Earth Day 2021: Know your Stormwater Pollutants!

Here at CWEP we believe every day should be treated like Earth Day. That makes Earth Day as good a day as any to be reminded of the “Big 6” stormwater pollutants and how small actions at home can make a big difference downstream. Take a look at the infographics below to learn more. We hope you use today, and every day, as an opportunity to spread the word about stormwater pollutants and solutions.

Racial equity, stormwater pollution, and community watershed education: An Interview with Keshi Satterwhite, ECWA

Keshi Satterwhite has been doing outreach and engagement for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association since 2019. CWEP education and outreach coordinator Hannah sat down with Keshi to talk about her passion, leadership, mentorship, and hope for the future of the water sector.

Our interview with Keshi kicks off our Water Leaders Profile Series, where we will be interviewing water leaders from across the CWEP region. Know someone in a CWEP community who is leading the water sector? E-mail us at cwep@tjcog.org to suggest our next interviewee.

Discover Aquatic Life in Winter

Winter in North Carolina means shorter days and colder nights, a time when you might be spending more time indoors or bundling up to brave the drop in temperature.  But what does winter mean for our aquatic animal neighbors? You might be surprised to discover that the winter is still an active time for many critters. 

Macroinvertebrates

Water gets cold more slowly than air, which means fish, macroinvertebrates, and other aquatic creatures remain active even as the air temperature drops. You may still find mayfly, dragonfly, stonefly and other macroinvertebrates when sampling in the winter. Some people even prefer to look for these tiny animals in this season because they move slower and spend more time hiding under leaves and rocks.

Stoneflies overwinter as aquatic nymphs and continue growing even as water temperatures approach freezing. (photo courtesy of thecatchandthehatch.com)

Get involved: Macroinvertebrates are important water quality indicators and can help us assess stream health. Join or create an NC Stream Watch group to collect and submit macroinvertebrate data to a statewide citizen science effort! To learn more about the importance of clean water for macroinvertebrates, check out this video by the town of Chapel Hill’s stormwater department that talks about macroinvertebrates and dissolved oxygen

Salamanders

Many salamander species are still active during North Carolina winters. You can spot red-back salamanders, lead-back salamanders, and maybe even the notoriously elusive marbled salamanders under logs in wet woodland areas. They are especially active during warm and rainy winter nights. Marbled salamanders breed in the winter, laying their eggs in ephemeral (temporary) woodland ponds. 

The beautiful Marbled Salamander is the state salamander of North Carolina.

Get Involved: Interested in going winter herping? Check out The Wild Report’s video on going winter salamander hunting in the Piedmont.  download the iNaturalist app to help with species ID and track the salamanders and other animals that you find along the way! If you are a new iNaturalist user, you can reference this previous blog post for some helpful tips and tricks.

Water Birds

Winter is a time that many birds migrate to North Carolina to overwinter. Buffleheads, pied-billed grebes, coots, ring-necked ducks and hooded mergansers are some of the inland waterfowl you might spot on a nearby pond or lake. If you live on the coast, you might spot  gannets, loons and wrens near the shore.  Some bird species even mate and lay eggs in the winter! If you listen closely, you might be able to hear the nasal sounding mating call of a male woodcock on a mild January night. Woodcocks live in shrubby forests and grasslands near water. 

Male buffleheads are easily identified by their large white crown. (photo courtesy of  allaboutbirds.org)

Get Involved: Ready to do some winter birding? Be sure to download the E-Bird app before you go. E-bird allows you to easily track, record, and ID the birds you find. To read more about winter birding in North Carolina, check out this page on the Bird Watcher’s Digest.

These animals need clean water to survive or thrive (like us!) Help protect critters by doing your part to keep stormwater clean.

Program Spotlight: OWASA’s Care to Share

Access to clean water is especially important for sanitation and survival during a pandemic, when frequent hand washing and spending more time at home have become a part of daily routine. Since the onset of COVID-19 in North Carolina and across the globe, Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) has seen a 73% increase in past due water bills as well as an increase in household water usage. While OWASA has currently suspended disconnections for non-payments, they anticipate that customers without a steady or adequate source of income will continue to struggle with on-time payments moving forward.

OWASA’s Care to Share program provides water bill payment assistance through a partnership with the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service (IFC). Each month, paying customers have the option to add a few extra dollars to their bill that are donated to the Care to Share program. IFC helps to identify households who may benefit from Care to Share and distribute the collected funds to participants. Currently, about 5% of OWASA customers contribute monthly donations to the Care to Share program.

Care to Share (previously called Taste of Hope) has existed in some form since 1997 and has served as a model for other communities and utilities across the Triangle region to institute similar programs. As the need for water bill assistance increases, there is also a push to provide more funding and structure for water bill assistance programs at both the state and national government level.

OWASA customers can sign up to donate through their water bill here. Anyone can also make a direct donation to the Care to Share program through IFC here.

learn more at OWASA’s website: https://www.owasa.org/help-my-neighbor-care-to-share/

Biking the Watershed

During this time of social distancing and working from home, we have had some beautiful weather! A few weekends ago, I ventured out to explore the Neuse River Basin via 25 mile bikeride. As a new resident of North Carolina, I was impressed with Raleigh’s greenway system which follows several tributaries of the Neuse.

I began my journey along the Crabtree Creek Trail. Crabtree Creek starts in Cary and flows through Lake Crabtree County Park, Umstead State Park and sections of North Raleigh before eventually joining the Neuse near Knightdale. The Crabtree flows through a rapidly developing area in a historic flood plain, which means that even light rains can cause the creek to flood. Evidence of this along the Crabtree Creek Trail include several washouts where sediment has been deposited.

The Crabtree Creek Trail joins with the Neuse River Trail at Anderson Point Park. This was a busy section of trail due to proximity to parking and residential areas. I took a quick rest stop at Anderson Point Park to enjoy the view.

The Neuse River Trail joins up with the Walnut Creek Trail where the Walnut Creek flows into the Neuse River. This section of trail was the most adventurous and scenic, featuring several roller-coaster like bridges and boardwalks that run through the Walnut Creek Wetland Center, Lake Johnson Park, and Worthdale Park. A few lookouts along the way are great places to stop and search for waterfowl, turtles, and other wildlife.

The last section of my bikeride was on the Rocky Branch Trail, which weaves amoung neighborhoods, wooded areas, and more urban stretches. This trail takes you through Dix Park and ends with a gorgeous view of the Raleigh skyline.

This short weekend adventure helped me see my watershed with new eyes. I gained a new appreciation for the role that greenways play in protecting our state’s water resources, connecting folks to outdoor spaces, and managing stormwater. If you’re interested in learning more about the positive benefits of greenways, you can explore The Impact of Greenways in the Triangle document written by the East Coast Greenway Alliance.

How have you been exploring your watershed during social distancing? Drop a comment in the box to the left to share your story with us.

Be Good to the Critters: Don’t Litter!

February flowers bring March showers, and March showers sweep litter into our streams. This means spring is the perfect season to get involved in litter prevention, awareness and education in your community. Here are 5 ways you can get involved:

Volunteer at a litter clean up. Clean Jordan Lake, Keep Durham Beautiful, and Wake County Waste and Recycling are a few examples of organizations who host spring clean ups in the Triangle. 

Host your own creek clean up. Not sure if your community has a clean up? Create your own! Stream Watch is a state-wide community science initiative where groups plan two creek clean ups/water quality monitoring events per year. Contact our stormwater education specialist at cwep@tjcog.org for help picking a safe site, learning how to use the online surveys, and assistance with hosting your first event.

Learn about what happens to your waste. Did you know that Durham and Orange Counties truck their trash over 90 miles away to Montgomery County? Find out what happens to waste in your community by contacting your local government and planning a field trip to your landfill or recycling facility, or check out their website to see if there’s a video.

Promote litter prevention in schools. In Baltimore Maryland, a school-wide ban on styrofoam started by 2 high school students eventually led to a state-wide ban. Organizations like Don’t Waste Durham encourage K-12 education on litter prevention through action projects and volunteering. 

Educate yourself so that you can educate others. Chatham County Solid Waste and Recycling just rolled out a new “Don’t Waste It” curriculum for formal and non-formal K-12 educators. Head over to the department page to find out about upcoming workshops or request one near you. 

Do you have other ideas about how to prevent waste in your community? We would love to hear from you! Drop a comment in the box below or contact CWEP for more information.IMG-7442CWEP member Hannah helping out at a Clean Jordan Lake cleanup this past fall.

Capture It! Enter Raleigh’s Annual Stormwater Arts Contest

Are you or someone you know a creative Raleigh student? Help us spread the word about the City of Raleigh’s annual stormwater arts contest! By entering this contest, students explore the powerful intersections of art, messaging, stormwater education, and community engagement. Winners receive a $500 prize and recognition as a 2020 Raleigh Environmental Award Winner. 

Who: 8th-12th grade students in Raleigh area schools

What: a video or artwork entry showing how to reduce stormwater pollution and protect local waterways. Artwork should be designed to fit on a storm drain or rain barrel.

When: submissions are open until February 3rd, 2020.

How: Register here on the City of Raleigh site. This page also has more details about submission requirements.

Need some inspiration? Click here to watch the video entry winner from last year’s contest.

Image result for storm drain artwork Image result for rain barrel art

Image result for storm drain artwork

Above are some examples of creative stormwater messaging painted on storm drains and rain barrels. If you want to make your own storm drain art design, be sure that it fits within the required dimensions (23.5-inch diameter round or 62.5-inch x 14.5-inch rectangular)

Image 1: City of Raleigh website

Image 3: RVA H20 (Richmond, VA) website

Image 4: WLWT5 News (Cincinatti, OH) website

Image 5: City of Lubbock, TX website

Waste-Less with Green to Go

Anyone who has visited or lives in Durham knows that it’s a foodie town. From food trucks, to fried chicken, to vegan soul, Durham is the land-of-plenty when it comes to creative food fusions. It’s also an environmentally conscious place to live. Local grassroots community group Don’t Waste Durham is at the forefront of these movements, by keeping waste out of the system and “creating solutions that prevent trash”.

Along with delicious savory bites, the food industry also produces a lot of single-use product waste. According to the U.S. EPA, single-use food packaging makes up nearly 30% of annual solid waste. Straws, plastic utensils, Styrofoam cups/containers, and even “eco-friendly” single-use items like paper to-go boxes are all potential sources of litter that can enter our waterways through stormwater runoff.

single use plastic

What if we could reduce this threat to our watersheds by eliminating single use items in restaurants? Green To Go (an initiative of Don’t Waste Durham) is “taking the trash out of takeout” through their service which provides consumers and local restaurants with reusable to-go containers.  Customers pay an annual subscription fee ($25), download an app, go out to eat/ order take-out from a participating restaurant, and then return their container to a drop-off location. The containers are then washed and returned to restaurants to begin the process again. Using “smart logistics, behavior science, and technology”, Green to Go is attempting to not only eliminate single-use packaging, but build resilient circular economies in the process.

Image result for don't waste durham logoImage result for green to go durham

This past spring, CWEP launched a one-click giveaway campaign sponsored by several community partners, including Green to Go. Green to Go offered an annual subscription for their reusable container service to the giveaway winner. Partnerships like this help CWEP reach a broader audience who might not otherwise know about our work in the  region, while also promoting local businesses who are working towards more resilient communities. We look forward to featuring more local businesses like Green to Go in future CWEP giveaways, and expanding the reach to include local businesses from other member communities as well.

Litter

To Learn more about the Green To Go Initiative, or to sign up, please visit these links:

Don’t Waste Durham Webpage

Green to Go Webpage

Sources:

SOLVE MIT Challenge: Green to Go

Taking the Trash out of Takeout article

Don’t Waste Durham

Green to Go 

Image 1: Green Peace USA

Image 2/3: Green to Go and Don’t Waste Durham webpages

Image 4: CWEP image

What Goes Up Must Come Down!

Spring is finally here! And with Spring comes lots of parties, celebrations, graduations, birthdays, weddings, fairs, and more! Balloons are commonly used around the world to celebrate many of the occasions listed, however, when your balloon disappears into the sky, where does it end up going?!

What goes up must come down! Balloons may look nice, but they have a number of environmental concerns associated with them. Balloons are hazards when they enter the environment and our waterways.  All released balloons, whether they are released intentionally or not, return to Earth as litter. And when it rains, all litter and trash end up down the stormdrain- which in turn lead to our waterways.

Balloons kill countless animals, cause dangerous power outages, and affect our water quality. They can even travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places.

Balloons-in-Power-Lines-300x300

Balloons return to the land and water where they can be mistaken for food and eaten by animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and birds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs and ribbons and strings can lead to entanglement, causing death. Beach litter surveys have shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years.

hawks

The Problems

Inflated balloons that make their way back to earth or water, pose a risk for wildlife due to the high chance of becoming ingested due to attractive color or their ribbons and tassels forming the perfect trap for animals to become entangled. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellies, which balloons can easily be mistaken for.

Balloons can travel far and often end up riding the world’s oceans or rivers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identifies balloons as a commonly reported source of marine debris. A report found on the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) titled Ocean Conservancy Beach Debris Data shows 1000’s of balloons pulled from waterways and the coast each year. The Ocean Trash Index presents state-by-state and country-by-country data about ocean trash collected and tallied by volunteers around the world on one day each year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

Cleanups alone can’t solve this pollution problem. Nevertheless, the Ocean Trash Index provides a snapshot of what’s trashing our ocean so we can work to prevent specific items from reaching the water in the first place. It is for that reason that a handful of states including but not limited to California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Texas and Virginia have recently passed legislation restricting the release of balloons.

What Can I Do to Help?

There are many alternatives that will not pollute the Earth or harm animals. We can opt for reusable party & advertising décor – banners, flags, ribbon dancers, pinwheels. For memorials & fundraisers, we can plant trees, gardens or build birdhouses – actions that promote life. Perhaps organize a clean-up in a loved one’s honor or blow bubbles. Sky Lanterns are NOT a good alternative. Sky lanterns are an uncontrollable fire hazard and have sparked massive wildfires and structure fires. Falsely marketed as biodegradable, the chemically treated paper, bamboo ring, metal wires, and fuel cell can last over a year- polluting the planet & risking harm to other lives. Animals have become entangled in them or have ingested the metal parts.

Protesting or stopping a balloon release is another option. Below are some tips on how to go about stopping a balloon release:

  1. Do your homework! Check to see if balloon releases are illegal in the area. Mylar/foil balloons have a “warning” on them saying they should not be released outdoors because of their conductivity.
  2. Contact the organizer. Private message or email may be better. Offer alternatives. Click here for form letters and ideas.
  3. Contact the venue/location. 
  4. Contact city officials. City Manager, Mayor, Parks & Recreation/whoever has jurisdiction of the venue/location. If it’s a sky lantern release, also contact the fire department.
  5. Didn’t work?  You can Email Info@BalloonsBlow.org or Report a Release.

Please choose sustainable products when celebrating and be mindful of the simple choices we can make to protect the planet we all share!

Balloons Blow…Don’t Let Them Go!

Simple-Solutions-to-Less-Plastic-Pollution

 

CWEP’s Stormwater Education Campaign Giveaway!

Earlier this month, CWEP kicked off the Spring one click give-away digital campaign. Through partnership with Spectrum, our aired 30 second PSA video will re direct traffic to our website. This is a great incentive for environmentally-minded viewers to learn more about how to keep our waters clean and safe by heading to our website to learn more! The campaign will run until July, which is when winners will be announced. You can view this 30 second video here.

We would like to thank our local and green minded sponsors which include Spiffy, Green To Go, Fillaree and The Produce Box. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible! We are confident we will reach a large number of participants and encourage the public to view and interact with our stormwater education message as well as learn more about our valuable sponsors!

You can read more about the campaign and learn how to get involved here!

Rain Barrel2The Produce Box

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