adopt your watershed

All Hands Needed to Control Nutrient Pollution

by Tom Damm

blue-green-algaeWhen a harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie contaminated the Toledo area water supply two years ago, my first thoughts turned to my niece Jen and her family.

They were among the hundreds of thousands warned not to drink their water, cook with it, give it to their pets or ingest it any way after tests found the toxin, microcystin, above the standard for consumption.

Jen found out about the water ban when she turned on the TV at around 8 a.m.  By then, there were scenes of panicky residents buying out cases of water from store shelves.

Two days later the water was declared safe to drink again.  But the weekend incident served as a wake-up call for many, including members of the Toledo Rotary Club.

The 400-member club – the world’s 11th largest – is putting its considerable people power and resources behind the challenge of preventing another nutrient-driven outbreak of blue-green algae in the lake.

The club invited EPA to its signature event – the second annual Rotary Lake Erie Watershed Conference – to explain to the 300 attendees how excess nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – are being reduced in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Jon Capacasa, our EPA Mid-Atlantic Region Water Protection Division director, relayed the history and progress of the Bay partnership, emphasizing the importance of sound science and collaboration.

He reminded them that they’re not alone – that nutrient pollution is a national problem, a threat to public health, aquatic life and the economy, and to solve it we need “all hands on deck,” including civic groups.

Jon offered some websites where Rotarians and others could find projects and activities to get involved, including watershed projects, volunteer water quality monitoring, and outreach campaigns.

All 50 states have reported harmful algal blooms, and recent research suggests the problem is getting worse as a result of climate change.

Check out this site for more information and for additional ways to help reduce nutrient pollution in your area.


About the Author
: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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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Volunteering to Protect the Environment

Students are often looking for opportunities to earn service hours. Non-profits, faith-based organizations often have such opportunities. Yet, why not think of creative ways to earn these service hours and protect the environment at the same time? And who says that community service should be limited to those who are currently enrolled in school? Volunteering for the environment should be everyone’s business regardless of age.

In last week’s blog, “Never Too late for a New Year Resolution,” I was struck by one of the statements from a regular Greenversations commenter, Michael E. Bailey. He highlighted how the City of Mission Viejo where he lives has made the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) one of its top priorities in environmentalism. He points out that this active community involvement has earned Mission Viejo a green reputation.

I was surfing EPA’s Web site and found useful information on how you can volunteer to protect the environment. There are tips for teachers and students, multicultural community groups, and other public participation opportunities.

There are many volunteer opportunities to improve the quality of our local waterways. The “Adopt your watershed” program has useful toolkits on watershed stewardship for volunteers. You can also recommend to your Girl Scouts troop to participate in the clean up of a local stream or waterway so the Girl Scouts can earn a service patch. Businesses can also board the green bandwagon by organizing environmental awareness activities to encourage green procurement.

These are just a sampling of some of the tools available. I’m sure that many of you have already put creative methods into practice. We would like to hear from you. So, as the old Chinese proverb says: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” It’s just a matter of starting. You can also make a difference today by engaging in environmental stewardship.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.