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Updates

Conference

On May 5, IE director Larry Band gave a plenary talk at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna on interdisciplinary research in hydrology. At the conference, 10,463 scientists from 94 countries participated. More information can be found at the conference Web site.

Panel

IE’s Environmental Resource Program (ERP) director Kathleen Gray joined a panel titled "Working Together: Getting the Best Results Through Partnerships" at the EPA's National Association of Remedial Project Managers Annual Training in Crystal City, Va. Gray discussed the UNC Superfund Research Program's (SRP) ARRA-funded geospatial analysis of water contamination in private drinking wells in North Carolina, conducted jointly by the SRP and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

Workshops

ERP staff members Amy MacDonald and Neasha Graves led a workshop on healthy homes for more than 45 members of the Asthma Alliance of North Carolina at the organization’s Annual Summit. Funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), the workshop focused on how environmental health professionals can improve the indoor environments of asthmatics though home assessments and education.

MacDonald and Graves conducted a similar healthy homes workshop for 34 public health nursing students in the UNC School of Nursing, introducing concepts and conducting hands-on learning exercises with students to enable them to identify some environmental health hazards in homes.

Graves also conducted a workshop on asthma and air quality for retirees in Chatham County.

Graves and Brennan Bouma conducted an NIEHS-funded workshop titled “Can We Talk?: Achieving Better Results by Working with Communities” for health and environmental health professionals attending the annual conference of the Eastern District of NC Public Health Association (NCPHA).

MacDonald and Dave Almond, Stormwater Technician with the Town of Chapel Hill's Stormwater Management Division, led an educational session on “Reducing Stormwater Pollution in the Commercial Sector” at the North Central Environmental Health District meeting. IE and the Town are partnering to develop visually engaging, easy-to-use training materials to educate restaurant employees about the hazards of stormwater runoff and water pollution associated with improper management practices.

Grant

The ERP’s five-year grant to support environmental health outreach across the state as part of UNC’s Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility has been augmented to $500,000.

Major headline

When Chancellor Holden Thorp (pictured, center) announced on May 4 that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill would go coal-free within the next decade, he was supported by the research and knowledge of several people associated with the Institute for the Environment.

Thorp drew heavily from the Institute when he appointed 10 students, faculty and community members to create the Energy Task Force to make recommendations to reduce Carolina’s carbon footprint. Among IE’s task force members are: Pete Andrews, professor and chair of the Department of Public Policy, IE Faculty Advisory Committee member and Progress Energy Faculty Fellow; John Cooper, program director of MDC Inc. and member of the IE Board of Visitors; David McNelis, director of IE’s Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economic Development; and Mary Cooper, an Environmental Sciences undergraduate major.

The task force has been led by Tim Toben (pictured, right), who is chair of the IE Board of Visitors and the N.C. Energy Policy Council. He spoke of Carolina’s role as an environmental leader and the need to continue being a model for other universities.

“Carolina’s cogeneration facility is one of the cleanest-burning, most efficient coal plants in the country and has won national awards for efficiency from the Environmental Protection Agency,” Toben said. “But it still burns coal, and that must end to avoid contributing to the worst effects of global climate change. And unless you set a deadline for ending coal usage, you’re not going to get to it.”

The task force recommended an end to all coal use on campus by May 1, 2020. The University plans to begin by replacing 20 percent of its coal with biomass no later than 2015, and perhaps by 2012.

The task force developed multiple recommendations, which can be viewed at the Energy Task Force homepage. The group’s work is not done, though. The task force will next turn its attention to improving energy efficiency in buildings, making its final recommendations in September.

Minor headline

IE’s Center for Environmental Modeling for Policy Development (CEMPD) is conducting air quality modeling to help North Carolina and other Southeastern states evaluate ozone, fine particles and regional haze as part of a new contract. The goals of this effort are to protect public health and the environment in an effective and efficient manner that does not unnecessarily impair economic development.

The Southeastern States Air Resource Managers Inc. (SESARM) has awarded a $1.05 million contract to a collaborative group that includes CEMPD, Georgia Tech and Colorado State University. The project will run from April 13, 2010 to December 31, 2011. Zac Adelman is the principal investigator leading the CEMPD team.

“This research will be extremely significant for the state of North Carolina and other states in the Southeast as it will provide accurate simulations of future air quality and emissions,” said Adel Hanna, director of CEMPD. “By projecting into the next decade, we will be able help states in the region assess their compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and whether policy changes need to be made.”

If states are not in compliance with NAAQS and have not submitted approvable state implementation plans to regain compliance, public health and the environment may be adversely impacted and states risk losing funds from the Federal Highway Administration. Through funding from the EPA, the project will provide critically important data for agencies in 10 southeastern states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.