For many county residents, the nation's economic recovery means money. For Susan Beck Brown, it means mud -- lots of it.
Brown, chairwoman of the South County Environmental Commission, fears an avalancheof mud could smother South County streams if the housing industry gears up again.
She and her 11-member panel, appointed by the county executive, hope to organize a posse of "Mudbusters" to combat the onslaught.
At 9:30 tomorrow morning, commission members and members of Maryland Save Our Streams, a Glen Burnie-based environmental group, will train volunteers during a three-hour workshop to recognize and report sediment pollution.
The state and county require builders to install erosion controls at construction sites. But they don't have enough inspectors to watch every road project and subdivision.
Saturday's workshop will turn residents into "volunteer inspectors," Brown said.
"As a commission, two of our major concerns have been the (loss) of wetlands and sediment pollution," she said. "We've seen quite a bit of both in South County."
Save Our Streams estimates that mud from exposed construction sites has damaged about 1,900 miles of streams and rivers statewide. A century would pass before those waterways could fully recover from mud pollution, the group says.
Mud can bury or suffocate aquatic life and clog boating channels.
"It's just as big a killer as sewage or toxics," said Peg Burroughs, who has led 20Save Our Stream workshops in the past decade.
The "Mudbusters" workshop will include a slide show and visits to construction sites to see proper erosion controls.
"People drive by these construction sites every day and don't realize that a lot of protection is taking place or that none is taking place," Burroughs said.
Brown said citizen awareness might have caught erosion problems at the county's Sudley landfill in Lothian before the state wrote a complaint last week.
"Citizens use the landfill everyday and they could have reported it on the environmental hot line long before it became a problem," Brown said.
Awareness generally peaks in the spring, when neighbors spend more time outdoors, said Burroughs, a West River resident.
"We've been so pristine and country for so long that now . . . you can't drive down the road without seeing a sign announcing a new subdivision," Burroughs said.
Said Brown, "When the building comes back, we want to be sure the state and county regulations are enough. We want to help them out by keeping an eye on things."
Anyone interested in the workshop should call Susan Beck Brown at 867-3390.