Monthly Archives

September 2019

ECO City Farms Helps Improve Water Quality for the Anacostia River

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Urban agriculture enhances food security, improves community relationships, and demonstrates small scale farming that can be replicated by those living in cities and urban centers. It also provides an opportunity for community members to learn about agriculture, farming, and the environment.

ECO City Farms (ECO) is a nonprofit organization in Prince George’s County, Maryland. ECO grows food, farms, and farmers in ways that protect, restore, and sustain the natural environment and the health of local communities. ECO currently has two farms, a 1.5-acre farm in Edmonston and a 3.5-acre farm in Bladensburg, where they cultivate a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, honey, and microgreens.  They also work with the local community and educate and train the next generation of urban farmers through their apprenticeship opportunities and SEED2FEED summer youth program.

In 2015, ECO received a grant award through the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program to install a stormwater management system at their Edmonston Farm, located next to the Anacostia River. During a rainstorm, runoff around the farm and surrounding areas would flow directly into the river, carrying with it any pollutants such as trash and sediment. The volume of runoff entering the river also contributed to the erosion of the river banks. After the installation of the stormwater management system, however, runoff is now captured and treated onsite, reducing the negative impacts of runoff on the farm and the river.

The stormwater management system is comprised of hoophouse gutters, tile drainage, catch basins, water storage tanks, and a retention pond. All of these components slow down and capture runoff during rainstorms. For example, the hoophouse gutters collect rain water that flows off of the hoophouses, which are a type of greenhouse, and diverts it to the catch basins. Since the installation, ECO experienced major improvements in the site’s drainage with less occurrence of pooling and standing water around growing beds. ECO also installed educational signage and developed brochures in English and Spanish to educate visitors about their stormwater management system.
 
Amazing work ECO City Farms!
Click on this image to view a larger version and see how the stormwater system works.

ShoreRivers + REALTORS = Water Wise and River Friendly Homeowners

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The Chesapeake Bay watershed offers a lifestyle unmatched elsewhere, however, waterfront property ownership comes with special responsibilities. ShoreRivers recently held a half-day workshop to educate area REALTORS on resources to help them take the lead with residential buyers and sellers and their waterfront homes. “One of the intents of this workshop as to educate Chesapeake Bay REALTORS on how they can be part of the solution to prevent nutrient pollution and it’s resulting algae blooms and fish kills….something that is becoming way to common in other waterways,” said Matt Pluta, director of riverkeeper programs for ShoreRivers.

From yard fertilization to living shorelines, members of Bay Area Association of REALTORS and Mid-Shore Board of REALTORS packed the Chesapeake College classroom to learn about safe, effective, and sustainable methods for improving landscapes and water quality. ShoreRivers’ Riverkeepers updated the group on the conditions and threats posed to the Choptank, Sassafras, Chester, and Miles rivers. Environmental planners from Talbot, Queen Anne’s, and Dorchester counties discussed the laws surrounding protection of all land within 1,000 feet of Mean High-Water Lines of tidal waters, landward edge of tidal wetlands, and all waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Attendees learned about the causes and impacts of algal blooms, water quality threats, bacteria monitoring, the economic value of river friendly yards, laws relating to buffers and critical area protection, and homeowner resources.

What can residents do to keep our local streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay clean and healthy? Slow down surface water runoff. Homeowners can do their part by planting a conservation landscape, rain garden, or trees on their property. They can install rain barrels or cisterns to capture runoff from their roof. They can also replace traditional pavement with permeable pavers that allow the runoff to soak into the ground. These practices not only help improve water quality, they also beautify the property and can save homeowners money on water and heating/cooling bills.

And of course, lawns. The University of Maryland Extension suggests “fertilizer-free and pesticide free lawns are the best choice for the environment. Both time and money can be saved by reducing the frequency of fertilizing and applying pesticides. Slow release and low or no phosphorous fertilizers are optimal to promote a healthy environment.” Over-application of fertilizer and pesticides on lawns contributes to large amounts of excess nutrients in our rivers.

Everyone’s ability and responsibility to minimize adverse impacts on water quality, reduce pollutants and runoff, protect fish and wildlife habitat, and bring our treasured resource and lifestyle amenity back to its best health was the resounding message throughout the day. And while the information-packed focus of this professional development workshop was the Eastern Shore, much of the training is replicable in other areas of Maryland. The University of Maryland Extension reminds us that “most Maryland residents live within a half-mile of a storm drain, stream or river. Most of those waterways eventually drain into the Chesapeake Bay. What we do to maintain our own landscapes can affect the health of our local waterways, the Chesapeake Bay and our environment.”

This workshop was funded by a grant through the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Outreach and Restoration Grant Program. The Trust’s mission to promote public awareness and participation of all local residents in the restoration and protection of our region’s natural resources includes engaging new audiences and partnering with organizations, like ShoreRivers, who recognize the importance of sharing best practices that increase the inclusion of all local residents in the ongoing effort to educate, engage, and restore our natural resources and communities. Thank you ShoreRivers for your innovative idea, logistical planning, and hard work in not only making this event a success but also providing a grass roots outline for others to use!