Letter to EPA inspires creek cleanup project Response surprises 12-year-old writer WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

August 10, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Jessica Snowden, 12, didn't expect much when she wrote the government about a small, polluted stream that runs near her home in Crofton.

It was part of a seventh-grade science project, and many of her classmates got only a cursory form letter back from a government agency. Some didn't even receive a response.

But Jessica got more. "I got people," she proudly proclaimed in an interview last week.

Jessica's letter started wheels turning at a number of levels. The Environmental Protection Agency called the governor's office, which sent several representatives to the stream to see about cleaning up the littered banks.

The state officials, in turn, called Anne Arundel County, which called on the private, nonprofit group Save Our Streams.

The result? A community cleanup on Saturday, Aug. 28.

"I just thought I would get a letter back with some pamphlets and information," Jessica said. "But I got people and information."

Jessica said the state environmental officials told her the orange substance in the water was naturally occurring and nothing to worry about, though it did register high on the acidity scale.

The stream, believed to be a tributary of the Patuxent River or the Little Patuxent River, is on the east side of Crofton near the Crofton Woods Elementary School.

It doesn't have a name, but Jessica said she and her friends call it Crofton Creek.

Jessica's inventory of litter includes plastic bags, shaving cream canisters, an old metal wash tub and a torn Spanish school book.

"This creek needs a good cleanup," said Jonathan Pearson, the community organizer for Save Our Streams and one of two staff members working on Jessica's project. "But the pollution is common of the problems streams in suburban areas face."

He said there is lots of dirt runoff from nearby developments and roads. "With a little care and vigilance on the part of the community, important improvements can be brought about to this stream," Mr. Pearson said.

As for Jessica, he said he was impressed that she has gotten so involved at a young age, but he didn't find it unusual.

"It is heartening," Mr. Pearson said. "We get a lot of tips from interested young people -- even at the elementary-grade levels. In my opinion, the younger people help inspire the older people to get involved."

Jessica said she wants to do environmental work when she grows up. "I think it's interesting."

But for now, the pollution makes it difficult for her to enjoy the stream with her friends.

"We like to walk across the stream on trees or swing across," she said. "Now, you have to watch out."

The cleanup will begin at 9 a.m. Volunteers are asked to meet at Crofton Woods Elementary School. Participants under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult.

Workers should be prepared to get dirty and wet, and might consider bringing work gloves and a light snack, organizers say.

For more information, call the organization at 969-0085 and ask for Mr. Pearson or Lee Fisher.

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