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Expert: Stopping erosion can be team effort

July 09, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- "If we can stop erosion, the rest of this," Ed Merrifield said gesturing to his lengthy PowerPoint presentation on sediment control, "is irrelevant."

Rivers, streams and creeks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed suffer from sediment pollution that, due to soil erosion and runoff, is compromising water quality, said Merrifield, executive director of Potomac Riverkeeper Inc.

Addressing the Antietam Watershed Association (AWA) on Wednesday, Merrifield encouraged the 20 people present to do their part to stop excessive sediment pollution.

The discussion Wednesday evening was in line with the efforts of the AWA, said President Judy Bricker.

The AWA actively works to preserve the water quality and protect the stream banks of the Antietam Creek.

Bricker said the AWA hosts speakers at most of it quarterly meetings.

Merrifield, who works mostly in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, talked about the Potomac Riverkeeper's new grassroots campaign against pollution, "Get the DIRT Out," which is expanding into Pennsylvania.

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"The number one pollutant of our water is sediment," he said. "There are laws like the Clean Water Act that state it is illegal to pollute water with sediment but clearly the system does not work."

Merrifield's presentation dealt primarily with sediment runoff and pollution from construction sites and how residents can do their part by photographing and reporting when they see violations that lead to pollution.

While the Antietam Creek mostly suffers with sediment pollution from farmland, Bricker said the vast number of new development being built near the precious water source are a growing concern.

Many local officials, including staff from Washington Township and supervisors from Washington and Quincy townships, attended the talk.

Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher said most of the regulation of soil erosion is handled at the county level.

Still, the discussion put the issue in the forefront of key minds, he said.

Collectively the AWA, being a 501(c)3 nonprofit, cannot take action to help Merrifield and the Potomac Riverkeeper cause, but individually, each of the 20 people at the meeting could choose to volunteer, Bricker said.

The AWA hopes to discuss the information further at its next meeting, she said.

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