Posts Tagged 'blue water baltimore'

A Blue View: Stormwater – A Search for Solutions

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

July 31, 2013: Stormwater – A Search for Soluations

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Halle Van der Gaag
from Blue Water Baltimore discuss stormwater runoff!

John: We hear a lot about stormwater, but many of us still don’t exactly know what it is and why we should care. In Baltimore and all across the country, however, stormwater runoff is a major problem. To help us understand what this issue means to our community, Halle Van der Gaag, executive director of Blue Water Baltimore, is with me in the studio. Hi, Halle.

Halle: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

J: There’s a lot of misinformation out there about stormwater, but at its most basic, what is stormwater, and how does it relate to our community and our waters?

H: Stormwater runoff is actually rainwater that hits our pavement, roofs, and parking lots, and flows downstream, carrying pollutants, animal waste, fertilizer, and pesticides. What a lot of people don’t realize is that it actually carries air pollution that lands on our pavement, and washes that downstream as well.

J: Why is our stormwater situation so critical here in Baltimore?

H: For a long time, no one paid attention to stormwater. We were focused on industrial pollution and agricultural pollution. The reality of it is that pipes that carry stormwater are old, deteriorating, and breaking. They have not been maintained and they need an infrastructure overhaul.

J: Do we have a lot of impervious surfaces here? Describe what those are.

H: Impervious surface is just a term for hardscape or pavement – hard surfaces where you get no infiltration of rainwater. If you look around Baltimore, you’ll see that we have lots and lots of pavement. Not all of it is actually being used. Some of it is streets, but some of it is parking lots.

J: How does this whole situation manifest itself in our city these days?

H: What we’re seeing a lot is pipes bursting, streets collapsing, pollution in our waterways and in our harbor. It’s a real problem, not just for our waterways but as an inconvenience to commuters and people who are living and working in Baltimore.

J: It’s obviously a very costly and labor-intensive problem to solve, but what kind of work is being done now to help with this issue?

H: Recently, people have probably heard about a stormwater utility fee that has been passed in Baltimore and across the state. This allows Baltimore to finally be proactive and actually have the resources it needs to fix stormwater pipes before they break.

J: I know this is a really important issue, and some people have mis-characterized the stormwater fee as a rainwater tax and things like that. Help us understand more what these fees will help accomplish and how that might help the Chesapeake Bay.

H: In addition to fixing pipes, we also see lots of opportunities for green infrastructure, for opportunities to create stormwater practices that will help beautify the city, but are actually functional, beautiful spaces where you’re using plants and trees to filter and slow down stormwater before it hits the streets. It can be happening on public right-aways and in parks, but there’s a lot that people can do in their own backyards – installing rain gardens, rain barrels, planting conservation landscaping, lots of things that folks can actually do. Then they can offset and ask the city for credit for the stormwater fee. The goal here is to reduce pollution, not just collect fees that go into a big giant pipe.

J: Reducing pollution is something that’s good for all of us. Thank you so much for joining me, Halle. To learn more about Blue Water Baltimore and how you can reduce your stormwater impacts at home, visit aqua.org/ablueview.

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli

A Blue View: Clean Water Starts on Land

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

July 17, 2013: Clean Water Starts on Land

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Halle Van der Gaag
from Blue Water Baltimore discuss how we can
improve the health of Baltimore’s water supply. 

It’s not just about what we can do in the water that’s important. Clean water starts on land. The fact is, people in the community can make a major difference for the health of the water supply.

Below is the transcript from John’s interview with the executive director of Blue Water Baltimore, Halle Van Der Gaag:

John: What are some common misconceptions people might have about their relationship to the Bay?

Halle: In Baltimore because we’re in such an urban area, it’s easy to forget that we’re connected to the Chesapeake Bay. The Inner Harbor is actually the northwest branch of the Patapsco River. Unforunately, the Patapsco is one of the dirtiest rivers heading into the Cheaspeake Bay, consistently rated at a D-/F. Streams like the Jones Falls, Gwens Falls and Herring Run, where people  play and walk their dogs, also feed right into the Patapsco River.

John: Give me some examples of things that can be done in a community that can help make a difference to water quality.

Halle: Everyone can make a difference to improve water quality. We do some really simple things that are a lot of fun. Get out and plant a tree with organizations like Blue Water, the Aquarium, or Parks and People Foundation. Believe it or not, trees really are the answer. They help not only with water quality, but they also help improve air quality and provide shade and heating and cooling benefits. We call it the multiplier effect. Baltimore has only 23 percent tree canopy, so we have a long way to go to have a greener, more vibrant city.

John: We have a great chance to green our environment here. What other projects does Blue Water Baltimore encourage communities to embrace?

Halle: A lot of things we encourage folks to do is  think about pavement and hard surfaces in their communities. In your backyard, where you work or where you worship, do you need all of that pavement, or are there opportunities to use things like permeable pavement? If parking lots aren’t used, could we create a bioretention or a filter system where you’d actually be treating and managing rainwater on those impervious surfaces? Sometimes people can simply do things like redirect their downspout or install conservation landscaping, which requires less maintenance, less water and less mowing.

John: Prettier and easier. You can’t beat that. What do you find is the most effective way to get people in the community involved?

Halle: We find that a lot of folks, once they get information about this and they understand the problems, they’re really willing to dig in and take action. We spend a lot of time at community meetings and working with communities to spread the word on what they can do. We help folks raise money for projects and installation. We really people to get active, to get out on the land, and do a trash cleanup, plant a tree, identify a spot for a rain garden. Bring your friends. Bring your family.

John: So there’s really something for everyone if they want to chip in.

Halle: Absolutely.

John: Where do you think is our biggest opportunity for positive change in Baltimore and the communities surrounding us?

Halle: Thinking holistically, there are opportunities that folks can be doing where they live and work and worship. We want to see that folks are seeing that everybody’s part of the problem and everybody’s part of the solution. We’re all polluters and we all need to do our part. So whether it’s paying a stormwater fee or getting active in your community, we’re really encouraging people to just do a little bit more to help our environment.

John: Do our part. That seems so simple but I know it’s easier said than done. Thank you so much, Halle.

Halle: Thank you for having me.

About Blue Water Baltimore
Blue Water Baltimore’s mission is to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams and harbor. From organizing trash cleanups and planting trees to monitoring streams and advocating for stronger clean water laws, Blue Water Baltimore is hard at work in communities around the state. Learn more at bluewaterbaltimore.org.

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli

A Blue View: The Pollution We Cannot See

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 pm as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

March 13, 2013: The Pollution We Cannot See – Toxins in the Water

A Blue View podcast

Listen to John and Blue Water Baltimore’s, Halle Van der Gaag,
discuss how wastewater is polluting the Bay. 

When it comes to cleaning up the Baltimore Harbor, most of us think about trash cleanups. While keeping garbage out of our waterways is critically important, there’s another source of pollution infecting the Bay—bacteria from wastewater. Recently, Halle Van der Gaag, executive director of Blue Water Baltimore, sat with Aquarium CEO John Racanelli to talk about these toxins in our waters, and what needs to be done about them:

John: Tell me about what’s going on right now in our harbor in terms of bacteria and bacteria counts.

Halle: Well, unfortunately there’s way too much bacteria in the Baltimore harbors and our streams that feed the harbor. Though Baltimore has a separate sewer system, unfortunately we see huge amounts of wastewater entering our streams, not just from broken wastewater pipes but unfortunately through the storm drain system, where it’s not supposed to be coming from.

John: And that, I would guess, leads to higher bacterial counts, because these things kind of compound.

Halle: Absolutely. It’s unfortunate, but we have an aging system, on both the storm water and the wastewater side. So pipes are breaking. Raw sewage entering our streams contributes to bacteria, and everyone knows raw sewage in our waterways is not a good thing.

John: Absolutely. Where is this wastewater coming from?

Halle: It’s coming from our homes, our businesses, the places where we work. If you think about it, all our businesses are connected to the wastewater system, and it’s intended to go to the wastewater treatment site, but all along the way, there are opportunities for cracks and breaks and leaks, and that’s where we see the problems occur.

John: So it’s not really about the trash in this case, it’s about the waste stream.

Halle: And if you think about a fishable, swimmable harbor, it’s probably not the trash that’s going to keep you out of there, it’s going to be the bacteria.

John: What are the consequences of this dirty water in terms of how it affects humans and others?

Halle: We tend not to think about the harbor as a place where people recreate, but actually folks are out there in kayaks, paddleboats, on sailboats, and boating. Unfortunately, there are real significant public health risks if exposed. Skin infections, gastrointestinal issues, and even things like our pets getting sick when they run through the streams like the Jones Falls and the Gwynns Falls. So there are significant opportunities for folks to get sick and we are hearing more and more about those types of infections happening here in Baltimore.

John: I guess this must have an economic impact on our community too, eventually.

Halle: Absolutely. Who wants to sit at a restaurant along the Inner Harbor where there’s been a fish kill and where it’s very smelly and dirty? We’ve heard from restaurants last year during the June sewage overflow of how damaging it was to their bottom line.

John: So what’s being done out there right now to combat this overall issue of wastewater pollution?

Halle: Baltimore City is spending millions of dollars through something called the Consent Decree to actually upgrade and fix wastewater pipes and the streams. We hope in the next couple of years, we’ll see significant construction happening, and that should lead to a reduction in wastewater debris in the harbor.

John: Well then let me ask, what is the message we need to get out to really bring action on this critical issue?

Halle: So I think sometimes people can be frustrated about paying into fees to upgrade these systems, but in this case, there’s really nothing citizens can do. This is about city government doing what it needs to do to repair critical wastewater infrastructure, and it’s nobody’s fault the pipes are a hundred years old. We have pipes from the 1800s that are still functional. And so we just need to get behind the city and support these upgrades.

John: Okay, well thank you, Halle, very much for coming to talk about this important issue.

About Blue Water Baltimore
Blue Water Baltimore’s mission is to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams and harbor. From organizing trash cleanups and planting trees to monitoring streams and advocating for stronger clean water laws, Blue Water Baltimore is hard at work in communities around the state. Learn more at bluewaterbaltimore.org.

The Health Harbor Report Card
The recently released Healthy Harbor Report Card 2012 contains Blue Water Baltimore’s annual assessment for the Baltimore Harbor. This year the Harbor received an overall grade of C-. The Harbor’s grade, which is based upon 2012 monitoring data collected by the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, was higher than expected. Still, the Harbor met ecological health thresholds only 40 percent of the time, which is just barely a C-.

To view the complete Healthy Harbor Report Card, click here.

To see the Baltimore Harbor’s bacteria monitoring results for yourself, click here.

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli

Government Affairs Update: My One Year Aqua-versary

government affairs and policy update

This week marked the one year anniversary of my joining the National Aquarium as Government Affairs Manager. It has been an incredibly rewarding rookie year full of challenges, growth, and no shortage of animal encounters. I am undoubtedly most thankful for (apart from being able to hold not one but two baby sea turtles) the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to meet, work with, and learn from here at the Aquarium, in the environmental community, and in the halls of Annapolis.

Now that I’ve officially gotten my feet wet, been in over my head, dived right in, and whatever other cliché, Aquarium-related pun I’ve heard upon telling people where I work, I thought it would be best to reflect on the past year and exactly what I’ve learned. This year has taught me:

  1. Collaboration is key. Whether it is internal or external, government affairs simply would not be successful without a little help from friends. From our amazing Guest Services and Biological Programs staff who facilitate unforgettable tours for public officials to every member of the Marketing team who helps communicate the Aquarium’s advocacy work, I would be lost without the entirety of the National Aquarium team. Our work with other environmental groups in the region, such as Blue Water Baltimore, Trash Free Maryland, and the Choose Clean Water Coalition, just to name a few, ensures that we stay up to date with the latest conservation issues and guarantees that we all have a stronger advocacy voice.
  2. Know your strengths. Maryland, Baltimore, and the entire Chesapeake region are brimming with phenomenal environmental groups that are doing great things to protect our natural resources – but the National Aquarium is one of a kind. We have the opportunity to physically reach 1.4 million visitors annually with our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. Because we are a truly national attraction, the National Aquarium has a $314 million annual economic impact and $18 million fiscal impact on the State of Maryland and Baltimore City that helps boost the local economy. Communicating these unique strengths – and using them for the public good – is at the heart of everything we do. Oh, and did I mention we have dolphins?

    Chesapeake "photobombing" a nice family moment for Maryland Delegate Eric Luedtke.

    Chesapeake “photobombing” a nice family moment for Maryland Delegate Eric Luedtke.

  3. You are never finished telling your story. I probably say the words “well when you have a 32-year old building, sitting on a pier, full of a corrosive material…” about five times a week in order to describe the Aquarium’s very serious capital challenges and subsequent needs. Or, “did you know that more than 75,000 Maryland schoolchildren, teachers, and chaperones visit the Aquarium for free every year?” when discussing the Aquarium’s education priorities. In reality, the life of a government affairs professional is not wholly unlike the film “Thank You for Smoking.” I talk. A lot. Only instead of tobacco, I talk about economic impact, tourism, and sharks.
  4. “Think globally, act locally.” As the National Aquarium, we have an obligation to communicate the importance of the world’s aquatic treasures. But sometimes, especially when working on issues in Baltimore City and Maryland politics, communicating the importance of local treasures such as Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Chesapeake Bay, and Maryland’s coastline is the start of a larger conversation. For example, what we do to help save the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States and the economic lifeblood of the region, can serve as a case study for similar efforts in Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, or the Mississippi Delta. Similarly, the National Aquarium’s efforts to help pass the shark fin ban bill in Maryland will not only help the sharks off our own coast but will (and has already) inspire others to pass similar legislation.
  5. Stay true to your mission. Above all else, I have learned that the National Aquarium is a private, nonprofit conservation organization with a strong commitment to our community. While giving a tour this morning, one of our talented team members greeted the guests by saying, “Welcome to your Aquarium.” His statement made me pause and consider the brief but powerful message. The original Pier 3 building was constructed using taxpayer funding and the State of Maryland and Baltimore City occasionally supplement a portion of our capital costs. 1.4 million guests and 75,000 Maryland school children, teachers, and chaperones walk through our doors every year (see, I told you I say it a lot). Our conservation work around the state ensures that we practice what we preach on a daily basis. Our advocacy work in the halls of Baltimore’s City Hall, the Maryland State House, and Capitol Hill gives a voice to critical conservation efforts. And our access programs, from Fridays After Five to Maryland Mornings, help ensure that it remains your Aquarium.

It has been a wonderful year – and I’ve only just gotten my feet wet.

Blog-Header-SarahElfreth


Sign up for AquaMail

Twitter Updates


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 238 other followers