Volunteers find silt, debris in stream

TRUDGING MUD TO SURVEY QUALITY OF WATER

May 23, 1993|By Victor Paul Alvarez | Victor Paul Alvarez,Contributing Writer

Jackie Carrera was standing in nearly two feet of mud.

Trudging all day, she and about 130 other volunteer surveyors fanned out along 50 miles of the Winters Run stream yesterday. The survey was organized by Maryland Save Our Streams, Baltimore Gas and Electric and Harford County to identify potential water quality problems like the one pulling Jackie Carrera into the hazy muck.

She was standing in a deposit of silt, sediment and mud from area construction sites that end up in the stream.

Silt is among the main pollution problems facing the 17,000 miles of streams in Maryland, 95 percent of which feed into the Chesapeake Bay.

"Our bay is only going to be as clean as the water going into it," said Mrs. Carrera, a member of Save Our Streams from Baltimore.

Yesterday's survey was the first step in an effort by Save Our Streams to involve the community in conserving and protecting the Winters Run stream. The enthusiastic turnout included a large group of students from area schools.

Karisa Strader chatted with her friend Amy Simpson. The Bel Air Middle School students learned of the survey in their science class and came out to help and show their concern for the state of the stream.

"Everybody in school calls me a hippie," said Karisa, "because I have long hair and I'm always talking about the environment. But I don't care, I want to be a marine biologist."

She may have her work cut out for her when she grows up. The stream's future seemed murky to her.

"We saw some deer prints and stuff around the grass, but it was really cloudy in the water, there wasn't much life there."

The purity of the water can sometimes be judged by the amount of life in it. Fish are forced to relocate when the sediment gets too thick. "The sediment particles get stuck in the fish's gills and it kills them," Mrs. Carrera said. "It [also] clouds the water and they can't see their food."

Water quality is also easily determined by the amount of trash found in the stream.

Ms. Carrera's partner for today's survey, Doug Iverson, found the remains of a washing machine door nestled under a layer of silt. He has been involved in stream clean-up projects for five years.

"When these streams flood, or we get a heavy rain, the trash that is thrown away in the surrounding woods gets picked up with the rising water and ends up here in the stream," he said while carrying the washing machine part out of the stream.

The survey began at 9 a.m. on the parking lot of Merry Go Round Enterprises on Winters Run Road. Volunteers got a quick training session and were sent out on foot and in canoe to look for exposed sewer lines, barriers to fish migration, evidence of erosion and trash dumping.

One of the volunteers was Brion Townshend, an Environmental Management major who came from the University of Delaware to collect two trash bags full of garbage from a small tributary of the stream. His brother Mike, a student at Towson State, examined the effects of development on the stream, noting the altered stream beds and the re-channeling of some of its paths.

Developers "basically rearranged the stream to suit their own needs," he said.

Each volunteer was given a map of the stream and a fact sheet of potential water quality problems to look for.

The information they gathered will be submitted to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Harford County Planning and Zoning Department.

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