Archive for July, 2010

River Volunteer Reflects on Experience

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

You should know that volunteers are the heart of grassroots organizations! Without them, I would have given up on improving our waterways about 5 years ago.  THEY are the ones who work hard, use their own gas money, time, energy, muscles, equipment and then take that message to other individuals.  Thank you to all the people who are making OUR Earth a better place.

– Abby



Life Lessons on the River

I had the pleasure of volunteering with Save Maumee on Saturday, a local environmental group focused on cleaning up the Maumee River. I met the rest of the volunteers at 10 AM near a canoe launch area of the Maumee River, and was greeted by a woman with bright eyes and a big smile. Abigail Frost is the founder of Save Maumee, and as soon as you meet her you can tell how passionate she is about the environment and how excited she is about life in general. She was able to turn a day of hard and dirty work into something fun and meaningful.

Gaining Perspective

I used to participate in annual retreats which renewed me and my passion for serving people. Retreats always reminded me why I like to help people, where I excel, and what’s most important in my life. Although I was only volunteering for 3.5 hours, the experience grounded me and reminded me of a perspective that I tend to forget. ‘There’s nothing wrong with getting a little dirty’, ‘the little things do matter’, and ‘don’t forget to have fun’ are a few perspectives I gained on the river.

Get a Little Dirty

I signed up to help clean the Maumee River because of how polluted it’s become over the years. I knew it was going to be a dirty job and not very glamorous, but nothing good comes without a little bit of hard work. Think about the company you aspire to work with and where it originally started. Most started with an idea and one person willing to take the risk, get a little dirty, and work hard for the dream to become a reality. The CEO of that company once had to do the “dirty work” that every entry level position does. Abigail Frost, the founder of Save Maumee, was not afraid to roll up her sleeves, and literally get dirty while pulling tires, pedal boats, and other abandoned scrap metal out of the river. This is the core of her brand, work hard at something that matters to you.

Little Things Matter

I shared a canoe with one other person, and together we patrolled the river for trash and larger items to remove. We found ourselves maneuvering through tight spaces and spending long periods of time in the same area just to pick up every piece of styrofoam, plastic bottle, rubber duck, and cigarette butt we could see. I found myself thinking we should move onto bigger items, but my boat partner silently reminded me that even the smallest piece is important.

This is a true sentiment in all we do. It’s the little details, like the worker at the drive thru who remembers to say, “have a nice day,” and smiles at you while making eye contact. Or, how about the person who holds the door open for you when you’re juggling too many things in your hands? These little things that color our day can either make or break it for you. Remember to do the little things for people because the more we do, the more we make a positive impact on someone’s life.

Have Fun!

The first thing that was said to all the volunteers this weekend was, “are you ready to have fun,” and the last thing said was, “did you have fun.” This was such an important reminder to everyone. We were all out there to help the environment because we appreciate it; and what’s wrong with having a little fun while we work? When people enjoy their job and have fun doing it, it shows on their face and in their attitude. They’re the type of people we flock to, and want to be around because of the genuine love for what they’re doing. So, whatever brand you’re choosing that best describes you, be sure it’s chosen because you have a passion for it and not just because it’s in high demand. Be the person others look up to and stands out in a crowd. Be you, and don’t forget to have fun!


Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. Connect with Karen via LinkedIn or Twitter.

Cleanup flusters Maumee Group

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Journal Gazette – (front page of the Metro Section) Fort Wayne, IN

July 25, 2010

by Caitlin Johnston

Volunteers spent hours cleaning the Maumee River, replanting the banks along the way.

Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette

Abigail Frost King, left, and her son Canaan Eubank, 14, collect trash along the Maumee River on Saturday. Upper Maumee Watershed Partnership sponsored the Bi-State River Cleanup.

Tires. A Little Tikes sport coupe. DVD cases. A car door.

Sounds like trash in a junkyard or a city dump. But it’s litter found in the Maumee River.

The Upper Maumee River Watershed Partnership and local volunteers spent several hours Saturday canoeing down a two-mile stretch of the Maumee gathering trash as part of the Bi-State River Cleanup.

This is the first event the partnership has organized, but treasurer Abby Frost has led several outings on other parts of the river with the Save Maumee Grassroots Organization.

Volunteers used canoes and boats to scour the river and collect as much trash as possible.

But with limited time and minimal manpower, they had to leave a lot behind.

“There’s a lot of stuff we had to leave out there, which I wasn’t expecting to do,” said Chelsie Werling, 21.

“It reminds you that you need to take care of the river and why you want to protect it.”

A mayonnaise container, Axe body spray bottle and a small abandoned boat about the size of a canoe were all stranded in the river.

And then there were the ducks. About 2,000 plastic ducks were reported missing after the 22nd annual Duck Race fundraising event for Stop Child Abuse & Neglect.

Each canoe brought back dozens of the miniature ducks they found floating along the Maumee.

Despite cleanings done by local groups, trash continues to accumulate, said Greg Lake, Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District director. Lake also is the steering committee chair for the partnership.

“The sad part is, a lot of people who use the rivers the most trash it up,” Lake said. “It’s frustrating.”

Upper Maumee is the third active watershed project in Allen County, Lake said.

The group is looking to apply for funding from various state and federal sources to engage in conservation efforts, but first it must develop and submit a watershed management plan. The goal is to do so within the next year, Lake said.

The amount of trash in the river is just one indication of the effect humans have.

“People don’t understand the consequences of the things they do,” Lake said, citing examples of gutter drains and agricultural runoff.

Volunteer and activist groups allow people to get to participate and try to preserve local resources.

“This is kind of a hands-on approach that you can actually get people involved with instead of just sitting at meetings,” Frost said. “People want to feel empowered and like they can make a difference.”

Keep IT OUT of Our Water

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Everyone should hug a farmer.  Thank them for the food we eat and marvel at their ability to use the land for such bounty.  American farmers are people that made our country great.  I obey laws because that is what people do who live in a  civilized society.  Do you remember how people in England discarded their waste before the black plague killed 1/3 of the population (25 million people)?

In the 14th century people would throw their chamber pots’ contents out of their window and into yards and streets.  The rats would then walk through the feces while seeking food and finally carry it back to the larger rat populations.  The flees that resided on the backs of rats were also exposed to the waste causing the plague.  This is ONE theory of a disease called Black Death and is still studied today as one of the most deadly pandemics in history. Keep poop out of our water, just like what was enacted into federal law in 1973 –  called the Clean Water Act.  So leave our small farm owners alone for a moment; but immediately impose current law on factory farms that contain animals on an industrial scale.
Sorry about the sick piggy picture…taken in Romania or Poland.           This diagram was a picture from Missouri

Why Factory Farms May Finally Be Held Responsible for Their Polluting Waste

By , Environment News Service
Posted on June 3, 2010, Printed on June 6, 2010

In a legal settlement that could affect the entire U.S. meat industry, the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to identify and investigate thousands of factory farms that have been avoiding government regulation for water pollution with animal waste.

The settlement requires the agency to propose a rule on greater information gathering on factory farms within the next 12 months. It will require the approximately 20,000 domestic factory farms to report such information as how they dispose of manure and other animal waste.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance filed the suit in 2009 over a rule that exempted thousands of factory farms from taking steps to minimize water pollution from the animal waste they generate.

“Thousands of factory farm polluters threaten America’s water with animal waste, bacteria, viruses and parasites that can make people sick,” said Jon Devine, an attorney with the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Many of these massive facilities are flying completely under the radar. EPA doesn’t even know where they are,” said Devine.

More than 30 years ago, Congress identified factory farms as water pollution sources to be regulated under the Clean Water Act’s permit program.

But under a Bush administration regulation challenged by the environmental groups in this lawsuit, large facilities were able to escape government regulation by claiming, without government verification, that they do not discharge into waterways protected by the Clean Water Act.

Under the settlement reached May 26, the EPA will initiate a new national effort to track down factory farms operating without permits and determine if they must be regulated.

The specific information that EPA will require from individual facilities will be determined after a period of public comment. But the results of that investigation will enable the agency and the public to create stronger pollution controls in the future and make sure facilities are complying with current rules.

“The EPA’s rules have failed to protect our rivers and lakes from polluting factory farms,” said Ed Hopkins, director of Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program. “Gathering more information to document factory farms‘ pollution will lay the groundwork for better protection of our waters.”

The National Pork Producers Council expressed “deep frustration and anger” over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s continuing efforts “to develop costly agricultural regulations that provide few if any additional environmental benefits.”

“With this one-sided settlement, EPA yanked the rug out from under America’s livestock farmers,” said Michael Formica, NPPC’s chief environmental counsel. “NPPC is looking at all appropriate legal responses to EPA’s disappointing course of action.”

Factory farms, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations, CAFOs, confine animals on an industrial scale and produce massive amounts of manure and other waste that can pollute waterways with dangerous contaminants.

These CAFOs apply liquid animal waste on land, which runs off into waterways, killing fish, spreading disease, and contaminating drinking water. The plaintiff groups cite EPA estimates that pathogens, such as E. coli, are responsible for 35 percent of the nation’s impaired river and stream miles, and factory farms are one of the most common pathogen sources.

“This agreement sets the stage for new Clean Water Act permitting measures that will add to producers’ costs, drive more farmers out of business, increase concentration in livestock production to comply and hurt rural economies,” said Randy Spronk, a Minnesota pork producer who heads NPPC’s environmental committee. “And the measures will do nothing really to improve water quality.

“Additionally,” said Spronk, “the settlement was negotiated in private and without consultation or input from the regulated farming community. This flies in the face of the Obama administration’s pledges to operate government more transparently. And, in this economy, the administration should be enacting measures that create jobs, not implementing regulations that put American farmers out of business.”

Today there are more than 67,000 pork operations compared with nearly three million in the 1950s. Farms have grown in size; 53 percent of them now produce 5,000 or more pigs per year.

“The record is clear — large CAFO operations, and many medium and small operations, commonly discharge pollutants into the surrounding environment,” said Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Hannah Connor. “What is also clear is that if we want to continue to drink, fish and enjoy water that is not contaminated with raw animal excrement, these discharges must be stopped.”

“We believe that the terms of this settlement will help reverse this industry’s history of bad behavior by improving implementation and enforcement of the law,” Connor said.

Litigation brought by these three groups has forced the EPA to revise its CAFO rules twice within the past decade to tighten the pollution control requirements on these facilities.

© 2010 Environment News Service All rights reserved.

Great Lakes states’ 500 square miles of parking lots threaten water quality, walkability

Monday, July 5th, 2010       Great Lakes Echo –  June 17, 2010

People ask me all the time about CSO’s / SSO’s (Combined  Sewer Overflow / Sanitary Sewer Outfalls).  Did the city plan poorly for our sewers? Why would 1/12th of an inch of rain cause all of our toilets and sinks water and stormsewers mix and discharge directly into the rivers, if the city/county were not to blame?  The answer is not that complicated like many others these days.  However, solutions are very expensive.

When Fort Wayne infrastructure was built around 1912 for our sanitary sewers (toilets) and stormsewers (the grates on the streets) they were two separate systems that were connected, toward the top, by a single pipe.  The sanitary sewers have a constant flow, the storm sewers surge with rain.  Since they are connected at the top with a smaller pipe, the mix of both pipes are released from the “outfall points.”  This pipe is a fail-safe type system, so when large rain events or flooding occurred, it would discharge into the waterways instead of coming up in your house.  This is not a bad idea, considering I am a homeowner as well.  SO ~ when built all those many years ago Fort Wayne, Indiana’s population was 52,057 in 1900 and 76,320 in 1912.  If you now count how many heads are flushing their toilets, that go to the same system that was built 100 years ago with some additions, the sewers are not able to process all that.  If you count the communities surrounding Fort Wayne that uses our “settling ponds” and infrastructure in 2010 …we are approaching 350,000 with the census numbers coming out soon.   Truly, the leaders of our city 100 years ago could not realize that the population would be so large and simply failed to plan accordingly.

Currently their are 42 CSO (Combined Sewer Overflows) or SSO (Sanitary Sewer Outfalls) discharge points locally, with 38 of those with permits allowing over 1 million gallons of water per day. These CSO’s are the combined “sanitary” (toilet water) and storm-sewer water are discharged out from these points with as little as a one-twelfth inch of rainfall or snowmelt.  In 2006 Save Maumee recorded 137 of these discharges.  Currently, the City of Fort Wayne reports on average 71 discharges per year and the Federal EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) allows 4 discharges per year.  Remember, what you flush down your toilet truly ends up in local streams. Be conscientious.

Pavement is one more component.  So in 1912 there were definitely not as many roads, sidewalks, driveways or roof tops.   Precipitation had a chance to “soak-in” rather than “run-off”.  The natural process of filtration through grasses (NOT the mowed kind) and trees allowed the water to release slowly and filter through ground water.  Now, when it rains the water is shed by running over pavement, picking up contaminants and loose soil.  It rinses off the oil, antifreeze, salt, lawn chemicals etc. and is quickly discharged into storm-sewers and is shed as fast as possible into nearby rivers and tributaries.  New stats from this Great Lakes Echo article discusses too much pavement stresses nearby streams.  Too much pavement and fast drainage and not enough productive green space may be topics of preponderance for the next 100 years.

Waste in Indiana Waterways

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010


Check this article out for yourself…but this excerpt is what I found interesting.  The Upper Maumee Watershed is also considered an impaired stream for PCB’s, heavy metals, Hg, Fish Consumption Advisories (FCA’s), E. Coli and nitrates.  The Upper Maumee remains on the 303 (d) list for impared waterways. Indianapolis is reflective of other larger municipalities like Fort Wayne, Terre Haute and Gary, IN.

NUVO – Indy’s Alternative Voice

“IDEM’s website houses a listing of all the impaired bodies of water in
Indiana, which IDEM completes for the whole state every two years.


For the West Fork of the White River in Marion County, the river is
listed as impaired for E. coli, PCBs in fish tissue and mercury found
in fish tissue. PCBs were once widely used as coolants and lubricants,
their manufacture has ceased due to health effects.


For the East Fork of the White River basin and the West Fork of the
basin 21 and 19 counties were listed with impaired waterways
respectively. Many of the impaired waterways are tributaries that will
eventually hook up to one of the forks of the White River. Causes for
the impairment of the waterways in both forks of the White River basin
were highly varied, including: E. Coli, impaired biotic communities,
cyanide, mercury in fish tissue, PCBs in fish tissue, sulfates, lead,
algae and taste/color.


In an article from the Muncie Star Press, Seth Slabaugh
recently reported that a Ball State University study in which 20
samples were taken from the West Fork of the White River revealed many
chemicals in the river which numerous cities use for drinking water.
These chemicals included: antibiotics, acetaminophen, anti-bacterials,
various other pharmaceuticals and DEET. According to the article water
treatment plants don’t treat the water for the above chemicals, and the
federal government is still in the process of working out what level of
pharmaceuticals is safe for treated drinking water.


So how does Indiana stack up comparatively to waterways around the
nation? According to data provided by the EPA, of streams that have
been sampled nationwide approximately 50 percent are in good condition
with the other 50 percent being impaired. The Indiana average is
slightly below the national average with 42 percent in good condition
and 58 percent impaired. Yet only slightly more than half of Indiana’s
rivers and streams have been assessed so far. Indiana lakes are in far
worse shape comparatively with 88 percent impaired and 12 percent in
good condition. All 59 miles of Indiana’s Great Lakes shoreline is


EPA data shows that the cause for impairment in Indiana is most
commonly listed as unknown, while non point source pollution, and
agriculture generally make up most of the causes for impairment.
Industrial waste like that reported by Environment America does not
register as high on the larger scale.”


Interesting Find of the Day

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

I had Sandy Bihn from the Western Lake Erie Basin call and ask me what was happening upstream, “There are major problems in Western Lake Erie, we are having algae blooms comparable to the early 1980’s [just after the Clean Water Act became enforceable law].  Maumee Bay in this area is the outlet to the Maumee.

If you are interested in visiting this area, ask questions and see for yourself; the tour is  September 4th – Maumee Bay Tour – take a bus to Toledo, Ohio’s Maumee Bay and find out about the sediment load being deposited and removed from your waterways – call Jason Roehrig for interest or reservations (419) 782-8751

Greg Konger recommend I read the college textbook, “Living in the Environment/Fourteenth Edition” by G. Tyler Miller, Jr.  It explains our environmental condition clearly with an attention to details. In this book, it states the harmful affects of artificial light.

Here is the exerpt:

“Wesley College professor Marianne Moore and her colleagues have found evidence that artificial illumination can alter aquatic ecosystems and could ultimately decrease water quality. Minute zooplankton avoid predators by remaining well below the surface during the day and then rising to graze on algae at night. But artificial light from urban glows can discourage their nightly surface feeding. If their grazing is inhibited, algae populations could explode and these blooms would deplete dissolved oxygen needed by fish and decrease water quality.”