Our region has experienced centuries of settlement, agriculture, industry and development. Since William Penn arrived in the 1600s, our creeks have been on the receiving end of residents’ dirty leftovers. Settling along a creek provided drinking water, mill power, and an easy way to carry waste away by simply dumping it into the creek’s currents.

Trash dumped alongside a waterway.Creeks like the Tookany, Tacony, and Frankford have a 400-year history of people pollution. Regulations addressing water pollution over the past few decades have helped, and direct dumping is illegal. But it still occurs. As TTF citizens join in clean-ups and our Streamkeepers monitor the creeks, we see lots of evidence of dumping along our beloved waterways.

During our creek clean-ups, volunteers are often shocked at the items we uncover…auto parts, empty containers, furniture, construction debris and entire trash bags are found regularly. This is from illegal dumping, and we need everyone’s help in stopping culprits.

If you see illegal dumping taking place, notify authorities. In Philadelphia, call 215-685-6300. Outside of the city, contact your local municipality.

storm drain marking

Volunteers with bags of trash from a cleanup project hold up storm drain markers . These markers are being installed to deter dumping in storm drains.

Of course, not all pollution in our creek is from intentional actions. Many residents are unaware of their own impact on the creek. In most watersheds, most of the pollution is from stormwater runoff – the rain that washes across our neighborhood until it reaches the creek.

Storm drains flow directly to our creeks! Emptying motor oil, household waste, restaurant grease or your leftover coffee into the drain on the street ends up in the creek. The creek is ultimately the water we drink, and clean-up efforts from pollution costs millions of tax dollars each year. Don’t litter! Cut down on your trash by using reusable water bottles and shopping bags. Ask anyone who’s been down to the creek lately — plastic is our number-one polluter. If you see someone else contributing to this pollution, educate them!

The Tookany Creek weaves through hundreds of residential properties. Creeks are often found at the boundary of properties, downhill and often out of sight. This part of the property can become the designated place for any debris, yard clippings, and even trash. For streamside property owners, more “natural” items like leaves or branches may seem harmless, but these are harmful. A pile of decaying yard waste lowers oxygen in the creek, killing fish and other aquatic life.

We’ve come a long way in valuing and protecting our creek in the past few decades. Regulations and public awareness have caused people to think twice before dumping near a stream. Our watershed is dominated by residential properties, so it’s up to everyone to improve the creek.

TRASH ParkviewWant to help? We have regular cleanups in Philadelphia and in Montgomery County, and a citizen science stream monitoring program, as well as lots of other volunteer opportunities – get involved! Check out our upcoming events and our intern page, or contact us at /215.744.1853.

About Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper, Community Watershed Specialist (Upstream) Alex develops and engages residents, schools, and organizations in hands-on watershed education programs including citizen water quality testing and restoration efforts in our upstream communities. Alex holds a degree in Geography from West Chester University. He has held watershed community engagement positions with organizations as far away as Mississippi and as close as New Jersey. Alex enjoys empowering people of all ages to become watershed heroes. Three things about Alex: he kayaks, plays blues guitar, and keeps waders in his car. Contact Alex at 215.744.8153 or cooper@ttfwatershed.org


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