It’s Mow or Pay Up in Augusta, Georgia

 

The city of Augusta, Georgia does not like overgrown grass and some residents have learned that the hard way.

 

In fact, some property owners have received bills for clean-up without any advance notice of what the city planned to do – and then did. These owners simply saw charges on their property tax bills, but did not receive any information about the dates clean-up took place. And they are not happy about it.

 

According to the city, this method saves taxpayers money because the focus is on cleanup rather than notification.

 

Augusta’s Environmental Services department recently took over the maintenance of empty, overgrown lots from the city’s Code Enforcement department. Residential lots, however, remain under the purview of Code Enforcement.

 

A contractor now takes care of the empty lots and is apparently not required to give owners a 10-day notice of the work it plans to do. Property owners that don’t pay could face liens on their properties.

 

Turf Wars: Voters to Decide on Artificial Fields in San Francisco, New Jersey

“I don’t want my son playing on artificial turf,” said Edward Pertcheck, a San Francisco architect and active opponent in the battle to install four new artificial turf soccer fields in the city’s Golden Gate Park. Pertcheck, however, was not always in disagreement, but after further research, concluded that natural grass’ benefits beat those of artificial turf in nearly every category. Not only is the artificial turf thought to be linked with cancer, but it also requires maintenance and must be replaced every 10 years. Alternatively, there are those who support the effort. Conversation regarding the planned replacement of a natural grass field with artificial turf has also been rampant in Glen Rock, New Jersey. Michael Stewart, a Glen Rock resident and parent of two, openly supports the use of artificial turf expressing that “You have to go based on what the research already tells you. … There’s really no scientific basis for linking a cause to cancer with these fields — yet. It’s a reliable, more durable and in some cases it’s a much safer surface when it comes to physical injury”. The debate continues in both cities, but voters will have the final say on November 4 when the decision will be up to ballot results.

Sullivan’s ‘Rats’ Book to Be Turned into a Documentary Film

Sullivan’s ‘Rats’ Book to Be Turned into a Documentary Film

Distributors of the documentaries “Blackfish” and “The Cove”, Dakota group and Submarine Entertainment have announced their upcoming release of a documentary based on Robert Sullivan’s bestseller, “Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants”.  In addition to its producers David Koh, Stanley Buchenthal, and Josh and Dan Braun, Sullivan will also consult on the film in order to supply his extensive archive of research material that was not included in the book. “We have been obsessed and terrified by rats living in New York City over the years, and when we read Robert Sullivan’s book, we couldn’t put it down,” the producers said in a statement.  Production of this provocative film will begin early next year.

EPA Encourages Homeowners to Care for Their Septic Systems During SepticSmart Week

EPA Encourages Homeowners to Care for Their Septic Systems During SepticSmart Week

Release Date: 09/22/2014
Contact Information: Robert Daguillard, daguillard.robert@epa.gov, 202-564-6618

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold its second annual SepticSmart Week September 22-26. SepticSmart Week outreach activities encourage homeowners and communities to care for and maintain their septic systems. Nearly one-quarter of all American households depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater. 

Failure to maintain septic system can lead to back-ups and overflows that pollute local waterways, create dead zones, raise water treatment costs and endanger human health. Pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus and fecal bacteria can enter ground and surface waters from septic systems. Such pollutants affect drinking water, lakes, rivers and estuaries. The algal blooms they may generate can produce toxins harmful to human, animals and marine life. 

Data collected by states attribute septic systems and other onsite wastewater treatment methods to water quality impairments in 22,909 miles of rivers and streams; 199,995 acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds; and 72,320 acres of wetlands. By properly maintaining their septic systems, homeowners can help reduce these numbers. 

“When homeowners protect their septic systems, it’s good for their health, their neighbors’ health, and their pocketbooks,” said Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Water. “Not only is EPA directly educating homeowners on septic maintenance, but we are also coordinating with states and municipalities to do the same.”

During SepticSmart Week, EPA will provide homeowners with tips for septic maintenance, including:

· Protect It and Inspect It: Homeowners should generally have their system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor, and have their tank pumped when necessary, typically every three to five years. Many septic system failures occur during the winter holiday season. Therefore, EPA encourages homeowners to get their septic systems inspected and serviced now before licensed inspectors’ schedules fill up around the holidays.· Think at the Sink: Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain. These substances can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.
· Don’t Overload the Commode: Only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there. For example, coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems. 
· Don’t Strain Your Drain: Be water efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day — too much water at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently. 
· Shield Your Field: Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.


EPA’s SepticSmart program educates homeowners about proper septic system care and maintenance all year long. In addition, it serves as an online resource for industry practitioners, local governments and community organizations, providing access to tools to educate clients and residents. 

For more information, visit: www.epa.gov/septicsmart

NOFA MASS September Newsletter

The NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) MASS September 2014 Newsletter is not one to miss.  This issue will inform you on all the need-to-know news about the environment in which you live. Whether you are interested in learning about soil, grazing, and livestock resources, or simply want to know how you can get involved in local community happenings, the NOFA MASS newsletter is sure to teach you something. Refer to this month’s issue if you would like to learn more about how to get connected with the people and organizations that care about what is going on from the ground up, just like you do.

You can access the online newsletter by visiting: https://interactivepdf.uniflip.com/2/26870/298080/pub/

Crop Insurance

“If you know how many times a place has had a drought in the last 30 years, you can make a pretty good estimate what the chances are of drought in the future. And that means that you can put a price tag on the risk of drought” said microinsurer, Rose Goslinga.  Rose explained that each crop’s life cycle is different. Necessary rainfall varies between the planting, germinating, leafing, flowering, and maturity stages, so if there are too many or few rainfalls at any given stage, the crop will die.  So, Rose developed the idea of crop insurance and pitched it directly to farmers, but with little success due to lack of trust she approached the organizations working with farmers. Seed companies, microfinance institutions, mobile phone companies, and even government agencies all provide loans to farmers, but with no way of knowing they will be paid back. If it does not rain, how can they repay the loan? After an unexpected 3-week drought, an entire season’s worth of crops shriveled up and died in western Kenya. Rose along with her team approached the microfinance institution that provided the loans to about 6000 farmers in that area. The institution accepted their offer to collaborate, but wanted the money right away so that farmers still had time to replant and get a harvest during that season.  The insurance team then took the idea of replanting to a seeding company, convincing them to price the cost of insurance into every bag of seeds.  In each bag, there was a card which directed the farmer to text a number, allocating them to a satellite.  With this technology in place, they were able to measure the rainfall for the next three weeks, ensuring the farmers that if it did not rain, they would replace the seed. Rose’s initiative provided both farmers and their partner institutions with the security of insurance which proved to be tremendously beneficial to all parties involved.

Bed Bug Hysteria in NYC

New York’s bedbug infestation hit the city hard in 2010, but directed much business towards the bed bug detection service industry.  As schools, shopping centers, and movie theaters uncovered cases of bed bugs, small business owners experienced a busy season.  It was not solely the detection services that saw an increase in service calls. Lawyers also took cases from victims suing establishments, and therapists were being called upon to treat clients with bedbug anxiety. During this time, inspection services were overwhelmed with requests from frantic customers.  Bob Young, operations manager at Terminix said that “More often than not, Terminix would provide a free inspection, only to find nothing more than a few harmless beetles.  Everything with six legs was a bed bug.  Sometimes things with less than six legs”.  However, after the city experienced its bedbug peak, landlords and business owners are required to perform more frequent inspections and treatments, which has proven to simultaneously reduce the widespread panic.  Midtown Psychologist Steven Brodsky noted that far less patients enter his office seeking help for bedbug anxiety, and when his existing patients get bedbugs, “they take it in stride – sort of”.  Bedbug detection business owners also agree that the panic has lessened.  Terminix reported that business is down 20% from the 2010 peak, but specialists are seeing far fewer false alarms. Despite a subdued hype, bedbugs still remain, and will always remain a potential problem since the insects are infamously known for being pesticide-resistant.  For this reason, experts suggest that the public stays informed, for spreading alarm has proven to create much unnecessary insect hysteria.

 

This information is as reported by the Wall Street Journal.  For more, please visit http://online.wsj.com/articles/where-are-new-yorks-bedbugs-now-1409337589

Rats in NYC

Seventy years ago, journalist Joseph Mitchell wrote about New York’s rat problem claiming that “some authorities believe that in the five boroughs there is a rat for every human being.”  Nowadays, experts estimate that there are even more. In attempt to fix this problem, New York City officials are piloting an initiative to reduce the rat population in infested neighborhoods.  One tactic in practice is to get more exterminators on the streets while also closing up holes in public infrastructure. Caroline Bragdon, a rat expert with the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, explains that “rats only need a hole or a gap the size of a quarter to enter.  It’s not enough just to poison rats and collapse their burrows”.  Exposure to tips like these are what city officials believe can help solve the problem.  Accordingly, the city has introduced the Rat Academy, a free, two hour course offered to business, apartment building, or community garden owners/tenants. Bragdon reinforces that in order to solve a rodent problem, you must rid of all conditions that brought them there in the first place.

A Tick That Causes Red Meat Allergies

A recent increase in meat allergies across the nation has doctors pointing fingers at a trouble instigating bug, the Lone Star tick.  How does a tick cause meat intolerance? The problem was discovered a few years ago, and countless cases later, doctors are able to explain why.  The Lone Star Tick shares a common constituent called Alpha-gal with red meat and even some dairy products.  Alpha-gal is a sugar that people digest normally when the medium is food.  However, the body’s high-alert response to this tick’s bite is to make antibodies that fight the foreign substance sugar in order to prevent it from entering the skin and bloodstream.  Accordingly, the next time the tick bite victim is faced with Alpha-gal, an allergic reaction occurs.  Unfortunately, few patients are aware of the risk, leaving people confused and covered in hives.

 

Better Management Practices Being Called Upon To Help Decrease Fertilizer and Pesticide Use on Cape Cod

The Horsley Witten Group, Inc. (HW), a Cape Cod organization dedicated to sustainable environmental solutions, has implemented a project to investigate the effects and better monitor the use of pesticides and fertilizers in the region. According to the final report of the Cape Cod Pesticide and Fertilizer Use Inventory, “a portion of pesticides and fertilizers applied to fields, lawns, and other areas makes its way to surface waters through storm water runoff, to groundwater by leaching through the soil, and to other areas by volatilization into the atmosphere from which it is redistributed by precipitation.”  Although the substances are used both privately and commercially, individual homeowners represent over 80% of pesticide product use and nearly 70% of fertilizer product use. Commercial users (golf courses, agriculture, etc.), for the most part, are regulated in that only licensed professionals perform these applications. They also have a financial incentive to use less of the product. This being said, HW plans to work alongside regulators, local environmental groups, and industry professionals to place a focus on better informing residential users of better management practices, such as knowledge development, limiting the size of the managed area, and lastly, alternative landscapes and native species selection.