Environment Briefs for October 2017

UMass chemical engineers develop green, non-toxic nanofiber fabrics

AMHERST — Chemical engineers Jessica Schiffman and Sarah Perry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed nanofiber fabrics that are green and non-toxic that can be used in medical, environmental, personal care and food packaging applications. The research is supported by a three-year, $338,180 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The existing method for making nanofibers is based on a process known as “electrospinning,” where an electrical force is used to “draw” or pull charged threads of polymer solutions into solid nanoscale fibers that cluster to form a soft, flexible fabric. This well-known method has been demonstrated to form fibers from more than 100 different polymers.

However, the use of such nanofiber fabrics is sharply limited because of the potential for residual toxic solvents or chemicals in the final product. By using this new non-toxic, environmentally friendly approach, Perry and Schiffman say they will vastly expand the potential uses for the fabrics.

“This is a fundamental game-changer,” Schiffman says. Perry adds that the new method for creating the nanofibers “opens whole new fields of research and applications.”

Amherst to hold Zero Waste launch event

AMHERST — A public education campaign to reduce waste and increase recycling in Amherst is scheduled to launch at a Friday event, and the public is invited.

The launch event is to take place at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, 845 West. St. in South Amherst, from 7-9 p.m., following refreshments and a tour of the center from 6-7 p.m.

The town joined together with the Hitchcock Center, the Amherst League of Women Voters, and Sustaining Amherst to promote awareness of the environmental effects of overconsumption and improper handling of planetary resources, share information about how to minimize waste, convey information about present waste management efforts in town, solicit ideas on how to improve waste management practices in the community, and invite public participation in the Zero Waste Amherst public education campaign.

“It is important that we work together to find ways to reduce our waste for the long term good of the Town and the planet,” said Stephanie Ciccarello, Amherst’s sustainability coordinator.

The format for the evening includes brief presentations, group discussions and a short film. Participants will be asked how to best serve the goals of reducing waste in Amherst.

“Zero Waste communities in the U.S. and worldwide have dramatically reduced unnecessary consumption and the wasting of valuable resources,” said John Root, chairman of the town’s Recycling and Refuse Management Committee. “By aiming high, Amherst can also make significant progress towards reaching these goals. We welcome your ideas and energy!”

The event is free and open to the public. For information, please contact the Hitchcock Center for the Environment at 256-6006 or Cynthia Brubaker at 253-6679, or email the Recycling and Refuse Management Committee at rrmc@amherstma.gov.

New landscape architect at environmental firm

AMHERST — The Amherst office of SWCA Environmental Consultants is pleased to announce that Tony Somers has joined the company as a registered landscape architect and professional planner. He received his master’s degree in landscape architecture and his graduate certificate in natural resources from Virginia Tech, and his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Radford University. He has been working in consulting since 2010 for both public and private clients.

Somers specializes in the design and implementation of urban pocket parks, stream corridor restoration, wetland restoration, commercial campus development, municipal open space improvements and green infrastructure guidelines. As a professional planner, his expertise in land use development, environmental analysis, urban planning and community redevelopment compliments his design proficiency.

SWCA, formerly New England Environmental, is a full-service environmental consulting firm with over three decades of extensive in-house expertise in environmental assessment, restoration, and management. Somers joins 30 other professional staff in SWCA’s office in Amherst, and 850 staff nationwide. He can be reached at our Amherst office at 413-256-0202 or at tony.somers@swca.com.

AG to sue to protect power plant emissions rule

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is pledging to sue the Trump administration over its move to kill an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Healey, a Democrat, said the decision violates the law and imperils the future of the planet.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Monday he would be issuing a new set of rules overriding the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s drive to curb global climate change.

Healey said it’s “essential that the EPA address our country’s largest source of carbon pollution — existing fossil fuel-burning power plants — to mitigate climate change.”

She said Massachusetts fought for years to help put the rule in place.

Healey said Massachusetts, with its partners, will be suing to protect the plan.

People in 2 N.H. towns show elevated levels of dangerous chemical

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Public water customers in two New Hampshire towns near a plastics plant have been exposed to a potentially cancer-causing chemical at higher levels than the general U.S. population, but at lower levels than in exposed communities in New York and Vermont, health officials said Tuesday.

The state Department of Health and Human Services announced the findings of its assessment in Merrimack and Bedford. The state analyzed blood samples from 217 people to measure exposure to a chemical used in coatings, such as Teflon, known as PFOA.

The results show participants were exposed the chemical at levels similar to private well owners in southern New Hampshire near the Saint-Gobain Plastics plant in Merrimack.

Author: Going Green

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