Welcome to the EES Blog!

EES provides this blog on a diverse range of air quality, environmental engineering, health and safety, and sustainability-related topics. Please email us your comments.

Our most recent posts are displayed first. You may search our menu of categories to the right to find posts in your specific area of interest.

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Global Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach Record High

Global warming has been on the rise due to the increasing release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  The main driver in global warming is human industrial activity that causes the release of these greenhouse gases. As global temperatures rise, sea levels rise, ice caps melt, natural disasters increase, and our world becomes less habitable.

Greenhouse gases are gases that absorbs infra-red radiation in the atmosphere.  They include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), halogenated fluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O3), perfluorinated carbons (PFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).  See our blog post on the greenhouse effect for a detailed explanation of global warming.

Global CO2 levels reached a concentration this year not seen in our atmosphere for more than three million years. The increase of 3.3 parts per million in 2016 was greater than the average global annual increase over the past decade of 2.08, bringing us to a total global average carbon dioxide concentration of 403.3 ppm. Part of this dramatic increase has to do with the strong El Nin͂o event in 2016, but of course, most of the increase has to do with human activity.

“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” World Meteorological Organization chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement. The gap between international goals laid out in the Paris Agreement and domestic commitments by nations has hurt the momentum of the Paris Agreement, leaving us on a course for warming well beyond the agreed upon goals.

“These large increases show it is more important than ever to reduce our emissions to zero – and as soon as possible,” said Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds. With the United States recently pulling out of the agreement, individual and organizational initiatives towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions are increasingly more important.

Environmental and Engineering Solutions is working to become a force for change for businesses and institutions in the Philadelphia area. Call us today for all your sustainability, environmental consulting, and air pollution control design needs. Let us help you make Philadelphia a leader in the fight against climate change.

Contact us at 215-881-9401 to see how we can help you today!

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Boston Medical Center’s Path to Going Carbon Neutral

rooftop farm

Boston Medical Center is on pace to become the first hospital in New England to go carbon neutral upon completion of its building redesign in 2018.  A major contributing factor to this significant milestone is a new rooftop farm built on top of its power plant.  This 7,000 square- foot farm produced approximately 15,000 pounds of produce this growing season, most of which went directly to patients.  David Maffeo, one of the originators of this idea for the medical center and BMC’s Senior Director of Support Services stated, “This initiative supports our mission to address social determinants of health by improving access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and it is a perfect example of BMC’s dedication to sustainability and green efforts.”

With growing concerns about the climate, the healthcare industry, a significant source of greenhouse gases, has started to make changes. More and more healthcare facilities have adopted sustainability and green programs as part of a commitment to social responsibility.  So how exactly can a rooftop garden be a major part of a sustainable hospital?  Besides the obvious savings on the transportation and cost of produce, a rooftop garden acts as a solar shield, increasing the green space at the site and thereby reducing energy costs to cool the facility.  Additionally, the addition of carbon-consuming plants to the area reduces facility-wide greenhouse gas emissions.  Finally, a rooftop farm helps prevent the pollution of waterways by reducing storm water runoff.  A rooftop farm represents one way that healthcare facilities have committed to a greener earth while saving money, and the sense of community isn’t bad either.

Contact me at 215-881-9401 or daniel@eesolutions.net for further information on this program or to discuss your facility’s sustainability initiatives.

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EPA Announces New Grant Funding to Reduce Diesel Engine Emissions

The EPA recently announced that $11 million in new grant funding will be made available through the Diesel Emissions Reduction Program (DERA) to local, regional, state, and tribal transportation agencies for retrofitting or replacing diesel-powered vehicles. The deadline for project submissions is June 20 and the EPA anticipates that anywhere from 20 to 80 projects will be granted funding, with priority given to projects whose proposals indicate a clear commitment to continued emission reductions after the project is complete.

 

“DERA is a bipartisan program to help fleet companies improve regional air quality, proving that good environmental policy can go hand in hand with good business,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

 

For the full press release, click here, and for more information on eligibility and how you can apply, click here.

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PA DEP Announces New Drought Statuses for Counties

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently determined that Mifflin and Union counties have been moved from “drought warning” to “drought watch,” while Carbon, Juniata, Monroe, and Schuykill counties have all been moved from “drought watch” to normal.

These declarations are determined based on four indicators: precipitation deficit, 30-day moving average stream flow, groundwater levels, and soil moisture. While none of Pennsylvania is now marked under “drought warning,” Bucks, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties are all under “drought watch.” The DEP recommends implementing some water conservation measures, such as:

  • Running water only when necessary
  • Shortening the amount of time you let the water run to warm up before you shower
  • Running the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads
  • Checking for household leaks. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day!
  • Replacing older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40 to 50 percent less energy
  • Installing low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.
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The Future of Sustainability Incentives?

Over the past 15 years, federal and state governments have increasingly allocated more and more funds to developing sustainability incentives programs for energy efficiency, LEED construction, and renewable energy. Together with utility-companies backed programs, there now exists a robust cache of sustainability-incentive programs available to consumers and businesses. According to this database, there are currently 81 different state, federal, and private-sector programs available for companies seeking to “go green” in PA.

While sustainability-focused development is still the future, it’s likely that federal involvement in incentive-based programs will be reeled back within the new administration. In light of this, do you think local and state policymakers should increase their funding for similar programs? What local and state programs are available to you and what areas of sustainability would you like to see more/less funding for?

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Infection Control? EES Can Do It!

Let the knowledgeable staff at EES craft your healthcare facilities’ infectious control plan the next time you’re renovating. Airborne bacteria and viral species can easily spread during construction projects. For more information on how EES can help minimize the potential for infectious contamination in 6 steps, please click here.

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Hospitals Produce Too Much Waste, Specifically in Unused Supplies

https://psmag.com/do-hospitals-in-the-u-s-have-a-waste-problem-59612dc78ae4#.gmf9x6yvf

Does this sound familiar? Healthcare facilities produce a ton of waste from simple things such as unused medical supplies. A rigorous review of industrial hygiene protocol and inventory can help hospitals reduce their unused medical waste, helping their bottom line while incidentally reducing their carbon footprint. EES is proud to work with forward-thinking organizations such as Practice Greenhealth that help healthcare facilities achieve higher profit margins by adopting sustainability-motivated practices.

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DEP Links Fracking to Seismic Disturbances

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released an official report investigating seismic events in Lawrence County on April 25-26, 2016 and their connection to nearby fracking sites operated by Hilcorp Energy Company. The report found that the earthquakes on those days “had a marked temporal/spatial relationship to natural gas hydraulic fracturing activities,” and suggested the specific fracking process implemented (zipper fracturing) and the relative shallowness of the Utica Shale was to blame. Continued drilling will be permitted at these sites, but DEP regulators have implemented new start-and-stop protocols for operations and compliance.

In an era where misinformation and media bias seem inescapable, it’s paramount that people objectively consider scientific findings, especially when they relate to controversial topics. It is true that these earthquakes were not felt above ground and caused no property damage. But, it is also true that this earthquake wasn’t triggered by the usual mechanism, as previous earthquakes linked to fracking have most often been from the re-injection of spent frack-fluid into deep wells, not zipper-fracturing. This may be cause for concern, as it highlights how sensitive the Utica Shale and its underlying bedrock are to geophysical disturbances.

What are your thoughts on the findings? Is the connection between fracking and earthquakes being sensationalized or is this earthquake be a black mark against future frack operations on the Utica Shale? Should more research be done into earthquakes near frack operations or would those resources be better spent elsewhere?

http://www.pennlive.com/news/2017/02/pa_regulators_address_fracking.html

For more information on induced earthquakes, see https://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/induced/

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NOAA Climate Change Report is Proven Accurate

Back in June of 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a study that updated the global temperature record and increased the estimated rate of global warming over the past 15 years. This study was met with controversy, specifically from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Smith has a history of climate change and climate science denial and furthered this agenda by subpoenaing NOAA scientists for communications related to the analysis in the study. This gave rise to an independent review on the climate data by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

After a year of review, the researchers have confirmed the accuracy of the data in the NOAA report and proved NOAA did not manipulate data to advance Obama’s climate change agenda, as Smith claimed.

The NOAA study found that the planet experienced .086 degrees Celsius warming per decade between 1998 and 2012, more than double what previous estimates claimed. If 2013 and 2014 are included, this raises to .116 degrees Celsius.

“Our new analysis,” said Thomas Karl, lead NOAA scientist on the study, “suggests that the apparent hiatus may have been largely the result of limitations in past datasets, and that the rate of warming over the first 15 years of this century has, in fact, been as fast or faster than that seen over the last half of the 20th century.”

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Mark Your Calendar: Tier II and Air Emissions Inventories Due

January means getting ready to meet the March, April, and May federal and state reporting deadlines, and we want help you in your preparation.  Depending on your state, air emissions inventories are due in March, April, or May (see below).

Tier II Deadline:  March 1, 2017

If your facility is covered by the Federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requirements, you must submit an Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Form to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), and the local fire department by March 1, 2017.

Minimum thresholds for Tier II reporting under Title III, Section 312 are as follows:

  • For Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHSs) designated pursuant to section 302 of Title III, the reporting threshold is 500 pounds (or 227 kg.) or the threshold planning quantity (TPQ), whichever is lower
  • For all other hazardous chemicals for which facilities are required to have or prepare an MSDS, the minimum reporting threshold is 10,000 pounds (or 4,540 kg.)

Also by March 1, 2017, you need to report hazardous chemicals that were present at your facility at any time during 2016 at levels that equaled or exceeded these thresholds.

Air Emissions Inventory:  

March 1 for Connecticut and Pennsylvania,

April 1 for Maryland,

April 15 for New York,

April 30 for Delaware,

May 15 for New Jersey, and various other deadlines for other states

Make sure to check with your state for its filing deadline for the annual air emissions statement. While each state has slightly different requirements, most states mandate an annual inventory of air emissions to the atmosphere. The inventory must include a list of all criteria pollutants [oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate, ground-level ozone (through reporting of VOC) and lead], greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane and hazardous air pollutants.

Reporting data can include stack tests, Continuous Emissions Monitoring data, material balance calculations and industry-specific emission factors.

Pennsylvania Residual Waste Biennial Reporting Deadline:  March 1, 2017

While most states only require the federal hazardous waste biennial report every two years, with the next report due in March 2018, Pennsylvania requires a biennial residual waste report every two years on alternating years with the hazardous waste report. Pennsylvania’s next residual waste biennial report is due on March 1, 2017.

Need help meeting these deadlines? We can help you not only meet the requirements but exceed them. We also are committed to sustainability and can work with you to improve the environment of your facility while contributing to a sustainable environment for everyone!

Please contact us at Environmental and Engineering Solutions or call us at 215-881-9401 to discuss your particular situation.

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