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Texas Town Gets out the Arsenic with Help from USDA

Anthony Arredondo takes a water sample at the Freer Water Control and Improvement District Arsenic Removal System Site in Freer, TX on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Anthony Arredondo takes a water sample at the Freer Water Control and Improvement District Arsenic Removal System Site in Freer, TX on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Arsenic is poisonous. It is also just about everywhere, but it is especially prevalent in the groundwater of the Southwest. In the economically challenged City of Freer, Texas, citizens rely on the Freer Water Control and Improvement District (FWCID) to draw water from the underground Catahoula aquifer and deliver safe drinking water. Naturally occurring arsenic levels have remained constant in the region for more than a century. Then, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new national standards took effect and the City of Freer turned to FWCID to take action.

Aided by financial assistance from the USDA Water and Environmental Program, the FWCID has completed a two-phase approach to meeting the district’s water supply and public safety needs. FWCID first received USDA funding to drill two new water wells, each rated at 167 gallons per minute (now a total of eight wells); 13,600 feet of well collection lines; and 15,000 linear feet of well control line to remotely control the wells, and the delivery of raw water from the well site’s million-gallon holding tank to the new Arsenic Removal System (Phase II). Previously, water flow was manually controlled by FWCID personnel and gravity fed from the well facility to its customers. Read more »

Building Swap Financed by USDA Supports Arts, Education Goals

During a tour of the new home of Sussex Academy (l-r) USDA Rural Development Community Program Director Denise MacLeish, USDA Director of Legislative and Public Affairs David Sandretti, rising freshman Cohen Davis, U.S. Senator Tom Carper, rising eight grader Elise Conlin, Acting Delaware/Maryland State Director Kathy Beisner, and Loan Specialist Angela Tilghman stand with Sussex Academy’s new logo. USDA Photo.

During a tour of the new home of Sussex Academy (l-r) USDA Rural Development Community Program Director Denise MacLeish, USDA Director of Legislative and Public Affairs David Sandretti, rising freshman Cohen Davis, U.S. Senator Tom Carper, rising eight grader Elise Conlin, Acting Delaware/Maryland State Director Kathy Beisner, and Loan Specialist Angela Tilghman stand with Sussex Academy’s new logo. USDA Photo.

Sussex County, Delaware’s only charter school, the former Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences middle school, is being re-named “Sussex Academy” as it expands to include a high school.  But unlike most expansion projects, the academy is swapping its old building for an existing building that meets its needs, and it is doing it with help from USDA.

The swap was highlighted recently at an event attended by USDA Rural Development, school officials, and U.S. Senator Tom Carper. Read more »

Renewable Energy on Farms Study Released – First to Look at Role of State-Level Policies

USDA has published a study examining states’ adoption rates of distributed generation for solar and wind energy on U.S. farms. The results show that states with higher energy prices, more organic acres per farm, and more Internet connectivity adopt renewable electricity at higher rates.  For solar systems, full-farm ownership and solar resources were also significant factors.  Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) targets were found to increase state level renewable electricity adoption at the distributed-generation scale while electric cooperative prevalence in the state was found to have a negative relationship to renewable electricity adoption share. Read more »

Black Bear Cubs Find Temporary Home at APHIS Wildlife Research Facility

For the first time in its 40-year history, the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) National Wildlife Research Center’s (NWRC) field station in Millville, UT, is home to more than just coyotes.  Recently, two orphaned black bear cubs arrived at the facility as part of a collaborative effort with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (Division) to rehabilitate the cubs.

It’s not uncommon for the Division to take in orphaned bears in hopes of rehabilitating them and releasing them back into the wild.  However, it can be difficult to find an appropriate facility to house bears. Read more »

Providing Water for Cattle on the Navajo Nation

Two chapters of the Navajo Nation in Utah are getting new livestock wells, thanks to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Members of the Teec Nos Pos and Red Mesa Chapters use wells drilled deep into the desert floor to water their 1,000 or so cattle. (A chapter is both a rural community and a unit of local government in the Navajo Nation.) But in the 2000s, the Navajo Nation Water Code Administration found, through testing, that these wells had high levels of arsenic, uranium and E. coli, rendering them non-potable for both humans and livestock. Read more »

The Spicy Story of Green Chiles

Hatch green chiles can be used in everything from potato salad to lemonade.

Hatch green chiles can be used in everything from potato salad to lemonade.

It’s no secret I love New Mexican grown green chiles.  So does Melissa’s World Variety Produce in Los Angeles, California. So much so, that during a recent trip to California, I attended a spicy workshop and reception hosted by Melissa’s, featuring New Mexican Hatch green chiles.

“When I grew up, I thought there was only one kind of chile: we just called them green.” says corporate chef Rodriguez who grew up in El Paso, Texas.

Southwesterners like Ida and I may just call them “greens”. However, the rest of the country is quickly getting to know these meaty, flavorful Hatch green chiles, named after Hatch, New Mexico, epicenter of state’s chile growing region. Read more »