The Haw River Paddler
“To see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower, to hold infinity in the palm of your hand, eternity in an hour” – William Blake
The Health of our Nation’s Waterways
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says more than half of rivers and streams in the United States are in such unhealthy shape they cannot adequately support aquatic life. EPA sampling found more than 55 percent of waterways tested were in poor condition, compared to just 21 percent in good health. The most widespread cause was pollution fueled by human activity, with high levels of phosphorus — a component of fertilizers, pesticides and detergents — found in 40 percent of rivers and streams.
There are a couple of tributaries in the Haw River Watershed that are impaired according to EPA standards. That is why the State of North Carolina passed the Jordan Lake rules; i.e., Jordan Lake was receiving too much nutrients from upriver. The next time you think about adding fertilizer to your lawn or purchasing laundry detergent with added phosphorus, please think twice. There are other creatures that share this planet with us that need our good stewardship.
By the way, the Clean Water Act was passed over 40 years ago. It aimed at making all of our waterways drinkable, swimmable and fishable. Why hasn’t that happened? In the name of jobs and the economy, we allow development to pass on the price of pollution clean-up to current and future generations to pay while a few benefit financially now.
River Clean-up Results
We conduct three river clean-ups each year where we provide canoes for free to volunteers willing to pick up trash out of the river and along the river banks. The first clean-up of the year is always held in conjunction with the Haw River Assembly’s Clean-Up-A-Thon. Joining with our team of 15 volunteers picking up 20 bags of trash and 3 tires upriver of Saxapahaw, was a total of 17 other teams with 303 volunteers that picked up 720 bags of trash, 167 tires and lots of big and weird junk. Some crazy stuff retrieved from the river included a Jeep panel, Easy Bake oven, purple bowling ball, front end of truck, mailbox door and leopard skin underwear!
By the way, most of those trash bags contained plastic bottles, Styrofoam chunks and cans. It is pretty amazing when you think of all the energy and raw materials that are wasted by our “throw-away society”.