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Meat Water: Not A Thing

Posted on June 28, 2017 by | Comments Off

There comes a time in every educator’s life when you question if you are really making a difference. Am I reaching people? Am I molding the next generation of world changers? Will they remember any of this? 

I’ve been a Community Educator with HRSD for about 5 years and I love what I do. I get to teach people how HRSD cleans dirty water and why clean water is important, create interactive activities to bring to schools, and blog about my experiences right here on “Let’s Talk Green.” At this point, most of my friends and family know what not to flush because it’s one of my favorite soap boxes to stand on. Encouraging civic engagement is my jam. I even convinced my brother to stop hurling his used turkey fryer oil over the fence. Community Educator win.

But then, it happened. One ordinary night my husband and I were going through the post-dinner motions of cleaning up and getting the kids clean and in bed with enough efficiency to allow for a TV show and an adult beverage before turning into pumpkins. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him leaning over the kitchen sink with the pan he had cooked the beef in that night. No, I thought. He can’t be. He wouldn’t…

Fats Oils Grease Disposal

This is not “meat water.” It is FOG.

Me:  What are you doing?

Husband:  Huh?  Just…

Me:  Are you pouring that grease into our sink?! 

Husband:  What? No, it’s not grease, it’s meat water.

Me:  MEAT WATER?! Meat water is not a thing. There is no such thing as meat water. 

Husband:  Yes, this is meat water. It’s not grease. Bacon makes grease. This is more like water.

Me:  HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?! You can’t pour that down the drain. Do you ever listen to anything I say? I spend a lot of time telling people to keep FOG out of their drains, and now you, my own husband, my sink. That clogs pipes, causes sewage spills…Ahhhhhhhh!  *Throws hands in air*

Husband:  It’s MEAT WATER! Meat water doesn’t clog pipes.

Me:  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MEAT WATER! 

I could continue but we just started to talk in circles at this point. 

Community Educator FAIL. Apparently, my messages are sometimes lost on the ones closest to me. And this is the same sink I have blogged about in the past, a sink that my husband installed WITHOUT a garbage disposal because garbage disposals send too much gunk into the pipes and contribute to clogs and sewage spills. He knows that part. He scrapes his leftovers into the trashcan and compost bin like a champ.   

I guess I need one of these above my sink.

I guess I need one of these above my sink.

So here goes.  For my husband and everyone else I have failed to reach. Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) DO NOT GO DOWN THE DRAIN. That includes any leftover residue from cooking meat. Even if it looks “watery.” It’s not meat water. Meat water does not exist. Google it. 

It turns out, I’m not alone. My coworker, Molly, is also a Community Educator, guest blogger, and environmental steward with a green thumb (check out her composting tips). She realized recently that her husband was not using the strainer in their kitchen sink. He didn’t think he needed to since he scrapes all of the large pieces of food in the trash. But what about the teeny tiny pieces? If our husbands lived together, they would have some hefty bills from the plumber. The FOG sent down the drain would cling to the pipe walls and catch all of those teeny tiny pieces and eventually make a big ol’ clog. And there’s more. She also caught her husband (why is it always the husbands?) leaving grass clippings on the sidewalk because “the rain will wash it away into the storm drain.” And not just any storm drain. A storm drain that resides on the worst hit street in the state of Virginia by Hurricane Matthew. Their house flooded, their floors floated, they evacuated in the middle of the night. Everyone on their street is all too familiar with the stormwater system and how important it is to keep things flowing. PLUS, grass clippings pollute our waterways with excess nutrients. Our husbands are both smart people, but it seems we’ve overlooked them in our quest to save the world. 

We all need reminders now and then, so please, take this home with you today:

Meat water is not real. Fatbergs are real. 

Google it. Then educate your spouses.

Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, For educators, Gardening, Going Green, Household tips, Keeping storm drains free, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips, Uncategorized, Waterways

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askHRgreen.org Hits the Streets with “Write as Rain” Campaign

Posted on April 18, 2017 by | Comments Off

rainworks_hashtag

Launched this week (just in time for Earth Day) on sidewalks, streetscapes and thoroughfares throughout Hampton Roads, the motivational campaign will reveal a bevy of good-to-know “green” messages that become visible when wet.  

With the approval of local municipalities, askHRgreen.org committee members blanketed the region using custom-made stencils and an eco-friendly rain-resistant spray to adhere their messages to sidewalks in locations where residents gather. When it becomes wet, the surface around the message darkens while the stenciled area stays dry and light. The messages carry such sayings as: Only Rain Down the Storm Drain; No Wipes in Our Pipes; Your Morning Shower Starts with Tap Water; and Cigarette Butts are Litter, Too. There are 12 different messages in all!

Why “Write as Rain?”
The goal of the campaign is to inspire people to think about our Hampton Roads environment in ways they haven’t before. What’s more unexpected than a magically appearing message written with rain?

Grab your umbrella and head outside to enjoy the next rainy day in Hampton Roads and look for messages in Chesapeake, Hampton, Isle of Wight County, James City County, Newport News, Portsmouth, Smithfield, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, York County, and more locations. Find a message near you using our interactive map below and check back often as new locations are added.

Whenever you find one of our hidden messages, don’t forget to snap a photo to share with us on social media #askHRgreen.  

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Community events, Don't litter!, Fats, oils and grease disposal, Going Green, HR Green campaign updates, Keeping storm drains free, Reduce reuse and recycle, Waterways

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Getting My Feet Wet – The International Coastal Cleanup

Posted on November 29, 2016 by | Comments Off

TWayne Joneshe City of Suffolk, for the first time, took part in the International Coastal Cleanup organized by Ocean Conservancy.  In Virginia this initiative is coordinated locally through Clean Virginia Waterways based at Longwood University.  The initiative is designed to raise awareness about and reduce ocean marine debris.  However, it’s more than just a traditional cleanup.  It is an effort to understand what type of debris and how much is getting into our waterways.  To understand it, a survey must be taken to find out how many tires, plastic bottles and kitchen sinks etc. are found within the area surveyed.  This makes this initiative more complicated than your traditional cleanup.  As Litter Control Coordinator for the city and veteran Clean the Bay Day Captain I knew that conducting a debris survey of the downtown section of the Nansemond River shoreline in kayaks and canoes would be challenging.  Not challenging because it’s mentally complicated, but practically, as it’s not easy cleaning out the wetlands, reaching for plastic bottles, completing a survey whilst trying not to drift or drop something. 

So being our first year, and as a seasoned kayaker, I knew it would be literally a juggling act and so I wanted to “get my feet wet” before we really promoted it and recruited volunteers.  I registered our cleanup with Clean Virginia Waterways, but I kept it exclusive to people I knew with the goal of getting feedback so that next year when we roll it out to the public it would run smoothly and give us a good foundation to build on year-on-year.  As an experienced volunteer coordinator it’s essential that an event runs smoothly and is well-organized.  Nothing frustrates a person donating their time more than a poorly organized and executed event. 

Debris CollectedSo what did we learn from our 3 hour pilot effort on a beautiful Saturday morning in October?  To do this in canoes and kayaks it takes two people.  One person has the litter grabbers and one person with the pencil and clipboard to record the data.  I had originally thought that we would do the cleanup and then do the survey by emptying the bags and recording all the debris using the app developed by Ocean Conservancy.  However, it quickly became apparent by the rate of bags we were filling that this method would be extremely time consuming and, in addition, I realized there was a lot of larger items we had to leave behind, but needed to include in the survey.  The largest of these items was an ice refrigerator like the ones you find outside any gas station.  I suspect this came from the gas station washed out by Hurricane Mathew the week before and then marooned in the wetlands.

David KeelingHaving the right equipment is also important.  I purchased four sets of six feet long litter grabbers and tested them out during this cleanup and they are great at reaching into the wetlands and grabbing plastic bottles and other types of consumer packaging.  I would highly recommend these for this type of a cleanup.  It’s also important to have a larger canoe or small boat to go between teams offloading the collected debris, providing supplies and dropping the debris at the collection point.      

I’m thankful for having done a test run before actively recruiting volunteers next year.  It’s a fun and an educational experience as well as rewarding to be part of an international effort to collect data and contribute to a global picture of what type of debris is finding its way into our oceans.  With quantitative data, governments, businesses, non-profits, individuals etc. can begin to address the problem and work towards solutions and hopefully we will see a downward trend in marine debris. 

One of the highlights for me was meeting a guy named Bill Farrell.  Bill was enjoying a morning stroll by the river as we were in the middle of the cleanup.  He shouted out to me “thanks for doing this, I have a kayak, how can I get involved?” so I told him I’m the Litter Control Coordinator in Public Works.  Monday morning when I was back in the office he called me and gave me his details and said his wife would like to help as well.  I never expected to be recruiting for next year so soon but I’m looking forward to it and making this an annual Suffolk event which will be fun and educational for all. 

For more information about Clean Virginia Waterways and the International Coastal Cleanup http://www.longwood.edu/cleanva/

So what did we find?

Items Found

Number of Each Item Found

Plastic Bottles

227

Aluminum Cans

114

Glass Bottles

63

Styrofoam Cups / Food containers

58

Plastic Bags

18

Tires

4

Wooden Planks

4

Yard Signs

3

Oil Cartons

3

Traffic Cones

2

Buoy

2

Cooler

2

Ice Refrigerator

1

House Insulation

1

Tool Box

1

Trash Can Lid inscribed “Please Don’t Litter”

1

Guest blog contributed by Wayne Jones, Litter Control Coordinator with the City of Suffolk.

Posted in: Community events, Don't litter!, Keeping storm drains free, Waterways

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Hurricane Matthew, Rising Tides, and Regional Resiliency

Posted on November 3, 2016 by | Comments Off

Photo 2

Disgruntled flooring after the waters receded.

Anyone who has done major home renovations recently is likely aware of the concept of “floating floors.” DIY-ers can quickly and easily transform a space by clicking together planks of laminate, vinyl or wood over their existing floors and revel in the beauty they’ve created. These floors are great, theoretically, and overall I was pleased with the outcome when I installed them in my own home in 2012. There is, however, a very significant downside to floating floors: they literally float. So when Hurricane Matthew floods the interior of your house with a foot of water and you’re trying to gather essentials in order to evacuate your neighborhood, you have to dodge planks of laminate as they float merrily past you down the hallway.

Photo 1

The morning after Hurricane Matthew & my flooded Corolla Eco.

I live in the Windsor Woods area of Virginia Beach. My neighbors and I earned the depressing distinction of being the worst hit street in the state of Virginia and it’s still evident weeks after the floodwaters receded. Personal belongings are stored in metal cargo containers in people’s yards as they remove and replace large chunks of their homes. Most of the “trash” has been hauled away, but large “No Scavenging” and “Residents Only” signs still welcome folks to our street. We share construction tips and power tools and sympathetic ears and wonder whether we’re better off rebuilding our homes on stilts. Will another flood wash away all of our hard work?

Photo 3

We will rebuild!

It’s tempting to want to take out our anger over our recent misfortune on inaccurate weathermen or unprepared municipalities, but the reality is that our world is changing. Sea levels have risen 14 inches since 1930- placing more and more developed areas at risk for recurrent flooding. The sinking of our area’s land is exacerbated by the overuse of the Potomac Aquifer, which is experiencing such significant pressure decreases that it is shrinking and compacting beneath us. These trends show no sign of abating and thus, as we put our homes back together we must ask ourselves, “What can we do?”

Support Infrastructure Investment

The infrastructure beneath our feet is the unsung hero of our region’s resiliency. Support your city or county’s investment in infrastructure maintenance and improvement. And, be a storm drain steward yourself! It might be easy to rake grass clippings and leaves into storm drains, but these debris cause clogs and cleaning up after those is NOT easy. 

Reduce Impervious Surfaces and Install Rain Barrels

Increased development and urban sprawl are contributing to the hardening of our shorelines. Do your part to reverse this trend by planting shrubs and tall grasses on your property and opting for gravel or pervious pavement when constructing driveways and walkways. The more hard surfaces you have on your property, the less rainwater can be soaked-up during a storm, and the more water that will flood our streets. Installing rain barrels at your downspouts is also a great way to prevent extra water from flowing toward storm drains during rain events (and is a great source of water for your plants during dry periods).

Support the Region’s Sustainability Research Initiatives

Hampton Roads is the second largest population at risk of the effects of sea level rise and scientists and engineers in our region are tackling the problem head on. For example, the newly formed Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency is facilitating research and education about sea level rise and developing adaptive planning for coastal communities. HRSD’s Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow (SWIFT) is addressing land subsidence by proposing to replenish the Potomac Aquifer with up to 120 million gallons of purified water a day, which hydraulic modeling suggests may reduce the effects of sea level rise by up to 25 percent.

Watching your floors float away and your neighborhood struggle to rebuild after a natural disaster is disheartening. There are very few bright sides to the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew; hopefully, acknowledgement of our region’s vulnerabilities and a push toward positive change will be one of them.

Guest blog contributed by Molly Bertsch, Community Educator with HRSD.

Posted in: Keeping storm drains free, Waterways

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Tackling Restoration Through Beautification in Newport News

Posted on June 7, 2016 by | Comments Off

 The City of Newport News has an integrated program of public awareness and action concerning stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Our programs employ cigarette litter awareness and other forms of litter as outreach and engagement opportunities. The program is a collaboration between various departments including Public Works Resource Recovery, Storm Water Management, Environmental Management System  and Engineering. Litter of any form is an active challenge for our city. We have engaged our citizens, civic and faith-based communities and local business groups in awareness of cigarette litter specifically and litter in general as a stormwater pollution issue. We currently have five separate target areas where Cigarette Litter Prevention Programs in partnership with Keep America Beautiful and askHRgreen.org are in place and several are set to expand this year. We enjoy great partners in our community who share our passion for stewardship and dedication to maintaining a beautiful and clean Newport News.

DBaxter-WawaAwardRecently, the Newport News Recovery Operations Center recognized the Wawa Convenience Store located at 12093 Jefferson Avenue with the Newport News Clean Business Award winner for the Second Quarter of 2016. This was largely in recognition of their exemplary efforts in litter management and specifically cigarette litter on their very busy property. Their management staff takes great strides to ensure that the facility and property are litter free as they understand how important this is to the businesses remaining viable and attractive for customers. Their diligence and commitment is a fine example of the commitment of the corporate leadership, store management and their dedicated staff to the preservation and protection of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

DBaxter-NNRainBarrelWorkshopFor the past seven years, Newport News Resource Recovery and Newport News Waterworks have been partnering with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, Newport News Master Gardeners to hold Rain Barrel Workshops for residents of Hampton Roads. These workshops empower participants to harness rain water with rain barrels for irrigation and to reduce stormwater runoff from their properties. Hundreds of these rain barrels have been made since the program’s inception saving thousands of gallons of polluted runoff from entering local waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. These

The Newport News Resource Recovery, Recovery Operations Center (ROC) , located at 330 Atkinson Way in Newport News, has been a focal point for stewardship and recovery efforts for the residents of Newport News for many years. Recent improvements to the facility include: an integrated household hazardous waste and electronics collection system, white goods recovery and extraction system, tire  recovery program, larger bulk recovery containers for metals and co-mingled recyclables and an improved yard debris collection and management program. Our increase in size and convenience for our solid waste user fee customers has been very effective in reducing landfill costs while improving recycling opportunities for our residents.

The Resource Recovery Center, Recovery Operations Center,  also houses one of the largest compost and mulch production facilities on the Peninsula. Compost is created on-site from leaves and other compostable yard waste and is certified by the US Compost Council and routinely tested by Virginia Tech and Penn State Universities. The compost is a very effective soil amendment, allowing soil to let in more air and water for healthier plants and increased absorption of stormwater runoff. Leaf mulch provides a cost effective soil erosion protection for areas under trees that preserves top soil and helps to reduce soil degradation. The mulch products that are created provide a cost effective beautification product that provides moisture retention and soil erosion protection. All of these products are available to any resident of Hampton Roads at competitive prices, For more information, click here or call 757-886 7947.

Blog post contributed by Daniel A. Baxter, Business Recycling Coordinator, NIMS Public Works Blue Team Coordinator for City of Newport News Recovery Operations Center.

Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!, Going Green, Keeping storm drains free, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare

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