We all can do our part for the planet

Vibrant Ports, Healthy Ports

 by Cosmo Servidio

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Mid-Atlantic Vibrant Ports – Healthy Ports workshop in Philadelphia. For me, having once worked for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, this event gave me an opportunity to see familiar faces but more importantly, to discuss a topic that is relevant and significant for the citizens of our region.

In EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, ports are continuing to gear up to accept Panamax-size ships, and these vessels can make quicker trips than ever before due to the widening and dredging of our seaports. For a “portee,” these types of innovations are exciting, but to individuals living in near-port communities, they may pose concern.  Nearly 30 million people in the U.S. live within approximately three miles of a sea or inland port.

I know firsthand that ports can easily be described as “little cities” with a multitude of activities taking place 24/7.  The chore of unloading and loading goods, moving literally tons of cargo around, and housing ships of all shapes and sizes does produce emissions.  In turn, this may impact public health and the environment.  That’s why EPA is working closely with our Mid-Atlantic ports counterparts to encourage efficiency and resiliency, wherever possible.

During the workshop, stakeholders from our port communities came together to discuss concerns and exchange information. A collaborative effort between EPA and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the workshop attracted approximately 60 attendees who spent the day engaged in panel discussions on community relations, tools for improving economic and environmental performance, and project funding sources, among others.

It’s especially fitting that this workshop was held during Children’s Health Month because nearly seven million children in the Mid-Atlantic Region count on us to ensure they have clean air to breathe.  

I was pleased to acknowledge attendees from regional port terminals, as well as other state and local partners and community members with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work in the past.

This workshop demonstrated that we are committed to continuing our work with Mid-Atlantic port partners to help make our ports safer and cleaner “neighborhoods,” while growing their economic vitality.

Learn more about the Agency’s Ports Initiative here.

 

About the Author: Cosmo Servidio is the Regional Administrator for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region.

 

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Celebrating Retirement

Fairfield County Extension educators and retirees

On Friday, December 8th the Fairfield County Extension team and past Extension staff had a luncheon at the Red Rooster restaurant in Newtown. Past Extension Educator, Joseph J. Maisano, Jr. and his wife Betty Maisano attended. Joe worked as a Horticulture expert and Extension Educator for Fairfield County for 30 years. He shared with us that he worked in Extension for 30 years and that this year marks his 30th year of retirement. He continues to be an avid gardener and volunteers on the board for the community garden in his retirement community.

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Cook Before Eating

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH, Senior Extension Educator/Food Safety

eggs

Photo: Iowa Extension

During the holiday season, from Thanksgiving dinner through New Year’s celebrations, people who rarely spend time in the kitchen may be more likely to pick up a cookbook and make some cookies. Or, they may be stuffing their first turkey for Christmas day family dinner. Or possibly trying out a new appetizer for the office party—maybe even ceviche. (For those how may be unfamiliar with the term, “ceviche” it commonly refers to a shrimp or fish dish where citric acid, typically in the form of lemon juice or lime juice, is used to marinate raw fish or shrimp, often giving the appearance that the fish has been cooked.) Ceviche looks opaque and firm. But it is not cooked. The bacteria or viruses that may have been in the raw product have not been cooked away. They are still there. I have seen recipes for “faux ceviche,” that include cooking the shrimp or fish, but traditionally, it is not a cooked product. Consequently, it is risky. Ask your host or hostess if you are not sure of what they are serving.

Here is some guidance regarding foods or ingredients you may consider eating raw, whether you are a new cook or a seasoned cook who has always “done it this way” and “NEVER made anyone sick.” Keep in mind that your family may include very young children, the elderly or a chronically ill family member who may be at greater risk for the more severe consequences of a foodborne illness. So while you, a healthy adult, may be comfortable throwing caution to the winds and eating raw fish, uncooked cookie dough or even a taste of raw stuffing, the higher risk members of your family/friends circle really should not do this.

Be careful with raw eggs.

Raw eggs contain Salmonella. Not every egg. But no use betting on it. If you are choosing a recipe, such as eggnog, which calls for uncooked eggs, there is a safer alternative. Even if everyone is a healthy adult (and do you really know if they are all “healthy”?), it might be best to use a pasteurized egg product. They are often sold by the carton in the refrigerated egg or milk case. Otherwise, you might want to use a recipe for eggnog that preheats the egg to 160 degrees F to ensure that eggs are cooked sufficiently. Here is one from FoodSafety.gov: https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/eggnog.html. Unfortunately, contrary to some popular cooking shows and magazines, adding alcohol to eggnog does not kill the Salmonella.

Watch out for raw doughs and batters.

We have all heard the warnings to avoid eating raw cookie dough—even though we may have all done it at one time with no apparent ill effects. Raw cookie dough or raw batters containing eggs share the same risk as raw eggnog. This would also be true of raw cookie dough that you might add to homemade ice cream. Commercial makers of cookie ice cream and other foods will use pasteurized eggs in their products.

There is another potential risk to eating raw batters and doughs that you may not even be aware of.  It is the flour.  Yes, the flour.  Flour is considered a raw agricultural product. It has not been treated to kill potential foodborne pathogens (microbes that cause illness). Since 2008, there have been five foodborne disease outbreaks tied to flour, two in Canada, one in New Zealand, and two in the US. So, even if a dough contains no eggs (pastry dough, for example), it is best not to eat it raw.

Think twice before serving raw meat, fish, or shellfish.

Honestly, I like a raw clam now and then. Some of my food safety colleagues look on aghast while others join in. Maybe you prefer raw oysters or sashimi. However, I do this knowing the risks I am taking. I do it rarely and only when I think the purveyor has been meticulous—and I still know there is a risk! Lots of folks do not know or understand the risks. Bacteria, such as Listeria, Salmonella, Vibrio vulnificous and parasites that include tapeworm and Anisakid nematodes may be associated with raw fish and shellfish. Again, if you are healthy, and visit restaurant or seafood retailers who are very careful, your risk may be less than that of an immune compromised adult or young child. However, the risk is never zero. So, during the holidays, choose a faux “ceviche” recipe that involves marinating cooked shrimp or fish. Serve oyster stew or clams casino that have been checked with a food thermometer.

If your holiday recipes include some of these risky ingredients, keep in mind that you can spread the pathogens that cause foodborne illness during the preparation steps. When you are cranking out trays and trays of cookies or appetizers, you need to practice the basic sanitation skills that will keep your food safe. Always use clean hands when handling any raw food and wash them again after handling that food. Use clean surfaces, cutting boards, knives, mixing spoons or other utensils: then wash them thoroughly in hot, soapy water before using them to prepare other foods. If that flour you used to dust the pie shell gets spread around or the raw egg drips onto the counter where you are decorating sugar cookies, it could end up in your salad or on your kid’s hands (which at some point will end up in their mouth).

Check the clock as you are baking and try not to leave doughs (or other raw ingredients, for that matter) out for more than four hours at a time. This allows the pathogens to multiply, increasing the risk for cross-contamination.

Finally, every cook is told to taste their dishes before presenting them to the guests. It’s one of the first questions asked of competing chefs on the cooking shows: “Did you even taste this?”  But, please, do not taste until the risky ingredients are cooked through. I will never forget a Christmas Eve in my childhood when Mom had made the stuffing, containing raw sausage and eggs, the day before. She always liked to taste the raw stuffing. (Right!) She spent Christmas day in bed….and the bathroom.

For more information about safe food preparation during the holidays, visit our website at www.foodsafety.uconn.edu, or foodsafety.gov, or contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

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How will Argentina achieve universal access to water and sanitation? Takeaways from International Water Association Conference in Buenos Aires

Palermo Water Treatment Plan, Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos, AySA, Buenos Aires

Argentina set ambitious targets of providing universal access to water and 75 percent access to sewerage services for its citizens. How can the country move toward this goal? 
 
That was the theme of the discussion on “Argentina Day” at the recent International Water Association (IWA) Water and Development Congress and Exhibition held in Buenos Aires, where water professionals from around the world and Argentinian officials met to exchange knowledge, experiences and strategies.
 
On behalf of the World Bank, I led a discussion on regulation, together with Emilio Lentini, Advisor to Argentina’s Water Resources Secretariat, Rui Cunha Marques, University of Lisbon, and Miguel Solanes, ECLAC, Chile.
 
Based on the findings of our recent work on Aligning Institutions and Incentives for Sustainable Water and Sanitation Services, I started my presentation by underscoring the interlinkages between regulation, policies and institutions and the crucial role these factors play in creating incentives to sustainable universal access to water and sanitation services. I also discussed regulation in the context of the new paradigms resulting from the need for many countries to regulate public service providers, thereby shifting from the traditional approach to regulating private companies.

 
In Argentina, as in other Latin American countries, state owned water companies are more common than privately operated utilities. Publicly owned utilities have traditionally not been regulated, at least in an orthodox manner as the common belief was that government, through its control of the utility, could strike the right balance between investments, cost recovery and affordable tariffs. In the last decade, however, regulation of public water utilities has been growing in response to the return of service provision to the government after failed private sector participation (PSP) attempts. This approach has been found to have important advantages, such as the establishment of competent technical regulatory agencies and the increased transparency through independent oversight. Countries as different as Albania, Australia, Colombia, Peru and Portugal are using regulation and regulatory institutions as part of the mix of policy instruments that seek to ensure that public utilities offer good value and sustainable services to the public.

In Latin America, regulation arose in the context of the wider sector reforms, including PSP and decentralization, which in many cases, mirrored the rationale for regulation in developed countries. However, I cautioned that this approach often entailed a mismatch between the needs of the countries and the regulatory model, which functions in the context of varying capacity levels and a different political and institutional culture, and welcomed the discussion on relevant regulatory experiences in Latin America.
 
Among those experiences, Mr. Marques discussed subsidies schemes in Chile and Colombia that facilitate access and enhance affordability for the poor and highlighted how direct subsidies and cross subsidies can be effective in different circumstances. He also examined arrangements in place in different countries to regulate public service providers and underscored the importance of addressing critical challenges associated with incentives, transparency, enforcement, equal treatment of different providers, and politicization of the regulators. Mr. Solanes argued that strengthening the regulatory function would require a significant behavioral change in water sector institutions and suggested to hold public service providers and their managers legally accountable for their actions.
 
At the emblematic Palermo water treatment plant and against the backdrop of a picture displaying the continuous performance improvements of Obras Sanitarias de la Nacion (the former national water utility of Argentina) during the first half of the 20th century, Mr. Lentini highlighted current efforts of the Government in this direction, including revisions to the tariff structures to achieve cost recovery and design of subsidy schemes to better target the poor and vulnerable groups whilst providing adequate incentives to expand the services and improve their efficiency and quality in a sustainable manner. For that reason, he welcomed the exchange initiated with this session and invited the Bank and other partners to continue sharing regional and global knowledge with Argentina.
 
We hope that through this session and other initiatives, the knowledge shared will further inform ongoing efforts by Argentina and other countries in Latin America to continue enhancing the policy, institutional and regulatory incentives to achieve sustainable access to water and sanitation for all.  Stay tuned for more news on our support to the government’s efforts to strengthen WSS service delivery and regulatory frameworks in Argentina through a comprehensive package of projects and other activities.

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CT 4-H Explorers Program for 5 & 6 Year Olds

By Pamela Gray, New London County 4-H Program Coordinator 

4-H clover youth member in garden projectIn response to requests from leaders and parents for the UConn 4-H program to incorporate Cloverbud-age youth, we ran a pilot program in 2017 for 5-6 year olds. With pilot year success, it is now an official addition starting 2018!

4-H Explorers is an age appropriate 4-H experience for five and six year-olds (plus seven year-olds/special needs youth who find this setting more suitable than a 7-19 age club). Explorers Club members do not have pro-jects or competitions. Instead, they explore all the different activities and experiences 4-H has to offer, and participate in events and meetings through activity-based, cooperative learning and positive encouragement.

The focus of activity-based learning and feedback is to pro-mote the 4-H’ers’ confidence in meeting new 4-H explorer members working in barn carrying haychallenges. Re-search on these age levels indicate the best way to build confidence is to provide many opportunities through activities that emphasize success, however small. The CT Explorers use The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities (Ohio State University) and Clover Adventures: A Leader’s Resource Guide (University of Maryland Extension) curriculum. The activities in these books are specifically designed to meet the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs of this age group, while being framed in the 4-H experiential learning model. Busy, messy, and hands-on are the motto for Explorers Clubs! Each club receives the curriculum from their 4-H office when Leaders are trained and the club is enrolled.

The CT 4-H Explorers at the Fair outlines how Explorers can participate meaningfully at the county 4-H fairs while not engaging competitively, and the CT 4-H Explorers Activity Summary provides a way for kids and/or clubs to reflect on their activities and successes. What were Ivan’s favorite activities this year? “Making pasta salad for Food Show,” and learning to hold a rabbit.

4-H explorers showing goats at county 4-H fairExplorers from clubs in New London, Middlesex, Litchfield, and Fairfield counties participated in Giddy-up Games, Food Shows, Public Speaking, and Skill-a-thon. In their club meetings they visited farms, learned how maple syrup is made, learned about birds, played in some dirt (planting seeds), cooked, made dioramas, posters, and collages, and much more hands-on learning.

One 4-H Explorer Leader observed “some things that attract new-to-4-H families are: no cost to join, no dues, and no uniforms to buy. The curriculum is varied, flexible, and parents stay for meetings and get involved.”

Heading into the 2018 4-H year, we have 16 Explorers Clubs across the state and 74 kids. If you would like to learn more about CT 4-H Explorers or how to start a club, click here for the handbook or contact your county 4-H office.

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Nutrition Education Outreach in Fairfield County

Nutrition Education Outreach November 2017
Submitted by Heather Peracchio
EFNEP graduates at Morris Street School in Danbury
 
SNAP-Ed programs:
Nutrition outreach at the Danbury mobile pantry reached 265 families on November 8th and the mobile pantry in Bethel on November 29th reached 183 families. 
 
EFNEP:
The Soccer and Nutrition program reached 22 children and adults on Friday November 3.  Adults and children participated in the program which follows the Cornell University Choose Health: Fun, Food and Fitness curricula.  There was a hands-on demonstration of a stir-fry recipe where parents and children participated in cooking and everyone taste tested.  The classes have been scheduled and advertised to parents for the first Friday of the month each month through October 2018.
The EFNEP adult program at Danbury’s Morris Street School Family Resource Staff began on October 16, 2017 with 24 new moms enrolled. In November, participants attended class on November 6 and November 13th, with their graduation ceremony on Monday November 27th. Below is a photo of the graduation ceremony, 16 EFNEP participants completed the program Monday evening with 6 more anticipated to graduate in December.

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Nutrition Education Outreach in Fairfield County

Nutrition Education Outreach November 2017
Submitted by Heather Peracchio
EFNEP graduates at Morris Street School in Danbury
 
SNAP-Ed programs:
Nutrition outreach at the Danbury mobile pantry reached 265 families on November 8th and the mobile pantry in Bethel on November 29th reached 183 families. 
 
EFNEP:
The Soccer and Nutrition program reached 22 children and adults on Friday November 3.  Adults and children participated in the program which follows the Cornell University Choose Health: Fun, Food and Fitness curricula.  There was a hands-on demonstration of a stir-fry recipe where parents and children participated in cooking and everyone taste tested.  The classes have been scheduled and advertised to parents for the first Friday of the month each month through October 2018.
The EFNEP adult program at Danbury’s Morris Street School Family Resource Staff began on October 16, 2017 with 24 new moms enrolled. In November, participants attended class on November 6 and November 13th, with their graduation ceremony on Monday November 27th. Below is a photo of the graduation ceremony, 16 EFNEP participants completed the program Monday evening with 6 more anticipated to graduate in December.

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The tyranny of toilets

Students heads to a female only toilets in Maskoke Primely and Secondly School
in Gode Town in Ethiopia. Credit: UNICEF Ethiopia

In the lead-in to World Toilet Day, we hear a great deal about the role of toilets in sanitation and in better health and human development outcomes.  Toilets are good development. Period.
 
We hear less about the fact that toilets are often sites and instruments of social exclusion.
 
Let me explain.
 
Segregated toilets for males and females were intended to give women privacy and to respect the “intrinsic” physical differences between the sexes.  In fact, in most developing countries, segregated toilets are a sine qua non for female participation in public spaces, in education and in employment. 
 
But the story is more complex.

While working on The Rising Tide, our “thinking device” on water and gender, I came upon this fascinating piece by Terry Kogan in the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law.  He argues that the origins of sex segregated public toilets were deeply gendered to start with. Yet segregated toilets are good in general, unless, in Kogan’s words,
 

  • “you happen to be a wheelchair-user who needs the assistance of your opposite-sex partner in a public restroom facility.
  • you happen to be a transsexual person dressed in accord with your gender identity who is prohibited from using the workplace restroom designated for the sex with which you identify.
  • you happen to be a woman at a rock concert standing in a long line outside the restroom marked ‘Women,’ while no line exists outside the door marked ‘Men’.
  • you happen to be a parent tending an opposite-sex, five year-old child when you or your child suddenly needs a public restroom.
  • you happen to be an intersexed child, born with ambiguous genitals and/or reproductive organs, whose parents have decided (despite social pressure and pressure from the medical community) not to subject their child to surgery until the child can participate in that decision.

 
Restricted access to toilets for some aside, they are also spaces that can keep historically excluded groups “in their place”, often rationalized by elaborate notions of purity and pollution. These notions are best known in South Asia, but are widely prevalent in many other parts of the world as well.  For instance, J.J. Lawrence and colleagues document the taboo against using same toilets as in-laws, members of the opposite sex, or different generations within a family in some Zambian communities.  Indeed, one of the most egregious ways in which toilets are used to assert an oppressive status quo is when only certain Dalit castes are assigned the task of cleaning them, thereby rendering both the cleaners and the toilets “impure”.

With the growing power of the erstwhile subaltern peoples, toilets are emerging as arenas for political assertion.  Take the case of the United States, where the movement against segregated toilets is symbolic of the assertion of sexual minorities.  This assertion is premised upon the fact that gender identity, not sex at birth, should determine individual choice.  The backlash is equally vehement and has played out in the legal and social realms, with laws passed for and against segregated toilets.  A more muted movement for the rights of domestic workers in many parts of the world advocates for their right to use toilets within the homes where they work – something that has historically been anathema. Take also the Dalit assertion in India that has rallied against the gruesome practice of manual scavenging, leading to its ultimate ban.
 
In sum, toilets are undoubtedly good for sanitation, health and women’s empowerment, but they can also be potent instruments for equality and inclusion. This can happen when policy is sensitive to the role of toilets as contested spaces and responds to the clamor of historically excluded groups against their potential tyranny.

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