The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.
The saying goes: "It takes a village." To fully implement the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, governments, businesses, and citizens all must do their part. Every day, I meet people working to reduce pollution and restore local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake. What I have learned is that Bay's village is huge. Few get the credit they deserve. As we enter the new year, I would like to share three stories. There are many thousands more.
Chesapeake Bay technician Brady Seeley is on the frontline, conducting farm inspections in Cumberland County as part of Pennsylvania's renewed effort to get pollution reduction back on track. The state Department of Environmental Protection asked conservation districts to inspect 10 percent of farms in Pennsylvania's portion of the Bay watershed for the required manure management and erosion and sediment plans.
Some conservation districts opted not to do inspections, fearing they might strain relations with farmers.
But the process has gone smoothly in the Cumberland County Conservation District, thanks to Seeley's familiarity with farmers and his experience growing up on a small dairy farm in the Keystone State. He has been with the district nearly three years.
He is finding areas that need to be improved. After meeting with one farmer, Seely said, "He had a conservation plan but not a manure management plan and agreed to seek technical assistance to get it written. You can go out and tell the farmer he is in violation and then it's not hard in the next sentence to tell the farmer let us help you get those plans."
Mark Foster is the founder and executive director of Second Chance, Inc. in Baltimore. His nonprofit aims for a "triple bottom line." It strives to give people, material, and the environment a second chance at new life. Second Chance provides green collar jobs to some of the city's residents who find job seeking most difficult, including those coming out of prison and those recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. The workforce deconstructs houses and salvages materials for sale at a Ridgely Street warehouse near M&T Bank Stadium.
Foster started Second Chance 13 years ago. He was a homeowner trying to refurbish a house built in 1902. He found it difficult to find replacement pieces and parts. Most old homes were simply demolished, and the remains dumped in landfills. Now, Second Chance workers demolish more than 200 homes a year, saving nearly everything for resale and have kept 10,502,118 pounds of post-construction waste out of landfills so far in 2016.
Foster is determined that Second Chance stretch its environmentalism even more. Next year, Second Chance plans to install rain gardens in its parking lot and solar panels on its roof. Inspired, in part, by volunteering with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation when he was in high school, Foster said that he wants to help the Chesapeake get a second chance.
The Carcamo Family
In Richmond, Efrain Carcamo and his three children walk the banks of the James River several times a month to hunt litter. On each trip, they fill bags with beer cans, plastic bottles, and other trash. For years, Carcamo has repeated this routine in a personal effort to clean up the river.
Growing up on a farm in El Salvador, Carcamo learned to respect the environment. Since moving to the United States as a teen, he's been drawn to restoring the rivers and streams that flow to the Bay.
Carcamo's contribution to clean water stretches beyond the untold amount of trash he has removed from the James. He's inspiring others to take action. That starts with his three young children, who eagerly join in efforts to fight pollution.
By being out regularly along heavily used stretches of the river, he's also an example to the many people who see him cleaning up. "I meet a lot of people from different backgrounds out here, from all levels of society, different races," he said. After speaking with him, some follow in his footsteps. "When they realize there is someone doing it, they get courage and they start doing it themselves," Carcamo said.
We all know that the Bay's problems are larger than trash or inadequate manure management. Nonetheless, these individuals are demonstrating the difference they can make and the good they can create. They are Chesapeake Bay stewards.
As we reach the midpoint of the Clean Water Blueprint, we are seeing progress. The water is clearer, the dead zone is getting smaller and Bay grass populations are up significantly. But there is much more work that needs to be done.
In 2017, it will be more important than ever that our elected officials know that we value our rivers, streams and the Bay. So please contact them to let them know that clean water is not a luxury, it is a right.