Department emphasizing water quality efforts on Earth Day's 40th anniversary
Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are marking the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by participating in a range of events and acts of service across the nation. More than 100 activities ranging from stream cleanup to tree planting events have been organized."Although there are still many serious challenges, we have made great strides since in improving the environment since the first Earth Day in 1970, and USDA is working to continue that progress every day," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This Earth Day, we are focusing on USDA's efforts to improve water quality across the nation, not only through the funding we provide for water system improvement projects and the partnerships we have with producers to help implement conservation practices, but also by taking individual action to protect and restore the environment at events around the country."At USDA headquarters on the National Mall, 17 USDA agencies and offices plan to hold a second annual Earth Day festival in the People's Garden. This festival is open to members of the public to educate them about the role USDA plays in improving water quality and water conservation.Ann Mills, USDA deputy undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, will join Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and the Chester County Conservation District to highlight the efforts of the farming community and partners to conserve the land and water that sustains Pennsylvania's leading agriculture industries.The Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Ohio's conservation partners are planning a "Celebration of Conservation Success" in Ohio, and employees of the Iowa FSA in Des Moines are planting a People's Garden.The Forest Service is planning about 50 events across the country, from stream and river cleanups to watershed restoration projects. Rural Development is planning more than 40 activities, led by Undersecretary Dallas Tonsager, who will be in Woodland Park, Colo., to participate in an event marking the use of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve drinking water quality in a subdivision. Deputy Undersecretary Victor Vasquez will represent the department in Cochiti Pueblo, N.M., at a dedication ceremony for a new water system. Deputy Undersecretary Cheryl Cook will travel to Yerington, Nev., where USDA has worked with the Yerington Paiute Tribe, the Indian Health Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to construct a water project that reduces the amount of arsenic and uranium in the water system.On April 23, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will attend a groundbreaking ceremony in Delaware, marking the start of construction of a project funded in part by the Recovery Act to modernize water quality and public sanitation services in Sussex County through the upgrading of the Inland Bays Wastewater Treatment Facility.