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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Burke, Virginia, USA

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Burke, Virginia, USA
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Registered: December 2007
City/Town/Province: Burke
Posts: 1
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I led the cleanup, proper disposal, and prevention of future litter along a portion of Pohick Creek near Shiplett Boulevard in Burke, Virginia. The cleanup mainly focused on the areas of the stream that flow under Shiplett Boulevard between White Oaks Elementary School and Burke Lake Road. These creek sites were much littered, full of all shapes and sizes of trash. There were car parts (fenders, an engine block, oil cans, etc.) bottles, lamps, beds, deflated balls, bicycles, water towers, and dozens of other types of pollution. Obviously, people at many times dumped these objects down in the streambed because it was easier than finding a proper disposal location.
I decided to do my project because I realized pollution comes back to do us harm. The people who live in the neighborhood (Cardinal Glen I, Cardinal Glen II, and along Burning Branch Road) benefited from my project as well as the community as a whole. Above the stream, gravity pulls all item that go into a storm drain directly to Pohick Creek, joins with the other trash directly thrown into the streambed, and the ensuing toxic run-off all ends up in large bodies of water, which we rely on for drinking water. In our area that’s the Potomac River or the Chesapeake Bay. The pollution can also cause several problems for fishermen, and their boats and equipment. My project of removing the creek’s litter not only rid the community of an eyesore, it also benefited the creek’s ecosystem by providing a better living place for native organisms. The litter, which causes deterioration of water quality, and thus health risks for humans, was properly removed. Furthermore, my project decreased chances of hazards to humans in the forest. A person wandering in the forest could have stepped on metal or broken glass if it was not removed from the creek area.
My project dealt with state property so I had to go through the state to be allowed to carry it out. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) wanted very clear plans on my creek cleanup project, in addition, they wanted to know how I would assist in future litter prevention. They informed me that the number one cause of stream litter is runoff from storm drains, called “nonpoint source” pollution. As I had not known this, I came up with a plan to inform the public in hopes it would prevent future littering. I organized the dispersal of informational flyers that informed local homes: that storm drains are not filtered, how everything they put in them hurts the environment, what they could do to prevent nonpoint source pollution, and where they could find more information about this subject. My plan also included painting stencils that read “Dump no waste. Drains to stream” on 28 key local storm drains. This was difficult to accomplish because: a sample drain had to be done properly and approved by a NVSWCD official before beginning, the drains had to be cleaned first with non-toxic, biodegradable cleaner and allowed to dry, be painted above 50 degrees Fahrenheit so the paint could bond correctly, and I was responsible for making volunteers carry out all of these instructions. However, I managed well and the stencils turned out fine.
During the main cleanup part of my project the only interesting life I encountered, other than the surplus of trees that are always present in Virginia, was a rare grove of bamboo. However, as I mentioned above, I encountered a wide variety of litter. My photo shows the V-8 engine block we removed. All litter was taken down to the I-66 transfer station, an approved local dump, where it was disposed of properly.
Completing my own cleanup project made me feel very satisfied that I contributed to the community, animals, myself, and future residents. Seeing the “before” pictures of the littered creek and the “after” pictures of the clean one, I know I made a difference. Every school day my bus drives over the creek and I look out the window, and smile to myself thinking, “I did that.” It improves my faith in my community too, knowing that there are people willing to volunteer their time to help our environment. And others who could not attend still found a way to help - some donated tools, gloves, etc.; the county dump allowed me to dispose trash without fees, and the local Papa John’s even gave pizza to the hungry volunteers.
Finally, I think the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative is a great idea. More often than not, people seem unconcerned with helping the environment though it affects them. As I have never encountered somebody who admitted he was opposed to helping the environment, I believe people, and particularly young people, are not concerned with it because they are not motivated about it. The Initiative, as the word implies, gives people that drive to do something good that not only benefits themselves, but also the world.
Date: December 31, 2007 Views: 11558 File size: 24.6kb, 154.2kb : 960 x 720
Hours Volunteered: 187
Volunteers: 31
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 13 to 56
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 2
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 1091
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