Brian Schilpp taught at Eastern Tech for a dozen years, coaching basketball as well, but took a year sabbatical to help lead the Back River Restoration Committee’s efforts.
Back River needs his help, and many others, too.
“The stream system is pushing things down from Herring Run,” Schilpp said. “Everything that floats, Styrofoam, consumer packages, any kind of plastic, water bottles, sports equipment, prescription bottles.”
Clean ups in recent years have pulled 340,000 pounds of trash and 2,479 tires from the river. The Back River trash boom, put in place a year ago with a partnership between the Baltimore County and the Back River Restoration Committee, has netted more than 100,000 plastic bottles, among other containers, debris and tires.
“It’s been a Herculean effort,” said Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski, Sr., chairman of the Baltimore County Council, noting that without the boom and volunteers' work the trash collected would end up further down the river, on shorelines and waterfront backyards.
Thursday morning, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, Olszewski and Vincent J. Gardina, director of Baltimore County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, toured Back River.
Gansler also visited the Back River Treatment Center, and toured Hart-Miller Island. Gansler’s visit was his first stop of his 2011 statewide river audit. Since beginning his statewide tour and audit of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in April 2008, the Attorney General has visited 13 Maryland rivers.
An art show/auction and wine tasting fundraiser for the Back River Restoration Committee – featuring “found” art works made from items pulled from Back River– by renown Baltimore artist and sculptor Jim Pollock – is scheduled for May 22 at the Ballstone-Stansbury House. The next Back River clean up is scheduled for June 11.
Coinciding with Earth Day, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office also released the official 2010 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Environmental Audit. A copy of the audit can be found at http://www.oag.state.md.us/Reports/2010EnvironmentalAudit.pdf.
Pollution related to agriculture and residential growth, primarily from animal waste, fertilizer, storm water, erosion, sediment, and wastewater treatment remain the primary concerns, according to the audit’s conclusion. Critical area violations and inadequate oversight of residential and commercial growth and development also are key issues for the Attorney General’s office.
After visiting Back River and learning about the boom, Gansler toured Hart-Miller Island, at the mouths of the Back River and Middle River. Formerly two separate islands, Hart-Miller Island was formed by joining the two with dredging materials from the Inner Harbor.
The 244-acre island stopped receiving dredging from the Inner Harbor in 2009, as initially planned when the project began in the early 1980s. Last week, the decision was upheld by the Maryland Port Administration’s “Harbor Team” after a new proposal to begin resending Inner Harbor dredging to the island was defeated.
“The site was pretty much up to capacity,” said Fran Taylor of the North Point Peninsula Community Coordinating Council.
Today, the island offers campsites, fishing, hiking trails, picnicking and swimming along a 3,000-foot sandy shoreline.
During a presentation by Department of Natural Resources employee Jessica Alexander, Gansler learned about the efforts to turn the entire island into a recreation facility, which will include walking trails and a bird sanctuary.
“He wanted to be the environmental Attorney General,” said Raquel M. Guillory, director of communications for the Office of the Attorney General, said of Gansler. “The companies that pollute, the sewage overflows, the dumping, we hear the complaints. There is stuff we can do, or we can send the information on to Maryland Department of the Environment or the Natural Resources.”