“Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.” …From The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
As the residents of Flint, Michigan have sadly discovered, unhealthy river water can be a serious hazard to public health. Even with extensive treatment, their drinking water is unsafe for several reasons – the most notable being lead contamination. The source of the lead is from the old pipes that have been in place for many decades, and the catalyst for the lead leaching into the water is the high acidity of the water itself.
The lead is dominating the news, but there are other problems with the drinking water in Flint. Even though it is filtered to remove contaminants, the amount of chlorine necessary to kill the high level of bacteria in the river water has caused an increase in other chemical compounds that are dangerous to the public health.
The situation has become a local tragedy and a national news story primarily as a result of the poor condition of the Flint River. The contamination didn’t happen overnight. The solution to pollution never was dilution, but that’s what many people believed for too long. The current danger to the citizens of Flint is the result of that kind of thinking.
We can be thankful that so much more is being done for the waters around the Chesapeake Bay.
At the Sassafras River Association, we are vigilant, energetic, and determined in our efforts to restore and protect the Sassafras. Since you receive our newsletter, you know about our many programs of education, outreach, and in-ground projects, but there are many opportunities for us to advocate for clean water in other ways.
For instance, tidal and non-tidal water quality sampling is one of our Riverkeeper’s primary activities. Using the data collected by him and 30 volunteers, he produces our annual SRA Report Card. It is mailed to nearly 3,000 residences in our watershed, and made available at 3 restaurants and a marine store for those who don’t receive it in the mail. It is a great way for interested residents and visitors to visually assess the health and vitality of the Sassafras.
A few years ago, SRA led the opposition against a rubble fill application in the sand and gravel operation near Massey. Our Riverkeeper maintains monthly communications with the Kent County Zoning Appeals Board, in order to be apprised of any similar application if one should arise.
SRA Riverkeeper is continuing to maintain a monthly communication regarding the current effort by Cecil County, in coordination with Indian Acres personnel, to restore the campground to the wonderful vacation community it was before permanent residences were allowed. With SRA persistence and the determination of County officials, the issue has been addressed, and the resolution is nearing an end. Your Riverkeeper will be in District Court three times in March to witness the last of the court decisions.
SRA advocated for, and our Riverkeeper continues to support and monitor the construction of, the Enhanced Nutrient Removal waste water treatment plant (WWTP) upgrades in Betterton and Galena. He spoke in favor of the Galena WWTP upgrade and also in favor of - and applauds the Kent Co. Commissioners for approving - the extension of the collection system down to the Sassafras River. That work in Galena is scheduled to begin this summer, and when all agreements are signed the Betterton plant will be out for bids very soon.
Your Riverkeeper also participated in “Hill Day”, and traveled to the U.S. Capitol to speak to our elected representatives in Washington. Along with other clean water advocates, he spoke to Senator Ben Cardin and representatives of Sen. Mikulski and Rep. Harris about issues related to Chesapeake Bay restoration funding.
The rivers of the Upper Eastern Shore are being given increased consideration and attention by our elected officials, and some of that is due to the constant efforts of the SRA and other Watershed Stewards. The Sassafras and Chester Riverkeepers are currently working together to solicit the Kent County Commissioners’ support for more watershed cleanups in 2016.
In closing, you can be assured that the SRA is always working to ensure that the type of public attention now being focused on Flint, Michigan will never come to our beautiful Sassafras River.
We sincerely appreciate your continued support for our efforts.
Capt. Emmett Duke,