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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Friday, September 19, 2008

Endangered Species of the Western Branch of the Patuxent River

Prince George's County has decided that placing a waste transfer station at or near a "stronghold watershed" is a strong statement of county stewardship and a clear signal of the county's long term commitment to the environment. The clear unique properties of the site and the surrounding land and water is ignored as the the one of a kind site is proposed for intensive industrial use. This is the county's idea of protecting the environment. No matter the significant endangered species, Prince George's County has decided that there would be no impact.

"Nearly every person in Maryland lives within one mile of a headwater stream. Successful protection and restoration of Maryland's rivers and the Chesapeake Bay require protection and restoration of the thousands of miles of headwater streams that drain our mountains and upland areas. A "stronghold watershed", the Western Branch, a tributary to the Patuxent River, is one of a few unique watersheds in the State with special ecological landmarks. "Stronghold watersheds" are like no other places in Maryland because of the species that live within the watershed. Three state-endangered fish species, including the stripeback darter (which lives no where else in the State) live in the Western Branch. The Western Branch watershed ranked 8 th out of 84 watersheds in Maryland for its unique contribution to Maryland's biodiversity. With the help of more than 700 stream waders, the Maryland Biological Stream Survey monitors the health of more than 10,000 miles of streams to provide critical information needed to protect and restore our aquatic resources, including the Chesapeake Bay. For more information visit http://%3ca//streams/mbss> "
In addition, the county blithely tells its residents that there is adequate protection for building on or near wetlands and that there is no need to be concerned about polluting the Patuxent river. The facts of the current inappropriate use are quickly swept away as is the current trash and debris.

"First we felt the effect of last summer’s severe drought, followed bybelow-average rainfall throughout the winter and spring. Low groundwater levels affected trees and other plants, as well as the hydrology of ponds, vernal pools, and river flow.Then, in early May, nearly 10 inches of rain fell in five days.The resulting Patuxent River flood was reminiscent of Tropical Storm Isabel: water levels rose eight feet upstream near Bowie, and 16 feet in Western Branch. At the Sanctuary, the Railroad Bed Trail and River Pier were under water. The swiftly moving, sediment-laden water reached a volume of 25,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) in Western Branch, overwhelming the Western Branch wastewater treatment plant. The plant’s 30-million-gallon per day capacity was flooded by 80 million gallons on May 9 when only 20% of the rainfall had occurred. In the end, 16 million gallons of sewage flowed into river—a result of Combined Sewer Overflows. These are common conduits that carry both sewage and stormwater.When heavy storms occur, the pipes containing sewage flood and bypass the wastewater treatment facility.The result: raw sewage in Western Branch and the river. After the storm, we witnessed logs from hundred-year-old trees sailing swiftly down the river, like canoes with no passengers. An entire floating dock with pontoons washed up against the Sanctuary’s small pier by the boardwalk. And a pile of debris a half an acre wide and five feet deep, dotted with plastic bottles and a variety of snakes escaping the rapid waters, was shoved up against the river pier. At last, the vernal pools filled to maximum capacity. (See Spadefoots Toads, p. 5) "

Upper Marlboro development to feature a hotel with trash site over look

The leaders of Prince George's County, Maryland have decided that the county seat should feature a waste transfer station located on a multi-layer environmentally sensitive site. Even more improbably, they have suggest at the same time that Upper Marlboro should have a hotel located across the street to house the droves of people who would want to come to the county seat for government business and personal pleasure. The very idea that we will be marketing views of a waste transfer station boggles the mind. "Come to the County seat of the New Prince George's and view our trash" is perhaps one of the many concepts which are being consider at a pay grade above mine.

While one might understand coming to the historic town to visit blue heron rookeries or to walk the green way trails, or to paddle along the scenic Patuxent river, it is rather harder to imagine why anyone would desire to rent a room in a hotel across the street from the transfer facility watching the trash truck rumble in and out and recording the rail road cars of trash leaving the site. Of course the hotel is simply part of the planning process and will quietly disappear from consideration as will any reason to visit or develop this part of the county, which is perhaps the ultimate goal. The motivation of the day seems to be, "let us take somewhat undeveloped land and trash it, so that it might match the other already environmentally degraded parts of the county which our unbridled tendency to concrete over with storage units and parking lots without consideration of neighborhoods or the environment." Why should we have environmentally significant parcels of land when we can pave them over?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Prince George's County proudly decides:A waste transfer station in the county seat

Waste Transfer Stations: A Manual for Decision-Making
It is so much easier copying from some one in the know than trying to make an argument from scratch. Upper Marlboro’s new development center piece will bring the “… economies of scale that can significantly reduce capital and operational costs. “ In addition, as we plan the future of the county seat , this new, wonderful addition to our neighborhood and political center of power, we shall inevitably ‘…tend to concentrate impacts to a single area, which can create the perception of inequity, especially when one neighborhood is shouldering the burden for the entire city. A single facility can result in longer travel times, which leads to increased down time for the collection crew and increased wear and tear on collection vehicles. Another consideration is that a single facility cannot divert waste to a backup facility if a need arises.”

The EPA manual goes on to note that “ In general, it is best to avoid siting in these areas. Exclusionary criteria might include areas such as:"

• "Wetlands and floodplains
." Our politicians have chosen to ignore this point.

• "Endangered and protected flora and fauna habitats. " It may be that the area is not home to endangered species, but if there is a place with some this would be one. One way or another we shall find out in the state permitting process.

• "Protected sites of historical, archeological, or cultural significance." History continues to be none issue or at best a nuisance in this county; just recall that we tried this once before and no one seems to recall the obvious odors of remembrances past. And the historic structure of Billingsley is obviously meaningless to our leaders.

"Prime agricultural land." Well they win on this point because only the poorest farmers would have plowed and planted in a flood plain and marsh.

• "Parks and preserves." Of course we just spent millions to by lands which are part of our park system; this fact conveniently over-looked, and any thoughts for the protection of the Patuxent are conveniently forgotten by our environmental stewards on the county council

Waste transfer station on the Patuxent River

As Prince George's County decides to place a county -wide transfer station one mile from a major waterway of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, I wonder how the decision squares with the "green" ideas of some of the county's leaders.

From the US EPA we get some of the ideas of problems the site will bring to the environment and ecosystem of the Patuxent river:

1. Avoid dispersing pollutants into the public air, including diesel fuel particulates, carbon monoxide, other gases, airborne microbes, dusts, etc. Naturally the county claims there will be non of this because we will use a mysterious technology to control air pollutants

2. Avoid discharging pollutants into the public sewers We are told that we will be using the county sewer treatment facility and system

3. Avoid creating breeding sites in discharge sewers for bacteria immune to current medicines We can hardly wait to see the details

4. Avoid collecting any hazardous waste in the waste stream at a transfer station. We are going to look into every bag that comes on site; a sure thing

5. Protect the transfer station neighbors from explosions and fires in the waste at the transfer stations. Wow bet they forgot to tell us about this possibility!

6. Avoid spills of hydraulic fluid, fuel and other liquids from trucks and machinery at transfer stations. Of course we are right next to the Patuxent River so who would notice?

7. Contain and collect such spills. Excellent idea. let's do this next to a floodplain to show our collective environmentally sound advanced cutting edged thinking

8. Assure that the transfer station has adequate space to do all of the necessary supporting work needed now and in the future to handle the trucks' parking, maneuvering, fueling, weighing, cleaning, repair, storage as well as all of the other activities at the transfer station.

9. Detecting and immediately controlling nuisances associated with the transfer station. Really?

Given all of these considerations building this next to wetlands and parkland in the low lying ground of a major river way on a site prone to air inversions is our county's environmentally savvy political leadership's idea of green thinking

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Upper Marlboro's New Development Center Piece

The County of Prince George’s will by act of its Council today choose to place a waste transfer station one mile from the Patuxent River. Because the current landfill site is due to close in three years, the county is moving forward with this transfer station that will be located south east of the county seat in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. For the good of the county, all the trash will come to this site, processed and shipped out to somewhere, in theory, by rail. The short term solution at hand, the current deciders, the political class, quietly and efficiently worked a not-in-my-backyard solution, finessing a superb short term solution.

The thought that the county might actually need the free eco-system services that the wetlands provide is lost in near term expediencies. The idea we should spend tax dollars on securing parkland to enhance a major waterways ecosystem for the production of clean water is quietly ignored. And any thought of higher level eco-system services such as production and habitat services to the river are shrugged off. Given two hundred acres to play with, enough to hide the site, but not contain odors, the county deciders feel that they have been good environmental stewards.

The historic memory of Prince George’s County seems to be about 8 years, perhaps due to term limits, so thoughts of the last time the county tried to put the land to a similar disastrous use, has failed to capture the County Council’s imagination. In the 1980’s, the great decision makers placed a sludge processing site in the middle of a geological bowl prone to air inversions, and then found that no one could open windows in the County seat. Now the County politicians calmly state that the new trash will have no odors because the trash will be inside a state of the art building with odor control. Of course we in Upper Marlboro can hardily wait for this technology to be installed on each freight car that passes through the town of Upper Marlboro on their way to wherever trash goes.

No thought is given to the on going sector plan which is reviewing and updating land use in the area. Citizens who have participated in the enhancement of the community’s life through development were not told that the center piece of new development would be industrial use in and environmentally fragile area. No opportunity has been given to allow the citizens to rethink their desire to enhance the local ecology and to protect it. If the citizens of the area had known that a waste transfer station was the center piece perhaps the majority could have begun the process of joining in and rezoning their land for similar uses, and then leave the area and the county to its own devices.