Cleaner streams through gardening State offers classes on plants, methods that aid environment

March 17, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

To learn how much suburban gardeners can help in the effort to clean Maryland's streams, the state is sponsoring environmentally oriented gardening classes in Hampstead.

The classes began in the Roberts Field subdivision Feb. 19 and are part of a three-year study of the Gunpowder River watershed.

Information from the study will give Carroll County and other jurisdictions a basis for land-use decisions on where to channel money for the best management, said Catherine M. Rappe, Carroll County's assistant environmental services bureau chief.

The study will assess the impact of development on the watershed, including a key issue for Carroll County -- the effort to expand the county-owned Hampstead sewage treatment plant, which will increase treated effluent discharged into Piney Run.

Piney Run flows into the Gunpowder watershed.

The watershed contains trout streams and supplies drinking water to 1.5 million residents of metropolitan Baltimore.

Carroll County has targeted Hampstead and other incorporated towns for growth and needs the treatment plant capacity increased from 500,000 to 900,000 gallons a day to accommodate development.

Baltimore County residents who live near Piney Run are fighting the expansion. The citizens appealed a 1997 Baltimore County Circuit Court ruling approving the permit. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals is expected to hear the case in late spring or early summer.

In the gardening classes, residents learn about using native perennials that require fewer pesticides and less water than exotic plants, luring beneficial pest-eating insects and minimizing erosion, said instructor Lisa Spence, a Cooperative Extension Service horticultural assistant.

Downstream, technicians are gathering information on the amount of storm water runoff, herbicides and pesticides entering the drinking water from agricultural and urban sources.

The classes will help state officials identify educational materials and techniques that work, said Richard Eskin, manager of the Maryland Department of the Environment's Environmental Risk Assessment Program.

"You can't look at it in isolation and say, 'Oh, it's not going to accomplish much,' " he said.

Eskin said the classes use proven ways of reducing pollution.

"Part of what the study will find out is, if we did this over a number of acres, what would be the impact on nutrient levels in Piney Run?" he said.

Fertilizers contain nutrients that stimulate algae blooms, which choke off oxygen and sunlight to fish and plants.

The free classes are financed with $6,500 from the watershed study budget and are free to residents.

Roberts Field was chosen because Piney Run flows through the 641-unit subdivision on its way to join Western Run, which feeds into Loch Raven Reservoir.

In the class, Spence mixes pollution-reduction pointers -- such as using a slow-release fertilizer, which is less likely to wash out into the stream -- with other gardening tips.

The classes attract people interested in environmentally sensitive gardening.

"I thought it would be great to plant something that's good for the environment," said Hillock Lane resident Sharon Kennedy.

Spence lures subdivision residents with refreshments at every class and incentives such as a chance at a master gardener scholarship, worth $125. The first two classes attracted about 20 students each.

The Gunpowder watershed study is financed by $748,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency, MDE and Baltimore City, and an estimated $500,000 in services and data-sharing from Baltimore County.

The study is scheduled to be completed in 1999.

Pub Date: 3/17/98


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