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University of Baltimore Receives EPA Grant to Help Revitalize Urban Watershed

Work Will Lead to Mitigation of Waste Entering Waters Along Jones Falls Mill Corridor

July 23, 2014
Contact: University Relations
Phone: 410.837.5739

The University of Baltimore has received an Environmental Protection Agency grant of nearly $60,000 to help clean up a vital portion of the Lower Jones Falls near the UB campus. This portion of the Patapsco Watershed, known as the Mill Corridor, is part of an ongoing urban renewal effort bringing new housing, retail and recreational opportunities to city residents.

The EPA's Urban Waters program is awarding $2.1 million to 37 organizations across the country, including UB, to support community-led efforts to improve waterways and surrounding lands in urban zones.

Once consigned to runoff from industrial mills and development and neglected because several sections of the waterway run beneath the Jones Falls Expressway, the stream and the lands that abut the Lower Jones Falls are of increasing interest to city residents in search of green space. The area—part of which is within easy walking distance of the UB campus—is rich in wildlife, such as the yellow crowned night herons that nest in growing numbers above the waterway. Dozens of species of fish, plants and other wildlife have been identified. But the ecosystem remains fragile—and UB and its partners at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Blue Water Baltimore organization are determined to make improvements.

"This grant provides us with a great opportunity to help to enhance the Mill Corridor, which is truly a forgotten gem in Baltimore," said Wolf T. Pecher, assistant professor in the University's Division of Science, Information Arts and Technologies in the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator for the EPA grant. "I hope that this will be the beginning of a great collaboration between UB, UMCES at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, Blue Water Baltimore and communities like the Mill Corridor that will contribute to a healthier Jones Falls and Inner Harbor."

Combining the EPA grant with $6,500 in matching funds from the University of Baltimore, Pecher and his colleague Stanley J. Kemp, also an assistant professor in UB’s Division of Science, Information Arts and Technologies, together with Eric J. Schott, research assistant professor at the Center for Environmental Science, members of Blue Water Baltimore, and community volunteers, will monitor pollution entering the stream and gather data about the sources of that pollution. The team will forward this information to city officials and to Mill Corridor advocates as the basis for a mitigation plan. In addition, middle and high school students from area schools will explore the natural environment of the Lower Jones Falls through several educational outings that Kemp and Blue Water Baltimore will organize.

A $22,450 Fund for Excellence grant from the University of Baltimore Foundation provided the basis for the EPA grant application, Pecher said. Results from that earlier study show that so far, sewage appears to be a major source of pollution in the targeted waters. Pet waste also contributes to the pollution—a solvable problem that nonetheless represents a threat to the overall health of the watershed.

For the past several years, Pecher and his colleague Kemp have worked with students in UB's undergraduate program in Environmental Sustainability and Human Ecology to establish a connection between the urban campus and the natural environment of the nearby Jones Falls. The EPA grant is an indicator that their efforts are achieving results, and that researchers and sustainability advocates are recognizing UB's stewardship as a viable way to improve the stream and the surrounding green space.

Learn more about Pecher and the EPA's Urban Waters grant funding.

The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the College of Public Affairs, the Merrick School of Business, the UB School of Law and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences.