Tim Guilfoile, Sierra Club’s Water Sentinels Program Deputy Director, speaking aboard the Goodtime II August 22, 2012

Guilfoile administers 51 programs in 20 different states giving over 12,000 volunteer citizen scientists the opportunity to tackle complex environmental issues.

He sees the Clean Water Act, forty years after it was enacted, as a good set of regulations that lack the manpower and funds to support its regulations.  As a consequence, there are currently 500,000 reported violations waiting to be addressed.

Headwaters are the headstreams or tributary streams at the origin of a river and our first line of defense against water pollution.   

Increasingly, the forests, shrubs and low-growing foliage surrounding headlands are disappearing because of erosion or because of being paved over for malls or parking lots.

In a healthy headwaters area, storm water percolates down through soil, a process which filters out pollutants and impurities before the water reaches tributary streams or rivers and eventually flows into larger bodies of water.

When headwaters land is cleared for farming or development or is allowed to erode, surface water runs off directly into headstreams, delivering toxic chemicals from fertilizer and industrial processes.  The result eventually flows into Lake Erie, with our algae bloom-choked Western basin looking like the photo below:

Photo credit NASA earthobservatory

Closer to home, think of what the Mentor Mall parking lot looks like after a rain. The oil and grease from cars shimmers in a rainbow film on the surface of puddles, puddles which flow into storm water pipes and into the Chagrin River, petroleum contaminants and all—because there’s no green space to filter them out.

The Sierra Club’s Water Sentinels Program is a venue for volunteer citizens to monitor, protect and improve local waterways.  The program organizes river and stream cleanups, trains citizens to test their local waterways for pollutants, and provides environmental education and outdoor activities for children.

To learn more about the Ohio Water Sentinels Program and find information about becoming a volunteer, click on


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s