Friday, December 07, 2012

Can gray water keep landscapes green?

UVALDE – With water resources throughout Texas becoming scarcer, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research ornamental horticulturist is working with others to determine the feasibility of using gray water to irrigate home landscapes.

"There has been interest in and discussion about the possible use of gray water for irrigating home landscapes, but so far little formal research has been done to validate its practicality," said Dr. Raul Cabrera, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research Center in Uvalde.

Cabrera said gray water is essentially "soapy" water left after tap water has been run through a washing machine or used in a bathtub, bathroom sink or shower and does not contain serious contaminants.

He said while it is difficult to precisely estimate the statewide potential for water savings through the use of gray water and application of the technology needed, it may reduce household landscape water use by up to 50 percent, depending on the size, type of landscape plants used and geographical location.

"The average household uses as much as 50-60 percent of its water consumption for the landscape – grass, ornamental plants, trees, etc.," he said. "Considering that the average family of four produces about 90 gallons of gray water per day, if this was used to irrigate a landscape, it could represent a significant water savings."

Cabrera said this would be especially true for a large city such as nearby San Antonio, which has more than 1.3 million people in its metropolitan area.

"Implementing the use of gray water for landscape irrigation across the state could mean a tremendous water savings in terms of acre-feet of water, contributing to the water use and conservation goals of the recently released 2012 Water Plan," Cabrera said.

Using gray water is one of the easiest ways to reduce the need for potable water typically used in a home landscape, said Dr. Calvin Finch, director of the Water Conservation and Technology Center in San Antonio, which is administered by the Texas Water Resources Institute, part of the Texas A&M University System. The institute is participating in the gray water research, as well as providing funding.

Finch said the Texas 2012 Water Plan identifies more than 500 specific activities that, if implemented, would help meet the state's future water needs.

"One of the low-hanging fruit projects that is often overlooked is use of gray water from households," he said. "Research results indicate that with minimum precautions water from our showers, bathroom sinks and clothes washers could be used to meet up to 10-15 percent of our overall landscape water needs."

Gray water differs from reclaimed water in that it is not captured water from sewer drainage or storm-water systems and then run through a waste-water treatment facility, Cabrera said.

"Reclaimed or 'purple-line' water is used for irrigation by some large-acreage operations such as golf courses, sports fields and large businesses," Cabrera said. "But gray water is just potable water that has been used for fairly benign household activities and could be reused immediately or stored and used soon after its initial use.

"It is also not what is referred to as 'black' water, which is used water from a toilet or the kitchen sink, both of which have a higher potential for containing bacteria and other organisms considered hazardous for human health. In this regard, gray water poses a minimal risk, particularly if we look primarily at water generated from clothes-washing machines."

He said some southwestern U.S. states, including parts of Texas, already allow for the use of gray water under certain restrictions, such as irrigation through delivery by flooding, subsurface or drip irrigation.

"While gray water has little potential for containing hazardous organisms, such as coliform bacteria, these irrigation distribution methods are preferred to spraying in order to further ensure safety," he said.

Cabrera said collaborating entities working to evaluate the viability of gray water use include AgriLife Research, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Water Resources Institute, Water Conservation and Technology Center and Texas Center for Applied Technology.

"Here at the Uvalde AgriLife center, we will be focusing primarily on evaluating the efficacy of gray water use on ornamental plants," he said. "We will establish a display plot of conventional and water-use-efficient ornamental plants that will simulate a typical Texas landscape, so we can evaluate the short-term and long-term effects of gray water on these plants and their surrounding soil."

Cabrera said one concern about using gray water on home landscapes is possible salt content.

"Some detergents may have a high salt content in the form of sodium, chloride or boron, which could potentially 'burn' a plant," he said. "Part of our research here will involve determining the salinity and specific constituents found in gray water and their effect on plants, plus determining the efficacy and function of irrigation systems."

He said there is also the concern that some of the constituents in soapy water might plug drip irrigation systems, thus requiring additional and periodic care and maintenance.

"Additional research will address how variations in water quality, such as soft vs. hard water, may affect the salt content and chemical constitution of the produced gray water and how it affects plant growth and quality" he said.

He said the Texas Center for Applied Technology, part of Texas A&M Engineering, would "evaluate the plumbing and delivery technology needed to retrofit a household" so gray water could be used to irrigate a home landscape.

"They will evaluate the routing and, if allowed, the possible capture and short-term containment, as well as any filtration needed along with the means by which it can be delivered to the landscape," he said.

He added if essential aspects of the initial research are positive, additional involvement might include microbiologists and health officials to address any perceived health issues or concerns.

"If the totality of the research validates the use of gray water, AgriLife Extension personnel would provide educational outreach to inform water management entities and the public about its potential utilization and the water savings it could represent at the local and statewide levels," Cabrera said.

Initial gray water testing and evaluation will take from nine months to a year, he noted.

"We hope the results will support the launching and development of a statewide initiative to conserve water resources that will involve many additional partners," Cabrera said

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

EU greenhouse gases in 2011

EU greenhouse gases in 2011: more countries on track to meet Kyoto targets, emissions fall 2.5 %


Emissions of greenhouse gases in the European Union (EU) fell on average by 2.5 % from 2010 to 2011, although several countries increased emissions. Almost all European countries are individually on track towards their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol compared to last year, according to two reports published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA).


The report 'Approximated EU greenhouse gas inventory: early estimates for 2011' gives early estimates of greenhouse gas emissions in the previous year and provides a key input to the report on 'Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2012', which assesses progress against the EU's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.


"The European Union as a whole will over-deliver on its Kyoto target", Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director said. "In two months' time we will be at the end of the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. Considerable progress has been made since 1997 but all Member States need to deliver on their plans. For those EU Member States who have not achieved their target through domestic emission reductions, the Kyoto Protocol's flexible mechanisms remain available until 2015."


Emissions reductions in 2011


According to EEA's estimates, the largest relative emissions decreases from 2010 to 2011 were registered in countries with small to medium shares of total EU greenhouse gas emissions: 13 % in Cyprus, followed by 8 % in Belgium, Finland and Denmark. The United Kingdom made the biggest emission cuts in absolute terms, with a reduction of 36 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (Mt CO2 eq.) in 2011, or 6 %. This was followed by France (24 Mt CO2 eq., 5 %) and Germany (17 Mt CO2 eq., 2 %).


Nine EU Member States increased emissions between 2010 and 2011. Bulgaria increased emissions by 11 %, while Lithuania increased by 3 % and Romanian emissions rose by 2 %. However, these countries have made some of the deepest cuts in emissions overall since 1990.


Although economic factors played a part in certain countries, it is notable that the EU economy overall grew by 1.5% while emissions fell by 2.5%. Most of the countries registering the deepest cuts in emissions had positive growth in 2011.


A warm winter in most countries was a key factor in cutting emissions in 2011, as the demand for fossil fuels for heating was lower than in previous years. The residential and commercial sector – largely outside the scope of the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) – contributed most to lower emissions in the European Union.


These EEA figures will be further consolidated by mid-2013 in the European Union's greenhouse gas inventory. The inventory will allow for a detailed analysis of emission trends in EU Member States.


European countries closing in on Kyoto targets


Emissions outside the EU ETS are important, because changes in these non-trading sectors affect whether countries will meet their targets. Overall emissions from the EU economic sectors not covered by the EU ETS were reduced by approximately 3.0 %, whereas emissions under the EU ETS were cut by 1.8% in 2011.


In the 15 Member States with a common commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (EU-15), greenhouse gas emissions from the non-trading sectors decreased rapidly by 3.8% between 2010 and 2011. This emission reduction, in combination with foreseen contributions from carbon sinks and the Kyoto Protocol flexible mechanisms, confirms that the EU-15 is on track towards over-delivering on its 8 % reduction Kyoto target. However, for this target to be met all countries will also need to meet individual goals.


With emission caps already set for the economic sectors under the EU ETS, the emission reductions of economic sectors outside the EU ETS in 2012 together with the contributions by carbon sinks will ultimately determine how many Kyoto credits Member States will need to acquire to reach their individual targets by early 2015 at the latest. One of the EEA reports shows that some Member States either still need to develop adequate plans on such acquisitions (Italy) or deliver on existing plans (in particular Austria, Belgium, Portugal and Spain).


Progress towards 2020 targets


The EU has adopted legislation to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 % between 1990 and 2020. The latest figures show emissions in the EU have fallen by 16.5 % and the Union is well on track to meeting this objective. If international aviation is excluded, as is the case with Kyoto Protocol commitments, emissions in the EU have fallen by 17.5% since 1990.


Projections from Member States suggest that EU emissions will continue to fall to 19 % below 1990 levels in 2020, with current policies and measures in place. Less than half of the EU Member States project that their emission levels will fall below their individual 2020 target with only current domestic measures.


Although flexibility options allowed under the Effort Sharing Decision could allow Member States to stay on their target paths, most Member States need to step up their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by accelerating the implementation of those additional policies and measures they have already planned.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Laundry Can Be Eco Friendly

Wool dryer balls are clean and green

Chestnut Ridge, NY (MMD Newswire) March 13, 2012 -- These days virtually
everybody is trying to go "green," and there's no place like home -
especially the laundry room - to start. Clothes dryers in particular can be
real energy hogs, and in recognition of this fact, Soft By Nature, Inc. has
just launched Woolzies, an all-natural fabric softener for use in dryers.
Neither a dryer sheet nor a liquid, Woolzies are pure handmade New Zealand
wool dryer balls that soften laundry naturally, without any of the chemicals
found in conventional fabric softeners. And unlike the plastic and rubber
dryer balls that have spurred so many customer complaints, Woolzies will not
fall apart, melt, or cause fabric staining in the dryer. They are also
PVC-free. Besides saving energy and time by reducing drying time an average
of 25% per load, Woolzies also help reduce static and wrinkles. They last
for hundreds of loads, making the $35.99 retail price for a set of six
Woolzies a bargain, say the manufacturers.

Woolzies work by bouncing around in the dryer, naturally separating and
creating space between laundry and allowing the hot dryer air to circulate
better. This cuts down on drying time by about 25% in large loads and as
much as 35-40% in small loads. And though the harsh tumbling action of
rubber, plastic, and tennis balls can damage a dryer's delicate electronic
sensors - not to mention making a heck of a racket - Woolzies are soft and
stable and present no such problems.

There are several reasons besides helping the environment and saving money
to consider alternatives to commercial dryer liquids and sheets, according
to Soft By Nature. For instance, many of those commercial dryer products
have chemicals that destroy the fire retardant qualities of children's and
adults' clothing. Many studies have shown that the fragrances and other
chemicals in traditional laundry products can cause headaches, fatigue,
dizziness, skin irritation, and a host of other health issues (even hormonal
imbalances). The elderly, ailing, and small children are particularly
vulnerable to adverse reactions to these products and, because manufacturers
in the US aren't required to list all of the chemicals individually, it's
difficult to determine exactly what is in any given product. Not so with
Woolzies, which are crafted of 100% pure New Zealand wool, with no added
fragrances or any other chemicals. Moreover, people with wool sensitivities
need not worry, as the Woolzies do not touch the skin directly and, unlike
tennis balls or other types of dryer balls, they do not "shed" in the dryer.

Located in Southern New York State, Woolzies' parent company, Soft By
Nature, is a small family-owned firm whose mission is to pass the earth down
to the next generation in as pristine a condition as possible. Developing
and selling only eco-friendly products is their chief way of carrying out
this mission. As it happens, notes Soft By Nature, using Woolzies isn't only
a boon to the environment and to one's budget and personal health, but also
to people in the developing world. As Woolzies are handmade in the
democratic republic of Nepal, they provide a steady source of income to the
desperately needy women of that developing nation.

Presented in eco-friendly packaging, Woolzies are currently available
directly to consumers on the Web site. Wholesaler inquiries are
also welcome. The $35.99 retail price for a set of six wool dryer balls
includes shipping to all 50 states in the US, as well as Canada. Soft By
Nature will also ship internationally. The company even offers a range of
attractive - and, yes, eco-friendly - gift-wrap for an extra $5.00.

Early response from consumers is positive, with one customer observing that
her loads get dry much faster with Woolzies, and she no longer buys dryer
sheets. That may be bad news for the purveyors of fragrances and other
chemicals, but it sounds like great news for the rest of us.

For more information or to order, visit the Woolzies Dryer Balls Web site:

Media Contact:
Eli Feuer
Tel. 845-459-6074


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Monday, February 13, 2012

EPA’s FY 2013 Budget Proposal

February 13, 2012

EPA's FY 2013 Budget Proposal Focuses on Core Environmental and Human Health Protections

EPA budget supports President Obama's vision of an America that is built to last

WASHINGTON – Today the Obama Administration proposed a FY 2013 budget of $8.344 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This budget reflects a government-wide effort to reduce spending and find cost-savings, and is $105 million below the EPA's enacted level for FY 2012. The FY 2013 budget is the result of EPA's ongoing efforts to carefully consider potential cost savings and reductions while continuing its commitment to core environmental and health protections -- safeguarding Americans from pollution in the air they breathe, the water they drink and the land where they build their communities. 

"This budget is focused on fulfilling EPA's core mission to protect health and the environment for millions of American families. It demonstrates fiscal responsibility, while still supporting clean air, healthy waters and innovative safeguards that are essential to an America built to last," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "It has taken hard work and difficult choices to reach this balanced approach, and while we had to make sacrifices, we have maintained our commitment to the core priorities of this agency and ensured the protections the American people expect and deserve."

 Key FY 2013 budget highlights include:

Supporting State Governments. The budget proposes $1.2 billion in categorical grants for states that are on the front lines implementing environmental statutes such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The increases from FY 2012 levels include nearly $66 million for State and Tribal Air Quality Management grants, nearly $27 million for Pollution Control (Clean Water Act Section 106) grants, and about $29 million for the Tribal General Assistance Program.

Protecting America's Waters. The proposal provides $2 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving funds (SRFs). This will allow the SRFs to finance over $6 billion in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects annually. EPA will work to target assistance to small and underserved communities with limited ability to repay loans, while maintaining state program integrity.

Cleaning Up Contaminated Sites in Communities. The proposal includes $755 million in funding for the Superfund Cleanup program which maintains funding to support cleanup at hazardous waste sites that address emergencies (Superfund Emergency Response and Removal) at the nation's highest priority sites (Superfund Remedial).

Investing in Cutting Edge Research. EPA's proposed budget provides $576 million to support research and innovation. Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants are funded at $81 million to conduct research in key areas such as hydraulic fracturing, potential endocrine disruptors, and green infrastructure. Building upon ongoing research and collaborating with the Department of Energy and the US Geological Survey, a total $14 million investment will begin to assess potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on air quality, water quality, and ecosystems.  The EPA also will release an Interim Report on the Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources in 2012.

Ongoing Support to Economically and Environmentally Vital Water Bodies. To ensure the progress made during the past three years continues, EPA is proposing $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Programs and projects will target the most significant environmental problems in the Great Lakes. About $73 million, which is a $15 million increase, will fund the Chesapeake Bay program's continued implementation of the President's Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration. Funding will support bay watershed states as they implement their plans to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution in an unprecedented effort to restore this economically important ecosystem.

Protecting Americans from Harmful Chemicals. EPA is proposing $68 million, an increase of $11 million from FY 2012, to reduce chemical risks, increase the pace of chemical hazard assessments, and provide the public with greater access to toxic chemical information. Funding will sustain the agency's successes in managing the potential risks of new chemicals coming into the market and accelerating the progress to help ensure the safety of chemicals on the market that have not been tested for adverse human health and environmental impacts. 

Next Generation Compliance. EPA's budget proposal requests $36 million to support "Next Generation Compliance", a new enforcement model designed to enhance EPA's ability to detect violations that impact public health. The three components of this approach are: promoting electronic reporting by facilities, modifying data systems to implement electronic reporting, and deploying modern monitoring technology. This will work toward improved compliance and transparency, and more efficient processes that do not rely on paper-based reporting. And, create cost savings and efficiencies for EPA, states and industry.

Supporting the National Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Standards Program. The budget contains a $10 million increase to the EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory for certification and compliance testing programs and to evaluate new biofuels technologies. The national program of fuel economy and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) standards for light duty vehicles alone will save approximately 12 billion barrels of oil and prevent 6 billion metric tons of GHG emissions over the lifetime of the vehicles sold through model year 2025. These funds will improve testing methods for the agency's renewable fuels program, and the GHG and fuel economy programs intended to reduce dependence on oil and save consumers money at the pump.

Reducing and Eliminating Programs. The budget includes $50 million in savings by eliminating several EPA programs that have either completed their goals or can be implemented through other federal or state efforts.

More information:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Old Computers Will Be Recycled

"Silicon Valley" Requires e-Stewards Certified Recyclers for Electronics Recycling Events


Residents Can Be Sure Their Old Computers Will Be Responsibly Recycled


(Seattle, Washington; San Jose, California -- June 27, 2011)  In a four-to-one vote on June 21, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance requiring that all electronic waste (or e-waste) collected at recycling events taking place in the unincorporated county be processed by e-Stewards® certified recyclers.


The county becomes the first in the nation to assure its citizens that electronics dropped off at any collection event will be handled responsibly, and only by those recyclers that have achieved the highest standard in the industry.


Many County residents drop off their e-waste at private recycling drives organized by schools and charities,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss, District 5, who initiated the ordinance. “These residents believe that they are doing the right thing by recycling their e-waste. However, there is no way for residents to be sure that their e-waste will be ultimately recycled in a safe and globally responsible manner unless it goes to an e-Stewards recycler.” Kniss added, “I’m proud that Santa Clara County is the first government in the nation to take this step.”


Under the new law, collectors may only deliver e-waste to e-Stewards certified recyclers, and recyclers must be e-Stewards certified to accept e-waste collected from unincorporated Santa Clara County.


E-Stewards electronics recyclers undergo a professional audit each year to guarantee they will not export hazardous wastes to developing countries, nor dump such wastes into municipal landfills, nor use prison labor for managing such wastes. E-Stewards recyclers also ensure that private data is kept secure, and that their operations protect both workers and the environment everywhere.


The e-Stewards Certification was created by the Basel Action Network (BAN) in conjunction with advisors from the electronic recycling industry, occupational health experts and certification specialists. The accredited certification program is supported by the EPA, and is endorsed by Greenpeace USA, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, as well as 68 other environmental organizations.


Sadly not all of those companies that call themselves responsible recyclers are truly responsible and many are not recyclers at all, but are just exporters," said Jim Puckett, the director and founder of the Basel Action Network (BAN). "We have been to the techno-trash dumping grounds of Africa and Asia and seen the children being poisoned. This is why we created the e-Stewards Certification in the first place. We are extremely gratified that local governments like Santa Clara, are making good use of this tool to screen out the unscrupulous and award only those businesses that will do the right thing.”

More information:


E-waste reports, films and photos – and

For more information on the e-Stewards Initiative: 


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

US Forest Service announces National Get Outdoors Day events


For Immediate Release
Release No. 1121

Contact: (202) 205-1134


US Forest Service announces National Get Outdoors Day events

Activities embrace President Obama's 'America's Great Outdoors' initiative and First Lady's 'Let's Move! Outside' Campaign

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2011 -- U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell is encouraging kids and their families to reconnect with nature and have fun by participating in the 4th annual National Get Outdoors Day, Saturday, June 11.The event, known as 'GO Day', is an effort to attract new, diverse communities to outdoor activities and to motivate kids to explore their national forests and other public lands.

"GO day provides a great opportunity for kids big and small to get up close and personal with our country's amazing forests and grasslands," said Tidwell. "As the school year comes to a close, it's time to get out and enjoy America's wondrous lands and waterways. These early activities help bring families together, create lasting memories and instill a lifelong appreciation for our natural surroundings."

The Forest Service has a bounty of children's programs to help connect children to their natural environment, all of which support two key priorities of the Obama administration: President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative that seeks to connect people to the outdoors and creates partnerships between the federal government and American communities on conservation issues; and the Let's Move! Outside campaign launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, which strives to offset childhood obesity through outdoor activities and healthier lifestyles. The agency also has collaborated with the Ad Council to develop a new national campaign of public service announcements to 'Re-connect Kids with Nature'.

Nationwide, more than 80 Forest Service locations will be providing free recreational and educational activities. Many events are designed to better engage urban and multicultural youth in nature-based activities and attract first-time visitors to public lands.

National signature events will take place at locations listed below and were selected based on impressive partnership initiatives generating a large array of innovative and interactive activities and a significant number of expected participants:

  • Kingman Island in Washington, D.C.
  • Denver City Park in Denver, Colo.
  • National Children's Forest in San Bernardino, Calif.
  • Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Minn.
  • Canyon Rim Park in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, Wash.

For a listing of all events, visit: For more information on local activities, contact your nearest Forest Service location.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C.  20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202-720-6382 (TDD).


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US Forest Service, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250 United States

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

How Will New Clean Water Act Guidance Conserve Our Nation’s Waters and Wetlands?


How Will New Clean Water Act Guidance Conserve Our Nation's Waters and Wetlands?

Top hunting, angling and conservation groups

profile latest developments on critical guidance

Journalists may participate in the media briefing via an interactive teleconference at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time by calling (800)791-2345, code 38753#


MEMPHIS, Tenn., − The administration's release last week of the Clean Water Act guidance is an important step toward restoring CWA protections to streams, wetlands and other waters at risk of pollution and destruction. These waters provide critical habitat to fish and wildlife, flood control, clean drinking water and many other benefits.

At a special media briefing on May 4, 2011, water and wetland experts from Ducks Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited will discuss the impact of this development on our nation's waterways, fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and angling opportunities. They will also address shortcomings in the guidance and some commonly held misconceptions.

WHO:  Steve Kline, Director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural Lands, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
            Dr. Scott Yaich, Director of Conservation Operations, Ducks Unlimited
            Steve Moyer, Vice President of Government Affairs, Trout Unlimited
           Jan Goldman-Carter, Water and Wetlands Resources Counsel, National Wildlife Federation
           Jim Murphy, Water and Wetlands Resources Counsel, National Wildlife Federation
           Scott Kovarovics, Conservation Director, Izaak Walton League of America

WHAT:     Media briefing and interactive teleconference

WHEN:    Wednesday, May 4, 2011, 11:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time

For more information on the media teleconference, please contact M├ękell Mikell at (703) 438-6273 or

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