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EPA Research

EPA Research Supports States

EPA researchers are conducting innovative, anticipatory research and applying their expertise to a range of environmental challenges including helping states and communities make informed decisions about environmental issues they face. You can view some of that research here. EPA research supports all states. This page features select stories to highlight how EPA research benefits states.

Make selections from the dropdown select box or from the clickable map to view stories. 

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Research across States

On this page:

Mapping Mercury in the Western U.S.

The western United States is disproportionately impacted by mercury pollution due to historic metals mining, natural geologic processes, local emissions, and trans-pacific transportation. Scientists from ORD and Regions 8, 9, and 10 partnered with the US Geological Survey and the National Park Service to gather decades of site-specific mercury data to create a comprehensive mercury cycling model. Regional and state officials are using this model to make remediation decisions at mercury-impacted impacted sites and evaluate proposals for new mining sites.

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Challenge: Need for non-regulatory performance targets for sensors that measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone in the U.S.
Resource: “Deliberating Performance Targets for Air Quality Sensors” Workshop and Webinar
Partner: Environmental Council of the States (ECOS)
“For this EPA ORD hosted workshop, state attendees were able to contribute the state agency perspective to a broad discussion regarding sensor quality, data quantity, and how smaller, lower-cost air monitoring sensors may be used by state agencies. They were also able to gain a sense of how different parties – national and international, private and public – are handling the addition of smaller, lower-cost sensors to the market.”
– ECOS Senior Project Manager Kelly Poole

Over the past several years, miniaturized, lower-cost air monitoring sensors have entered the market and are now being used by researchers, industrial facilities, state and local government agencies, tribal nations, citizen scientists and the public for a variety of purposes. New applications include a variety of activities, including: real-time high-resolution mapping of air quality at a far greater density than regulatory monitors, real-time public communication of sensor data, fenceline monitoring to detect emissions events, community monitoring to assess hot spots, personal monitoring, and applications to collect data in remote places. Given the rapid adoption and technological advances of new air sensor technologies, there are numerous questions about how well they perform and how lower-cost technologies can be used for certain non-regulatory applications.

EPA, in coordination with ECOS, convened a workshop in June 2018 on “Deliberating Performance Targets for Air Quality Sensors.” The workshop solicited individual stakeholder views related to non-regulatory performance targets for sensors that measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone in the U.S. Through on-site and webinar discussions, national and international participants addressed a range of technical issues involved in establishing performance targets for air sensor technologies. These issues included for example sensor performance for various measures like limits of detection and calibration, selecting approriate performance targets, and adoptiong of one set of performance targets for all non-regulatory purposes, versus a tiered approach for different sensor applications. The workshop included discussion of lessons learned from other countries about choices or trade-offs they have made or debated in establishing performance targets for measurement technologies.

As a follow up, a group of technical experts will work with EPA to document and summarize the individual perspectives communicated at the workshop, within the context of relevant scientific literature, and share the findings with wider audiences. Workshop products, to include presentations delivered to the workshop as well as a future peer reviewed journal article summarizing key workshop findings, will be released via the US EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox website.

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Challenge: Need for specialized risk assessment training 
Resource: Training module, Decision Making at Contaminated Sites: Issues and Options in Human Health Risk Assessment
Partner: Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC)
“The experience and knowledge of EPA scientists were essential to the success of this important training used by state risk assessors and others to address complex challenges at contaminated sites.” 
– California Department of Toxic Substances Control (State Co-chair) Claudio Sorrentino
“The ITRC risk training is more robust as a result of our partnership with EPA experts on this effort.”
–South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (State Co-chair) John McVey

EPA ORD partnered with ITRC, a program of the Environmental Research Institute of the States, to develop specialized training for state risk assessors responsible for the cleanup of chemicals released into the environment. Based on feedback from EPA’s Risk Assessment and Training Experience (RATE) program, ORD scientists reached out to ITRC and proposed that ITRC create training modules on the harmonization of risk assessment approaches across state regulators. EPA experts provided materials developed for its RATE program for the ITRC effort. These materials provide up-to-date and comprehensive training for human health risk assessment, ranging from beginner to expert classes.

The ITRC team of approximately 75 representatives from various environmental sectors completed a comprehensive web-based training module entitled, Decision Making at Contaminated Sites: Issues and Options in Human Health Risk Assessment. ORD scientists provided expert technical support as needed along the development processes and extensive peer reviews before release of the final product. Currently, all interested risk assessors in the U.S. and around the globe have free access to this important training material. To date, more than 2,100 people have taken the online course and the associated guidance document is available to download.

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Optimizing Drinking Water Treatment Practices

Algal toxins pose a significant challenge for water treatment plants due to their unique ability to spread rapidly within a drinking water supply. ORD and Region 5 collaborated with public water utilities along Lake Erie to identify the best approaches for removing algal toxins through drinking water treatment processes. The project team provided utilities and regulators across the US with technical recommendations for reducing the spread of algal toxins by changing the water pH and the order of adding treatment ingredients.

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Challenge: Providing information, technical assistance, and training to small drinking water systems (ongoing)
Resource: Webinars, workshops and workgroup to address challenges and treatment solutions for small systems
Partner: Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) and other state contributors
“It's very important that we provide small water systems with timely, easy to use, and accessible tools and training to assist in operating these critical public water systems, and the webinars and one-on-one meetings are perfectly suited to meet this need.” 
– Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler

EPA ORD and Office of Water, in coordination with Ohio EPA and ASDWA, began hosting a monthly webinar series in 2015 that is targeted for state agencies on challenges and treatment solutions for small water systems. Because they tend to have fewer resources than larger systems, small systems can face enormous challenges in consistently providing safe and reliable drinking water. The series allows EPA to provide training and foster collaboration and dissemination of information, which, in turn, is helping state agencies communicate the latest scientific advancements and current guidance to their small systems. It also serves as a forum for the invaluable flow of information, providing critical insight about the problems small water systems are currently encountering in their day-to-day interactions. With that increased awareness, ORD experts can then modify their research to solve real-world problems that small systems are experiencing.

As of August 2018, the series has attracted over 35,000 participants from all 50 states, 38 Tribal Nations, 4 U.S. territories, and 30 other countries, and has provided over 22,000 continuing education credits (supported by Ohio EPA). Presenters include representatives from state drinking water agencies to help encourage communication between the states. For the webinar series schedule, registration and past recordings, visit our Small Systems Monthly Webinar Series page.

In addition to the webinar series, EPA hosts an annual small drinking water systems workshop in collaboration with ASDWA. This free, face-to-face workshop offers in-depth training and information for handling small drinking water systems problems and compliance challenges. It is primarily designed for state personnel responsible for drinking water regulations compliance and treatment technology permitting. The workshop typically attracts between 350-400 attendees from across the Nation. The 2018 workshop was held August 28-30 in Covington, KY (Greater Cincinnati Area), visit the event page for more information. Formed during the 2011 workshop, ORD also leads a small drinking water systems technical communications workgroup to focus on targeted communication efforts between EPA and the states, taking into account the different needs of system operators. In addition to EPA staff, the workgroup includes state regulatory agency and small water utility representatives from 13 states. A successful lead-free communications tool has been developed, and the workgroup meets on a regular basis to decide on needed topics for the webinar series and to discuss the development of new tools.

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