Report Targets Pollution

Save Our Streams Lists Threats To River

September 30, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Along the main stem of the Severn Run stream, near Telegraph Road, volunteer surveyors found an "orange chunky scum," stretching 200 feetnear a construction site.

Near Spa Creek, other volunteers found tires and other debris in a field behind the Bates Middle School.

And in one of the western coves of Lake Ogleton, people reported seeing suds and froth with clear and abrupt borders, apparently caused by leaking sewage.

This is just part of a report put together bySave Our Streams, a Glen Burnie-based environmental group, which sent 200 people on a trek last May over 242 square miles of rivers and creeks, from the mouth of the Severn River to its small tributaries near BWI Airport.

While the data revealed Saturday shows many problems, from fish barriers to trash to raw sewage pouring into streams, officials were cautious about making any broad assessments about the welfare of the scenic river.

Calling the day's survey merely a snapshot, they said an overall assessment is too complex a subject to broach.

"We don't want to say it is great news to find so many problems," said Jonathan Pearson, the project director. "But it is good because we can put this survey to good use."

And even though the final report was just printed and has not yet been forwarded to the county and state agencies that can fix some of the problems cited, Save Our Stream officials cited numerous instances where major violations have been corrected because the survey brought them to light.

They include an old tire cleanup and a repair of a small sewage leak along Spa Creek. "The survey helped officials take a closer look at the area and repair the pipes," Pearson said.

In another case, the State Highway Administration admitted to poor upkeep of areas along a Route50 project, said Terry Lehr, the project's community organizer.

Volunteers said they found everything from silt barriers and sediment-laden discharge floating in Weems Creek to a stagnant sediment trap pond near Mill Creek that appeared to be murky and oily.

"The SHA admitted it had been taking no action," Lehr said.

"It is when citizens point out the problems that officials jump on the ball."

But in other areas, enforcement can be slow. One group of surveyors founda pig farm with a stream running right through the middle. Sensing aclear violation, they marked it down. However, Pearson said the county Office of Planning and Zoning reported back that it did not violate any existing rules.

Pearson said the farm, with 10 to 12 pigs, was reported to the Maryland Department of the Environment, which has said the farm could violate the state's manure management plan.

Surveyors also found good points to the Severn River, including areas along Whitehall and Barley Creek, which had healthy marsh growth and Round Bay, which was reported to be a healthy non-tidal wetlands area.

Pearson and Lehr expressed a need for people to continue to volunteer their time, for other projects, such as cleaning up areas cited as dumps to surveying other parts of the Severn River initially missed.

They also asked for help in tree plantings. Numerous areas along the Severn River were cited as barren land, needing vegetation to help provide a buffer between soil runoff and the delicate watershed.

But many of the areas cited are private property, owned by people who bought waterfront homes and cut down trees and shrubs to improve their view.

"What they didn't realize is how important these treesare," Lehr said. "But you people were concerned enough to mark down those areas that are in need of foliage."

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