Tons of fun Stream clean-up marks 10th year of watershed improvement

By on March 28, 2012

By: SARA MILLER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

Photos courtesy of Lititz Run Watershed Alliance
Warwick Township's Linear Park, along Market Street, was one of six sites patrolled during the 10th annual stream clean-up.

Old computers, tires, a dishwasher, dehumidifier, bedroom suit…

This isn’t a classified ad for a yard sale, it’s garbage found in Lititz Run and the surrounding watershed. And this is why the Lititz Run Watershed Alliance started calling on volunteers to patrol local waterways for things that don’t belong.

March 17 marked the 10th Annual Stream Clean-Up sponsored by the alliance, and 150 people showed up to help the cause. The debris field has improved over the years, and with it the overall health of the ecosystem, but some of the items still found in these local creeks are baffling.

"We removed part of a couch, a full-size mattress and matching box spring from the stream last year!" said Terry Duffin, scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 154, which has been cleaning the area behind Bonfield Elementary School since 2003. "We’ve also found a ladder, alternator, car battery, fire extinguisher, kitchen chair, cabinets and a few cell phones … it is hard to believe that people actually take the time to walk over to the stream and dump these items into it."

Lisa Hochreiter, agriculture and earth science teacher at Warwick High School, sees the clean-up as an outdoor classroom for her students.

"It gets my students outdoors and into a real ecosystem, and they observe and learn so much about the importance of a riparian buffer and clean streams," she said. "They connect to the area and remember for many years what they did to help out."

And she has noticed the difference it makes.

"The students came out and found a lot of trash, everything from small bikes to many odds and ends. There was so much we couldn’t get it all out," she said of past stream clean-ups. "I have witnessed the stream staying much cleaner since the initial involvement."

"We have seen a dramatic improvement within the last four to five years," said Dan Zimmerman, alliance secretary, pointing out that plastic bags and soda bottles were the main trash items collected during the most recent event.

The amount of trash collected has dropped from about two tons to less than half a ton during the past decade, according to Zimmerman. Still, a surprise or two always seems to lurk in these waters, and the biggest item found this year was the dehumidifier. Cumbersome items like that create an extra burden, said Luba Irwin, administrative assistant for Warwick Township, because "(the township has) to pay for that to go into a landfill."

Still, the community as a whole has become more eco-minded. That is the observation of Logan Myers, alliance chairman, who has noticed more people picking up trash throughout the year. In 2009, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reclassified the Lititz Run from a warm water fishery to a cold water fishery, a main goal since the alliance was founded in 1997.

"We were very happy," Myers said. "It was not an easy process. This is the second time this state has ever done that, so it doesn’t happen every day."

Flourishing wildlife is a key indication of the stream’s improved health. The trout population has been steadily increasing as these waters sustain life up to reproduction age, Myers explained. Until recently, there had been no native trout in the creek since the 1930s or ’40s.

Another benefit of the clean-up, Zimmerman added, is a sizable reduction of sediment, phosphorous and nitrogen levels.

The first stream clean-up, which divides volunteers among six work sites in a 17-mile area, was held in 2002, Irwin explained, funded through a grant from the Susquehanna River Basin and PPL. The program is also part of the Great PA Clean-up and Keep PA Beautiful, and has been registered through Chesapeake Bay Project Stream Clean. Supplies like gloves, vests and trash bags are provided by PennDOT, and first-aid supplies are donated by the Chesapeake Bay Alliance. In addition, signage to keep personnel safe on the roadway was provided by the Lancaster County Solid Waste Authority.

The ripple effect of this collaborative effort is not only a cleaner environment, but also increased community awareness and involvement.

"It teaches the scouts a lesson about taking care of the environment, being an active participant in recycling, and giving back to the community," said Duffin about the positive effect the stream clean-up has had on his kids.

"This year my children came with me," Hochreiter added. "For several days afterwards they wanted to stop and get all the roadside litter so it wouldn’t get to the stream. Rain or shine, I will definitely be there next year." More CLEAN-UP, page A15

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