Monday, March 26, 2012

Washington College Scientists, GIS Lab, to Help Easton Assess Pollutants in Tred Avon Tributary

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Work begins this month to assess pollutants coming into Talbot County’s Tanyard Branch, a stream that feeds into the Tred Avon River, and set priorities for creating a cleaner, healthier waterway. Funded by a grant from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the town of Easton has awarded a contract for the project to a partnership that includes Washington College, the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and Aloft Aerial Photography.
Tanyard Branch is a small stream that begins east of U.S Route 50 and north of Maryland Route 328. It flows under Route 50 through Easton, is piped underground at the Spring Hill Cemetery and continues under Easton Utilities where it emerges again. The stream then empties into the Bay Street ponds before emptying into the upper Tred Avon River. The Tred Avon, in turn, leads to the Choptank River, which feeds the Chesapeake Bay.
The Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy will conduct on-the-ground assessments, monitoring water quality and identifying and assessing potential ways to reduce pollution loads into Tanyard Branch. Washington College’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Lab, part of the school’s Center for Environment and Society, will use state-of-the art technology to identify the watershed boundaries, map the storm-drain network and assess areas of impervious coverage (mostly paved surfaces such as roads and parking lots that rain water cannot permeate).
In addition, faculty members in the College’s chemistry, environmental studies, and biology departments along with scientists from its Center for Environment and Society, will use a new instrument called a mass spectrometer to analyze water samples for chemical pollutants. The spectrometer, purchased with funds from the National Science Foundation, can detect even very low levels of a variety of pollutants.
Adding to the portrait of the watershed, Aloft Aerial Photography will collect high-resolution aerial video of the watershed before and after major storm events.
Once the assessment has been completed, the Town of Easton will hold a series of public meetings where the community can learn about the results and weigh in on the potential components of a watershed management plan. After receiving this public input, the project partners will create a watershed management planning document and present it to the Town Council for consideration.
“We are excited to receive this grant,” says Choptank Riverkeeper Drew Koslow, “It’s important work and will lead to the identification of real projects that, once implemented, will improve water quality in Tanyard Branch.”
Stewart Bruce, the GIS Program Coordinator for Washington College, says his students, along with College staff and faculty, are eager to work with the Town of Easton and the other project partners. “This kind of real-world experience is great for our students and will give them a chance to use their skills to contribute significantly to the community.”
The project, which is expected to be completed by spring of 2013, also will include outreach to homeowners, businesses, and farmers who live and work in the watershed. For more information contact Doug Levin at the Center for Environment and Society:

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