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Becoming a Catalyst for Change

Reporting Pollution Can Make a Difference

Irene Smith, a mother of three and a constant force for good in Herring Run Park, takes a moment to talk about one of her passions and how she got involved with Blue Water Baltimore. She believes that by reporting pollution you can make a difference to help achieve clean water in the Baltimore watersheds, and at Blue Water Baltimore we strongly agree.

Earlier this year Irene was featured in Baltimore Style as the Stream Cleaner, today she shares with us her connection to the neighborhood, why removing tires is important, and how you too can become a catalyst for change:

Basically, I am obsessed with tires. Tires not only are a breeding ground for mosquitoes which can be particularly problematic with West Nile Virus but they create seriously unsafe fire hazards if clustered in enormous piles. I also believe strongly that a community that has hundreds of tires in piles all over the place, is proclaiming to the world “we are a community you can abuse.” I refuse to let my neighborhood or my environment be abused without a fight.

In the last 2 years I have personally cleaned up 172 tires from Herring Run. David Flores helped me get the city to remove approximately 300 more from the hill adjacent to Lake Clifton High School which was a mere 300 feet from the Department of Rec and Parks District Offices. Now, my calls and emails to 311 and the Maryland Department of the Environment has gotten another approximately 500 tires from Harford Road.


“To summarize, my actions have removed close to 1000 tires from our community in the last two years. That is more than a tire per day.”

I have also begun finding creative ways to use tires in gardening applications so that what once was a menace can be an asset. I use them for vermiculture (worm farming), as planters for Native plants bought at Herring Run Nursery as part of my move to a “no grass front yard“, as a garden hose holder, and even as the base of a greenhouse. We cannot just take the problem to the dump and it disappears. We have just made it disappear from our eyes, not our environment. If you can reuse materials especially in ways that improve the environmentt rather than disposing of them in ways that continue to destroy the environment, then it’s a win/win/win.


I don’t have any particular set of skills that makes me uniquely able to make this impact. I am a busy single mom just like a lot of people I know. The only thing that I can tell my neighbors is that if you see something polluting the environment and you can clean it up yourself then go for it. You are a hero and you will feel really good knowing that you are taking action to defend your neighborhood and the environment. If it is too big for any one person to handle, ask for help. Blue Water Baltimore is my partner in stopping environmental crime. Every single time I need back up to what I cannot do myself, I know Blue Water will stand at my side and fight for the environment with me. There are agencies in the city and state who are there to clean up messes and hold polluters accountable. But they don’t know where to go or won’t be held accountable unless you pick up the phone or shoot an email.

“You are the catalyst for change. You ultimately have the power to live in the community you want. If you don’t like living in a trashy city then get a bag, make a call, show up to a legislative hearing, or organize a clean up.”

If the thought of the garbage patch the size of Texas in the ocean or an algae bloom in the Chesapeake upsets you (and it should), stop using disposable plastic bottles, bring reusable bags to the grocery store and stop using chemicals on your lawn or driveway. Saving the world isn’t something that someone else can do. It is something that you can do every day in little but profound ways.


Take Action and Report Pollution

Whether it’s a fish kill, illegal dumping, a sewage overflow, or something else entirely, you can report any kind of pollution to Blue Water Baltimore through our online Pollution Reporting Form or by calling our Pollution Reporting Hotline at 443.908.0696.

Reporting pollution through our website allows the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper to track pollution incidents in the Patapsco watershed and follow-up with responsible agencies to ensure pollution issues are resolved.

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