Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019

Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
EPA 601/K-15/007 | November 2015 |

                                       Science to Protect
                      Public Health and the Environment
                        EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW
                                                                        2016 – 2019

Office of Research and Development
Overview: Science for a Sustainable Future
Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
EPA 601/K-15/007

Science to Protect Public Health
     and the Environment
      EPA Research Program Overview

          U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                     November 2015
Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
Table of Contents

Introduction��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 1
Research Organization and Support for EPA Strategic Plan�������������������������������������������������������������������� 3
Guiding Principles for EPA Research�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 5
Strategic Research Action Plans 2016–2019������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 9
Air, Climate, and Energy������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 10
Safe and Sustainable Water Resources������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 13
Sustainable and Healthy Communities������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 16
Chemical Safety for Sustainability��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 22
Human Health Risk Assessment������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 25
Homeland Security�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 28
Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment������������������������������������������������������������������������ 30

Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
The United States has made tremendous prog-
ress in environmental protection, and we now
have cleaner air and water, waste sites restored
to useful purposes, and safer consumer prod-
ucts. For more than four decades, EPA research
has informed policies and led to impacts that
define environmental progress. EPA research
provided the evidence and assessments that
led the Agency to ban the use of lead in gaso-
line, protecting an entire generation of children
from hazardous lead exposure. EPA research il-
luminated the critical link between secondhand
tobacco smoke and serious health impacts,
findings that turned the tide so that smoking is
no longer permitted in many public spaces, re-
ducing the risks for all.

EPA researchers continue to build on this prog-
ress by delivering new scientific understanding
and technologies to help solve the complex
environmental challenges affecting our health,
environment and economy.                                   weather patterns which can impact people’s
                                                           lives. Many areas have seen changes in
This document provides an overview of EPA’s                rainfall, resulting in more frequent and
research programs within the Office of Re-                 intense flooding and drought events, as well
search and Development. This critically impor-             as more frequent and severe heat waves.
tant work is providing the science needed to               These events can cause loss of life, injury,
address the biggest problems facing environ-               and property damage, and can disrupt basic
mental science, the Agency, and the world. This            services such as transportation, electrical
cutting-edge and innovative research portfolio             power and water supply. (See text box,
is connecting the dots in an unprecedented and             Our Changing Climate.)
integrated way by characterizing problems up
front, recognizing the inherent connections be-          • Much of the western U.S. is facing record-
tween a healthy and sustainable environment                setting drought with mountain snowpack
and healthy people, and working across histori-            levels at or near their lowest levels on
cal media-specific lines with an understanding             record. In addition to greatly reducing water
that problems aren’t isolated to just air or water         supplies, drought contributes to increased
or land, but in fact, cut across those domains.            incidence of wildfires and forest disease,
Environmental challenges include:                          leading to loss of life and property damage,
                                                           air pollution health effects, habitat
• Rising global average temperature is 		                  destruction, and potential impacts to water
  associated with widespread changes in                    quality.

Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
• Nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus,                • Many communities are disproportionately
  are polluting our waterways, creating 		                     overburdened by pollution. We need to
  another difficult environmental and human                    better understand the impacts of chemical
  health issue affecting local and regional                    and non-chemical stressors in causing
  economies. We face a serious challenge—to                    disparities in health effects and how to help
  achieve the beneficial level of nutrients in                 communities improve resilience to disasters.
  the environment to enhance food
                                                             Advances in science and technology, including
  production and other services, while
                                                             social sciences, can help us address these and
  protecting human and ecosystem health.
                                                             other complex challenges. EPA’s portfolio of
• Tens of thousands of chemicals are currently               research for 2016–2019 builds on the research
  used, but only a small fraction have been                  program from 2012–20161 and is designed to
  thoroughly evaluated for potential risks to                advance our understanding of the complex
  human health, wildlife and the environment.                relationships between human activities and
  We know very little about people’s real                    their impacts on public health and the environ-
  life exposures to most of these chemicals;                 ment. This overview of EPA research summa-
  in particular we lack data about exposures                 rizes:
  during critical stages of life and                         Research Organization and Support for EPA
  development.                                               Strategic Plan
                                                             Guiding Principles for EPA Research
                                                             Highlights of EPA Strategic Research Action Plans

    Our Changing Climate
    Over the past century, the large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released
    into the atmosphere have been the most important cause of recent climate change. The earth’s
    average temperature has risen by 1.4o F, and if no action is taken to reduce emissions, the average
    temperature will rise another 2–11.5o F over the next hundred years*. EPA’s 2015 Report on the
    Environment says that, among other impacts, future global warming is projected to produce more
    severe droughts in the southwestern U.S.
*Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds., 2014: Climate Change Impacts in the United States:
The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, 841 pp. doi:10.7930/J0Z31WJ2.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2012). Science for a Sustainable Future, EPA Research Program Overview 2012-2016.

Available at:

Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
Research Organization and Support for EPA
Strategic Plan
EPA science is anchored in the priorities of the             (2014–2018) and cross - Agency strategies
Agency. EPA’s FY 2014–2018 EPA Strategic Plan2               (see Figure 1).
states, “Sustainable, innovative approaches                  The six programs are:
grounded in science—the underpinning of
the EPA’s decision making—are instrumental                   •   Air, Climate, and Energy (ACE)
to solving today’s environmental challenges.                 •   Chemical Safety for Sustainability (CSS)
Now more than ever EPA’s leadership as a pre-                •   Homeland Security Research Program (HSRP)
eminent science and research institution is                  •   Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA)
essential.”                                                  •   Safe and Sustainable Water Resources (SSWR)
                                                             •   Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC)
To embrace the critical need for science lead-
ership, EPA’s Office of Research and Develop-                Each research program engages EPA program
ment (ORD), the science arm of the Agency,                   and regional offices and outside partners and
has established six highly integrated and trans-             stakeholders to identify the research priorities
disciplinary national research programs that                 that are important for achieving EPA’s strategic
closely align with the Agency’s strategic goals              goals and objectives.

Figure 1. ORD’s Six Research Programs Aligned with EPA Strategic Plan. The EPA Office of Research
and Development’s six national research programs are closely aligned with EPA Strategic Goals and
Cross-Agency Strategies. Research in any one program also helps the Agency achieve multiple goals.
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2014). FY 2014–2018 EPA Strategic Plan.
 Available at:

Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
EPA staff scientists and engineers conduct
research in laboratories and research facili-
ties at 14 locations across the country. Overall
resources for ORD in fiscal year 2015 included
$521 million and 1755 employees. EPA staff are
joined by a network of collaborators, partners,
fellows, and grantees. For example, scientists in
the research laboratories collaborate with scien-
tists in EPA regional offices on projects address-
ing specific regional concerns. Grantees and fel-
lows compete from across the nation to receive
funding from EPA’s Science to Achieve Results            EPA continues to experiment with initiatives
(STAR) extramural research program. EPA is one           to foster innovation and creativity in research.
of 11 federal agencies that participate in the           Staff are exploring scientific competitions and
Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) pro-           challenges, citizen science and crowd-sourcing,
gram, enacted in 1982 to strengthen the role of          public-private partnerships, and other activities
small businesses in federal research and devel-          that promote innovative thinking and sustain-
opment, create jobs, and promote technological           able solutions. For example, the “Pathfinder In-
innovation.3                                             novation Projects” internal agency competition
                                                         offers EPA scientists an opportunity to win seed
                                                         funding for out-of-the-box ideas that could be
                                                         “game-changers” for environmental protection.


Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
Guiding Principles for                                Ensure Science Quality and
EPA Research                                          Given the stakes of environmental decisions,
Several principles guide the design and imple-        it is imperative that EPA produce and rely on
mentation of EPA research programs. They are:         high quality science. Whether it’s a community
Protect Public Health and Advance Sustainabil-        determining the safety of reusing precious wa-
ity; Ensure Science Quality and Transparency;         ter for a variety of purposes, a national policy
Achieve Broad Impact; Innovate; Inform Deci-          under scrutiny by the Supreme Court, or an
sions and Actions; Seek Collaboration; and Sup-       enforcement action requiring an industry to re-
port High-Performing Workforce. Completed             vamp its processes to prevent toxic emissions,
and ongoing research activities that illustrate       the science and technology underlying these
these principles are highlighted below.               important decisions must be of the highest
                                                      quality and accessible to the public. EPA’s com-
                                                      mitment to quality science includes a rigorous
Protect Public Health and Advance                     peer review policy, publishing results in peer-
Sustainability                                        reviewed journals, and review by external sci-
                                                      entific committees such as the National Acad-
Protecting public health is one of EPA’s fun-
                                                      emy of Sciences and EPA’s Science Advisory
damental goals. EPA research uses a systems
                                                      Board and Board of Scientific Counselors. Our
approach to understand what causes environ-
                                                      commitment to transparency includes public
mental problems, and to design solutions that
                                                      access to EPA’s publications and supporting sci-
benefit health, the environment, and the econ-
                                                      entific data.
omy—all of which are interconnected. Systems
approaches help advance understanding of the          • Scientific advice: Each research program
complex relationships between human health              benefits from the advice of a dedicated
and the environment, and this knowledge leads           subcommittee of EPA’s Board of Scientific
to progress in achieving sustainability—meeting         Counselors with ongoing engagement
today’s needs without compromising the ability          throughout the duration of the 2016-2019
of future generations to meet their needs. One          research program. EPA recognizes that its
example of current research:                            sound, high quality research will be used not
                                                        only by the Agency, but also by other federal,
• Clean energy future: natural gas is playing
                                                        state and local agencies, private companies
  a key role in reducing carbon emissions,
                                                        and organizations around the world.
  creating jobs, and providing a domestic
  source of energy. EPA’s research on the
  potential drinking water impacts of the             Achieve Broad Impact
  development of America’s shale gas
                                                      EPA’s research addresses environmental prob-
  resources is helping ensure that responsible
                                                      lems of national and international significance
  development will benefit the economy,
                                                      and strives to produce scientific results that are
  energy security, and the environment.
                                                      timely and solution-oriented. For example:

                                                      • Climate change: EPA research contributed
                                                        evidence that provided the scientific
                                                        foundation for EPA to move forward
                                                        with regulations to reduce greenhouse

Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
gas emissions from stationary sources.                  • Clean air: Over the last 45 years, air quality
    Groundbreaking research on the role of                    in the U.S. has improved dramatically. EPA’s
    black carbon in climate change is helping                 National Ambient Air Quality Standards are
    decision makers assess benefits of reducing               the highest impact regulations, ensuring
    these emissions on a global to local scale.               U.S. air quality that prevents thousands of
    This work, together with other air quality                heart attacks and premature deaths, and
    research, such as studies on cookstoves, has              millions of cases of respiratory illness, such
    global impact affecting billions of people.               as bronchitis and asthma. Every five years,
                                                              EPA reviews the standards for air pollutants
                                                              such as particulate matter, ozone, and
                                                              nitrogen oxides. The standards often face
                                                              legal challenges, including cases that
                                                              are decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
                                                              EPA depends on the sound, peer-reviewed
                                                              scientific research and assessments that
                                                              characterize the health, ecological and
                                                              welfare effects from exposure to these

    The World Health Organization estimates that
    exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves
    and open fires leads to 4.3 million deaths each
    year. EPA research helps to improve air quality,
    protect public health and slow climate change.4

• Streams and wetlands impact water quality:
  Smaller water bodies play an important role                 EPA’s CMAQ Model is a powerful computational
                                                              tool used by EPA and states for air quality
  in the health of larger downstream
                                                              management. The National Weather Service
  waterways such as rivers and lakes, as                      uses the model to produce daily U.S. forecasts
  described in an extensive EPA 			                           for ozone air quality. CMAQ is also used
  state-of-the-science report5. The report                    by states to assess implementation actions
  provided the science behind the 2015 Clean                  needed to attain National Ambient Air Quality
  Water Rule that clarified the jurisdiction of               Standards.
  the Clean Water Act, protecting the streams
  and wetlands that form the foundation of
  the nation’s water resources.

World Health Organization: Household Air Pollution and Health, Fact Sheet No. 292, March 2014
US EPA (2015) Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific

Evidence (Final Report)

Science to Protect Public Health and the Environment - EPA RESEARCH PROGRAM OVERVIEW 2016 2019
Innovate                                                environment, to make its laboratories and tech-
                                                        nical experts available to provide immediate
Fostering creativity and stimulating transforma-
                                                        assistance to the on-site decision makers. Re-
tional change can solve complex problems in
                                                        search plans and products are peer-reviewed
new and innovative ways. Sometimes, it’s the
                                                        to ensure transparency of methods and results.
advent of technological advances in other fields
                                                        For EPA research to be relevant and accessible,
that can be applied to an environmental prob-
                                                        it also has to be translated and delivered such
lem. Examples include:
                                                        that it can be of real value to the end users. The
• Rapid, automated chemical testing:                    clients for EPA research range from scientists to
  Agency researchers and their partners are             policymakers, lawyers, and the general public.
  revolutionizing the assessment of                     Examples include:
  potential risks to humans and the
                                                        • Asbestos assessment in Region 8:
  environment from exposures to chemicals
                                                          EPA and federal partners assessed the risk
  and forging a new generation of predictive
                                                          to public health from asbestos-contaminated
  capabilities, technologies and solutions.
                                                          vermiculite in Libby, MT. This assessment
  New tools enable rapid screening of
                                                          informs risk management decisions,
  chemicals for adverse effects, using very
                                                          including the ongoing clean-up and
  small amounts of chemicals in laboratory
                                                          remediation activities in the Libby
  test samples, high-throughput robotics, and
                                                          community. These activities have reduced
  automated analysis.
                                                          the asbestos outdoor air concentrations in
• Satellite data for water monitoring:                    Libby, making the air quality in Libby similar
  A team of scientists from EPA, NASA and                 to other Montana cities and reducing risks
  the U.S. Geological Survey used satellites              of cancer and respiratory disease from
  to monitor and assess water quality and                 asbestos.
  harmful algal blooms in lakes, reservoirs and
                                                        • Reducing stormwater runoff: Stormwater
  estuaries. This new approach can provide
                                                          flowing from paved streets, parking lots, and
  early warning to environmental and public
                                                          building rooftops can accumulate chemicals
  health agencies to prepare for action.
                                                          and other pollutants that can adversely
                                                          affect water quality. Green infrastructure,
Inform Decisions and Actions
                                                          which includes approaches such as rain
EPA relies on sound science to inform decisions           gardens, porous pavement, and green roofs,
that affect communities across the nation. To             can alleviate flooding and protect water
ensure research is relevant, ORD works very               quality. EPA’s National Stormwater Calculator
closely with EPA partners to define the most              is a desktop application that estimates
pressing environmental problems, research                 reductions in stormwater runoff for various
needs, and data gaps. EPA research is intended            green infrastructure options, and it is a
to be accessible and meet both near- and long-            practical and easy-to-use tool for local
term science needs. Significant research efforts          decision makers such as urban planners,
focus on developing the science that serves as            landscape architects, site developers and
the foundation for environmental regulations.             homeowners.
Providing technical support to help with more                                  EPA green infrastructure
immediate local issues continues to be of great                                researchers provide key
value to EPA regions. ORD is also poised in times                              tools, such as the National
                                                                               Stormwater Calculator,
of crisis, such as chemical spills, explosions or
                                                                               to address stormwater
other potentially hazardous releases into the                                  management.
Seek Collaboration                                           agencies to conduct joint research and
                                                             operational activities. For example, a
EPA science has even greater impact through
                                                             recent full-scale test operation focused on
strong collaboration with public health and en-
                                                             sampling, decontamination and waste
vironmental partners. ORD works collaborative-
                                                             management for a facility contaminated
ly across its research programs and also devel-
                                                             with simulated anthrax spores. EPA’s
ops partnerships within EPA and with external
                                                             partners in the effort included the U.S.
organizations to accomplish its work. Partners
                                                             Departments of Homeland Security, Health
include scientists, engineers, decision makers,
                                                             and Human Services, Justice, Defense, and
risk managers, and other experts in EPA pro-
gram and regional offices, other federal agen-
cies, state and local governments, and other
research organizations. Developing scientific
tools and information jointly with partners, and
soliciting feedback from EPA partners and out-
side stakeholders, helps ensure that research
results are meaningful and that research prod-
ucts are tailored to meet the needs of decision
makers at the federal, state and local levels.
                                                              EPA partnered with the U.S. Department of
• Children’s environmental health:                            Health and Human Services on a campaign
  Children’s environmental health research                    to promote heart health.
  involves many disciplines, such as
  reproductive and developmental health,
  genetics, exposure science, sociology, and               Support High-Performing Workforce
  pediatrics, and requires coordination and                EPA’s research organization is unique in its
  collaboration across EPA research programs,              breadth of expertise and science leadership
  laboratories and centers. In a long-running              to address multifaceted environmental issues.
  partnership with the National Institute of               Engineering, environmental health, ecology,
  Environmental Health Sciences, EPA supports              computer science, and meteorology are just a
  university-based, multi-disciplinary research            few examples of the many scientific and tech-
  centers dedicated to children’s health6.                 nical fields represented. Multidisciplinary re-
  These centers have provided the 		                       search is encouraged so that scientists can
  foundational science for understanding                   work together across many different areas of
  environmental health impacts on children                 expertise. As science evolves, so do the areas
  and have contributed evidence supporting                 of expertise needed to maintain highly relevant
  policy decisions related to air pollution,               and outstanding research. EPA’s Office of Re-
  pesticides and endocrine-disrupting 		                   search and Development developed a work-
  chemicals.                                               force strategy to address the critical expertise
• Homeland security: Multiple agencies are                 gaps in the next three to five years and to serve
  involved in responding to environmental                  as a guide for future hiring decisions. Social
  disasters, including terrorist incidents. EPA            science is just one area of expertise needed
  regularly collaborates with other federal                for research planned in the next several years.

NIEHS/EPA Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers


Strategic Research                                      In addition, because of their Agency-wide
                                                        prominence, four key topic areas have been se-
Action Plans 2016–2019                                  lected for focused and active integration across
                                                        the six national programs: climate change,
EPA has developed six Strategic Research                children’s environmental health, nitrogen and
Action Plans, one for each of the national              co-pollutants, and environmental justice (see
research programs. The plans describe                   Figure 2). Each of these efforts is described in
the research vision, objectives, topics, and            a cross-cutting research roadmap led by one
expected accomplishments. Each explains                 of the research programs. The roadmaps de-
the programs’ efforts to collaborate with EPA           scribe ongoing research and also help inform
partners and stakeholders. Involving those              the national research programs’ strategic plan-
who rely on EPA research, from staff to senior          ning activities. EPA program and regional office
managers, in setting priorities and following           partners provide instrumental input that helps
research progress through to translation is vital       shape ORD’s investment in these cross-cutting
to program success and ultimate impact.                 topics. The research programs work together
                                                        to address additional important cross-cutting
Integrating across the six programs is a particu-       issues, such as community resilience and inte-
lar focus for the 2016–2019 plans. Many envi-           grating new data streams into risk assessment.
ronmental issues cut across the six programs.
ORD puts special emphasis on ensuring that              Highlights from the six Strategic Research
research on cross-cutting issues is coordinated         Action plans, including examples of research
and collaborative. Embracing such integration           planned for the years 2016–2019 and exam-
ensures that the work is designed to tackle the         ples of research collaboration on cross cutting
increasingly complex nature of environmental            issues, are summarized in the following pages.
challenges and threats.

                                                                           Figure 2. Integration
                                                                           across the six national
                                                                           research programs and
                                                                           four roadmap topics.

Air, Climate, and Energy                                   Research Challenges
                                                           We breathe a mixture of air pollutants.
The Air, Climate, and Energy (ACE) research pro-           Current scientific understanding of
gram builds upon 40 years of achievement in                environmental and health risks of air
air pollution research that has led to landmark            pollution is based on single pollutants.
outcomes—including visibly cleaner air, health-
ier communities, and longer life expectancies.             The effects of climate change on air, water
Looking forward, we understand that air quality            and ecosystems will vary by region and
                                                           locality. Helping communities prepare for
and climate are inextricably linked, and global
                                                           climate change requires scientific data
climate change is adversely affecting public               across a range of geographic scales, not
health and the environment in many areas of                currently available.
the country. Energy production and use have
major impacts on both air quality and climate              Energy choices have trade-offs, but
with conventional energy options generally                 the health and environmental risks
                                                           and benefits of new technologies and
representing the major source of air pollution
                                                           approaches are not well understood.
emissions, including greenhouse gases.
                                                           Social, behavioral, and economic factors
ACE research will directly advance EPA’s strate-           influence the effectiveness of air quality
gic goal to address climate change and improve             and climate policies, and methods are
air quality. The ACE program continues to fulfill          lacking to address all factors together.
Clean Air Act requirements by providing scien-
tific support to decision makers on individual air        engineers work collaboratively with those who
pollutants of concern. However, we all breathe            use and depend upon our research—EPA policy
mixtures of air and are not often exposed to air          makers, state, local and regional officials and
pollutants one at a time. As a result, ACE re-            external stakeholders—to ensure the ACE pro-
search is also focused on assessing impacts of            gram is responsive and relevant to the greatest
exposures to a combination of many pollutants             needs. By working together to articulate high-
in the air, analyzing approaches for preventing           est priority problems and research, the ACE
and reducing emissions of pollutants including            program is focused on three main objectives:
greenhouse gases, and helping communities,
                                                          1)   Assess Impacts
states, and regions respond to the impacts of
                                                          		   Develop and apply methods to assess the
changes in climate and air quality.
                                                          		   impacts and effects of air pollution
                                                          		   exposure and climate change at individual,
By addressing air, climate, and energy issues in
                                                          		   community, regional, and global scales.
an integrated way, the ACE research program
provides the scientific results and innovative            2)   Prevent and Reduce Emissions
technologies that are needed to take action on            		   Provide the science needed to develop and
climate change and improve air quality.                   		   evaluate approaches to prevent and
                                                          		   reduce harmful air emissions. The data
The ACE program has brought together scien-               		   and methods resulting from this research
tists from a broad range of disciplines including         		   can be used to analyze the full life cycle
atmospheric and climate science, air and water            		   impacts of new and existing technologies
quality, environmental health, exposure, ecol-            		   and assess the sustainability of various
ogy, economics, and more. These scientists and            		   energy choices.

3)    Respond to Changes in Climate and Air               2016–2019 ACE Strategic Research
		    Quality                                             Action Plan: Research Examples
		    Provide modeling and monitoring tools
		    and information to help government                  The ACE program encompasses research relat-
		    agencies and communities prepare for                ed to air quality monitoring, modeling, public
		    impacts to air, water, and land from 		             health, climate change and energy sustainabil-
		    climate change. While reducing                      ity. Examples of this research for 2016-2019 are
		    greenhouse gas emissions is a critical              described below.
		    part of minimizing future climate
		    change, it is also necessary to adapt to the        Next Generation Air Pollution Monitoring
		    environmental impacts caused by
                                                          Historically, approaches for monitoring air pol-
		    unavoidable changes in climate.
                                                          lution generally use expensive, complex, sta-
The ACE program will continue to provide di-              tionary equipment, which limits who collects
rect technical assistance to its EPA partners in          data, what data are collected and how data
the program offices and regions; provide re-              are accessed. This landscape is changing rap-
search needed for immediate policy or regu-               idly with the emergence of lower-cost, easy-to-
latory action; and anticipate and develop the             use, portable air pollution monitors (e.g., sen-
science needed for decisions in the coming de-            sors) that provide high-resolution data in near
cade. As the lead for the cross-cutting issue of          real time and may be used by state and local
climate change research, the ACE program                  agencies, research scientists, regulated facili-
works closely with scientists from other federal          ties, communities and individuals for a range of
programs and across EPA, including the other              different purposes. ORD collaborates with EPA
five research programs (see text box). EPA is one         programs and regions, states and federal part-
of 13 departments and agencies that contribute            ners on this research.
to the U.S. Global Change Research Program                Agency scientists will continue to evaluate and
(USGCRP)7, which coordinates federal climate              utilize versatile, next-generation air monitor-
change research. ACE research is of interest to           ing technologies in novel ways, such as mount-
scientists and environmental managers all over            ed to vehicles or applied along fence lines.
the world.

    Global Climate Change Research Roadmap
    EPA’s mission to safeguard the environment and protect human health puts the Agency at
    the forefront of federal efforts to mitigate and prepare for climate change impacts to air,
    water, land, ecosystems, and human health. Highlighting the unique role that EPA plays,
    the Climate Change Research Roadmap illustrates how EPA’s research will: improve the
    understanding of the interactions between climate change and the environment; evaluate
    the resulting impacts on human health and welfare; develop strategies to prepare for and
    respond to these impacts; and ensure that such responses promote sustainability and
    avoid further, unintended adverse impacts. The Roadmap illustrates the coordination and
    integration of research related to climate change across the six national research programs
    (ACE, CSS, HHRA, HSRP, SHC and SSWR), responding to the needs of EPA’s Office of Air
    and Radiation, Office of Water, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Office of
    Policy, Office of Children’s Health Protection and the EPA regional offices.


Working with the industrial community and                  EPA-supported Air, Climate, and Energy
other partners, they are providing spatial and             Research Centers
temporal data useful for assessing both air pol-           Through the highly-competitive Science to
lution source emissions and ambient air quality            Achieve Results (STAR) grants program, EPA will
around facilities and areas of high interest, such         fund the fourth-generation of air research cen-
as energy production and processing plants, in-            ters, now the Air, Climate, and Energy Research
dustrial facilities, agricultural operations, land-        Centers, a network of university-based, multi-
fills, brownfields and waste water treatment               disciplinary consortia. Center researchers are
operations.                                                focusing on the challenges faced by different
                                                           regions of the country in achieving and sustain-
                                                           ing air quality as climate change continues. Lo-
                                                           cal conditions can be highly variable, including
                                                           differences in emission sources, topography,
                                                           climate, meteorology, demographics, and so-
                                                           cioeconomic and cultural patterns. Research-
                                                           ers are improving understanding of how these
                                                           social, economic, environmental and other fac-
                                                           tors affect regional differences in the mix and
                                                           magnitude of air pollution. Results will inform
                                                           policy makers on the development of innova-
                                                           tive approaches that enhance the effectiveness
EPA researchers are advancing next generation              of air pollution control strategies and achieve
mobile air quality monitors.
                                                           the greatest public health benefits.

                                                           Helping to Protect Local Air Quality in a
                                                           Changing Climate
                                                           As part of their efforts to protect public health,
                                                           states across the nation rely on EPA’s Commu-
                                                           nity Multi-scale Air Quality Model (CMAQ) to
                                                           help predict changes to air quality as a result of
                                                           proposed actions to meet clean air standards.
                                                           But while that system has proved invaluable
                                                           for more than a decade, a new challenge has
                                                           emerged: climate change. EPA modelers are
                                                           developing new frameworks for incorporating
EPA researchers designed and installed solar-
powered, community-based air monitoring systems            critical data across multiple scales, down-scal-
(“Village Green Benches”) to explore real-world            ing global climate meteorological projections to
applications of next-generation air monitors,              expand CMAQ’s powerful capabilities for calcu-
and develop new approaches for harnessing the              lating local and regional air quality projections.
proliferation of new data they are generating.             The work will support air quality managers who
                                                           must consider how changes in climate would af-
                                                           fect their state efforts to achieve clean air.

Public-Private Research Partnership: Health
Effects of Air Pollution
Through a long-term partnership, EPA and the
motor vehicle industry jointly fund the Health
Effects Institute, which sponsors independent,
peer-reviewed research on the health impacts
of motor vehicle emissions. For 2015-2020, the
Institute is focusing on research to inform deci-
sions on air quality and on climate-driven tech-
nology. The program has four core program ele-            EPA and the Health Effects Institute are developing
ments: (1) addressing the continuing challenges           the next generation of tools and scientific
of multipollutant science; (2) accountability and         information to examine the combined effects of
transparency; (3) assessing emerging fuels and            air pollution on human health and the relationship
                                                          between air quality and climate change.
technologies; and (4) global health.

                                                           Research Challenges
Safe and Sustainable
Water Resources                                            Excess levels of nutrients and sediment
                                                           remain the Nation’s largest contributor to
                                                           water-quality deterioration. The rate at which
Water is one of our Nation’s most precious re-             water bodies are newly listed for water-
sources. The United States uses about 400 bil-             quality impairment exceeds the pace that
lion gallons of water each day. We depend upon             restored waters are removed from the list.
it for our lives and our livelihoods, for healthy          Surplus nutrients cause widespread damage
ecosystems and a robust economy. Yet a host                to aquatic ecosystems and impact public
of challenges threaten the safety and sustain-
ability of our water resources, including biologi-         Sustainability of groundwater, with regard to
cal and chemical contaminants, aging water-                drawdown, recharge, and increasing potential
system infrastructure, demands of the energy,              of contamination, is a growing concern.
agriculture and manufacturing sectors, popula-             Current drinking water and water treatment
tion change, climate change, extreme weather               systems are inadequate to meet future
events and homeland security threats.                      needs.

To address these challenges, EPA’s Safe and Sus-           Many water systems are outdated and
tainable Water Resources (SSWR) research pro-              inefficient, losing trillions of gallons of
                                                           treated water each year because of pipe
gram is using an integrated, systems approach
                                                           leaks and breaks.
to develop scientific and technological solutions
to protect human health and to protect and re-             Stormwater overflows in combined sewer
store watersheds and aquatic ecosystems.                   systems send billions of gallons of untreated
                                                           sewage into lakes and rivers.
The research directly advances EPA’s strategic
                                                           Changes in population, land use, climate and
goal “Protecting America’s Waters” and pro-
                                                           extreme events will affect water resources
vides scientific and technical support to meet             and aquatic ecosystems.

Agency obligations enforcing key legislative             4)   Translate Research into Real-world
mandates, including the Clean Water Act and              		   Solutions
the Safe Drinking Water Act.                             		   Move results out of the lab and into
                                                         		   the hands of end users who can use those
SSWR scientists have worked closely with part-           		   applications to sustainably manage water
ners from EPA programs and regional offices, as          		   resources and infrastructure.
well as federal and state agencies, public and
private stakeholders and the scientific commu-           As the lead for the cross-cutting issue of nitro-
nity to identify research priorities. Four main          gen and co-pollutants research, the SSWR pro-
objectives guide the SSWR research program:              gram works closely with scientists from other
                                                         research programs, EPA program and regional
1)   Address Complex Chemical and Microbial              offices and other federal agencies (see text
		   Pollutants                                          box).
		   Develop new methods for detecting,
		   quantifying, monitoring, and treating
		   complex chemical and microbial 		                    Nitrogen and Co-pollutants
		   pollutants. This research focuses on new             Research Roadmap
		   and emerging contaminants that threaten              Excess nutrients in water are causing
		   human health and aquatic ecosystems,                 widespread damage to aquatic systems
		   providing scientific and engineering 		              and impacting public health. Significant,
		   guidance to strengthen drinking water and            sustainable reductions in nutrients must be
		   water quality standards.                             economically efficient, socially acceptable,
                                                          environmentally sound, adaptable to climate
2)   Transform the Concept of ‘Waste’ to                  change, land-use and demographic changes,
		   ‘Resource’                                           and permanent. These requirements can be
		   Develop innovative water treatment                   met only through integrated research that
		   technologies and green infrastructure                informs the systematic collective, adaptive
		   techniques to tap current streams of                 management of nutrients across air, land,
		   wastewater for resources. Through 		                 and water. To achieve that, SSWR is leading
		   this research, stormwater runoff as                  a collaboration on nitrogen and co-pollutants
		   well as wastewater from homes and                    research across multiple media and spatial
                                                          scales. The Nitrogen and Co-pollutant
		   industries has the potential to become a
                                                          Roadmap is a collaboration among ORD’s
		   source for certain, closely defined
                                                          research programs (ACE, HHRA, SHC, and
		   (“fit-for-purpose”) water use, and as a              SSWR), EPA’s Office of Water, EPA’s Office
		   source for recovering energy, nutrients,             of Air and Radiation, and EPA’s Regional
		   metals and other valuable substances.                Offices. The roadmap provides a cross-media,
                                                          integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to
3)   Quantify the Benefits of Water Quality               sustainably manage reactive nitrogen and co-
		   Clean water and healthy ecosystems                   pollutant (in particular phosphorus, but also
		   provide many services that are currently             sulfur, sediments) loadings to air, surface
		   undervalued. By developing models and                and ground water to reduce adverse impacts
		   tools to estimate the economic benefits of           on the environment and human health.
		   water-quality improvements, this research
		   will aid in the protection or restoration of
		   water quality.

2016–2019 SSWR Strategic                                    Green Infrastructure in Communities
Research Action Plan: Research                              For many cities, stormwater management re-
Examples                                                    mains one of the greatest challenges to meeting
                                                            water quality standards. Local communities can
SSWR research focuses on high-priority, cur-                realize cost savings and many other benefits by
rent and long-term water resource challenges                using green infrastructure—natural and engi-
identified in partnership with EPA program and              neered techniques that increase the capacity of
regional office partners and other partners and             local watersheds to absorb stormwater runoff
stakeholders. Examples of research for 2016-19              and seasonal snow and ice melt. EPA research-
are described below.                                        ers are developing a green infrastructure classi-
                                                            fication framework, and advancing research to
Addressing Harmful Algal Blooms                             test and refine sophisticated tools, models, and
                                                            screens that incorporate multiple community-
Human activities appear to be increasing the
                                                            based parameters, including the evaluation of
frequency of harmful algal blooms — the rapid
                                                            financial strategies and economic costs. Results
overgrowth of certain types of toxin-contain-
                                                            will help communities effectively use innovative
ing algae and cyanobacteria. The proliferation
                                                            green infrastructure techniques to meet their
of such organisms can pose risks to human
                                                            goals for minimizing stormwater discharge and
health by contaminating recreational waters
                                                            mitigating combined sewer overflow events.
and drinking water supplies. EPA researchers
                                                            Green infrastructure can potentially improve
are developing predictive capabilities, analyti-
                                                            water quality, while providing other benefits
cal methods, and remote sensing techniques
                                                            such as additional green space in urban settings
to detect blooms. EPA works with partners at
                                                            and recharging ground water supplies.
NASA, NOAA and USGS to use data collected
by satellites. That and other innovative work
will provide stakeholders and decision makers
with improved scientific information and tools
to effectively assess and manage harmful algal
blooms and associated toxicity events.

                                                            Green roofs can be used effectively to reduce
                                                            stormwater runoff from commercial, industrial, and
                                                            residential buildings.

                                                            Reducing Risks from Water Treatment
                                                            Disinfection By-products
                                                            The presence and potential health effects of
NASA satellite image of harmful algal bloom striking        by-products from chemical water treatment,
Lake Erie in the summer of 2014, resulting in a             known as disinfection by-products, are a con-
“do not drink” water advisory for the entire City of        cern for water treatment facilities and public
Toledo, OH.                                                 health officials. EPA researchers are tapping

recent technical advances in integrated toxico-               Quantifying National Water Quality Benefits
logical and chemical characterization studies                 The long-term sustainability of water quan-
(see more in the Chemical Safety for Sustain-                 tity and quality depends on better assessing
ability section of this document) to advance                  the value of clean, abundant water that con-
the understanding of the joint impacts of initial             tributes to human health, recreation, food
source water quality and the choice of disinfec-              production and other environmental services.
tion techniques and technologies. Results will                Without that understanding, the degradation
advance water treatment techniques and bet-                   of water quality due to chemical and microbial
ter protect public health.                                    contaminants, including nutrients, will con-
                                                              tinue to outpace water quality improvements.
                                                              ORD and EPA policy partners are advancing
                                                              national water quality benefit-cost analyses
                                                              and modeling tools that will build the capacity
                                                              for estimating the economic benefits of water
                                                              quality improvements. These resources include
                                                              a new generation of studies that will identify
                                                              market and non-market values associated with
                                                              water quality, and will identify useful metrics
                                                              for linking water quality models to economic
EPA researchers are helping water quality treatment
facilities reduce risks from disinfection by-products.

Sustainable and                                                Research Challenges

Healthy Communities                                            Communities need information to make
                                                               decisions on infrastructure, land use,
                                                               transportation, and waste management that
How do communities meet their day-to-day
                                                               meet short-term priorities while minimizing
needs without compromising the ability of                      impacts to, and maximizing benefits for
their children and future generations to one                   long-term public health and community
day meet their own? And more specifically, how                 prosperity.
can we take action to protect our shared envi-
ronment—air, water, land, and ecosystems—in                    The complex and dynamic interactions of
                                                               social, economic, and environmental trade-
ways that are economically viable, beneficial to
                                                               offs are not well understood, nor incorporated
human health and well-being, and socially just?                into usable, accessible tools and models.

The Sustainable and Healthy Communities                        Information is limited on linkages between
(SHC) research program is developing the                       human health and well-being, ecosystems,
knowledge, data, and tools to answer those                     local economies, and disproportionate
questions. The program is focused on providing                 environmental burden.
scientifically sound information to EPA program
and regional offices and U.S. communities to

inform decisions that produce more sustain-                  Collectively, the SHC research program delivers
able outcomes for our environment, society,                  information and tools needed to support and
and economy.                                                 inform decisions that advance outcomes that
                                                             sustain a healthy environment, society, and
The SHC program is strongly aligned with ad-                 economy. Four broad research objectives guide
vancing EPA’s strategic goal, “Cleaning Up                   that work:
Communities and Advancing Sustainable De-
velopment,” and the cross-agency strategies                  1)   Support Community Decisions
of “Working Toward a Sustainable Future”                     		   Assist decision makers through the
and “Working to Make a Visible Difference in                 		   development of information, methods and
Communities.” The program is also helping                    		   tools incorporating decision science,
the Agency implement key recommendations                     		   citizen science, spatial analysis, cause-
made by the National Research Council (NRC)                  		   and-effect modeling, and sustainability
in its reports Sustainability and the US EPA and             		   assessments. These resources help
Sustainability for the Nation8. The NRC explicitly           		   decision makers frame different options,
recommends adopting a sustainability frame-                  		   increase community-engagement, and
work that requires a comprehensive approach                  		   identify potential solutions that promote a
for incorporating sustainability into decisions              		   more sustainable future.
and actions.                                                 2)   Develop Tools and Metrics to Identify,
                                                             		   Monitor, and Track the Links between
Traditional methods for evaluating environ-
                                                             		   Human Well-being and the Environment
mental impacts typically focus on one pollut-
                                                             		   Explore ecosystem services, natural and
ant or one type of activity. To better evaluate
                                                             		   built environments, and the interactions
effects of policies or programs, SHC focuses on
                                                             		   of chemical and nonchemical
incorporating environmental science into more
                                                             		   environmental factors to better
holistic approaches (such as health impact as-
                                                             		   understand how environmental conditions
sessment) that consider the interaction of envi-
                                                             		   provide a foundation for human well-
ronmental, social and economic factors on the
                                                             		   being. SHC researchers and their partners
health of a population. SHC is partnering with
                                                             		   are developing metrics, including
EPA regional offices and communities to apply
                                                             		   indicators and indices (combinations of
these methods to help solve complex commu-                   		   indicators), that communities can use to
nity issues.                                                 		   better assess and predict the
                                                             		   environmental, public health, and
SHC research is focused on many of our na-
                                                             		   economic implications of decision
tion’s most pressing problems, including: con-
                                                             		   alternatives. A particular emphasis is
taminated sites and revitalizing communities,
                                                             		   on identifying the links between the
oil spill response and clean up, and shifting the
                                                             		   environment and disproportionate impacts
paradigm from disposal of waste to reuse of
                                                             		   on vulnerable groups and lifestages.
materials and resource management.

National Research Council (2011). Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. National Academies Press: Washington, DC.

National Research Council (2013). Sustainability for the Nation. National Academies Press: Washington, DC.

3)   Research and Technical Support for                  Environmental Justice
		   Environmental Clean Up, Mitigation, and             Research Roadmap
		   Restoration, and for Advancing
		   Sustainable Development                             EPA has long recognized that environmental
                                                         risks are often greater for low income and
		   Help community stakeholders improve
                                                         minority communities. The impacts on
		   the efficiency and effectiveness of
                                                         communities at higher risk are influenced not
		   addressing contaminated sediments,                  only by differential exposures due to close
		   land, and ground water, and resultant               proximity to sources of harmful chemicals,
		   vapor intrusion. The program also provides          but also by interactions with non-chemical
		   and evaluates standards, products, data,            stressors that may impact effects posed by
		   and approaches to prevent, characterize,            exposures to environmental contaminants.
		   and clean up environmental releases of              Disproportionate impacts can also arise
		   petroleum and other fuel products. 		               from enhanced susceptibilities, as well as
		   SHC methods, models, tools, and data are            from the lack of sufficient health services
		   designed to enhance sustainable materials           or benefits. Communities may suffer
		   management.                                         from inadequate physical and economic
                                                         infrastructures, such as poor housing,
4)   Develop and Apply a Sustainability 		               lack of transportation, and inadequate
		   Assessment and Management Toolbox                   water systems. SHC is the lead on the
		   Provide community stakeholders with a               Environmental Justice Research roadmap to
		   suite of tools that, when used                      promote sustainable, healthy communities
		   together, produce a full accounting that            by providing state-of-the-science tools and
                                                         information that can be used to characterize
		   links environmental decisions with human
                                                         and mitigate environmental and health
		   well-being. The “Sustainability Toolbox”
                                                         inequities. The program will collaborate
		   can be used to identify and characterize            with the other programs in ORD (ACE,
		   the costs, benefits, and potential tradeoffs        HHRA, SSWR, HSRP and CSS) and EPA
		   of different decisions as they relate to            partners, including the Office of Solid Waste
		   social (including public health), economic,         and Emergency Response, the Office of
		   and environmental outcomes.                         Environmental Justice, and the Office of
                                                         Children’s Health Protection, on research to
As the lead for developing the cross-cutting             advance EPA’s EJ 2020 Action Agenda.
roadmap for environmental justice research,
the SHC program works closely with EPA’s Of-
fice of Environmental Justice and the five other
national research programs (see text box).

2016–2019 SHC Strategic Research                                 EPA researchers are developing a suite
Action Plan: Research Examples                                   of environmental indicators to charac-
                                                                 terize current conditions across a host
SHC is developing information and tools to offer                 of environmental media, particularly as they
solutions to community-based decision makers                     connect to human well-being. For example,
within and outside the Agency. Examples of re-                   the indices and indexes inform EPA’s Report on
search planned for the 2016-19 timeframe are                     the Environment9, an easily accessible, on-line
described below.                                                 resource that presents the best available indi-
                                                                 cators of national trends in environmental and
Making the Connection: Developing                                human health conditions. Other searchable
Environmental Indicators and Indices to                          databases allow users to find the appropriate
Inform Decision Making and Track Progress                        metrics for different decision contexts, such as
Local communities face multiple and sometimes                    land use, materials management, community
conflicting priorities when it comes to balanc-                  revitalization, or commercial, residential, or
ing immediate goals with long-term needs and                     transportation planning.
stability. To help them meet those challenges,

              Indicators of national environmental and human health trends are readily accessible from
              EPA’s Report on the Environment10.

       EPA’s Report on the Environment,

Helping Communities Identify the Benefits of               Helping Address Contaminated Sites
Ecosystems                                                 SHC plays a major role in advancing techniques
An important goal of the SHC research pro-                 and technologies to help communities and oth-
gram is to help community stakeholders and                 ers remediate and rehabilitate Superfund and
national decision makers assess, and predict               other contaminated sites, including address-
effects due to the interactions between people             ing challenges sparked by hazardous materials
and the natural environment. EPA is conduct-               reaching groundwater, which can lead to con-
ing research to identify the benefits that local           tamination of drinking water and vapor intru-
communities derive from the natural environ-               sion—when volatile organic compounds and
ment, “community-based ecosystem goods                     other gases migrate from underlying water and
and services.” For example, natural wetlands               soil into the air of homes and other buildings.
help purify water and provide flood control,               Examples of this work include improving the ap-
but these benefits are hard to quantify. There             plication and interpretation of high-resolution
are a whole host of resources like wetlands                groundwater characterization technologies, ad-
that provide important goods and services that             vancing the long-term evaluation of the use of
are often undervalued. The research includes               permeable reactive barriers for the treatment
the identification and inventory of ecosystem              of groundwater contamination, novel vapor
goods and services at multiple geographic                  intrusion studies using real-time observations
scales, approaches communities can use to                  and modeling scenarios, and the continued
measure those benefits, and the development                operation of three technical support centers
of a library of ecological production models.              focused on site characterization and monitor-
Researchers are also advancing the understand-             ing, engineering and groundwater issues at
ing of how climate change and other major driv-            contaminated sites.
ers and stressors affect the production, delivery,
and benefits of ecosystem goods and services.

                                                           EPA is providing innovative science solutions for
                                                           contaminated sites, while restoring and protecting
                                                           the environment and public health from exposure to
                                                           environmental chemicals and toxins.
EPA led a multi-agency collaboration on the first-
ever report on wetland ecological condition as part
of its National Aquatic Resources Surveys.

Supporting EPA Regional Science Needs                     EPA’s EnviroAtlas: A Mapping Tool to Assess
SHC sponsors collaborative projects in com-               the Benefits of Nature
munities across the country, taking advantage             EPA researchers are expanding EnviroAtlas, a
of unique opportunities to apply new research             collection of interactive tools and resources
tools, gaining immediate feedback, and improv-            that allow users to explore and visualize the
ing the design and delivery of research results           many benefits people receive from nature in
as they are used more widely to make a differ-            ways that are immediately applicable to de-
ence in communities. SHC’s Regional Sustain-              cision-making and planning. The dynamic re-
able Environmental Sciences Research program              source combines multiple ecosystem-based
unites problem-solvers from the Office of Re-             data sets, sophisticated geographic information
search and Development directly with experts              systems, and visualization tools to present fine-
from each of the Agency’s ten regional offices            scaled, multilayered maps and other resources
located across the country.                               that people can download and use to inform
                                                          decisions to keep their communities healthy
Examples of regional projects include: Engag-             and resilient. Development plans for EnviroAt-
ing Communities and Citizen Science to Assess             las extend out to 2017, incorporating updates,
and Address Children’s Environmental Health               additional data, analytical tools, and increased
from Transit and Air Pollution; Improving Pub-            functionality as they become available.
lic Health through Urban and Roadside Vegeta-
tion; and Using Ecosystem Services Assessment
and Health Impact Assessments as Part of a
Stakeholder-driven Approach to Storm Recov-
ery: Long Island Case Study.

Using EnviroAtlas, many types of users can access, view, and analyze diverse information to better understand
how various decisions can affect an array of ecological and human health outcomes.

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