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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Garden Talk: Time to Plant!

By Kate Nagel, Food Bank Garden Coordinator, Hazardous Waste and Toxic Reduction Program, Washington Conservation Corps


Saturday, May 3rd Planting Event

A flowering winter squash plant
from last season's garden.
Come plant winter squash at the Ecology Food Bank Garden on Saturday, May 3 from 9am-2pm! Lunch and tools provided. All levels of gardening experience are encouraged to join! Bring your family and friends as well as gloves if you have them. Please RSVP.

Lunchtime and after-work gardening parties will also be starting soon. To get on the garden volunteer list or for more information, please contact Kate Nagel.

Need some incentive to get out to the garden? Read about why gardening is good for your health!

The Food Bank Garden is a great way to get volunteer hours and give back to the community. Last year, with the help of hard-working volunteers, the garden donated over 2,000 pounds of produce to the Thurston County Food Bank. The Food Bank hands these vegetables directly to our fellow community members in need!

Ecology's garden is located at the Washington Department of Ecology, 300 Desmond Dr. SE, Lacey(garden located in the meadow near the far parking lot).

Newspaper pots: Tips for saving money and reusing

Because squash have fragile root systems, planting starts directly into the ground without disturbing their roots it helpful. Using peat pots is one option, or if you are interested in saving money and reusing too, newspaper pots are a great alternative.

During a recent lunchtime work party, volunteers made newspaper pots for the garden's winter squash starts. There are hundreds of tutorial videos online if you type "newspaper pots" or "newspaper pots origami" into your search engine. Any newspaper should work great, but don't use the glossy pages or pages that use a lot of color ink. Once created, put pots into a tray to contain water, but be sure to allow for airflow. Roots will begin to grow through the paper if they become to large. At this point (or a little before) you will want to begin hardening your plants; here is a good description of this process. Once hardening is complete, carefully place start into the hole, newspaper and all!

Students water their newly planted squash seeds.
Three classes at a local elementary school volunteered to host several trays of squash seeds. The students learned how to plant the seeds and are now responsible for watering them and watching them grow!

Ecology's garden is hoping to grow about 500 winter squash plants this season. This is the first year the garden is using the newspaper pot method to grow starts, and we are excited to see how they turn out!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Columbia River water users get quick decisions on water access

By Brook Beeler, communication manager, Eastern Region

Tension was high in early March when the first reports of irrigators without access to water came in to state and local agencies. Thousands of acres of high value fruit orchards were at stake. The Columbia River system has been lowered in response to a crack in the dam near Vantage.

Many state officials made a promise that projects in need of permits would be made quickly. Both state and federal agencies had to ensure that appropriate requirements for safety, in-water work, fish screening, cultural resources, and legal water use are met.

Orchards need water for irrigation and pest management. (Photo credit: wikimedia.)
Permits have been authorized for all 16 irrigation projects brought forward for approval. Close coordination among federal, state, and local partners has allowed irrigators to get to work.

Successful partnerships

“The cooperation among state and federal agencies was key to moving the permits quickly,” said Department of Agriculture Director Bud Hover. “I also really appreciated that we had a seat at the table during this process. Even though we are not one of the permitting agencies, we were able to give voice to the concerns of the farmers and growers affected.”

State departments of Agriculture and Ecology worked with the Washington Conservation Commission to fund local conservation district staff to make technical assistance visits and help farmers through the expedited permit process. Coordination among local PUDs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation were also pivotal in securing expedited permits.

“Believe it or not, most folks don’t want Ecology knocking on their door even if it is to help,” jested Central Regional Director Tom Tebb at a public meeting in March.

Providing access to water

“Since our initial meeting in March,” Tebb recently reflected, “We have been fortunate to have such willing state and local partners. Within days, local conservation district and Fish and Wildlife staff were paired to provide technical assistance to farmers and growers with permitting needs.”

Water users at anytime through this historical drawdown of the Columbia River may call Ecology’s water resources customer service representatives to report a concern about their surface water intake or groundwater wells.

Customer service phone lines: Chelan, Douglas, and Kittitas counties call 509-575-2490; Grant county call 509-329-3400

For detailed and up-to-date information visit our website: Wanapum Dam structural damage could affect water supply.

Previous ECOconnect blogs:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth… pass it on: A laugh-out-loud video interview with our director

Kid reporter asks her tough and inspirational questions

I kid you not, this completely unscripted video interview with our director, Maia Bellon, will make you laugh out loud.

Maia spends time answering tough, thoughtful and inspirational questions, asked in only a way a kid could ask them, about what it’s like being the director of the agency and why Earth Day is so special.

Our cub reporter, Talia, asked, “Would this day be as beautiful as it is if Ecology wasn’t here?” and “As being the director and everything, what does the world mean to you?” (No spoilers here: We’ll let you watch for the video for the off-the-cuff answers.)

One of my favorite parts of the video is when Talia sings a ditty from the hit movie Frozen, but replaces the lyrics to sing about cleaning up Hanford.

You’ll finish the video feeling inspired. And you’ll walk away with a renewed sense of enthusiasm about the next generation.

Oh, and make sure you watch it the whole way through for the surprise ending. It’s too cute to miss. To steal an expression from Talia, the interview is “awesome!”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Earth ... Pass it on: Tackling Toxics

Safer Chemistry Challenge: Supporting safer products and cleaner manufacturing

By Andrew Wineke, communications, Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction Program

Often, we focus on chemical hazards after there’s already a problem – a spill, an injury, or an unforeseen environmental impact. When businesses use safer ingredients in their products or eliminate hazardous chemicals used in manufacturing, however, those problems can be avoided in the design stage.

In May, Ecology and the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable will introduce a new program called the Safer Chemistry Challenge to support businesses that are working to create cleaner, safer products.
Earth Friendly Products in Lacey, Washington.
"Many Washington businesses and organizations already understand that making safer products is a smart business decision," said Ken Zarker, manager of Ecology’s pollution prevention and regulatory assistance section. "By promoting safer products and cleaner manufacturing methods through the Safer Chemistry Challenge, we want to spur innovation and spread best practices." 

The Challenge will offer participants technical assistance with chemical hazard assessments, training and education, and sponsor cross-industry conversations. Businesses and organizations that demonstrate ongoing leadership in pursuing safer chemistry will be honored as “Safer Chemistry Champions.”

Learn more

Friday, April 18, 2014

Working hard to clean up the SR 530 slide near Oso

by Janna Ryan and Kate Nagel, Washington Conservation Corps

Continued rains keep crews fighting mud

Base camp of operations for logistical support

Forestry skills help the search and cleanup
The SR530 landslide struck unexpectedly on Saturday, March 22. The Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) rallied to support the response efforts in Arlington, Oso, and Darrington — growing from one 6-person crew deployed on March 26th to nine crews (54 AmeriCorps members and staff) on scene at the peak of the search and rescue operations.

Crews tackle whatever needs to be done

Now, as search operations are nearly complete on the West side of the landslide, seven crews remain.  As this response has evolved so have the roles of our crews — from shoring up logistical infrastructure to providing ground support to responders in the field, our crews have tackled each new project with a strong sense of duty and pride.

Early in this deployment, crews helped to establish the “spike” camp in Darrington for responders staying in tents onsite. This required the construction of yurts that are now used for a variety of purposes like camp logistics, food services, laundry, waste disposal, and sleeping quarters. Within just a few days, response organizations filled this camp. It swelled to a population of more than 500.

The remaining crews have made the Arlington Incident Command Post (ICP) their home, providing logistical and ground support to responders in the field. Much of their work is behind the scenes.  It includes ordering and delivering supplies and equipment, maintaining inventory, operating a donation “store” for local community members, and delivering fuel to the field for chainsaws and excavators. Some of the work has improved the facilities. The crews built accessibility ramps, installed canopy tents, and constructed directional signage using repurposed scrap wood salvaged from the old Arlington High School.

Planning ahead makes efficient work

Showing their concern for conservation, crews designed a recycling system at the Arlington ICP. This system ensures that aluminum, glass, plastic, batteries, and food scraps are being diverted from the landfill. The goal of this project is a “no waste” bin system. After getting the project off the ground, crews are now implementing it in Oso, Darrington, and the debris field Drop Point. Local pig farmers pick up food scraps on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Crews deliver the recyclables to the Arlington Transfer Station on a regular basis.

Forestry skills and technology join the effort

WCC forestry skills have also been put to good use. The Washington State Department of Transportation asked that WCC sawyers assist with clearing downed trees in order to install LiDAR equipment. This sophisticated equipment creates a 3D image that geologists can compare to future maps of the site to determine whether the hillside is shifting further and is therefore a risk to the safety of responders below.

These same sawyers have been clearing downed trees from the perimeter of the debris field, allowing water removal for search and rescue operations. Our crews’ background in wildland fire has also proven useful in constructing trenches to funnel water off the field.

Prepared to work as long as needed

WCC crews will remain in Arlington, Oso, and Darrington, as needed, completing 14 day rotations. A special thanks to the local community members for keeping our crews going with home baked treats and kind words. In addition, thanks to our local, state, and federal partners who have voluntarily rescheduled habitat restoration or trail construction projects so that our crews can assist with this response.

Earth... Pass it on: The Message is in the Materials

By Joye Redfield-Wilder, communications manager

'Sunlight' by Nicole Gallardo

John Storlie, Yakima Makerspace

Rod Hankinson and kinder kids
Art with an environmental twist - Davis and Eisenhower H.S. students in Yakima re-purposed materials like magazines, buttons, pop cans and took apart old jewelry and obsolete electronics and found items to make something new, personal and beautiful. Art is on display at Ecology's Yakima office, 15 W. Yakima Ave.

The vision was to combine environmental education and outreach with creation of student artwork based on environmental themes for Earth Day. Ecology staff and local partners provide inspiration, resources and education related to protecting the environment.

Students create personal works of art reusing, repurposing and recycling existing materials. In this show they used magazines, leather coats, old buttons, broken/old costume jewelry, recycled metals and materials they brought from home to create new jewelry, sculptures and flat art that are creative and low cost and turning trash into something beautiful.

The Art Show

  • Eisenhower High School under teacher Katie Hall is presenting 18 pieces of sculptural and flat artwork based on the inspiration of regional Seattle Artist Marita Dingus, who uses recycled materials in her African inspired self-image works. Students thought about their impact on the environment and their culture and created self-portraits using the figure or head as the format.
  • Davis High School under teacher Julie Geordias is presenting jewelry made of paper beads, which the students made from cutting up donated magazines, thus keeping the magazines out of the landfill. They also added glass or wooden beads for color. They made leather button bracelets repurposing old leather coats and old buttons. New jewelry pieces were created by taking apart old or broken jewelry and costume pieces and combining it with scrap metals and other materials.
"The projects showed the students they can be creative for very low cost and at the same time recycle," said teacher Julie Geordias. "The projects are ones they can make at home without needing expensive tools, can teach to others and possibly even sell for cash! The button bracelets also taught students a life skill of how to use a needle and thread and sew on a button."

Earth Week Outreach

Yakima Makerspace’s John Storlie brought a trove of old outdated electronic devices for students to deconstruct and re-create as pieces of art and jewelry. The students had a lesson on the Steam Punk evolving from the late 1980s to the present, which incorporates obsolete mechanical and electronic forms into artwork and fashion.

Using a blender, water and trash basket paper, Rod “The Garbage Man” Hankinson made recycled paper and spoke about the lifecycle of paper and the importance of protecting the environment to five classes of kindergartners at Apple Valley Elementary School.

>> See the whole show at this Flickr set.

Fecal Matters: Owen Beach/Point Defiance Park is open for swimming, Tacoma, Pierce Co., WA.

BEACH Program Update

On April 18, 2014, Tacoma Pierce County Health Department lifted the no contact advisory for Owen Beach/Point Defiance Park.  The previous swimming closure was posted on April 16, 2014.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Visit the BEACH website to find the latest results for these and other saltwater beaches: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/beach/

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Debby Sargeant is the BEACH Program Manager and is available at 360-407-6139 or debby.sargeant@ecy.wa.gov for questions.