Environment

River cruise seeks to educate & enlist people in clean water campaign

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Floating on the Maumee River heading northeast toward Maumee Bay, observers get a sense both of the river’s potential and its problems. From the cruise boat Sandpiper, several dozen passengers on the Clean Water Cruise can see plenty of recreation – fishermen, kayakers, motor boaters, and jet skiers, though no one foolhardy enough to swim in the brown river. Seagulls and Canada geese fly overhead, ducks float by the shore where the occasional heron stands at attention before lofting gracefully into the air. The scenery on the shoreline is industrial, broken up by large patches of scrub brush. The grain towers, full of the product of the surrounding farmland waiting to be loaded on freighters docked alongside, are testament to the agricultural enterprise that’s so central to the Maumee’s vast 7-million-acre watershed. The Sandpiper is cruising through water that’s infused with soil that’s been washed away from those acres. “That’s somebody’s soil,” says Cheryl Rice, of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, an arm of the US Department of Agriculture, noting the brown hue of the river. The cruise was more than a Saturday lark on the river. Sponsored by the Maumee Area of Concern Advisory Committee, the Clean Water Cruise was intended to educate residents about efforts to clean up the Maumee and by extension Lake Erie and to enlist them in helping in those efforts. The Great Lakes contains a fifth of the earth’s fresh water, and the Maumee watershed sends more water into the lakes than any other source. Kris Patterson, executive director of Partners for Clean Streams, said the cruise…


County flooded with calls about Portage River cleanup

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nearly 9,500 letters have been mailed out by the county to the owners of parcels that drain into the south and east branches of the Portage River. The letters are one of the final steps in a river cleanup process that has taken a decade. The Portage River project is the biggest river cleanup ever attempted by the county – covering 46 miles of waterway. The notices mailed out alert the landowners of their estimated assessments for the river cleanup and of a hearing scheduled for Aug. 22. The cleanup of the Portage River branches is intended to reduce future flooding. However, the notices have led to a flood of phone calls to the Wood County Engineer’s Office – many of them from people questioning their responsibility to help fund the project. “We’re getting a lot of calls. ‘What’s this got to do with me? My water doesn’t go there,’” Wood County Engineer John Musteric said of the typical comments from callers. Many landowners don’t realize where their water drains – they just know that it goes away after heavy rains, Musteric said. Though the river cleanup project is the longest ever undertaken in Wood County, it is less extensive than many projects in the past. There will be no digging, no widening, no channelizing. The river branches will be allowed to keep their meandering paths. The work will only remove logjams and trees leaning into the river. “This one is actually very mild,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said of the Portage River cleanup plans. But while the cleanup may be…


Scout concerned about effect of CAFOs on water quality

Dear BG Independent News, I am a Life Scout from Troop 777 of Toledo, Ohio. I am writing to you to voice my concerns about the effect concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFO’s have on the recent Lake Erie algae blooms. According to the Sierra Club, there are 146 registered CAFO’s currently in the western Lake Erie Basin. The CAFOs are responsible for generating 700,000,000 gallons of animal waste each year, which is more than the sewage produced by the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago combined. There is a possibility that the waste is seeping out of the storage lagoons, and into the ground, leading to the contamination of nearby groundwater. additionally, the waste is spread directly onto crop fields, resulting in the run-off of excess nutrients into Lake Erie and the feeding of the dangerous algae.   This issue does not only affect this generation, but future generations to come. My wish is for those who read this to help stop the CAFO’s from aiding in dangerous algae blooms, and help make the lives of the citizens healthier. Sincerely, Bryan Fitzpatrick


County may can some recycling sites, extend others

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County may be cutting back on its satellite recycling sites, but may also be turning some of those monthly sites into permanent drop-off locations. There are currently 15 satellite recycling sites operated by the Wood County Solid Waste Management District. Many of them are open once a month, according to Amanda Gamby, environmental educator for the district. They are located in Bloomdale, Grand Rapids, Jackson Township/Hoytville, Jerry City/Cygnet, Milton Township/Custar, North Baltimore, Pemberville, Perry Township, Perrysburg Township, Portage, Portage Township, Rudolph, Stony Ridge, Tontogany/Washington Township, and Weston. A survey conducted in 2015, through a partnership between the solid waste district and Bowling Green State University master’s of public administration program, was conducted to determine the interest in recycling among rural Wood County residents. A total of 2,725 surveys were mailed to rural resident, with 683 being returned. The study found: Rural residents had a favorable attitude toward recycling. A number of the residents said they drive to Hancock and Lucas counties to use permanent recycling facilities. Of those who use the satellite locations, 55 percent said they would increase their use beyond once a month if permanent sites were made available. As it is now, mobile containers are placed at each of the satellite locations so residents can drop off their recyclables once a month. The recyclables are separated at most of the sites by Scouts or other community groups. Those groups are paid a per capita allocation that adds up to roughly $127,000 a year, according to Kelly O’Boyle, assistant Wood County administrator. The satellite site program contracts with the…


Petition aimed at prioritizing people over pipelines

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green residents may be asked to vote on a pipeline issue in November. A group of concerned citizens is trying to place an issue on Bowling Green’s ballot aimed to protect the city and its water supply from pipelines. The group’s goal is to prioritize people over pipelines. Brad Holmes, president of the Environmental Action Group at Bowling Green State University, talked about the charter amendment earlier this week during a City Council meeting. The group pushing to put the issue on the ballot has collected approximately 1,000 signatures so far. “We’re shooting for 1,200,” though just 700 valid signatures are required to get the charter amendment on the November ballot. The group hopes to submit its petition to the Wood County Board of Elections by July 31. Holmes talked about the threats posed by the Nexus pipeline to the Bowling Green water supply, since the proposed route for the natural gas line is close to the city’s water treatment plant. As volunteers have talked to local residents while collecting petition signatures, they have encountered varying degrees of awareness about the Nexus pipeline project, Holmes said. Some residents are not aware of the pipeline proposed so close to the water plant. Many others are under the impression that when City Council denied a property easement to the pipeline company, that the pipeline was no longer a concern. That isn’t true, Holmes said. “We still do face threats from the Nexus pipeline.” The purpose of the proposed charter amendment is “recognizing and protecting community rights to a healthy environment and livable climate.”…


Newly sealed Slippery Elm Trail now less slippery

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Slippery Elm Trail is now a little less slippery. The 13-mile rails to trail that stretches from Bowling Green to North Baltimore has been paved with a new surface product called Onyx. The sealant promises to last longer, seal faster and be less slippery. “I’ve had nothing but great comments on the Onyx,” Jeff Baney, assistant director of the Wood County Park District, said last week during a meeting of the district board. “Everybody loves it.” Some of those comments came during the board meeting by park board commissioner Christine Seiler, who had just used the trail that morning. “The traction was wonderful,” even with all the rain the area had the previous day. However, Seiler said there appeared to be some areas of the trail where the old pavement seemed to be showing through. Baney said he would check on that. The Wood County Park District Board paid $119,552 to seal the trail, including striping of the trail at intersections along the route. According to Ned Fairbanks, the park district maintenance specialist, the product has a proven record of creating a stronger surface that will last longer. The sealing product also remains black since it does not fade in the sun like other sealants used in the past. That will help with melting the snow, since the district does not salt or plow the Slippery Elm Trail. The Onyx also has a quick setting time, meaning there was less time that the trail was closed to users, Fairbanks said at a previous meeting. “Within a matter of hours, it’s usable,”…


BG frustration builds over Nexus pipeline concerns

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials are tired of getting the brush off by the Nexus pipeline, by the Ohio EPA, and by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But it appears that getting anyone in authority to listen may take more money than the city can afford – and even then the results are not guaranteed. The major concern is that the 36-inch high-pressure natural gas line will be located close enough to the city’s water treatment plant along the Maumee River, that any accidents could have horrific consequences to the water quality. The city has called in experts and sent letters expressing concerns to many state and federal officials. During City Council meeting Monday evening, Mayor Dick Edwards held up files of information he had collected on the pipeline issue. “This is enough to choke a horse,” he said of all the paperwork. “I take it all very seriously,” Edwards said. “I’m frankly, not giving up at all.” Other efforts are underway to plug the pipeline project. A citizens group is currently collecting signatures to get a charter amendment to protect Bowling Green from the pipeline on the November ballot. (A story on that petition effort will appear later this week on BG Independent News.) Brad Holmes, president of the BGSU Environmental Action Group, who is coordinating the charter amendment effort, asked city officials Monday to file a motion to intervene with FERC. He referred to the Nexus pipeline as a “potential source of disaster.” Neocles Leontis suggested the city also try a different route of asking the Ohio EPA to withhold approval of…


BG not giving up on finding glass recycling solution

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials aren’t giving up yet on finding ways to recycle glass rather than send it to the landfill. Last week, the Bowling Green Recycling Center announced that effective immediately, the facility would no longer be accepting glass. This applies to all the center’s locations, including the 24-hour drop-off site in Bowling Green, plus the satellite trailers and satellite facilities scattered throughout Wood County. That did not sit well with city officials, who found out about the decision through an email after the decision had been made. “Something like that, it would have been nice to be brought in a little earlier. It would have been nice to phase it in,” said Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator for Bowling Green. City officials have contacted Bowling Green State University’s recycling program, which contracts with Waste Management for pickup of recycling materials. The city and county officials also plan to meet with Owens-Illinois representatives about possible glass recycling options. Fawcett said this morning that city officials realize that glass recycling has been a costly operation for some time. However, paying for glass to be landfilled isn’t cheap either – with dumping costs at about $40 a ton. “We’ve been struggling with it for a long time,” Ken Rieman, of the recycling center, said last week. “Basically, the market conditions are just to the point it’s too expensive to send the glass out.” The center had been sending glass from Wood County to a recycling site near Dayton. It was costing $30 a ton to ship the glass, for which it was paid $25 a…


No more glass to be recycled in BG – costs blamed for shattering program

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The glass bottles and jars gathering in the garage for recycling may as well be tossed in the trash. Effective immediately, the Bowling Green Recycling Center is no longer accepting glass. This applies to all the center’s locations, including the 24-hour drop-off site in Bowling Green, plus the satellite trailers and satellite facilities scattered throughout Wood County. It was just last month that a citizen spoke in front of Bowling Green City Council, challenging the body to do more to encourage greater recycling in the city – including more efforts to save glass from being landfilled. Years ago, the recycling center ceased taking glass in curbside bins, but continued to accept it at its drop-off site. But on Tuesday, the officials at the recycling center said that practice was over. “We’ve been struggling with it for a long time,” said Ken Rieman, of the recycling center. “Basically, the market conditions are just to the point it’s too expensive to send the glass out.” The center had been sending glass from Wood County to a recycling site near Dayton. It was costing $30 a ton to ship the glass, for which it was paid $25 a ton. Late last year, the Dayton company raised its shipping costs to $40 a ton, and cut its payments to $10 a ton. The BG center then found a company in Sylvania to take the glass at no cost. However, that agreement ended abruptly, leaving the Dayton site as the only option, Rieman said. “It’s simple economics,” he said, estimating the center shipped out 350 to 400 tons…


Earth Camp gives kids peek at the wild side

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   By the end of the day, nearly 250 kids left William Harrison Park – some wearing paper butterflies with pipe cleaner antennae in their hair, some with dirt on their hands, and some with new ideas in their heads. Elementary age children from throughout Wood County gathered at the park in Pemberville for the annual Earth Camp Tuesday organized by the Wood County Solid Waste Management District for kids in the Community Learning Centers STARS program. “We get every single one of the Community Learning kids outside for the entire day,” said Amanda Gamby, who coordinated the event. A parent herself, Gamby said sometimes after a long day at work, parents just don’t have the energy to take kids outside to play. So for the 18th year, the Earth Camp gave them a full day to explore nature. This year’s theme was wildlife. “It’s pretty great,” said Jamie Sands, with the Wood County Park District, which partnered on the camp. “This is for kids to be active in nature while learning about wildlife.” Children went from station to station, learning about the declining Monarch butterfly population, “habitracks” using a map to explore habitat components for animals, the importance of pollination, local amphibians, and Nature’s Nursery. “Then they get to go down to the river and see some critters,” Sands said. “They go home and they are probably all exhausted.” At one station, the children learned about the efforts of Nature’s Nursery to help nurse wildlife back to health and return them to the wild. Some of the lessons focused on what the…


Young Africans leaders congregate at BGSU to learn from Ohio & each other

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The future of Africa is at Bowling Green State University. The university is hosting 25 organizers and activists as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. The institute hosts 1,000 fellows at institutions across the country. (http://bgindependentmedia.org/bgsu-hosting-young-african-leaders/) A conversation with nine of fellows included men and women from Mauritania and Niger in the northern end of the continent to Zimbabwe near the southern tip. The issues they were concerned with were similarly broad, from helping those caught up in the sex industry, education, and environmentalism. And they said they were finding ways of addressing those issues here in the Northwest Ohio meeting with civic leaders and during outings as close to home as the farmers market and as distant as Columbus and Detroit. Tuesday they toured the Bureau of Criminal Investigation lab and crime scene building. Jon Sprague, the director of the Governor’s Center for the Future of Forensic Science at BGSU, also spoke about the opioid crisis. Yet their greatest source of support and knowledge, they said, was each other. “I think the best art of this program was my colleagues,” said Chibuzor Azuuike, of Nigeria. “Africa has to move forward .So meeting people who are of like-mind, who are very passionate about making an impact back at home, is important. I’ve learned a lot from them, and we hope to partner on projects.” Loice Kapondo, of Zimbabwe, said in the week they’ve been at BGSU “we’ve been sharing stories formally and informally. … Their strategies are easy to adapt to my country because of the similarities.” While Africa is…


Water quality topic of panel discussion July 6 in Defiance

From NORTHWEST OHIO DEMOCRACY IN ACTION Northwest Ohio Democracy in Action, the Bowling Green Chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Defiance Chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) are co-sponsoring a panel discussion on water quality as it effects northwest Ohio and the Great Lakes. The nonpartisan forum will take place at the Stroede Center for the Arts, 319 Wayne Avenue, Defiance, at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 6. The event is free and open to the public. The idea behind the event is that voters need information from people who work on the front lines and face these important issues in order to present real facts and reduce the misinformation that surrounds public policy today. The discussion is expected to last about two hours and will include time for questions from the audience. All panelists have been working on the front lines of water quality in northwest Ohio for many years and have first-hand experience with federal, state, and local regulations and local trends and conditions and will include: Dr. Mike McKay of Bowling Green State University; Adam McDowell, Defiance water superintendent; Lou Pendleton, formerly of Bryan Municipal Utilities; Jennifer English, City of Defiance Urban Stormwater/MS4 Coordinator; Joe Logan of the Ohio Farmers Union; and Tish O’Dell of the Ohio Community Rights Network. Northwest Ohio Democracy in Action is a local group dedicated to preserving transparency and accountability in government through an informed and educated citizenry. The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 to help women carry out their newly acquired responsibilities as voters. A national nonpartisan organization since its founding, the LOWV…


BGSU & contractors take green approach to demolition

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University constructs buildings with a sense of environmental awareness. The university requires all new structures meet LEED Silver standards, and some including the Stroh Center, and Greek Village exceed that standard, said Ryan Miller, senior project manager in the Office of Design. He’s hoping with a few changes, the Kuhlin Center will also gain the gold designation. When buildings come down, the university and its contractors also try to be environmentally aware. Right now Miller, who worked on the Student Recreation Center renovation and the Wolff Center among other projects, is overseeing the demolition of West Hall and the Family and Consumer Science Building. By the time students arrive on campus next August there will be empty space where the two buildings stood. Miller said that the university’s design consultants and contractors are attuned to LEED principles. The demolition isn’t a LEED project, but as in those projects, the contractors are aiming to recycle and reuse as much material as possible. The original plan was to take brick and concrete from the buildings, crush it onsite, then use it as engineered fill in the basements of the razed structures. Instead in order to save time, the contractors will truck it to the landfill for construction waste and trade it for engineered fill that’s already stockpiled there. That fill will have to meet engineering approval, Miller said. The brick and concrete from BGSU will then be crushed to be used as engineered fill on other projects. The holes will be filled up to five feet from flush to the ground. Then soil…


BG challenged to do more recycling and composting

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council has been urged to think “outside the landfill” as a way to save the city money. Neocles Leontis, a Bowling Green State University chemistry professor, suggested last week during a council meeting that the city could reduce its general fund shortfall by thinking creatively about waste generated in the city. He spoke when council asked for public input as they debated options to shore up the city’s general fund after a series of funding cuts from the state. Council members agreed the best option for raising $800,000 a year would be to start charging a fee for trash pickup. Leontis urged them to be more creative in their thinking about garbage. After meeting with Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft about garbage statistics for the city, Leontis reported the city collects about 5,600 tons of garbage a year. Of that amount, about 12 percent is recycled – so about 5,000 tons end up being landfilled. The landfill charges $39.30 a ton, so the city is currently saving about $25,000 a year through recycling. Leontis suggested the city could do better – much better. While the city improved its recycling rate a few years ago after investing in the larger blue recycling containers, the 12 percent recycling rate is relatively low, he said. The average national recycling rate is about 35 percent, Leontis told council. If Bowling Green were to increase its rate to the national average, the city could save an additional $50,000 in landfill costs. But why stop there, he asked. “Why be average?” He presented…


Energetic kids learn about renewable energy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the young girl pedaled the bicycle, her efforts first turned on the radio. As she pedaled harder, she created enough energy to turn on LED light bulbs. And if she pedaled really hard, she turned on the old-fashioned light bulbs. Pretty sneaky way to teach kids about energy. “You’re pretty strong,” Daryl Stockburger, assistant director of Bowling Green Public Utilities, told the young girl. “When you use these light bulbs, you’re making the electric company work really hard,” Stockburger said of the older bulbs. “Tell your parents to use LED bulbs.” Stockburger was talking about Bowling Green’s energy efforts recently to a group of kids gatherered at Wood County District Public Library. He talked about the new solar field, the wind turbines and hydropower. Stockburger, who is more accustomed to talking energy with adults, did his best to bring the discussion down to the level of the children. He was helped out by Maria Simon, head of youth services at the library, who is more accustomed to taking technical topics and making them understandable to young minds. Simon was the Gracie Allen to Stockburger’s George Burns. “She’s generating 5 amps,” Stockburger said as another girl tried pedaling the energy bike hooked up to appliances. “I think she should come to my house. I think she could run the dishwasher,” Simon said. The program was part of the library’s summer children’s program on Building a Better World. The children provided a challenging range, with one crawling around tracing the shapes on the floor, to another asking about geothermal energy. Stockburger talked about…