Debris cleanup helps students get feet wet Streams cleared to prevent flooding EAST COLUMBIA


Some Howard County students are getting a lesson on the environment in a different setting this summer: standing in the middle of the Little Patuxent River and Beaver Run Creek.

The nine high school students, who are working with the Maryland Conservation Corps, put on their gloves and thigh-high boots yesterday to begin cleaning debris from the two streams that run behind more than three dozen homes in the Allview Estates neighborhood.

The students will be working there for about two weeks, cutting and removing branches, logs and entire trees that have fallen across the streams in storms.

Such debris in the streams can cause heavy flooding in residents' back yards and in some houses during big storms.

"For some of the students, it's the first time they've really gotten in there and gotten their hands dirty, but they like it," said project director Ernest Jackson. "We're trying to move this debris out of here because it creates a dam when the water rises.

"It also creates a nitrogen buildup that will pretty much kill whatever life is in there now."

Resident Margaret Smith said her land is being eaten away by Beaver Run Creek.

"It's taken three to four feet of my land away due to erosion over the years," she said. "I put concrete slabs up against my land. It seems it's trying to work it's way against the slabs now."

"During the snowstorm this year, I had a barrel up on my property with flowers in it," she said. "After it started melting, the barrel was gone. I couldn't believe the barrel had just been washed away somewhere."

Henry Smeltzer, Mrs. Smith's next-door neighbor, said the stream floods once or twice a year.

"It comes about 40 feet into the backyard and leaves a lot of debris," he said. "The people who live upstream from us will cut their shrubs and leave the branches near the stream.

"When the stream floods, it brings all of this debris into our back yard. When you have the debris on top of those big boulders in the creek, it causes the water force to wash away the property."

His wife, Laverne Smeltzer, said swimming pool liners, tires and water heaters have washed onto their land over the years.

Del. Virginia M. Thomas, D-13A, called on the Conservation Corps to clean out Beaver Run Creek last year after residents who complained about the flooding over the years said they had been given the runaround by county officials.

She asked the group to return this year to continue the job which will clean a mile-long stretch on Beaver Run and Little Patuxent.

"Our short-term goal is to clean up the streams and get the trees out," Ms. Thomas said, adding that she intends to make the cleanup an annual event.

"This is an important problem in the area, and it's not these people's fault," she said.

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