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Fall days spent by a creek

2010 November 23

Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia I was fortunate enough to have a small creek running behind my house. That creek offered countless hours of entertainment for me and the other kids on the block. We would spend warm fall days after school jumping from bank to bank, “fishing” using fallen twigs as fishing rods, and watching water striders skim the creek’s surface. 

I guess after spending so much time creekside it wasn’t surprising that I decided to study aquatic ecosystems in college. While studying, I was able to put my knowledge into practice at a college-affiliated nonprofit called ALLARM. ALLARM works to assess, protect, and restore waterways through citizen engagement. Student staffers like me would spend afternoons and weekends wading through streams and educating the public about their local waterways. Really not a bad job to have during college; sure beats some of the other part-time jobs offered to college students!

While hanging out in streams performing water chemistry and biological analyses, it was amazing to me to see how many community members were interested in the health of the streams and creeks in their backyards. People would volunteer their free time to better understand and improve the condition of their local waterways. Just like me, these creeks were the ones they had explored as children and the ones they hoped their future children and grandchildren would also get to enjoy.

Interestingly enough, my career path didn’t meander too far from those creeks, and I ended up at EPA assessing the ecological impacts of the Acid Rain Program (ARP) on the health of our nation’s waterways. The ARP was established under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) to reduce emissions of acid rain forming pollutants from power plants. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the CAAA. In addition to the improvements in air quality and better health protection that have been achieved under the CAAA, we’ve also seen improvements in water quality. In fact, the overall emission reductions achieved by the ARP have resulted in improved environmental conditions and increased ecosystem protection in the areas that were once strongly impacted by acid rain including the Northeast and Mid-Appalachian region (Maryland, New York, West Virginia, Virginia, and most of Pennsylvania). For more detailed information on the improvements in surface water quality see our latest ARP progress report at http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/progress/ARP09_3.html.

Now, years after my childhood days, I’m grateful that the CAAA were put in place to improve air quality, thereby protecting and restoring the health of the waterways that so many people enjoy. And even though most of my work days now are spent in an office instead of knee-high in a creek, I still enjoy spending beautiful fall weekends exploring the banks of local creeks with my husband and dog.

Colleen Mason is a Physical Scientist in EPA’s Clean Air Markets Division. Her favorite fall activities include hiking, camping, and of course wading into her local stream to perform some monitoring.

Stream monitoring as part of the Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study  in 2010

Collecting water quality samples for the 2010 Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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