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Water, Water, Everywhere

A cou­ple of week­ends ago, my room­mates and I had the plea­sure of a burst pipe in our base­ment. Of course, we ran around like chick­ens with our heads cut off try­ing to find some­body who knew where the water shut-off valve was. But nobody seemed to know until one heroic neigh­bor stepped in.

We spent the rest of that Sat­ur­day clean­ing up 3–4 inches of frigid water after los­ing feel­ing in our toes in the first few minutes.

To cel­e­brate the con­clu­sion of our Her­culean feat, we sat down and shared snacks. We’d saved water in bath tubs so that we could at least flush the toi­let man­u­ally. But, faced with only a gal­lon or two of bot­tled water, we really started to think about how we use water on a daily basis. One roommate—who by the way is not in an envi­ron­men­tal field—commented that flush­ing using tub-water made her think about how much water our toi­lets really use. And to add insult to injury, it is highly-treated, drink­able water. Our own mini-water cri­sis forced us to expe­ri­ence the harsh real­i­ties of fresh water short­ages faced by a grow­ing per­cent­age of the world.

So the next time you brush, flush, or shower, think about how you could con­serve. I know I will.

Check out these livegreenhoward.com pages for more infor­ma­tion on water con­ser­va­tion and Howard County’s drink­ing water.

Rachel Beebe
Storm Water Aide

March 2015

READY for Action

As a part of my intern­ship for the Howard County Executive’s Office, I was for­tu­nate enough to work with the amaz­ing peo­ple in Restor­ing the Envi­ron­ment and Devel­op­ing Youth (READY). When I was first asked to vol­un­teer for the pro­gram at the begin­ning of the sum­mer, I was uncer­tain of what to expect. Dur­ing my sum­mer intern­ship, I had become very famil­iar with rain gar­dens and their unique pur­pose of slow­ing down and fil­ter­ing stormwa­ter runoff. I trav­eled the county tak­ing numer­ous pic­tures of rain gar­dens and ana­lyz­ing other best man­age­ment prac­tices. Then after hear­ing so many rav­ing reviews about the READY pro­gram and the beau­ti­ful rain gar­dens they build, I knew that I needed to expe­ri­ence the process firsthand.

For the record, I must say that I am not a gar­dener or fan of hard labor by any means. So I was ini­tially appre­hen­sive when I made plans to work with READY at St. Paul’s church in Mount Airy in the hot August heat. How­ever, when I arrived I was pre­pared to work and help in any way that I could. As we shov­eled, raked, and mulched, I got the chance to meet some of the other youth employees.

It was excit­ing to meet other peo­ple my own age while also build­ing some­thing that would ben­e­fit the entire com­mu­nity. When I asked the READY sum­mer work­ers why they liked work­ing for the pro­gram, nearly all of them said it was because of the qual­ity of peo­ple. I could tell that every­one knew how to have fun, but they were also hard­work­ing and ded­i­cated to the job.

Over­all, I am glad that I got to vol­un­teer with READY and help cre­ate a beau­ti­ful rain gar­den from basi­cally noth­ing. I have a much greater appre­ci­a­tion for the pro­gram and the amount of work these peo­ple put in every day. The READY pro­gram should be applauded and admired for their effort and con­tri­bu­tion to Howard County.

Arlyn­nell Dickson
Howard County Exec­u­tive Intern
Octo­ber 2014

Backyard Art

Ireland stream

Ireland streamA few weeks back I had the good for­tune to visit Ire­land for the first time. What I heard was true, the scenery was spec­tac­u­lar. While I cer­tainly got my fill of rolling coun­try, stone walls, and hill­top cas­tles; being a stream guy, I have to admit I was in awe of the pris­tine, text book exam­ples of healthy streams through­out Ire­land — veg­e­tated banks, acces­si­ble flood plain, rif­fles and pools; all indi­ca­tors of a stream in the prime of its life. The water was crys­tal clear and the bot­tom rocks were free of sed­i­ment — signs that the macro inver­te­brate pop­u­la­tion (bugs) was plen­ti­ful. These bugs, the food sup­ply for fish, were the rea­son we fre­quently saw fly– fish­er­man wad­ing in the water in search of their evening meal. Yes, some trav­el­ers are taken by archi­tec­ture, oth­ers by art, but me, I look for the won­der of nature in these far­away places.

Yes, vaca­tions are a great escape, but we do not need to travel across the Atlantic to catch a glimpse of a good look­ing, healthy stream. We have them right here in Howard County. The major­ity of us live within 1,000 feet of a stream. While we have many good qual­ity streams scat­tered about the county, oth­ers suf­fer from the effects of stormwa­ter runoff with eroded banks, silted bot­toms and con­stricted flood­plain. Streams are liv­ing sys­tems and even the unhealthy ones can recover with our help. How­ever, we first have to find them in our back­yards and under­stand their con­di­tion. Then we can cham­pion their protection.

To help iden­tify your nearby stream we have devel­oped a Stream Finder com­puter appli­ca­tion. All you need to do is enter your street and house address and the map will locate a stream within walk­ing dis­tance from your prop­erty. The map will also iden­tify the name of the water­shed where you live. Try it out: http://data.howardcountymd.gov/GStreamFinder/GStreamFinder.asp. Hope­fully you will find a great exam­ple of a healthy stream near you. If not, work­ing together we can begin to bring that stream back to health.

Wouldn’t it be great to think that Irish vis­i­tors to our area would go home and write about our beau­ti­ful streams and their role in the build­ing a healthy Chesa­peake Bay watershed?

Jim Cald­well
August 2014

Wastewater Treatment: A Dirty Little Secret

interns at WWTP

Would you jump in this tank to save your friend if she fell in?”

This was one of the ques­tions my tour guide asked me dur­ing my visit to the Lit­tle Patux­ent Water Recla­ma­tion Plant. As I stared at the bub­bling, brown, mucky water, my first instinct told me to say “No, prob­a­bly not.”

Prior to this expe­ri­ence, I had never been to a waste­water treat­ment plant or even thought about the process of water recla­ma­tion. So when I found out that there would be an Exec­u­tive Intern trip to the Lit­tle Patux­ent Water Recla­ma­tion Plant, I was excited to learn more about the process and wit­ness it first­hand. As an Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence and Pol­icy major at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, my intro­duc­tory envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence class men­tioned the process briefly with a few dia­grams, but it was not a very mem­o­rable lec­ture. How­ever, after vis­it­ing Lit­tle Patux­ent, my tour of the waste­water treat­ment plant is one I will never forget.interns at WWTP

Most peo­ple do not know what hap­pens when we flush the toi­let or pour some­thing down the drain. Now, I am one of the lucky few who do. To sum­ma­rize briefly, the process starts with the rak­ing out of major solids, such as toi­let paper, money, and even McDonald’s toys. Any­thing you can fit down the drain flows right into the plant. After that, what’s left is given time to set­tle and the sludge is scraped out. Even­tu­ally, the water flows into a tank that is mon­i­tored to pro­vide ideal con­di­tions for nat­ural bac­te­ria that start to break down major pol­lu­tants. Then, the bac­te­ria are killed using UV rays, and the water, now 99% clean, is released into the Lit­tle Patux­ent River.

Even though there were some over­whelm­ing smells and stomach-churning sights, over­all I was amazed by the tech­no­log­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal processes of the plant. Treat­ing waste­water is a dirty job that we tend to over­look, but it is vital to pub­lic health, pol­lu­tion reduc­tion, and water qual­ity of the Chesa­peake Bay. As a com­mu­nity, we would not be able to func­tion with­out the Lit­tle Patux­ent plant or the ded­i­cated peo­ple that work to keep it run­ning. I highly rec­om­mend that every­one tour the plant at least once in their life, so that you will never “flush and for­get” again.

Arlyn­nell Dickson
Howard County Exec­u­tive Intern
July 2014

Floating Wetlands

Floating Wetland_1small

This blog was writ­ten by Julie Napoli­tano, intern with The Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sus­tain­abil­ity and stu­dent at UMD study­ing Envi­ron­men­tal Science-Natural Resource Man­age­ment. Thank you Julie!

In the mood to enjoy some of the beau­ti­ful weather we had last week, I decided to take my son for a walk around Font Hill wet­land park near our home. This is one of my favorite places to walk, although I had not been there in over a year. It is smaller and less crowded than Cen­ten­nial Lake and offers more oppor­tu­ni­ties to see wildlife such as tur­tles and song­birds. As we passed through the marshy area towards the main pond, I noticed some­thing dif­fer­ent. There were islands of plants float­ing in the pond. I thought to myself, are these float­ing wet­lands? Turns out they are! So what exactly are float­ing wetlands?

These float­ing wet­lands are con­structed using native, peren­nial aquatic plants sus­pended in float­ing rafts and they mimic the same basic func­tion as nat­ural wet­lands. Nat­ural wet­lands, such as those found through­out the Chesa­peake Bay, are known for their abil­ity to improve water qual­ity. This water qual­ity improve­ment is a result of the wet­land plants pro­cess­ing excess nutri­ents, inter­cept­ing other pol­lu­tants, trap­ping sed­i­ment and reduc­ing sus­pended solids in the water. In the case of float­ing wet­lands, the plants’ roots are always exposed to the water. This con­tin­ued expo­sure enables them to con­stantly improve the things that degrade water quality.

Upon fur­ther research, I learned that these float­ing wet­lands have also been installed in another loca­tion in Howard County—Sewell’s Orchard. Both Font Hill and Sewell’s Orchard are wet­land areas that func­tion as storm water man­age­ment ponds as well as recre­ational fish­ing areas. These fea­tures make them ideal loca­tions for water qual­ity improve­ment. The water in these ponds emp­ties into streams which then join the Patux­ent River and even­tu­ally reach the Chesa­peake Bay. In addi­tion, the water qual­ity in these ponds directly impacts the wildlife that lives there. The veg­e­ta­tion also pro­vides an aes­thetic qual­ity while pro­vid­ing food and cover for fish, insects, frogs, tur­tles, water­fowl and songbirds.

So, if you have vis­ited either of these loca­tions and found your­self won­der­ing what was float­ing in the water, now you know! These float­ing wet­lands were installed by Howard County Depart­ment of Recre­ation & Parks from a grant they recently received from the Chesa­peake and Atlantic Coastal Bay 2010 Trust Fund through the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­ural Resources.

Press Release for the Instal­la­tion of Float­ing Wet­lands: http://www.co.ho.md.us/News/News_20100614.htm

Back­ground on Font Hill Wet­lands Park: http://www.co.ho.md.us/RAP/RAPDocs/FontHillPark.pdf

Explore Font Hill Park: http://www.howardcountymd.gov/rap/rap_FontHillPark.htm

Explore Sewell’s Orchard Park: http://www.howardcountymd.gov/rap/rap_SewellsOrchardPark.htm

Green Tip

Use cloth napkins.It’s actually cheaper to throw cloth napkins in the wash than to buy paper ones.