We all can do our part for the planet

Partners in Progress

by Tom Damm

In a room inside Talen Energy Stadium normally reserved for Philadelphia Union soccer player interviews, EPA and a group of partners had a game-changing announcement to make earlier this year.

It had nothing to do with soccer but a lot to do with goals – goals for the City of Chester, Pennsylvania to prevent flooding in its neighborhoods, revive its economy, and reduce stormwater pollution impacting its local creeks and the Delaware River.

EPA was joined by Chester, state, and private sector officials to announce a Community-Based Public-Private Partnership, or CBP3, to plan, finance, build and maintain up to $50 million in green stormwater infrastructure in Chester.

The Chester Stormwater Authority and its private partner, Corvias, have plans to transform the face of the city, turning hundreds of acres of hard surfaces into absorbent green spaces and working with small, minority-owned businesses to generate hundreds of local jobs in the process.

Green Infrastructure not only helps prevent stormwater runoff and localized flooding, it creates safe walkable communities that enhance the quality of life for the people who live there. The green features will mimic nature and allow stormwater to soak in rather than rush into streets and nearby waters carrying trash, bacteria, heavy metals and other pollutants.

As the speakers took turns at the podium, the launch of the partnership was met with great joy, appreciation and more than a few Amens from Chester residents.

Chester officials called it an opportunity to “turn the page” in their distressed city.  Corvias praised the city’s “courage” to try a new approach.  And the state infrastructure finance agency, PENNVEST, confirmed a $1 million grant to kick-start the effort.

EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region provided technical and planning assistance to help design and develop the partnership, led by our Water Protection Division Deputy Director Dominique Lueckenhoff.   She was instrumental in developing the prototype for the concept – the successful CBP3 in Prince George’s County, Maryland – and has written a playbook for other local governments to follow.

Since the launch event, the Chester Stormwater Authority Partnership has developed a Long-Term Implementation Plan and conducted six community meetings to roll out the plan, with significant local attendance and input.  Five more meetings are scheduled in the coming months.  Feedback from the meetings is being used to determine the priority order of projects.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

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CT Trail Census Update

By Kristina Kelly, Connecticut Trail Census Statewide Coordinator

Naugatuck Greenway

Naugatuck Greenway

Fall is a busy time for the Connecticut Trail Census team as we are nearing the end of our pilot year. We are so excited to have this important data finalized and ready for release in January 2018 so that our local communities can begin to put the data to use improving their local trail systems.

In September, volunteers and trail enthusiasts performed Intercept Surveys at our 15 participating trail sites. These surveys feature multiple choice and open-ended questions such as the user’s age range, motivation for using the trail, frequency of trail use, and whether they planned on spending money on that trip to the trail (such as stopping at a coffee shop in a community along the way). These questions are intended to collect valuable qualitative data that the Infrared (IR) Counters cannot. So far, we have received over 400 surveys from this fall session and the data is currently being compiled into a database for organization and presentation.

In other news, we are looking forward to presenting at the 2nd Annual CT Trails Symposium on October 19th. In addition to speaking about the current progress and planning for the future of the program, we will be unveiling a preview of how and where the survey data will be available to the public in January. Click here for more information on the Symposium and register to join us!

In the public outreach department, we have released a CT Trail Census Facebook page where we post program updates, connections with statewide trail groups, and useful articles regarding trail use! Check us out on Facebook and be sure to click “like” so our posts show up in your newsfeed.

Finally, at the end of this month, we will be collecting another round of quantitative data from the IR counters that are counting trail uses 24/7 on our trail sites! We will then perform preliminary analysis and continue working on calibrating and correcting this data for our final report release in January.

Stay tuned for more updates and feel free to reach out to me or visit our website if you would like more information or to get involved!

[Read More …]

CT Trail Census Update

By Kristina Kelly, Connecticut Trail Census Statewide Coordinator

Naugatuck Greenway

Naugatuck Greenway

Fall is a busy time for the Connecticut Trail Census team as we are nearing the end of our pilot year. We are so excited to have this important data finalized and ready for release in January 2018 so that our local communities can begin to put the data to use improving their local trail systems.

In September, volunteers and trail enthusiasts performed Intercept Surveys at our 15 participating trail sites. These surveys feature multiple choice and open-ended questions such as the user’s age range, motivation for using the trail, frequency of trail use, and whether they planned on spending money on that trip to the trail (such as stopping at a coffee shop in a community along the way). These questions are intended to collect valuable qualitative data that the Infrared (IR) Counters cannot. So far, we have received over 400 surveys from this fall session and the data is currently being compiled into a database for organization and presentation.

In other news, we are looking forward to presenting at the 2nd Annual CT Trails Symposium on October 19th. In addition to speaking about the current progress and planning for the future of the program, we will be unveiling a preview of how and where the survey data will be available to the public in January. Click here for more information on the Symposium and register to join us!

In the public outreach department, we have released a CT Trail Census Facebook page where we post program updates, connections with statewide trail groups, and useful articles regarding trail use! Check us out on Facebook and be sure to click “like” so our posts show up in your newsfeed.

Finally, at the end of this month, we will be collecting another round of quantitative data from the IR counters that are counting trail uses 24/7 on our trail sites! We will then perform preliminary analysis and continue working on calibrating and correcting this data for our final report release in January.

Stay tuned for more updates and feel free to reach out to me or visit our website if you would like more information or to get involved!

[Read More …]

Apply to Become a UConn Extension Master Gardener

working in garden

Hartford County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Bailey and a Master Gardener volunteer work in Burgdorf. Photo: Chris Defrancesco.

Do you love gardening? Are you interested in expanding your knowledge and sharing that knowledge with others? Applications are now available for the 2018 Master Gardener Program through UConn Extension. Master Gardener interns receive horticultural training from UConn, and then share knowledge with the public through community volunteering and educational outreach efforts. Enrollment in the UConn Extension Master Gardener program is limited and competitive.

The 2018 class will introduce a hybrid course format. There will be 3-4 hours of online work before each of the weekly classes, and then a half-day course from 9 AM to 1 PM that runs for 16 weeks.

“Gardening and the study of it is something we can do our whole lives,” says Karen Linder, a 2015 graduate of the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford. “There is always something new to learn – we can get deeper into a subject. Our instructors truly brought subjects to life that I thought could not be made exciting. Who knew soil had so much going on? It has truly changed the way I think and observe the world around me. That is pretty amazing!”

The program is broad-based, intensive, and consists of 16 class sessions (online course work and a half-day class each week) beginning the week of January 8, 2018. The Master Gardener program includes over 100 hours of training and 60 hours of volunteer service. Individuals successfully completing the program will receive UConn Extension Master Gardener certification. The program fee is $425.00, and includes all needed course materials. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.Master Gardener logo

“I would recommend the UConn Master Gardener program to anyone with a serious desire to learn more about horticulture,” says Holly Maynard, who is graduating with the 2017 class in Hartford County. “There are some spectacularly engaging guest lecturers; this is not some amateur gardening club.”

Classes will be held in Torrington, Vernon, New Haven, New London, and Stamford. The postmark deadline for applications is Friday, November 3, 2018.

For more information or an application, call UConn Extension at 860-570-9023 or visit the UConn Extension Master Gardener website at: www.mastergardener.uconn.edu.

[Read More …]

“Compressed demand”: How Uttar Pradesh is making sure rural sanitation subsidies for toilets go to the most needy

When the “Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin” (SBM-G) was launched in October 2014 with the goal of making rural India free from open defecation by 2019, it gave states and districts more flexibility than previous national sanitation programs had. This led to a successful experiment in Uttar Pradesh called “demand compression”.

The state was preparing to use a tried-and-tested triggering process, where trained motivators concentrate their efforts on a community to help improve their understanding of safe sanitation and stimulate demand for toilets in rural communities where open defecation is still common. However, they faced a problem. If all the households that were eligible for government subsidies would actually claim them, funds would soon run out. With an estimated 15 million households across Uttar Pradesh without a toilet and eligible for a government subsidy of around $200, about $3 billion would be needed.

Household toilet constructed from own resources

Offering a government subsidy is an important part of the “triggering” process since it helps get households in rural communities to want a toilet. However, a sudden surge in toilet demand could overwhelm the capacity to process subsidy payments within a reasonable timeframe, which would have undermined the effort to mobilize communities and trigger toilet demand.

Mr. Vijay Kiran Anand, district magistrate in the district of Bijnor, was quick to realize that the flexibility of the SBM-G guidelines gave him an opportunity to try something called “demand compression”. This uses socioeconomic household surveys to narrow down the number of households eligible for a subsidy before starting the triggering process, by determining who genuinely could not afford to construct a toilet without financial help.

The teams quickly found that their list of eligible households – based on 2012 household survey data – needed updating, as some of the neediest households did not qualify for a subsidy while many households that were on the eligible list clearly had the resources to construct a toilet themselves.
 

Assessing economic status of households: Door-to-Door Survey

The teams sought consensus in the community on which households would not have the means to build a toilet without a subsidy. This resulted in taking wealthier households – such as those which owned two-story houses, significant amounts of land, a car or a tractor – off the list, and offering subsidies only to the very poor, widows, and people with disabilities.

This process was termed “demand compression”, as it effectively compresses the demand for subsidies and targets it to those who truly are in need. It was an arduous task, requiring both detailed surveys, perseverance and negotiation skills. The initial lists were verified twice: first cross-checked with the national Ministry’s database, then sent back to the communities to ensure that nobody in genuine need had been left out. The final list was formally approved by the Village Panchayat and then by the District Sanitation Committee, who is responsible for the program implementation. In Bijnor District, this approach translated into 40% fewer households being eligible for a subsidy. Compressing the toilet demand by 100,000 people in Bijnor reduced the district’s outlay on subsidies by around $20 million, monies which were made available to poor households in other districts.

There was some local skepticism that demand compression would work. Mrs. Kusum, the president of the village of Rashidpur – where the initial count of 180 eligible households had been reduced to 80 – initially expected that the 100 excluded households would not want to construct a toilet. But she was surprised.

“When the eligible households initiated the toilet construction following the triggering process, the households who were compressed out also came up and started the toilet construction process – a competition of sorts was created and we were able to make our village open defecation free within two months,” she said.

The village has success stories from both sides. Ms. Atarkali, an old widow who was left out in the initial approved list of eligible households, later received a subsidy to construct her toilet and is now an active member of the village Nigrani Samiti (sanitation committee). Meanwhile, Mr. Arvind Kumar – a relatively well-off villager who was initially eligible for a subsidy but taken off the list – said: “The process made me realize that the benefit of the SBM-G scheme should go to the poor and needy first.”

When they realized how cost-effective the “compressed demand” was in Bijnor, other district magistrates in Uttar Pradesh adopted the strategy. They achieved varying levels of compression, depending on the district’s number of poor people. The eligibility list was shortened by around 40% in the relatively prosperous western district of Meerut, for example, but only by around 20% in the poorer eastern district of Varanasi. An alternative strategy, pioneered with success in the district of Shamli, was to keep more households on the list but reduce the level of subsidy to about $160.

Mr. Anand, who pioneered the strategy in Bijnor, has since been appointed the statewide mission director of SBM-G and is currently scaling up the approach in other districts. As Mr. Arvind Kumar, who constructed a toilet in Rashidpur with his own money, puts it: “Our village would not have achieved open defecation-free status in two months without the adoption of the compressed sanitation demand strategy”.

Community Engagement in Ending Open Defecation

Tweet this:

  • What is “compressed demand” & how does it relate to ending #opendefecation in rural India? Learn here: http://wrld.bg/WRL330fURCL #SwachhBharat
  • BLOG | A new system of identifying those in need. Demand compression is helping to end #opendefecation in #India. http://wrld.bg/WRL330fURCL

[Read More …]

Bats and Rabies: How UConn May Help

The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) within the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science (PVS) in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) at the University of Connecticut routinely tests domestic and wild animals for rabies. Rabies is one of the oldest recognized diseases to mankind. Rabies can affect all warm-blooded animals which plays an important role in transmission of the disease and serve as reservoirs for the rabies virus.

To detect rabies in animals, a set of strict standard operating procedures are followed. The CVMDL performs a Direct Immunofluorescent Assay (DFA) on brain tissue derived from dead animals. These animals, usually with a history of abnormal behavior, are submitted to the laboratory for testing.

The CVMDL tests many domestic and wild animal species on a weekly basis for rabies. Among them, bats are a fairly common submission to CVMDL for rabies testing. For instance, during 2016, a total of 28 bats were submitted to CVMDL, with the majority of the submissions taking place during the months of June, July and August. All of these bats tested negative for rabies.

graph of 2016 rabies tests in bats

Interestingly enough, in 2017, CVMDL has already tested 40 bats for rabies. The virus was detected in the brains of two bats that were submitted to the lab in July and October, respectively. Remember, always be cautious when dealing with wild animals. CVMDL suggests to call your local animal control to help collecting or trapping wild animals.

For more information, visit cvmdl.uconn.edu or contact 860-486-3738 or CVMDL@uconn.edu.

[Read More …]

Advanced Wastewater Technologies Helping Developing Countries

20110730_IRP001_0.jpg

The World Millennium Development Goals were set up by the United Nations in 2000 in an effort to help solve our global poverty crisis by 2015. It’s now 2018 and we can look back fondly at all that was accomplished, as well as all that still needs much more work. 

According to the World Bank, sanitation was one of the most off-track Millennium Development Goals (MDG) globally. Only 68% of the world’s population has access to improved sanitation, but 70% of the Sub-Saharan Africa population and 53% of South Asia still lack access. The world missed the MDG target for sanitation by almost 700 million people. Lack of sanitation not only causes major health related issues but it also holds back economic growth.

The economic losses that were found were mainly due to premature death, cost of treatment in healthcare facilities and lost productivity due to contaminated water systems. Lack of treatment has profound long-term impacts on populations.

Most people cite the high cost of implementing sanitation technologies and infrastructure as a barrier but the reality is that the cost of not implementing sanitation services and infrastructure can mean even higher costs in the long run. Many countries don’t put sanitation on the top of the priority list because many are dealing with political unrest, food supply issues as well as education and medical treatment of their citizens.  Many countries are dealing in the near term because they can’t look beyond what is happening today.  The long term strategy can be challenging,  making it only more costly. Most people are aware that poor sanitation has a health impact, but there is a lack of awareness of the extent of the economic implications as well. 

Many of our global urban centers are in desperate need of infrastructure upgrades due to rapidly growing urban populations. With advancements in wastewater sanitation technologies like Active Water Solutions we can help move the needle by decreasing waterborne illnesses and reusing the valuable but limited resources that are available.

The infographic below shows the real cost of prolonging sanitation development globally.

infographic-sanitation-esi-900x4140.jpg

[Read More …]

Advanced Wastewater Technologies Helping Developing Countries

20110730_IRP001_0.jpg

The World Millennium Development Goals were set up by the United Nations in 2000 in an effort to help solve our global poverty crisis by 2015. It’s now 2018 and we can look back fondly at all that was accomplished, as well as all that still needs much more work. 

According to the World Bank, sanitation was one of the most off-track Millennium Development Goals (MDG) globally. Only 68% of the world’s population has access to improved sanitation, but 70% of the Sub-Saharan Africa population and 53% of South Asia still lack access. The world missed the MDG target for sanitation by almost 700 million people. Lack of sanitation not only causes major health related issues but it also holds back economic growth.

The economic losses that were found were mainly due to premature death, cost of treatment in healthcare facilities and lost productivity due to contaminated water systems. Lack of treatment has profound long-term impacts on populations.

Most people cite the high cost of implementing sanitation technologies and infrastructure as a barrier but the reality is that the cost of not implementing sanitation services and infrastructure can mean even higher costs in the long run. Many countries don’t put sanitation on the top of the priority list because many are dealing with political unrest, food supply issues as well as education and medical treatment of their citizens.  Many countries are dealing in the near term because they can’t look beyond what is happening today.  The long term strategy can be challenging,  making it only more costly. Most people are aware that poor sanitation has a health impact, but there is a lack of awareness of the extent of the economic implications as well. 

Many of our global urban centers are in desperate need of infrastructure upgrades due to rapidly growing urban populations. With advancements in wastewater sanitation technologies like Active Water Solutions we can help move the needle by decreasing waterborne illnesses and reusing the valuable but limited resources that are available.

The infographic below shows the real cost of prolonging sanitation development globally.

infographic-sanitation-esi-900x4140.jpg

[Read More …]

Tick Testing Available at UConn

Headed outdoors? Make sure you take precautions against ticks in October and November. Adult ticks are more active during this time of the year, creating a problem for both humans and animals.

These disease-carrying arachnids reside in moist areas, long grass and the leaf litter and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick. While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi) it can also carry other disease causing agents such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti and Borrelia miyamotoi. These are the causative agents of Granulocytic Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Borrelia miyamotoi respectively. A single tick has the potential to transmit one, two, or even all four of these illnesses simultaneously! Other species of ticks found in the Northeast such as the Dog tick (Dermacentor variablis), Brown Dog tick (Rhiphcephalus sanguineus) and Lonestar tick (Amblyomma americanum) can also be tested for different pathogens known to cause illness in humans and/or animals.

ticks

Photo: CVMDL

ticks being tested for Lyme disease at UConn lab

Photo: Heather Haycock

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately but do not make any attempt to destroy it. The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn can test the tick for all those pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined and identified by trained technicians using a dissection microscope. This identification process determines the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal (the host). Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are known to be transmitted by that tick species. Results are reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample. Next business day RUSH testing is available for an additional fee. The information obtained from testing your tick at UConn is very useful when consulting with your physician or veterinarian about further actions you may need to take.

Compared to 2016, this year, the CVMDL has seen a significant increase in the numbers of tick submissions to the laboratory. In the month of April the number of submissions increased 92% relative to the same month in 2016. The increases for other warm weather months were 104% in May, 70% in June and 60% in July. CVMDL speculates that changes in weather patterns this year may have affected changes in tick populations and with that, increased number of tick submissions to the lab.

CVMDL is the only laboratory in New England accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. The laboratory is located on the UConn-Storrs campus and provides diagnostic services, professional expertise, research and detection of newly emerging diseases, and collaborates with federal, state, and local agencies to detect and monitor diseases important to animal and human health.

How to send in ticks: Please send ticks in sealed, double zip lock bags accompanied by a small square of moist paper towel. The submission form and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/tickform. You can also watch a video produced by UConn Communications for the Science in Seconds series here.

tick testing video

[Read More …]

Tick Testing Available at UConn

Headed outdoors? Make sure you take precautions against ticks in October and November. Adult ticks are more active during this time of the year, creating a problem for both humans and animals.

These disease-carrying arachnids reside in moist areas, long grass and the leaf litter and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick. While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi) it can also carry other disease causing agents such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti and Borrelia miyamotoi. These are the causative agents of Granulocytic Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Borrelia miyamotoi respectively. A single tick has the potential to transmit one, two, or even all four of these illnesses simultaneously! Other species of ticks found in the Northeast such as the Dog tick (Dermacentor variablis), Brown Dog tick (Rhiphcephalus sanguineus) and Lonestar tick (Amblyomma americanum) can also be tested for different pathogens known to cause illness in humans and/or animals.

ticks

Photo: CVMDL

ticks being tested for Lyme disease at UConn lab

Photo: Heather Haycock

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately but do not make any attempt to destroy it. The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn can test the tick for all those pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined and identified by trained technicians using a dissection microscope. This identification process determines the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal (the host). Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are known to be transmitted by that tick species. Results are reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample. Next business day RUSH testing is available for an additional fee. The information obtained from testing your tick at UConn is very useful when consulting with your physician or veterinarian about further actions you may need to take.

Compared to 2016, this year, the CVMDL has seen a significant increase in the numbers of tick submissions to the laboratory. In the month of April the number of submissions increased 92% relative to the same month in 2016. The increases for other warm weather months were 104% in May, 70% in June and 60% in July. CVMDL speculates that changes in weather patterns this year may have affected changes in tick populations and with that, increased number of tick submissions to the lab.

CVMDL is the only laboratory in New England accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. The laboratory is located on the UConn-Storrs campus and provides diagnostic services, professional expertise, research and detection of newly emerging diseases, and collaborates with federal, state, and local agencies to detect and monitor diseases important to animal and human health.

How to send in ticks: Please send ticks in sealed, double zip lock bags accompanied by a small square of moist paper towel. The submission form and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/tickform. You can also watch a video produced by UConn Communications for the Science in Seconds series here.

tick testing video

[Read More …]