Stop Trashing My City!

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Here’s an alarming statistic: the trash interceptor where Watershed 246 empties into the Baltimore Harbor (near Canton) receives between three to five tons of trash MONTHLY. That’s 6,000 to 10,000 pounds of refuse getting carried by stormwater from the city’s streets, to the storm drains, and then directly to the Harbor–in the time it takes you to flip a page on your calendar. And that’s just one outfall that drains about two square miles; our watersheds (the Gwynns Falls, Jones Falls, Herring Run, and Direct Harbor watersheds) cover about 194 square miles. I find this staggering. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that March has gone awfully fast; each day that I sit at my desk, more and more garbage is accidentally dropped or blown away, thrown on the ground out of carelessness or ignorance, illegally dumped in vacant lots, and accumulating in the waters in which I hope my children can one day swim.

Plastic bottles make up much of the trash collected by the interceptor at the Watershed 246 outfall.

That’s heavy. Literally and figuratively. When you consider that trash is not even the biggest problem the Bay faces–that dubious honor belongs to nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus–it’s truly a sobering reality.

This brings up two issues for me. First, it’s hard to be an environmentalist without being an alarmist in the face of numbers like these. How can we bring these matters to the public’s attention without sounding like doomsday prophets? And second, how do I continue doing my work without feeling crushed under the weight of these problems? Well, I wrote about this in my last entry, but it bears repeating: doing anything is better than doing nothing. Period. I know just as well as anyone what a miniscule dent I’m making on the Bay’s health. But by encouraging and supporting others to make their own miniscule dents, we can have a substantive impact.

So, here is my plea to you this week: please sign up to volunteer at Project Clean Stream 2012 on Saturday, April 14th from 9am to 12pm and help us make that impact. For PCS 2011, more than 5,000 volunteers at over 220 cleanup sites removed an estimated 300,000 pounds of trash and debris from waterways throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. At Blue Water Baltimore, we coordinated more than 40 cleanup sites and marshaled over 1200 volunteers with the help of our volunteer Site Captains. We are greatly in need of Captains this year, who are responsible for picking up supplies from BWB, signing in and directing other volunteers on site, and reporting results to us after the event. We provide gloves, bags, and trash pickup, and can even help you find a site or recruit volunteers. And if you’re not available on the 14th, no worries–any date in April counts towards this event!

Some Baltimore streams are literally dammed with trash.

So if you’re interested in being a Site Captain, please email me so I can get you started. And if you’re not ready for that responsibility but are still willing to add your energy to the cause, please get in touch with me too. It will take a massive effort for us to start pushing back the trash tide–so let’s dive in!