Exploring environmental issues as diverse as the impact of taconite mining on health to the effect of wildfires on drinking water quality, a pair of staffers from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy joined federal colleagues recently to learn and share information.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) selected Sydney Bruestle and Trace McDonald of EGLE's Air Quality Division to travel last year to Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina to network with EPA researchers as part of its Regional-ORD Community of Science Networking (ROCS-Net) program.
The program, in its third year, is designed to increase awareness of EPA's research capabilities and resources. One of the goals of the program is to help state and regional staff establish connections to EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) staff to encourage collaborative research opportunities.
In 2019, the Region 5 representative proposed to investigate emissions from taconite mines in Minnesota and Michigan. Taconite is a general term for low grade iron ore containing material and is currently only mined in the Region 5 states of Michigan's central Upper Peninsula and northeastern Minnesota. There is a lack of research on the health effects of taconite mining on local communities. Region 5 participants met with several ORD specialists to explore methods for characterizing resident pollutant exposure.
The 2019 ROCS-Net program focused on both air and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) issues and the science needed for better understanding these issues. Participants were required to write a two-page issue paper and create a poster to present during the four-day program. Other regions presented topics on vehicle emission tampering, PFAS deposition and monitoring, oil and gas emission characterization and reduction, the effect of wildfires on drinking water and air quality of local communities, as well as a variety of other questions or issues.
During the program, participants were able to tour several research labs and meet with ORD specialists. Participants toured the EPA' Aerosol Test Facility maintained by the EPA' National Homeland Security Research Center. This lab included wind tunnels with separate human exposure (low velocity) and atmospheric exposure test sections. Other labs included research issues such as reproductive and developmental toxicity assessment, pollinator pesticide exposure/risk assessment, cookstove pollutant exposure, and low-cost air sensors.
Throughout the ROCS-Net program, ORD experts presented available EPA resources, current environmental issues, and ongoing ORD research. State participants were able to meet with specialized ORD staff regarding the research topic proposed by their Regional office.
For more information about the ROCS-Net program or working with ORD on research projects, contact Sydney (BruestleS@Michigan.gov) or Trace (McDonaldT@Michigan.gov), EPA Region 5, or the EPA Region 5 Science Liaison, Carole Braverman, at 312-353-7359 or Braverman.email@example.com.