set a fixed price list for the city, based on the size and condition of the castoffs. The average cost for removing and disposing of a typical pleasure boat is about $2,000, but higher if it is completely submerged.

The prices are lower than what the city would confront if it had to put out bids for individual removal jobs, said Mr. Grove, adding that, “We now have a standing contract, an agreed-upon price list, saving time and money.”

Also, Mr. Reith is now on standby to make emergency removals.

“He’s ready to go, and we know exactly what it will cost us,” Mr. Grove said, calling the contract a safeguard to help the city in the immediate cleanup after future storms without it falling prey to “storm chasers,” or high-priced contractors that are often hired out of desperation.

Still, some jobs are too big and expensive for the city to tackle immediately, such as the two working barges sitting abandoned in Flushing Bay, shedding chunks of flotation foam.

Kenneth Wells, a spokesman for the Army Corps in New York, said it was “in the process of evaluating the next steps” regarding the barges.

If the barges were squarely in the channel, he said, it would fall to the corps to remove them, but their being on the “sideslopes” creates a “gray area” in terms of that responsibility.

Mr. Lipscomb, the patrol boat captain for Riverkeeper, expressed impatience. “They’re a hazard and they are active pollution sites, and it’s apparently nobody’s problem,” he said. “Here in the greatest city on earth and they can’t manage this.”

“You get a nor’easter and these things are going to move again,” he added.


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