Putting Streamkeeper Training into Action to Protect Our Creeks

Julie Slavet
Dec 2, 2019


Capt. Dave Bell is one of our star Streamkeepers! He’s a Master Watershed Steward, regularly attends training opportunities, marks storm drains, writes Letters to the Editor and blogs (like the one below), and serves as a TTF Ambassador at school and community programs. Last May, we recognized him with our Watershed Milestone Volunteer Award! Dave Bell is also a Merchant Marine Officer.

Guest Blog by Dave Bell, TTF Streamkeeper

Pennypack Creek

Earlier this year I attended Streamkeeper training about construction site stormwater runoff that was co-sponsored by TTF. Along with Streamkeepers from the Pennypack and Wissahickon watersheds, we learned about best management practices and plans, permitting requirements and compliance, and the negative impacts of poorly maintained erosion and sediment controls on water quality and aquatic life. Staff from Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust described actual situations and how they responded. At the time, I thought the information was interesting, but never imagined I would actually use it.

Sediment near a storm drain from construction at Abington High School

Last June, I happened to pass by the construction site at Abington High School in Montgomery County during a rain shower. I saw brown water running off the site, onto Highland Road and into a storm drain adjacent to Baeder Creek, one of the main headwater tributaries of Tookany Creek. I took pictures and called the Montgomery County Conservation District. One of the resource conservationists said that the control measures in place at the site might have been compromised and would visit the site and let me know what he found.

Two weeks later I called back and he admitted that he hadn’t followed up, but offered to visit the site the following week. Not willing to see another round of sediment entering the Baeder Creek, I contacted Abington Township. A staff member quickly acknowledged my email and that afternoon let me know that the Township engineer visited the site, found controls that had failed, and watched the contractor correct them. The next time it rained I drove by and saw that water running into the storm drain was clear. Problem solved for Baeder Creek!

Now, there’s another water quality issue at hand in my community. Last winter, a truck spread salt on my neighborhood streets ahead of what turned out to be a light snowfall. The problem was that the driver spread so much salt, it turned the streets white—chunks of salt went onto the sidewalks and front lawns throughout the neighborhood. I contacted the Abington Township public works department and was told they don’t salt ahead of a snow storm.

Salt-covered street in Abington Township

The latest Streamkeeper training focused on the Izaak Walton League’s Winter Salt Watch. It was there that I learned how snow melt and rain carry road salt (sodium chloride) into our waterways, how chlorides in the creek harm wildlife and degrade water quality, and that watersheds from Harrisburg to Philadelphia (including ours) had high chloride levels last winter (230-800 ppm).


I signed up for the Winter Salt Watch, received a test kit and training, and shared with the Township that I will be checking chloride levels before and after the next snow. A resident is watching.

Last month, I gave a presentation on winter salt use for the Abington Township Environmental Advisory Council, which agreed to take action on making public education and awareness about the harmful impacts of over-salting a priority.

I didn’t go out looking for these threats to water quality, but TTF’s Streamkeeper training made me more aware and gave me the tools needed to address them. If you’d like to learn more and take action to protect our creeks, contact Ryan Neuman about the Streamkeepers program. You can also request a salt watch kit from the Izaak Walton League.

What are Streamkeepers? TTF is part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), an effort to protect and restore the Delaware River watershed led by the William Penn Foundation. Working with our partners in the Philadelphia Upstream Suburban Cluster, staff and citizen scientists — our Streamkeepers — implement water quality monitoring efforts at 24 sites across our watershed.

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