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Funds will go towards project to protect and restore Baltimore Harbor
For the first time since it began awarding its annual Minding the Planet grant, the YSI Foundation (the philanthropic arm of YSI Inc.) has seen fit to award a second grant in one year. Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper will receive $15,000 from the foundation for its water-sampling program, which has a multi-faceted set of interrelated goals.
The Baltimore Harbor area is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, one of the most endangered estuarine watersheds in the country. In order to protect and restore the Bay, collaborative partnerships between non-governmental organizations and the government represent an ideal model to provide the necessary data to address water quality and public health issues, as well as develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) in these watersheds in both a cost-effective and expeditious manner, said YSI. (TMDL is a regulatory term in the U.S. Clean Water Act describing a value of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards).
The goals of the program include the following:
• The program will quantify bacterial contamination in the Northwest Branch (Baltimore Harbor) and the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, which suffer from severe bacterial contamination due to sewage spills and urban runoff. This area is heavily used for water recreation;
• Because of the bacterial impairment listing, the Maryland Department of Environment has a legal obligation to develop a TMDL for bacteria in the Harbor and Middle Branch. Sampling results will help determine the source, extent and location of contamination as well as be used to educate and inform the public about the bacteria issue; and
• It is expected that this region-wide, unprecedented collaborative effort among a citizen-based group project and several local and state agencies will serve as both a template for other waterways and pollutants in the region as well as a resource for other watershed groups in the area to provide a model system to collect and disseminate data. It must meet the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Quality Assurance Project Plans and so requires communication with state agencies and the ability to follow established protocols. Critical collaborators include the city of Baltimore’s Department of Public Works and the Baltimore County Department of Environment and Resource Management.
Although five organizations—Jones Falls Watershed Assn., Herring Run Watershed Assn., Gwynns Falls Watershed Assn., Baltimore Harbor Watershed Assn. and Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper–have merged into the Baltimore Water Alliance during 2010, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper program is carrying out the proposed project which this grant will benefit.