Task force takes up fight to save stream Group forms after citizen gives up CENTRAL--Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

December 14, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

The fight to save the unnamed stream that flows along the railroad tracks and Route 27 in Westminster isn't over.

A task force of county and elected officials, business representatives and educators has formed to protect and clean the unnamed tributary of the West Branch of the Patapsco River.

The stream has garnered media attention in recent years because of the efforts of Westminster resident Monroe Haines, who has fought government and business to clean up the waterway.

This fall Mr. Haines, 70, announced he would give up his six-year battle and pursue other volunteer activities.

Upon learning of Mr. Haines' retirement, Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown prodded the county to pull together local and business officials "to get some idea what to do to maintain the quality of the stream and to improve it."

"People have to pay attention to what's happening," Mr. Brown said. "We're hoping people will start paying more attention. We hope to get those groups that can help motivated to help."

The group, spearheaded by Catherine Rappe, chief of the county's Bureau of Water Resource Management, met for the first time last month.

Ms. Rappe said the group wants to identify and address several issues, including storm water management, street runoff and other pollution.

However, how much the task force can do to protect the stream is limited because it is between railroad tracks off Route 27 and businesses along John Street.

"Sometimes there is nothing anybody can do," Ms. Rappe said. "We're not trying to get the stream back to a pristine state. It's impossible because of some of the physical constraints, and we have to recognize that."

Like Mr. Brown, however, she envisions the group pushing for regulations to enforce measures to protect the stream. The group also wants to name the waterway, which eventually flows into the Liberty reservoir. Ms. Rappe described the tributary as a "typical urban stream," one that has been heavily polluted by industrial runoff. Periodical testing has shown that the stream is not good for aquatic life.

"It's very poor," she said. "It's not uncommon to find those conditions in streams in other urban areas. We're hoping to make the stream atypical."

Helping the task force in its quest are students from West Middle School and Westminster and Francis Scott Key high schools.

Jim Peters, a seventh-grade life sciences teacher at West Middle, said he hopes his students will be able to continue their efforts to paint storm drains with messages telling people not to use them for dumping.

"I'm excited myself," Mr. Peters said. "It's a project that is needed not on just this stream but a lot of streams. I think it's important for these kids to participate. They hear about this kind of stuff but often don't get a chance to do something."

Students, he said, might also do biological surveys, write articles to publicize water quality issues, help clean the stream, plant trees and paint more storm drains in the surrounding area.

Mr. Haines said he welcomed the group's participation.

"I'm in favor of anything that has to do with cleaning that stream up," he said. "I think it will encourage other people to become more active. I don't object to anybody that wants to help out." Underscoring the need for the community to become more involved in such projects are state and local budget cuts, Mr. Brown said.

"We're being forced to deal with the situation on the local level," he said. "Once we get used to it, we'll feel better about it and accomplish a lot more."

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