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Volume xviii, Issue 17 ~ Apri 29 to May 5, 2010

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Sun Power Shines in Anne Arundel County

First steps big and small in public buildings

The Plummer House at the Glendening Wetland Preserve in the Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary is glowing as Anne Arundel County’s first grid-tied solar energy system and solar powered building.

The sunlight switches were officially turned on at a ribbon cutting April 17. The ground-mount solar energy system was installed in March to power the restored 1930s’ farmhouse that is home to the Preserve’s educational center.

The sun’s rays are converted into power by 10 solar panels mounted on the ground. The entire 2.3-kilowatt system was paid for by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a program run through Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

photo by Chris Swarth, Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary Director.

Chris Snow, Stewardship Coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (left), County Executive John Leopold (center) and Al Tucker, president of the Friends of Jug Bay cut the ribbon on the new solar power system at the Plummer House in Glendening Wetland Preserve.

“We expect the new system to provide about 75 percent of our electrical needs at Plummer House,” says Chris Swarth, Director of Jug Bay.

The Glendening Wetland Preserve, home to Plummer House, is about 605 acres and the largest of a dozen different land parcels in the Sanctuary.

“We’d love to use this solar system to power other buildings in the Sanctuary,” Swarth says. “Those buildings will have to be at the right angle on the sun. But we will definitely be looking at it.”

The modest Plummer House holds the honor of being the first Anne Arundel County building powered by the sun, but it won’t be the only one for long. The Combined Support Services Complex in Millersville is set to receive photovoltaic panels to power its 165,000 square feet of county offices and warehouse space.

Anne Arundel’s first large-scale solar project will be designed to generate 500 kilowatts a year. The $500,000 cost of the system will be paid for by Maryland’s Project Sunburst Renewable Energy Grant, funded by the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The ambitious project was announced on Earth Day by County Executive John Leopold.

“Moving away from dependence on dirty fuels goes a long way toward making our air, water and land cleaner,” Leopold said. “This represents a significant movement toward renewable energy sources.”

photo by Johnny Bivera, OurVisualPlanet

Volunteers show off their haul at the Potomac River Watershed Clean-Up.

The Potomac Gives up Its Trash

There’s a lot of weird stuff in 117.65 tons of waste

Over 7,055 volunteers waded into the murky depths of the Potomac River and its tributaries at the 22nd annual Potomac River Watershed Clean-Up. They emerged with over 117.65 tons of waste and litter. Those numbers are still climbing: The cleanup continues thru May 1.

After all these years, there’s still plenty to clean up, according to Potomac River Watershed Cleanup Coordinator Becky Horner of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. The environmental education non-profit, based in Accokeek, has spearheaded anti-litter programs such as the Trash Summit in Washington as well as the annual Cleanup.

“We do good work every year at picking up people’s litter,” reports Horner. “But the behavior has not changed, and that’s really the root of the problem — people’s littering.”

With half the 512 clean-up sites reporting their findings, the numbers are staggering. Compounding the waste were 11,400 recyclable containers and 19,306 plastic bags that could have been easily reused instead of drowned in the water.

Smokers tend to be litterbugs, the evidence shows. Teams removed 13,958 cigarette butts from the water. 

While they worked, volunteers kept an inventory of their watery findings. The most common items fished out of the river were consumable-product packaging, with Budweiser, McDonalds, 7-Eleven, Coca-Cola, Corona, Pepsi and Deer Park being the most popular brands tossed into the watershed.

The list gets better.

Ambitious volunteers removed a large, repairable canoe, a gas grill, a gumball machine and a weight bench. Other items found, it seems, were never meant to surface, such as a canine carcass, a tire with a skull lodged in it and “personal toys and viewing materials.”

“We get shocking stuff each year. Every year it’s something different,” says Horner, who in past years has reported cars and prosthetic legs pulled from the water. “This year a third grader pulled a potty out of the Hard Bargain Farm site.”

Each year the Alice Ferguson Foundation reports more volunteers willing to wade into the water, but the Foundation also reports an increase in the volume of trash those volunteers remove. The Foundation is still compiling data on whether the trash increase is due to more littering or more conscientious volunteers.

“Right now we’re working on a watershed-wide education campaign,” Horner says. “It’s called Potomac River Outreach and Awareness Campaign for Trash. Pro Act for short. It is an anti-littering campaign for the watershed.”

As volunteers continue to report their findings, check the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s website for updates on total waste removed and continued listing of interesting items removed from the water:


–Diana Beechener

Update: Get Your Cash for Clunker Appliances Now!

Time runs out when the money’s gone

Maryland’s appliance rebate program, begun on April 22, will last only until the $5.4 million runs out.

Better act fast. The state-administered rebates are going quick. In Illinois, energy- and money-wise customers went through their state’s $6.2 million in one day.

As part of last year’s federal stimulus bill, the U.S. Department of Energy distributed $300 million among the 50 states for energy-efficient appliance rebates. When and how the funds were distributed was left to the states.

Maryland Energy Administration spokeswoman Christina Twomey assures us there is still money in the kitty.

“We have no indication we’re on the verge of running out,” she says.

The utility companies are processing the rebates for Maryland and tracking the rebate numbers daily.

“We’re hopeful we can avoid some of the snags other states have encountered,” Twomey says. “So far our program is running very smoothly.”

Find qualifying appliances and rebate forms at

–Margaret Tearman

This Week’s Creature Feature

Horses Count, Too

Maryland’s horses, ponies, mules, donkeys and burros are being counted in their very own census.

The Maryland Horse Industry Board has enlisted the United States Department of Agriculture to count Maryland’s equine population. More than 21,000 census forms were mailed in April to equine owners and stable operators across the state.

This is only the second count of Maryland’s horses. The first census was taken in 2002.

“The first equine census gave us an important baseline for measuring the size of our equine industry,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “With the 2010 count, we will learn how the industry has changed, which can in turn help us determine what policy or economic development activities might be needed.”

The 2002 census zeroed in on the number of equine operations in Maryland. The head count identified needed policy changes. Among them, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation’s eligibility list was expanded to include equine operations in the land preservation program. Outreach was ramped up to horse farms about good farm management in protecting the Chesapeake Bay. 

Marylanders involved in equine activities are asked to return the census by June 1.

“Whether you own a single horse for your family’s recreational use or run a large breeding or training facility, we need your input,” said Jim Steele, the chairman of the Maryland Horse Industry Board and manager of Shamrock Farm in Woodbine.

The census is the only reliable measure of the size and economic impact of Maryland’s equine industry. If you’re involved in equine activities and don’t receive a questionnaire by May 1, request one at 800-675-0295.

Learn more at

–Margaret Tearman

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