Molly Williams wasn’t exactly sure where Back River was located a little more than a year ago. Now, the 23-year-old is tasked with leading the effort of cleaning up the troubled eastern Baltimore County waterway.
Williams is the new project manager of the Back River Restoration Committee (BRRC).
The Cockeysville native took over for Brian Schlipp, who stepped down in order to return to teaching at Eastern Technical High School in August.
Williams said she knew she wanted to take an active role in restoring Back River after spending the summer of 2010 assisting with the clean-up effort. She became so passionate about the cause that Williams wrote her senior thesis at the University of Vermont on Back River.
“I was astonished on how much pollution makes its way to Back River,” said Williams, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and sustainability. “This is a regional environmental issue, not just a local one, and everyone needs to be involved to make the watershed cleaner."
Williams is one of several new people in leadership roles with the BRRC. Among those helping lead the cleanup effort is Don Albright, who moved from vice president to president of the committee, following the retirement of Capt. Jerry Ziemski.
“Don is just so passionate about this cause,” Williams said. “He has so much knowledge about Back River. Brian has also been a big help with this transition.”
Through the years, the Back River watershed has become a dumping ground for all types of trash in Baltimore County and Baltimore City, which starts in a storm drain and eventually makes its way into the Back River.
The BRRC has taken numerous steps in the last few years to address the pollution, which includes signing a “trash treaty” with the county in the spring.
The initiative by the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability is a commitment to work with regional leaders, schools, businesses, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and communities to focus on litter reduction strategies, increased education, and awareness of littering and trash issues throughout the Back River Watershed. The treaty's ultimate goal is to make the Back River trash-free by 2020.
In addition to the “trash treaty,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the county is providing a $70,000 grant to the Back River Restoration Committee to assume responsibility to operate and maintain a trash boom the county installed last April.
The county is allowing the BRRC to use the county’s ATV amphibious vehicle to remove trash and debris from the mud flats of Back River. The county also will provide a $30,000 grant to the BRRC for public outreach about the Back River Watershed and environmental stewardship.
During the past two years, the county and the BRRC have conducted several successful community cleanups, which yielded 500,000 pounds of debris and around 3,000 tires from the Back River.
The key to Back River’s long-term health, Williams said, is to not only clean the current pollution, but reduce the amount of trash and debris from entering the watershed.
To do that, the BRRC has plans to conduct a study to determine where the majority of the pollution is coming from. In addition, the committee will continue to work on educating the public.
Williams said accomplishing such ambitious goals requires a community effort, something she witnesses on a daily basis through various cleanup efforts.
“Everywhere I go around town there are people concerned about Back River,” Williams said. “This community is proud of its waterfront heritage and want to see Back River clean. We’ve come so far, yet we have so far to go still.
BRRC will host a shrimp feast fundraiser from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. on Nov. 6 at Hawks Pleasure Club in Essex. Tickets are $35. To purchase tickets or to contact Molly Williams, call 443-414-4384 or email email@example.com.