Thursday, April 08, 2010

Boneyard Creek Community Day, Clean Water Restoration Act both promote healthy streams

Boneyard Creek Community Day, Clean Water Restoration Act both promote healthy streams

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This Saturday, April 10, you are invited to join hundreds of other people from Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities to participate in the annual Boneyard Creek Community Day.

This event, which boasts a list of sponsors and organizers as long as your arm, encourages people to appreciate local streams with a clean-up, storm drain marking and a variety of stream naturalization efforts. On top of that, it includes a free lunch and t-shirt for people who volunteer. Boneyard Creek Community Day will be headquartered at Scott Park in Champaign, but will also include activities at two satellite locations, Parkland College in Champaign, and the Anita Purves Nature Center in Urbana.

According to Eliana Brown, stormwater coordinator with UI Facilities & Services, Boneyard Creek Community Day provides a unique, hands-on opportunity for people to learn how their everyday behavior affects local waterways. [Photo: Participants from the 2009 BCCD celebrate what they accomplished.] As she puts it, “When people realize that litter from Campustown sidewalks winds up in the creek, they begin to understand just how thoroughly our lives are connected with streams.”

If the spirit and energy people put into events such as the Boneyard Creek Community Day were sufficient to keep the waters of the United States healthy, I think Americans would enjoy the cleanest streams, lakes and coastal waters in the world. But they’re not.

Most of the waters of the United States are much cleaner today than they were three or four decades ago. But that change for the better owes more to our adoption of effective federal environmental law—the Clean Water Act of 1972—than our willingness to participate in clean-ups.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the Clean Water Act has been curtailed in recent years. Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and subsequent administrative activities by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have served to exclude certain wetlands and smaller streams from the protections of the law. The signal to polluters has been that it may again be profitable to treat certain water bodies as sewers.

In a March 1, 2010 story for the New York Times Charles Duhigg and Janet Roberts write, “Companies that have spilled oil, carcinogens and dangerous bacteria into lakes, rivers and other waters are not being prosecuted, according to Environmental Protection Agency regulators working on those cases, who estimate that more than 1,500 major pollution investigations have been discontinued or shelved in the last four years.”

Measured in terms of miles, more than half of Illinois’ streams are small enough to be at risk of losing Clean Water Act protections. Also vulnerable are some 150,000 acres of Illinois wetlands, which could now be considered “isolated” and thereby outside of Clean Water Act safeguards.

Legislation titled the “Clean Water Restoration Act,” which would remedy this situation, has been kicking around in Congress for more than two years now, but it has yet to gain much traction. For that to happen, those of us who value waterways enough to pick up litter must also make time to pick up the phone and let legislators know where we stand.

You can sign up to volunteer at the Boneyard Creek Community Day at You can learn more about the Clean Water Restoration Act through the National Wildlife Federation at