Good Start Reported For ‘Dirt’ Program

BERLIN – The “Get The Dirt Out” program has already yielded results although no volunteers have yet been trained as sediment run-off monitors.

A citizen in Public Landing, east of Snow Hill, reported a sediment run-off problem to the Assateague Coastkeeper, resulting in a Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) enforcement letter sent to the landowner.

“Somebody had read the article in The Dispatch about the Get the Dirt Out project and they were down there walking by Scarboro Creek and it had been bothering them for weeks,” said Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips. “Apparently, for months [this project] had been leaching sediment down into Scarboro Creek.”

The construction work in question is converting an old borrow pit site on Taylor Rd. to aquaculture use.

After the citizen’s call, Phillips and regional water management adminstrator Dave Pushkar visited the site.   

“You could just see the sediment coming out of the one big pond,” Phillips said. “Scarboro Creek is just this crystal clear body of water except where the stuff is running off the property into it. Then it turns milky white.”

The visit resulted in a letter to the landowner requiring compliance with sediment control laws, said Kim Lamphier of the MDE communications staff.

If the property owner and construction company do not comply, the construction bond would be forfeited.

“The highest priority is to make sure they come into compliance. This is important for protecting public health and the environment,” said Lamphier.

According to Lanphier, citizen alerts and programs like the Get the Dirt Out project are a great help to MDE and the Department of Natural Resources, which monitors other water quality areas.

“Citizens play a very important role. We try to inspect as much as we can on a regular basis,” Lampier said. “There are a lot of instances where citizens can be our eyes and ears. I think it’s part of overall community responsibility.”

The “Get The Dirt Out” program has seen a positive response since the kick off in February.

“I’ve gotten interest from people on the Pocomoke River as well as the Coastal Bays area,” Phillips said.

The program gives people a way to report a problem they might not have known where to report or how to handle in the past, Phillips said, and prompts concerned citizens to take a closer look at construction.

While two volunteers have been trained to teach citizen monitors how to use the scorecard, the project must wait on the regional Coastkeeper office to print the field guides before holding any training for locals.