Pollution concerns spawn ‘Watershed Day’

By Paul Williams
April 18, 2002

photo courtesy of Eastern University

The entire Gulph Creek is impaired and threatening the wildlife, and the people living along the creek. Off of King of Prussia road, near Valley Forge Military Academy, the Gulph Creek runs parallel to Gulp Creek road and deposits into the ponds at Eastern and Cabrini. The creek stretches from Montgomery County to Delaware County before emptying into the Schuylkill River.

The most important part of the creek is a six-square mile piece of land called a watershed. A watershed, as defined by Desiree Henning-Dudley, the water manager for the Southeast Region of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, is. “The area of land on which rainwater drains from the highest elevation to a common river system.”

Eastern University held a free educational seminar on Saturday, April 13, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to educate the community about environmental issues, especially watersheds and the upcoming Gulph Creek Watershed project.

The morning began with the secretary of the DEP, David Hess presenting Eastern with the Growing Greener grant that totaled $352,201. Thomas Ridington, vice president for development at Eastern, accepted the grant on behalf of Eastern, which will go to restoring Eastern’s upper pond, recently renamed McGraw’s lake. In attendance for the presentation was former Pennsylvania Senator Richard Tilghman and state representative Thomas P. Gannon.

Henning-Dudley presented the reasons that Pennsylvania worries about watersheds. Part of her job is to gather information about water quality. Henning-Dudley said, ” The area of the Gulph Creek Watershed is not attaining the proper designated uses that it should be. The amount of fish, swim ability and the PH of the water all make up designated uses.”

She went on to explain that non-point source pollution was a big obstacle to overcome in cleaning up the watershed. “Non-point source pollution is any pollution that does not travel from pipes into the creek. For instance, road salt, pesticides and manure are all types of pollution that can be considered non-pollution,” Henning-Dudley said. Concluding her speech, Henning Dudley said, “Animals, plant life and humans all depend on the water for life, and the Gulph Creek’s current state is affecting the life of all of them.”

“The rest of Pennsylvania does not understand that there is different kinds of pollution that the area around Philadelphia suffers from,” said Bill Gothier, a watershed specialist for the Delaware County Conservation.

The increases of floods and droughts are a big problem that Gothier addressed. “Develop-ments and buildings along watersheds have removed the natural vegetation from the land increasing the amounts of flooding during a year. Building biological structures around the watersheds and flood areas will reduce floods,” Gothier said.

The number one pollutant into the creek is manure from geese. “They manage to directly drop their pollution into the creek, which is hard to combat,” Gothier said.

The director of the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, David Robertson, addressed how people can clean up watersheds. “People should be responsible for the environment and what they put into it. People who use excessive amounts of pesticides and change the oil from their cars and dump the oil down drains are worsening the environment,” Robertson said. He then gave examples of how to clean things up. “Boy Scouts and community efforts can do a great deal in working to clean their environment. Several vines and plants that grow on the land because of a lack of water to the land, are growing out of control and killing trees. These plants and vines can be killed by people using the proper tools.”

There are 36 seventh graders of Radnor middle school, who have their whole curriculum in school based on watersheds. When in sixth grade, the students entered into a lottery to be in the class, with the only restriction that there be 18 boys and 18 girls. The class studies music, history, science and English. For instance, in history, the class will study civilizations like the Lenapes, Swedes and Quakers, whose lives revolved around water and preserving their environments. Seven of the 36 students discussed what they learned about watersheds through hands-on materials like science experiments, and also from their studies in other areas.

Vincent Cerniglia, chairperson of the Environmental Advisory Committee, said, “Water levels are down. We have been in a drought for almost two years and life in the streams are down. Cerniglia brought up another problem plaguing the Radnor area that relates to water. He referred to the extra plants and vines that are growing and killing trees. “The extra plants and vines are food for deer. There is an extreme abundance of deer that is about 20 times more than normal in Radnor County.” Cerniglia said, “If you can get rid of the extra plants and food for the deer, then there obviously won’t be as many.” Cerniglia also gave advice for getting rid of geese. He said, “Do not feed them and have big dogs around the water because geese are scared of them.”

The afternoon portion of the event had a driving tour of the Gulph Creek Watershed, a walking tour of the upper pond and watershed at Eastern, environmental displays and questions and answers. There was also a form where people could sign to start the first-ever Gulph Creek Watershed Association to educate and help to change the current status of the Gulph Creek Watershed.

Cernglia concluded his presentation when he said. “Almost 70 percent of the earth is made of water. Of that 70 percent, only one percent is drinkable.

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Paul Williams

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