Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

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TEAM BUILDING: Anacostia River Boat Tour

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On July 26, the Nspiregreen team went on the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Anacostia Boat Tour as part of this quarter’s team building. This trip gave us a chance to see first-hand and learn more about the efforts being implemented to improve the health of the river. This was a great experience especially since we have been working on some projects related to the Anacostia River’s cleanup efforts.

The Anacostia River watershed is home to 43 species of fish, some 200 species of birds, and more than 800,000 people. The river flows through Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland and past the Capitol Building in the District. The watershed is approximately 176 square miles and around 25% of its land lies in the District of Columbia. (Source: DOEE, February 15, 2018, EPA)

The Anacostia has been polluted by litter, raw sewage, stormwater runoff, and industrial waste since the 19th Century. However, in the past two decades efforts have been implemented to turn “The Forgotten River” into a “fishable and swimmable” water body as defined by the Clean Water Act. For example, the recently opened DC Water tunnel between the RFK Stadium and the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant is preventing millions of gallons of wastewater from entering the river, thus reducing the levels of bacteria. The District’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) launched the “For a Cleaner Anacostia River” initiative aimed to clean the river sediments contaminated with industrial toxins including polychlorinated biphenyl’s (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs).

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Tour Highlights

Below are some highlights of our trip!

Rain, Rain, Rain…

There was a thunderstorm the night before the tour. In fact, this past July was one of the wettest Julys on record! The day we went, the river was yellow-colored and full of broken branches and litter. However, boats were out removing these items. Here is a picture of one of DC Water’s boats cleaning up litter.skimmerboat
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Due to the high levels of precipitation, the river’s water level was really high. For this reason, we were not able to go under the Benning Rd bridge. The water was almost hitting the rail bridge! I heard the area north of this bridge has beautiful scenery and lots of wildlife. We will come back again!

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The River is Improving

The water condition is getting better; wildlife and the levels of subaquatic vegetation have increased. The tour guide also told us that they are testing the use of mussels to clean the water. Fun fact an adult mussel can naturally filter about 10 gallons of water a day!

Bird Nest

 

You Can Also Tour the Anacostia River!

If you want to tour the Anacostia, the Anacostia Watershed Society and the Anacostia Riverkeeper offer guided motorboat and canoe tours free of charge. These tours are funded by the District’s disposable bag fee program.  Tours leave from various locations.

What to bring:

  • Reusable water bottle filled with water (plastic water bottles are not allowed on the boat for environmental protection)
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat and sunglasses

 

To learn more, visit https://doee.dc.gov/service/anacostia-river-explorers

 

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

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Some Thoughts After Traveling to Iceland (Climate Change and Geothermal Energy)

In the past few years, Iceland has become one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. So last Thanksgiving, I went to Iceland to see what the big fuss was all about. One of the many tourists draws of Iceland in winter is the promise of venturing off-the-beaten-path to remote, wild, snowy fields. The landscape was filled with wild horses and sheep. You can also find glacial lagoons and geysers erupting as you trek across the country.  After traveling there, my advice is to do yourself a favor by soaking in the Blue Lagoon and enjoy a facial mask. And make sure you view the Northern Lights in the dark!

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Some of the scenes in Game of Thrones (GOT) were filmed in Iceland. One of the scenes of John Snow walking on a glacier, shown in the following pictures, was filmed in Vatnajökull National Park. Another fun fact is that Iceland’s water smells like sulfur almost everywhere on this Island.

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https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/21/16177632/game-of-thrones-season-7-episode-6-recap-fantasy-league

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It is Iceland’s natural beauty that attracts the tourists, but that natural beauty is now threatened by climate change. According to our tour guide, this Vatnajökull  glacier (the biggest glacier in the country) is melting approximately 100 meters (320 ft.) per year, causing sea levels near Iceland to rise. Reports from the Icelandic Government’s Committee on Climate Change (IGCCC) claim that if we don’t do anything to help reduce climate change, Iceland’s glaciers will no longer exist by the next century. During an ice cave tour, the guide told us it is harder and harder to find good ice caves to even see, because melting ice makes the water flowing beneath them very unstable.
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I would say Iceland is a place on earth that doesn’t look like earth. There are about 130 volcanoes on the island–30 of them.  Even though we call it Iceland, it actually more like Fireland or Hotland. Iceland lies in the crack in the Earth’s crust where the North American tectonic plate and Eurasian tectonic plate meet, so while the Earth’s crust slowly tears apart, energy releases—giving Iceland its vast geothermal energy resources. Once scientists discovered this in 1970s, Iceland started capitalizing on this energy resource. According to Ásgeir Margeirsson, CEO of Geysir Green Energy, Iceland citizen save four times cost for heating.

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https://www.icelandontheweb.com/articles-on-iceland/nature/geology/geothermal-heat

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http://www.nea.is/geothermal/

Iceland is a pioneer in using geothermal energy all over the world. The country’s geothermal resources come from the dynamic volcano, and several major geothermal power plants produce around 30% of the country’s electricity. One of the most popular places in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon. This is the world biggest man-made lagoon, which is fed by nearby geothermal power, and renew every two days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow, and used to run turbines that generate electricity.

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There is a lot to learn from Iceland when it comes to adopting clean and alternative energy. Companies such as Tesla . There are many solar energy companies that are taking the lead in powering our homes and automobiles using a cleaner form of energy. Once alternative energy options, such as home solar panels, can be mass-produced cheaply, more people will be inclined to adopt these new technologies. Until then, we can help to fight climate change by eliminating our carbon footprint and choose using green energy.

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

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Houston, No America, We Have A Problem!

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 Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen the news and know the devastation Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath has caused in Southeast Texas. When we witness such tragedy on a large scale, we immediately begin discussing ways to prevent it; however, flooding is an everyday occurrence in many cities across the United States. While this flooding in the human environment may not be enough to blanket a city or trap people in their homes, it’s enough to destroy property; cause waterborne illnesses; cause loss of life; destroy crops; and impede access to essential public services such as ambulances and firetrucks. The aforementioned list is by no means exhaustive but a snippet to illustrate some of the impacts of flooding. Sadly, it doesn’t take a hurricane to have this impact. Heavy rainfall or even sustained rainfall over a long period of time can be just as destructive.

Unfortunately, climate change is causing more frequent and extreme weather events. Unless we take action to mitigate the damage caused by these wet weather events, we will see more devastation in our communities. As an environmental engineer who happens to work on stormwater management issues, here are a few of my thoughts on the topic.

1. Preservation of natural resources – Wetlands (marshes, swamps, bogs, ponds) are land areas covered by water that consist of plant and animal life. In the context of flood control, wetlands help protect against storm surges by serving as an intermediary between larger waterbodies and land. Unfortunately, development often destroys this natural barrier allowing more water to reach land and without filtration. Jurisdictions should include preservation of natural resources as they update their land use plans, comprehensive plans, and/or zoning laws.

2. Getting smarter about growth – During wet weather events, water is looking for a place to go. Water naturally seeps into the ground; however, many of our cities are covered in asphalt, concrete, and other impenetrable barriers. This surface water runoff can overwhelm our sewers and become stuck in areas where there is little flow. In addition, waterfronts are being developed with housing and commercial space without regards to rising water levels due to climate change. As this land erodes it will impact these places that are now high value corridors of living and entertainment. Despite these challenges, waterfronts are and will continue to be popular locations for development. Developments should consider sea level rise or consider new design techniques such as floodable buildings.

3. Increase in green infrastructure -Trees, rain gardens, green roofs, bio swales, pervious pavement, rain barrels and constructed wetlands are a newer approach to managing surface water runoff. Many urban areas are using green infrastructure as a tool to imitate the natural process that should occur after wet weather events by adding soils and other vegetation back into the ecosystem. Green infrastructure has to be a part of a larger strategy to effectively minimize the impact of wet weather as well as place making in communities.

4. Increase and maintain gray infrastructure – Poor drainage, lack of maintenance, infrastructure not designed for high density populations are all issues impacting our existing gray infrastructure such as storm drains, storm sewers, holding tanks, dams and levees. In fact, both dams and levees received a grade D on the American Society of Civil Engineers 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. New gray infrastructure as well as the maintenance of older infrastructure are important components in preventing the outcomes we often witness in wet weather events.

The damage and destruction that we witnessed post Katrina, Sandy and now Harvey are not isolated to these extreme wet weather events. Until we extend our conversations and more importantly our action to maintenance and prevention, we will continue to play Monday morning quarterback. Unfortunately, it’s more than a football game at stake. Lives depend on it. America, we have a problem!

P.S. Extreme wet weather events are occurring globally but for the purposes of  making this blog brief, I limited the issue to the United States of America.

Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC an environmental consulting, urban planning and public engagement firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.





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