JeffCoH20:Baked, broiled, grilled or fried

More than 3,000 miles of sanitary sewer lines serve 480,000 people in Jefferson County.  This vital function makes it possible for customers to rise in the morning, get ready for work or school, and not have to think about what happens to their waste water after showering, brushing teeth, or flushing!  One challenge to the operation of the sanitary sewer system is the buildup of fats, oils, and grease – FOG – in the sewer lines.  Over time, these substances can create clogs and result in backups that cause sewage to overflow into homes, yards, streets, and waterways.  Not only are these events costly to repair, they also can be a health hazard.  One main source of FOG in the sewer system is households. 

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No matter what you cook or how you cook it, there usually is some fat, oil or grease involved in the process.  When the holiday meals are over and it’s time to wash the stack of plates, pots, pans, and casserole dishes piled in the sink, take a few minutes to make sure that FOG doesn’t wash down the kitchen drain.  Even if you have a garbage disposal or use hot water and detergent, it will not prevent FOG buildup in your plumbing or the sewer system.  If you are connected to a septic system, a similar scenario applies – FOG can build up and cause your septic system to malfunction.  

The good news is that the solution is easy!  Discard in the trash unwanted food scraps from plates and cookware.  Any remaining FOG can be cooled and poured or scraped into a plastic or metal container with a lid and taken to the nearest Jefferson County cooking oil recycling station.  New recycling containers are available to you for free at all recycling stations.  Preventing FOG from going down the drain can go a long way toward reducing plumbing emergencies and unhealthy sewer overflows.

Proper FOG disposal

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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Get Some ‘Re-Leaf’ this Fall

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By now, it’s probably becoming impossible to ignore all those leaves falling in your yard.  If you tried mulching leaves last year, you probably found that you saved yourself some serious time and money by using your mower to mulch leaves into your lawn (free nutrients) and by re-purposing excess leaves (free mulch) to provide cover for your landscaped areas.

If you’ve never tried these techniques, maybe this is the time to move on from hours of blowing and bagging, the cost of buying mulch and fertilizer, and the effort involved in loading and bringing all these materials home – to that solution that just fell into your yard! It’s best to mulch leaves into your lawn every week or so to make the volume of leaves more manageable for you and utilized more efficiently by your lawn.

Try using your lawnmower with the bag attachment on to shred and collect leaves prior to spreading on landscaped areas.  Shredding before spreading reduces matting and creates a more uniform appearance.  If you simply can’t let go of the more manicured look that commercially produced mulch gives your landscape, try spreading a thin layer of purchased mulch over a layer of shredded leaves.

What’s Happening?

Fall Plant Sale October 19-20 – Here’s your chance to stock up on native plants at Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Fall Plant Sale.  http://www.bbgardens.org/fall-plant-sale.php

 Birmingham E-cycle Day October 23 – Don’t doom your old gadgets to a landfill! Bring them to Short 20th Street North for recycling.   http://www.aeconline.org/blog

Prescription Drug Disposal October 26Here’s a safe way to clean out your medicine cabinet.  Bring unwanted medications to one of these locations.  http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

TCNP Currents: Bama Brookies

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Rare and Beautiful Jewels in the Heart of Dixie

Story By: J.T. Armstrong

Photos By: C.B. Crumpler

I continue rolling, eventually surpassing the shadows cast by the Birmingham skyline.   A short stretch on the interstate then take a left and go through the industrial district then through one of the poorer areas within the metro perimeter.  Turn left at the Jet-Pep with the bathrooms connected to the car wash and another few hundred feet and I’m by the creek.  I piece together the 5-weight and string my line through the guides, tie on some 5x.  Some bugs are coming off so I peruse through my box until I find it.  Something small, dark and can float.  Not too small, size 14, maybe 12.  I can never tell.

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I’m not a very good caster, or fisherman, but the majority of my casts fall within the banks, which (in theory) greatly increase my odds.  So I fling the fly around, and it sometimes lands in the water.  It takes a few drifts until something darts from the shadows and smashes the dry, taking it deep beneath the surface in one vicious exhibition of murderous intent.  The line tightens and sings and the rod bends and a few seconds later I lift the quarter-pound exterminator out of the water.  Blood red eyes and a fluorescent turquoise gill plate, some of the loudest colors I’ve seen on a fish.  And not a trout fish.  A bass fish. A redeye bass.

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The first time I heard the expression “Bama Brookie”, I was immediately disgusted.  Here in the heart of Dixie, when we slap our regional brand on an existing item it usually involves either making it accessible to the illiterate or deep frying it.  Maybe both.  My observations have shown there is a large overlap between people who are non-readers and people who like fried stuff.

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“Bama Brookie”seemed to equivocate a small bass with something that really is special, like the native brook trout that abound in Southern Appalachia.   The term brought to mind images of rednecks yanking half pounders out of a pond and considering their experience paramount to those who stalk fish high in the mountains of Tennessee.

I kept this notion until the first time I waded into this creek, the 65 degree current pushing past my knees.  I could still see my toes.  I ducked beneath overhanging limbs and branches of oak and pine and honeysuckle.  I think I tied on some yellow popper or something similar, something that I often use to catch dumb fish.  I began to cast and I watched multiple refusals so I began the countless iterations of explorations into the box and downsizing of tippets.  4x then 5x then smaller poppers and crawfish patterns and then a dry and then a dropper.  In some final attempt brought on by desperation I tossed a small foam hopper and dropped a stone fly on some tiny strand of tippet.  I made a tolerable cast upstream and mended up and then down, a driftless drag, and suddenly I saw the piece of foam jerk underwater and begin fleeing upstream.  When I finally pulled him out of the water I found a 4 inch fish hung on my size 8 stonefly.  I found some tiny, peacock colored bass who thought he was a trout in some river which thought it belonged in some other state, in some higher elevation.  I found something that felt very different than what I expected.

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Until recently, only one species has been recognized as the Redeye bass, but biological studies have shown that there are actually species-level variations that result in multiple different species comprising the “Redeye Bass” family.  The colors of each species vary from bright blue lateral lines to deep greens, from rich crimson eyes to stark and startling reds.  My first encounter was nearly frightening, staring into the hemorrhaging eyes of some small predator that seemed hell bent on escaping my grasp.  The colors and beauty only extend so far.  Underneath it is a slight reflection of the natives of this state: they can be fooled, repeatedly even, but they are never any less angry about it.

I spent some brief time with a local biologist who tried (God bless his soul) to explain the diet of these fish.  This resulted mostly in confusion and nausea on my part, but I managed to extract “hellgrammite” and “some other surface bugs” from the conversation.  Basically, these are small, beautifully colored fish that subsist primarily on insects with a propensity for looking up and thriving in cool flowing rivers.  Which kinda sounds similar to another highly sought after fish that thrives in cool mountain streams.  But these are, you know, in Alabama…

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For years I have been jealous of another city located about 200 miles east of where I live and work.  There is a large, cold flowing river that runs through it and rainbow and brown trout and shoal bass and striper thrive and are caught regularly.  The citizens post pictures of rose-cheeked fish and fish with dark spots surrounded by rings of bright red.  And I was always jealous of those anglers and what great opportunity they had.  To stop by after a day at the office to see what beautiful creatures they could conjure out of the water by using small flies and small tippets and complicated drifts.  But there are days when I sneak out of the office and drive down the interstate, past the Jet-Pep with the bathrooms connected to the car wash, and I stand in the cool waters and toss small patterns to skittish fish who view 4x like it’s rope.  And sometimes I catch them and look at their bright blue sides and angry red eyes and I’m not really jealous of anyone.

Story By: J.T. Armstrong

Photos By: C.B. Crumpler

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Editor’s Note: This piece was provided courtesy of Revive Fly Fishing Magazine. Please visit http://reviveflyfishing.com for more beautiful photo-essays and stories like this one.

Before your next visit to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, please be sure you are aware of our Fishing Regulations.

Thank you so much Revive for sharing your piece on Turkey Creek, we hope to see you at the creek again soon!

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TCNP Currents: Trek Birmingham

For well over a hundred years, the Birmingham area has been known for the vast wealth of natural resources that can be found in its surrounding mountains, valleys, and waterways. These resources contributed greatly to the area developing into one of the most productive industrial centers in the southeastern United States. Slowly catching attention is Birmingham’s other natural resource, greenspace. In fact, Birmingham leads the nation in per capita public greenspace, with 17.9 acres per 1,000 residents.  With so much greenspace, there are now more options than ever for residents (and visitors) to get active outside.

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To help visitors on their way, Birmingham-Southern College’s Urban Environmental Studies program has developed Trek Birmingham, an online guide for many of the area’s most popular outdoor destinations.

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The site features informative articles on each location’s attractions, activities, history, and natural features. The site’s developers have gone above and beyond to provide an in-depth look at what is unique or interesting at each site. For example, on the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve page, scroll to the bottom and be sure to check out the articles labeled: “ECOREGION”, “GEOLOGY”, “WATERSHED”, and “BIODIVERSITY”.

Here is a short excerpt from the Trek Birmingham article on Turkey Creek’s Biodiversity, by Dr. Scott Duncan, author of Southern Wonder: Alabama’s Surprising Biodiversity:

The rich biodiversity of central Alabama is the result of many complex and inter-related factors. As each kind of habitat supports a characteristic flora and fauna, a mosaic of different habitats as found in parts of Turkey Creek could contribute to more unique discoveries. In the case of Turkey Creek, biodiversity is expressed in the 3 unique darter fish. The conditions that allow these rare beauties refuge may also open other niches for other animals as well as plants.  Unique water quality and geology could also allow others to be found. TCNP and the State Lands Division carefully survey the property for unique plant of animal species and protect the area from disturbance.

For the rest of this article, and more about Birmingham’s amazing natural resources, please visit http://trekbirmingham.com. With so many options, Birmingham is sure to surprise even you. So get out and see it for yourself.

Until then, we’ll see ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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JeffCo H2O: Wholly Cr@p! Seriously?

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  Not many friendships could stand the test of time like the relationship between people and their pets. Archaeologists have found evidence that humans began domesticating dogs 16,000 years ago to help with hunting, herding, and protection.
Throughout the ages, people also have kept dogs as companions. No wonder we refer to dogs as ’man’s best friend’. According to the Humane Society, Americans own 78 million dogs. And not to leave out feline fanciers, cats were domesticated 8,000 years ago when people noticed their usefulness in keeping rats and other vermin away from harvested grain.  Today in the United States, more than 86 million cats allow humans to own them.
We love our pets and want to keep them healthy and safe. One important step is picking up and properly disposing of pet waste. An average sized dog produces about 1/2 pound of waste per day. Multiply that by the 150,000 dogs owned by Jefferson County residents, and we are talking about nearly 38 tons of dog waste! If you’ve ever stepped into one of those lovely piles, you know how annoying that can be.
But pet waste is more than just a nuisance – it is a health hazard. The average pile of dog waste contains 2.5 billion fecal coliform bacteria as well as viruses and parasites. These pathogens can live in both soil and water, and people and pets are at risk of illness if they are exposed to them. That’s why pet waste should never be added to compost or used as fertilizer – and should always be kept out of storm drains!  As with anything else left on the ground, stormwater can wash pet waste into the nearest waterway.
So what is the most environmentally friendly solution to disposing of your pet’s waste? It’s as easy as:     1- Always pick it up. 2 – Bag it. 3 – Trash it.

What’s Happening?

Turning Trash into Treasure with Backyard Composting – July 17.
Learn how to turn your yard and kitchen waste into free soil. Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Cost is $10. Contact the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at 205.879.6964 x10 by July 15 to register.

Big Ideas for Small Spaces – July 24.
Container gardening and composting with worms (yes, worms) are ideal for cramped locations. Instructor: Vasha Rosenblum. Free Lunch and Learn Seminar Series, 11:30 – 12:30, Birmingham Botanical Gardens Auditorium. Light refreshments served.

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

Back to the Basics

Years ago, I had a boss who used to remind the staff that the word ‘assume’ tells the story of what happens when you think people understand what you’re trying to communicate, but you don’t take the time to make sure. I won’t go into details, but you probably get the idea. While many of the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve’s blog readers have a good understanding of stormwater, polluted runoff, and pollution prevention, it’s sometimes a good thing to go back to the basics – and not assume!

Here in Jefferson County, we have more than 4,200 miles of waterways. Even though that seems like a lot, water doesn’t remain in one place – it constantly goes through cycles of precipitation, infiltration, evaporation, and condensation. And as it goes through these cycles, it winds up in oceans, rivers, creeks, streams, polar icecaps, underground aquifers, clouds, and living things (about 60% of an average adult is water). No matter where it is located, the total amount of water on earth – about 326 million trillion gallons – never changes. But only about 1% of that total is easily accessible fresh water. In the meantime, the world’s population of 7.087 billion continues to grow and place greater demands on water resources. That’s why it is in our best interest to conserve and protect the water that we do have.

Here’s where stormwater comes in. Stormwater is another name for rain and other types of precipitation. Stormwater is valuable and essential because it recharges ground water and feeds surface waterways. But as our population and developed areas have increased, so has the potential for stormwater to become polluted.

Most pollution found in surface waterways comes from people going about their everyday activities. Activities like that bag of weed and feed you spread on your lawn right before it rained. That little oil drip from your car that you keep meaning to get fixed. The ‘presents’ Fido leaves in your yard that you never seem to get around to removing. These are just a few examples, but all of these little potential pollutants can really add up when you consider that there are about 660,000 people living in Jefferson County.

Stormwater picks up these common substances from the ground, paved areas, and other surfaces, and carries them into the storm drainage system. The storm drainage system is a series of inlets, pipes, gutters and ditches which carry water – and anything mixed with or carried by it – away from streets and other paved areas. This system empties untreated stormwater into the nearest creek or stream. Stormwater that carries pollution is called polluted runoff.
The good news is that we could reduce the amount of polluted runoff in Jefferson County if each of us would make a few changes to prevent its causes.

JeffCo H2O will not assume! We will keep bringing you helpful information, ideas, resources and opportunities with the goal that we each will commit to doing our part to improve water quality here in Jefferson County.

Mark Your Calendar!

June

National Rivers Month
Celebrate our water resources by cleaning up a waterway near you!

June 5

World Environment Day
This year’s theme is Think Eat Save to encourage people to reduce food waste and food loss. It is estimated that 30% of food purchased in the US is thrown away. Consequently, half of the water used to produce food that is discarded also goes to waste.

June 8

World Oceans DayThe emphasis for 2013 is Together We Have the Power to Protect the Ocean. Even though we live a few hours away from the coast, all of our waterways eventually drain into the Gulf of Mexico. Something to think about when you are fishing or swimming in the Gulf!

June 26

Mild to Wild in < 24 Hours!
Lunch & Learn Seminar, 11:30 – 12:30, Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Find out how to travel with sustainability in mind to some of Alabama’s most beautiful destinations. Jay Grantland, Alabama Eco Adventures. Free. Refreshments will be served.

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org