Saving the environment, one stream walk at a time

In the fast-paced, industrialized world that we live in today, the condition of the environment is not always a top priority. However, there are students at the College who are working to ensure that our local waterways are being appropriately cared for.

Water Watch is an environmentally friendly student organization that is dedicated to improving water quality in the Trenton area. This is accomplished through various activities, including stream walking, cleanups and the education of younger students.

Stream walking is an activity that involves traveling to various bodies of water, testing them for chemicals, cleaning up litter in the surrounding area and checking for any sources of pollution. There are many streams, tributaries, ponds and lakes in the Trenton area that members of Water Watch test for cleanliness. Some of the sites include the College’s own Lake Ceva, Shabakunk Creek, Assunpink Creek and Cadwalader Park.

The chemical test results are compiled in logbooks, which have been maintained for several years. With the help of the logbooks, present data can be collected and compared to previous years, showing if there have been any significant changes in water quality. Stream walking expeditions normally take place on Wednesdays at 2:15 p.m.

Water Watch also takes pride in its cleanup projects. At least three community cleanups are organized each semester. During cleanups, roughly 20 to 25 people work to clear trash and debris away from waterways. During the club’s first cleanup on Sept. 17, the site was Lake Ceva.

“The first cleanup … went as well as it could have, considering how clean the lake was already,” Steve Schulze, cleanup coordinator for Water Watch, said.

Although the first cleanup was in a relatively clean area, the senior biology major recalled some of the items that were found on

previous cleanups.

“We’ve hauled out some interesting items in the past – a newsstand from Lake Ceva, shopping carts, mattresses, road signs, myriad bottles and bikes,” Schulze said.

On Sept. 30, the second cleanup project was held at the Lamberton Boat Launch on the Delaware River. Both the sizeable turnout and the beautiful weather made the cleanup a success. Over 20 people participated, and they were able to fill 21 trash bags with garbage. One lucky person was awarded for attending the cleanup.

“Someone even pulled $64 from a plastic bag on the bank of the river,” Schulze said.

Cleanups last from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Both the stream walking and cleanup projects consist of Water Watch members, volunteers and students who are fulfilling their Civic Engagement (formerly Service Learning) requirements.

The education program is focused mainly on elementary, middle and high school students, as well as community organizations. Children are taught about the benefits of environmental protection. The water cycle, water conservation and pollution are discussed with them.

Oddly enough, Water Watch’s beginnings are a mystery to its current members. According to Katy Healey, president of Water Watch, the group used to be part of a statewide, non-profit group known as New Jersey Community Water Watch. However, in 2001, the College’s Water Watch group ended its affiliation with the state organization. The members are now focused mainly on revitalizing the club and teaming up with other community organizations to work toward a common goal.

“The environment is this amazing facet of society that encompasses all regardless of political orientation, class, race, religion (or) creed,” Healey, senior journalism major, said.

In addition to its cleanup activities, Water Watch also holds social activities. On Sept. 28, they held an Italian water ice social in Decker Main Lounge, which also featured a screening of the movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” Students were drawn to the event in part for the free Italian water ice, but mostly out of interest in the club.

Chris Ongaro, publicity director for Water Watch, was impressed with the interest shown by students.

“Several dozen students signed up, which is surely indicative of the welcoming atmosphere,” he said.

Current members are happy with students’ growing interest, but not only because of the amount of new publicity the club is receiving. To them, new members mean the potential for a cleaner and more protected environment.

“(Water Watch) not only directly benefits the environment, but also aids in cultivating a society of (College) students who will make eco-friendly decisions in the future,” Ongaro said.

Student interested in joining Water Watch can attend one of the group’s meetings, which are held on Monday nights at 8 p.m. in Brower Student Center.