Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed urges you to Vote No on Columbus Issue 7

Issue 7 would divert 87 million in taxpayer dollars from the city into the pockets of a corporation whose interests are self-serving. Pro Energy Ohio, LLC, the group bringing Issue 7, has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and they have no business mishandling the city’s money.  While ‘green-washed’ language of Issue 7 sounds good, Pro Energy Ohio, LLC has not presented a plan on how the funds would be used, and they seek to operate without transparency or oversight. Issue 7 detracts from legitimate efforts to secure clean energy in Ohio. VOTE NO!

For more info, see The Columbus Dispatch’s editorial on issue 7.

The Threat of Coal-Tar Driveway and Parking Lot Sealants

photo of Brian Will

Brian Will

Rachel Carson in her seminal book “Silent Spring” raised public consciousness to the threat of commonly used chemicals such as DDT.  Since the 1962 publication of Carson’s book, society has become aware of many other products that threaten human health and the environment, including cigarettes, refrigerants, neonicotinoids, and asbestos. In the last twenty years, one chemical product that is alarming environmentalists is toxic coal-tar driveway and parking lot sealants, widely used in residential neighborhoods and strip mall parking lots in the Midwest.

Coal-tar sealants are primarily composed of coal-tar pitch, which has 1,000 times more carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) than an equally effective alternative product, asphalt-based sealants.  Asphalt-based sealants are widely available and similarly priced to coal-tar sealants and are a considerably less toxic.

Coal- tar sealant is a black, acrid-smelling goo that is spread on homeowner driveways and parking lots on warm days.  If you have ever walked near a newly sealed driveway and noticed the strong odor of mothballs, you probably were inhaling PAHs from the coal-tar fumes.  As coal-tar sealant is being poured and for years afterward, the carcinogenic PAHs present in the coal-tar gradually spread into the environment in the form of dust. Tires, snow shovels, leaf blowers, brooms, shoes, and bare feet can spread the poisonous dust into the environment as well as bring it inside homes.

The National Cancer Institute has classified coal-tar sealant as a Class 1 carcinogen, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has determined that the PAH’s from coal-tar sealed driveway and parking lot runoff cause birth defects and death in fish, amphibians, and invertebrates.   Coal-tar sealants are so toxic that most nationwide home improvement retailers like Lowe’s, Ace, Home Depot, and TruValue no long sell them.  Thanks to education and advocacy by watershed organizations, many states have implemented bans or restrictions on the selling and application of coal-tar, including Minnesota, Washington, New York, Maryland, California, and Maine. Milwaukee, Washington, D.C., Ann Arbor, Austin, San Antonio, multiple suburbs of Chicago, and over hundred other cities and towns have banned coal-tar sealants.

Since coal-tar sealants are not usually available in retail stores, residents run the risk of being exposed to coal-tar when they hire contractors to seal their driveways. Residents can protect themselves and the environment by informing the contractor that they do not want coal-tar products, and ask for a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet (MS-DS) of the product they intend to use. If the Chemical Abstract Number (CAS) for the product is 65996-93-2, then that contractor intends to use a coal-tar sealant.

You can learn more about the dangers of coal-tar sealants by visiting the USGS website.  There are also multiple helpful videos on YouTube.

Brian Will  bvwill@att.net

The Dangers of Toxic Coal-Tar Driveway and Parking Lots Sealants to the Watershed

photo of Brian Will

Brian Will

Come Join FLOW as we return to our Outreach and Education Speaker Series on Tues., Sep. 14, 5:30-6:30 at Whetstone Library!  

Brian Will is an organizer of Sustainable Grandview, a grassroots, community-based citizens alliance in Grandview Heights dedicated to pursuing a cleaner and more environmentally friendly city.  He has been on the board of trustees of the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) since 2016 where he leads the Solid Waste Plan committee.  He is employed at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center where he works in medical education and is a leader on the med center’s green team.

 

 

a freshly sealed driveway

As coal tar sealants degrade, their toxic particles are washed into the waterways and are tracked into our homes.

From a sustainability perspective, Brian’s primary interest is advocating for the protection of wildlife and natural habitat, especially native trees and plants, waterways and prairies.  To this end, he volunteers with Friends of Lower Olentangy Watershed, the Grange Audubon Center, Green Columbus, Citizens Climate Lobby, and the Sycamore Land Trust.

Brian has achieved household carbon neutrality with the help of rooftop solar panels, reducing household energy usage, diet and lifestyle changes and purchasing carbon offsets through Carbon Neutral Ohio.

In his role with Sustainable Grandview, Brian has written white papers and made presentations to the city council and mayor on various environmental topics, including the importance of tree canopies and the dangers of coal-tar driveway and parking lot sealants.  Brian will be discussing the latter, as toxic coal-tar represents a significant threat to humans as well as aquatic life in the watershed

Monofilament Recycling Boxes

Monofilament recycling containerMonofilament Recycling Boxes
FLOW is installing dedicated boxes for recycling monofilament along waterways in the watershed. Monofilament can have serious negative environmental consequences if not recycled properly. It cannot be recycled along with other household plastics. Read on to learn why and how you should recycle monofilament.

What is monofilament?
This is the most common type of fishing line. As opposed to fishing line that is braided or made from multiple fibers, monofilament is made from a single strand. You have probably seen monofilament if you have ever gone fishing or been around fishermen. Unfortunately, if you like to walk by lakes or rivers, you have likely also seen discarded monofilament left along the banks.

What are the negative environmental impacts of monofilament?
It is not difficult to imagine how helpless wildlife can be against long durable plastic strings. When monofilament is left out in nature, fish, birds, and mammals can easily get entangled in it. It is thin and often clear, so it is difficult to see. Once an animal comes in contact with monofilament, survival can become difficult.

When monofilament wraps around a limb, it can impede walking or flying, or cause amputation. If the monofilament affects the animal’s ability to catch food or eat, the animal will likely die of starvation. Drowning, strangulation, and other serious injuries are also possible. Sometimes monofilament is accidentally ingested. Depending on the amount, the animals might not be able to pass through their digestive systems.

What is the proper way to recycle monofilament?
The only safe way to discard monofilament is to drop it in dedicated recycling boxes in parks or at participating tackle shops. The lines in these boxes are taken to special plants that have the capacity to recycle monofilament. Note that you should not put any braided or multi-string line in these boxes.

Monofilament cannot be recycled along with other household plastics. Due to its high-density, it requires a special recycling process.

Disposing of monofilament in a regular garbage bin does not solve the problem either. Wind can blow monofilament out of trash cans. In landfills, birds and scavengers looking for nest materials can pick it up. Monofilament is non-biodegradable and can last thousands of years, so it is important to make sure that it does not get into landfills to begin with.

What else can you do to help?
Here are some things you can do to keep monofilament away from wildlife.

If you like to go fishing, make sure to do the following:

1) Cast your line away from trees and other areas where it may get caught.

2) Check your line often to avoid unexpected breaks.

3) Never leave your line unattended.

4) Discard old monofilament line in proper boxes. 

5) Remove hooks from the monofilament line before recycling.

When you come across discarded monofilament in the parks – please pick it up and recycle it properly later. If you are eager to help even more – join a volunteer group to pick up monofilament along rivers and lakes.

Thank you for keeping our watershed safe for all!

Written by Sonya Afanasyeva 

 

The Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan is now available

The Olentangy Watershed is currently home to 283,000 people. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) expects this number to nearly double to 500,000 by 2050. With more people comes more development and more impervious surface. Maintaining a healthy watershed with this growth is a challenge that requires careful planning and coordination among several key stakeholders. FLOW’s Greenspace Plan is the first step of such coordination, ensuring that we are protecting and restoring the right places.

FLOW received funding from The Columbus Foundation to produce the Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan. This was designed as a proactive planning effort to target the protection of high quality areas for the protection of the Olentangy watershed, while accommodating people’s needs for access to greenspace. The Greenspace Plan illuminates the value of accurately inventorying our existing natural resources, provides a framework to educate our citizens, and serves as a tool for prioritizing future efforts and making informed decisions.

The value of greenspace must be recognized for the ‘eco-services’ it provides. We can no longer think of greenspace as “just undeveloped” land. Greenspace provides very quantifiable benefits that cannot be replaced by any other means. Greenspace provides habitat, biodiversity, clean air, healthy places to recreate and heal, and mitigates heat island effects.

The Greenspace Plan assigned scores to land using 22 variables related to ecological resources and opportunities for restoration and protection. The scores were a result of weighting each variable and adding the weighted values of all variables for a particular piece of land. This was completed throughout the entire Lower Olentangy watershed. These were then categorized into five Greenspace Tiers, where Tier 1 represents those areas most important for water quality protection, and Tier 5 displaying the least opportunity for water quality protection. However, greenspace could exist in any of these tiers. Protection of these spaces may be more important within Tiers 1 and 2, whereas greenspace may need to be crated in Tiers 4 and 5.

This Greenspace Plan has been summarized in a report, and the results can be freely accessed here. We hope our partners take advantage of this Greenspace effort for future planning. According to the Trust for Public Lands, the average greenspace in the 100 largest cities in the U.S. covers 15% of their total area. Currently, the Olentangy only has 9% greenspace, and that is without the development anticipated by 2050. Now is the time to plan appropriately for adequate protection of our waterways, and FLOW is now turning its attention to using our Greenspace Plan to prioritize our restoration efforts.

GreenSpace Plan 2020

GIS data page

The Olentangy Greenspace Plan: First Data Insights

Central Ohio is growing and showing no signs slowing down. Updated projections are for another 600,000 more residents by 2050, increasing our region’s population to 3 million strong. In fact, Delaware County has been the fastest growing county in the state since the turn of the century. Such a prolonged population boom can fuel economic opportunity and optimism, but it also comes with challenges. They makes FLOW’s work on the Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan all the more pressing.

A recent milestone in the project was the completion of a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) database of the Lower Olentangy watershed. GIS technology allows us to organize layers of information into a unique visualization of the watershed. This can reveal deeper insights, patterns, and relationships that help us make more informed decisions. In a recent presentation to our partners, Ryan Pilewski, Watershed Resource Specialist with the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District, revealed some first insights from the recently compiled baseline data.

The initial analysis reveals about 20% of the Lower Olentangy watershed is covered by tree canopy, with substantially lower canopy cover in the highly urbanized areas. Research has shown at least 45% stream side forest cover is required for streams to have a healthy rating of “good”, so it’s something to examine if we want to adequately buffer our streams and rivers to ameliorate the impacts of future development.

Meanwhile the entire watershed is 17% covered by impervious surfaces. This represents the sum of roads, parking lots, sidewalks and rooftops that prevent water from infiltrating the surface and thereby increasing storm water runoff. Resulting problems include increased flooding, higher temperatures, sanitary sewer overflows and decreased stream health. With global climate change increasing the frequency of heavy rainfall events in Columbus and an intensifying urban heat island, it could be time to accelerate greener infrastructure options or even consider removing pavement from sensitive areas.

Only about 9% of the lands in the Lower Olentangy watershed have protected status. These lands include parks, trails, open and green spaces, and conservation easements. Ensuring we have adequate green space is of increasing concern amid the backdrop of strong population growth and development pressures. A growing body of scientific evidence confirms measurable human health benefits from green space. And it goes well beyond the need for healthy rivers and clean water. Natural spaces such as parks, urban forests, streams, and trails improve health, reduce stress, and can move the needle on disease prevention. So investing in green space makes us – and our communities – more resilient.

What can we take from these first data insights? The Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan project was designed as a proactive planning effort to ensure that we have high quality natural space to protect the Olentangy watershed, as well as enough recreational space for healthy human needs. The metrics can illuminate the value of accurately inventorying our existing natural resources, provide a framework to educate our citizens, and be used as a tool for prioritizing future preservation efforts.