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What was true in 1970 when Pogo first uttered his immortal words is truer still today. At the time of this writing, my city, Indianapolis (ok, yes I live in Carmel, but much to the chagrin of many Carmelites, Indianapolis STILL is the major metropolitan city in this area), is in the midst of a 17 year project to mitigate it’s sewer overflow problem. Indy, like several hundred other cities, utilizes a Combined Sewer Overflow system. Basically, what that means is wastewater from homes and businesses (uh, sewage!) and rainwater from streets and parking lots utilize the same pipes to transport the water (and the, uh, sewage) to the treatment plants. Sounds logical, right? You only have to lay one set of pipes, excellent! Except…when it rains. That’s where the overflow part of the Combined Sewer Overflow system comes in. When the amount of “water” to be processed exceeds the capacity of the system, it is allowed to flow freely (“floatables” and all) into local rivers and streams. In Indianapolis, the amount of rain required to cause the overflow is ¼”! One quarter of one inch! In 2008, Indianapolis received a rainfall of over ¼” SIXTY times…about 6 or 7 BILLION gallons of sewage a year! Anyone want to go for a swim? How about a nice drink? Or, fish fillet? Want to be grossed out? Check out WTHR’s Bob Segall’s article at http://www.wthr.com/Global/story.asp?S=9260797.

The good news is we are fixing the problem, to the tune of several BILLION dollars, but we are fixing it. The bad news is…we haven’t really learned anything in a hundred years. A recent article in the Indianapolis Business Journal featured the “dewatering system” of the new 1,000 room Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis. This $425 million project is part of our city’s plans for hosting the Super Bowl in 2012. “Dewatering System” sounds so innocuous doesn’t it? Sounds almost like a dehumidifier or something, right? So, what exactly is a “dewatering system”? Many of you have homes with basements; undoubtedly you have a sump pump. These systems are designed to funnel water to the pump where it can be moved away from the foundation of the house. They help to prevent water from leaking through the foundation of the house into your basement. On a much bigger scale, that is the type of system engineered at the Marriot. Still sounds pretty harmless, right?

The system at the Marriot has a series of almost 5,000 feet of PVC pipe, funneling water to sump wells that are four feet wide and nine feet deep. There are four pumps that run every minute of every day pumping 1,200 gallons of water a minute. That’s 1,728,000 gallons a DAY, or 630,720,000 gallons a YEAR! That is enough water to supply 10,000 households for an entire year! And, what are they doing with all that water? According to the senior project manager they are sending it “right to the [White] river”. Hmmm, so they ran a pipe west from those pumps over a ¼ mile UNDER White River State Park to the river, or was it south almost half a mile under Victory Field, or north under the Eiteljorg and the Indiana State Museum. Uh, I don’t think so Tim. If I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet they will pump 630,720,000 gallons of water each year into the Indianapolis Combined Sewer System, where it not only adds to the amount of waste water that has to be handled by the system, it also has to go through the waste water treatment facility and be processed before it goes “right to the river”.

What design issue led to the decision to pump over a ½ a BILLION gallons of water into the Combined Sewer System? The three story BELOW ground parking garage is five feet deeper than the level of the water table on the site….five feet. So, think about this…how many buildings in downtown Indy have three floors of parking, or other space below ground and are pumping just as much, if not more water into the Combined Sewer? Dozens? Hundreds? In some states, it is a criminal offense to capture the rain water that falls on your property, yet we are literally flushing billions of gallons of water each year down the drain…AND we are all paying for it. Not only are we paying for the project to overhaul the sewer system and the capacity to handle water that was not entering the sewers to begin with, but we are paying for the waste water treatment facilities and operations, and we pay for it in the damage all this water has on the river itself. One day, in the not so distant future, we are going to be desperate for water to drink. Think of the cost that will entail!

Surely in this day of Low Impact Development and Sustainable Design we can come up with better solutions than just dumping the water down the drain. How about a two story parking garage, instead of three, how about building above ground instead of below, how about using that water to flush the 1000 or so toilets in the new hotel and for other non-drinking uses, how about filtering it and using it in the hotel pool? How about building codes that require developers to USE the water on their site rather than just pumping it into the water system?

The impacts of design decisions like this one go far beyond the strain it places on our sewer infrastructure. The great environmentalist John Muir once wrote, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” In my next post, we will examine some of the other impacts of the “dewatering system” on, not only water, but energy, carbon, and human health.

No, that is not my shopping list for a home renovation, believe it or not, this is a partial list of the junk we found during the White River cleanup last Saturday! The list also includes over 20 car tires (some still on the rims), a couple of truck tires, ½ of a boat, a chair, part of a dock, and mounds of trash! All in, our crew of 14 hauled an estimated ¾ of a ton of trash and debris out of a 2 mile section of the White River.

For our Fall Cleanup we joined forces with groups across four counties that worked to remove over TWENTY TONS of trash, two and half tons of recyclable metals and several hundred tires. What is absolutely mind boggling, is that this was the 15th annual clean up…you’d think we would run out of crap to pick up…but no…people keep tossing in more junk. Some of this stuff is thrown off of bridges or down embankments, purposely tossed into the river. Other stuff comes from parking lots, roads, and fields where people throw out their trash and it washes into the rivers. What really scares me is that this 20 tons of trash is only the stuff we can SEE. What about all of the crap that is either buried in the river bottom or in water too deep to spot it…or what about the stuff we can’t see because it is chemical in nature?

A Network of Support - Partnering to Protect the White RiverI could go on and on…but what I really wanted to do was to thank the 14 people that gave up 5 or 6 hours of a gorgeous September Saturday morning to provide the muscle needed to accomplish this daunting task! Our 11 canoeists were ably supported by a land crew of three that helped shuttle us along the route and made sure lunch was ready when we were finished. The 11 members of the water crew weere in six canoes (thanks Alan for volunteering to go solo!) and had a fantastic barge provided by the City of Noblesville. Within the first quarter mile we had amassed so much stuff, we had to offload the barge and a couple of canoes at the 206th bridge, where a group of boy scouts helped to move it to the dumpsters.

Before we had gone much further, the barge was again loaded down with enough junk that it could not be towed behind a canoe. So Skipper Scott Martin hopped aboard, sat on an over turned barrel and PADDLED the barge downstream. It looked like the Beverly Hillbillies on their way to Hollywood! After piling on the dock, an erosion tarp, and a half dozen more tires, even Skipper Martin couldn’t steer the load. Yours truly grabbed a rope and pulled the barge downstream towards the finish, aided by some pushing from the team of Brown and Brown. After a mile or so, 51 year old legs and lungs gave out, and Skipper Martin grabbed the rope and finished the journey. Skipper Martin Barge Pilot Extraordinaire

About a half dozen of the tires we collected had to be hauled out of the river more than once. Within sight of the take out, a stack of tires shifted in one of the canoes…sending them, other trash, and the pilot of the vessel into the water.

After a little over three hours, we arrived at the take out, unloaded the canoes and barge and hauled our collection up the banks where employees of the City of Noblesville loaded the refuse into trucks for its trip the main collection site.

Many, many thanks to the canoe crew of: Scott Martin, Carrie Tarver, Don Weiser, Jamal Handy, Alan Francoeur, Rick Brown, Cody Brown, Brad Ton, JT Ton, and Carmen Ton. Thanks also to our land crew: Andrea Osman, Mary Ellen Ton, and Gene Ton. In addition to the donations of time and muscle, we were supported by a group of sponsors who helped by providing much needed financial support. The sponsors helped to provide lunch, t-shirts and prizes for the event. Many thanks to Elements Engineering, Ron West, Nishida Services, Arete Software, Cisco Systems, Brad Real, and ROI-LLC!

This was in the River??

I have always been a believer in the power of a professional network. I am a member of several, both on-line and in-person. However, this power was never clearer to me than it was last week. Friday was the culmination of months of planning for the inaugural Sustain the White River Excursion. This “experiential workshop” was designed to raise awareness about the impacts that development has on the river and its watershed. Throughout a 10.5 mile canoe trip, five local experts (or as we called them, “Guides”) met us along the river to describe various impacts, such as storm water, waste water, fresh water filtration, residential impacts and even the history of settlements along the river. You can read more specifics about the event by going to the News & Events tab on our website at www.ConfluenceDynamics.Net.

What really got me thinking though was watching 34 area professionals (described by one guide, as a real all-star team) standing on the beach after canoeing 10.5 miles over seven hours and exchanging business cards and contact information. Relationships were forged over the course of the day that I believe will have a positive impact on the community and the river.

But, as I said, that was the culmination. The idea for this workshop occurred to me while sitting through various lectures held by the US Green Building Council’s Indiana Chapter. Several of these presentations discussed the impacts of development on the watershed. During one of these, I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to learn about these impacts, but from the perspective of the river…a river school of sorts?” I really wasn’t sure if anyone else would think it was cool, but being a long time River Rat I couldn’t think of a better way to see and feel the impacts.

Several weeks later, during lunch with a former colleague (read “in-person networking”), I mentioned the idea to her. She thought it was a great idea and encouraged me to plan and host the event. We went on to discuss other topics and since I was just launching a new business, she mentioned several people I needed to meet and to add to my network. A few hours later I had an e-introduction to Jennifer Roberts of Elements Engineering. Jennifer and I met over coffee and while she was very interested in my new business venture, what she really wanted to hear about was the “river school”. I guess word of my idea was spreading!

Fast forward a couple of months, I attended the Green Building Power Breakfast sponsored by the Indianapolis Business Journal and happened to sit at a table with Ken Remenschneider of Remenschneider Associates. Coincidentally, I had actually attended an event at Ken’s home several months prior, but had not met Ken. We got quite a laugh when I exclaimed, “I’ve been in your house!” Throughout the breakfast we realized that our networks intersected as he has done business with Jennifer for years. We agreed to meet in a few weeks so that I could explain more about my new business.

By the time we met for lunch, he had obviously spoken with Jennifer because he brought a map of Indiana so we could talk about the River School and weigh the pros and cons of various rivers on which to conduct the event. I guess I was committed now!

Ken, Jennifer, my wife Carmen and I began the planning process. I wanted to flush out the ideas and formalize the aspects of the River School. I also wanted their input as to who we should invite. Again, the power of networking, between my network and each of their networks we sent out invitations to what was now called the Sustain the White River Excursion. We had agreed to limit this first event to 30 people and within days we had all the seats filled…and then some!

One of the segments of the Excursion that I felt was key was to engage Conner Prairie Historical Park in some way. The Park sits on the banks of the White River and would be about our half way point. Being a history buff, I wanted to reach out to them, but didn’t really have any contacts in their organization. I turned to LinkedIn. There I found Ken Bubp, COO of Conner Prairie. Ken and I had actually met about three years ago at a Park board meeting. I noticed from Ken’s profile that he had recently joined the Green Group on LinkedIn. That was my in! Using LinkedIn, I sent Ken a note that I hoped would pique his curiosity about our event. Within a few weeks, Jennifer and I met Ken Bubp and Nancy Stark in the conference room at Conner Prairie. Not only were they supportive of the idea, they embraced the idea! An on-line network at work!

As it turned out, all of the Guides came through networking: Tim Stottlemeyer from the City of Noblesville, Katie Hodgdon of River Watch, Jim Willaert from Conner Prairie, Lou Ann Baker representing Veolia Water and Shaena Smith from Hamilton County SWCD.

One final example for today, Jennifer continues to e-introduce me and my business. One such e-introduction, led to a meeting with Kevin McKinney, publisher of NUVO a local newspaper. During the meeting with Kevin I explained about the Excursion. Come to find out, he was not only a River Rat as well; he was neighbors with Ken Remenschneider! He decided to join the event and asked if he could bring Rae Schnapp from the Hoosier Environmental Council…another organization that I wanted to reach out to but did not have a connection!

So there were all were. 34 professionals representing 29 different companies, organizations and municipalities, standing next to the river exchanging business cards…who needs golf for doing business deals when you have a river?

P.S. If you want to link up on LinkedIn send me an invitation to connect, I am always looking to expand my network! Who knows, next time, even you might be paddling a canoe during a workshop!

I have always been a believer in the power of a professional network. I am a member of several, both on-line and in-person. However, this power was never clearer to me than it was last week. Friday was the culmination of months of planning for the inaugural Sustain the White River Excursion. This “experiential workshop” was designed to raise awareness about the impacts that development has on the river and its watershed. Throughout a 10.5 mile canoe trip, five local experts (or as we called them, “Guides”) met us along the river to describe various impacts, such as storm water, waste water, fresh water filtration, residential impacts and even the history of settlements along the river. You can read more specifics about the event by going to the News & Events tab on our website at www.ConfluenceDynamics.Net.

What really got me thinking though was watching 34 area professionals (described by one guide, as a real all-star team) standing on the beach after canoeing 10.5 miles over seven hours and exchanging business cards and contact information. Relationships were forged over the course of the day that I believe will have a positive impact on the community and the river.

But, as I said, that was the culmination. The idea for this workshop occurred to me while sitting through various lectures held by the US Green Building Council’s Indiana Chapter. Several of these presentations discussed the impacts of development on the watershed. During one of these, I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to learn about these impacts, but from the perspective of the river…a river school of sorts?” I really wasn’t sure if anyone else would think it was cool, but being a long time River Rat I couldn’t think of a better way to see and feel the impacts.

Several weeks later, during lunch with a former colleague (read “in-person networking”), I mentioned the idea to her. She thought it was a great idea and encouraged me to plan and host the event. We went on to discuss other topics and since I was just launching a new business, she mentioned several people I needed to meet and to add to my network. A few hours later I had an e-introduction to Jennifer Roberts of Elements Engineering. Jennifer and I met over coffee and while she was very interested in my new business venture, what she really wanted to hear about was the “river school”. I guess word of my idea was spreading!

Fast forward a couple of months, I attended the Green Building Power Breakfast sponsored by the Indianapolis Business Journal and happened to sit at a table with Ken Remenschneider of Remenschneider Associates. Coincidentally, I had actually attended an event at Ken’s home several months prior, but had not met Ken. We got quite a laugh when I exclaimed, “I’ve been in your house!” Throughout the breakfast we realized that our networks intersected as he has done business with Jennifer for years. We agreed to meet in a few weeks so that I could explain more about my new business.

By the time we met for lunch, he had obviously spoken with Jennifer because he brought a map of Indiana so we could talk about the River School and weigh the pros and cons of various rivers on which to conduct the event. I guess I was committed now!

Ken, Jennifer, my wife Carmen and I began the planning process. I wanted to flush out the ideas and formalize the aspects of the River School. I also wanted their input as to who we should invite. Again, the power of networking, between my network and each of their networks we sent out invitations to what was now called the Sustain the White River Excursion. We had agreed to limit this first event to 30 people and within days we had all the seats filled…and then some!

One of the segments of the Excursion that I felt was key was to engage Conner Prairie Historical Park in some way. The Park sits on the banks of the White River and would be about our half way point. Being a history buff, I wanted to reach out to them, but didn’t really have any contacts in their organization. I turned to LinkedIn. There I found Ken Bubp, COO of Conner Prairie. Ken and I had actually met about three years ago at a Park board meeting. I noticed from Ken’s profile that he had recently joined the Green Group on LinkedIn. That was my in! Using LinkedIn, I sent Ken a note that I hoped would pique his curiosity about our event. Within a few weeks, Jennifer and I met Ken Bubp and Nancy Stark in the conference room at Conner Prairie. Not only were they supportive of the idea, they embraced the idea! An on-line network at work!

As it turned out, all of the Guides came through networking: Tim Stottlemeyer from the City of Noblesville, Katie Hodgdon of River Watch, Jim Willaert from Conner Prairie, Lou Ann Baker representing Veolia Water and Shaena Smith from Hamilton County SWCD.

One final example for today, Jennifer continues to e-introduce me and my business. One such e-introduction, led to a meeting with Kevin McKinney, publisher of NUVO a local newspaper. During the meeting with Kevin I explained about the Excursion. Come to find out, he was not only a River Rat as well; he was neighbors with Ken Remenschneider! He decided to join the event and asked if he could bring Rae Schnapp from the Hoosier Environmental Council…another organization that I wanted to reach out to but did not have a connection!

So there were all were. 34 professionals representing 29 different companies, organizations and municipalities, standing next to the river exchanging business cards…who needs golf for doing business deals when you have a river?

P.S. If you want to link up on LinkedIn send me an invitation to connect, I am always looking to expand my network! Who knows, next time, even you might be paddling a canoe during a workshop!

 
Our Team of Volunteers
Our Team of Volunteers
After a nervous week of playing amateur weatherman and watching the water levels of the river, the River Gods smiled upon us and the clean up of the White River my company, Confluence Dynamics, was sponsoring proceeded as planned. The day dawned with overcast skies, but no rain in sight.

22 volunteers gathered at Potters Bridge Park in Noblesville. After checking in and receiving a commemorative t-shirt, the group gathered for introductions and instructions. Borrowing from the practice used by many golf outings, rather than hole sponsors we signed up 10 canoe sponsors. As the canoe pairings were announced, each team was given a sign with the name of their canoe. The canoes were either named after the sponsoring company or with a name designated by the sponsor. We then piled into the cars of our land crew for the short drive to the Riverwood Canoe Launch north of town.

We were met at the launch by Kevin Hardie of the Friends of the White River and Brant Cowser, our canoe outfitter. Each team attached their sponsor’s sign to their ship, grabbed paddles, PFD’s, trash bags and gloves and began the short trek down to the river. After some last minute instructions from Kevin the teams shoved off from the shore and began scouting for trash and debris. Before all of the canoes were launched, our able land crew had collected half a bag of trash from the banks around the put in. The nine canoes launched without incident, unless of course you count the one team that tipped as they were climbing in obviously trying to cool off after carrying the canoe down to the river.

By the time Carmen and launched as the sweep canoe (our job was to hang back and ensure everyone progressed down river) one team had already retrieved a broken chair from the waters. As the canoes made their way downstream, we discovered an assortment of trash and debris including tires, a hose, a trellis, a sleeping bag and mountains of trash. We were unable to retrieve some items such as a hot water heater, a 55 gallon drum, and part of a dock. We noted their location so they can be removed during the fall clean up.

Shortly after launching, I realized I had forgotten to tell the teams where the take out was at the end of our 2 ¼ miles. All I could do at that point was hope they realized that when they got to the covered bridge they should stop! Lesson learned for our NEXT clean up!

After about two hours, the teams began arriving at Potter’s Bridge and the pile of trash began to grow. There had been some confusion over the location of the dumpster and so rather than being located in the parking lot at the top of the bank above the take-out; it was about ½ mile down the road in the south parking lot. Each team hauled their treasures up the hill to the staging area with assistance from the land crew and the other teams. The bank at Potter’s Bridge is fairly steep and some of the finds took a great deal of effort to get them to the top. It’s amazing how heavy a water-logged sleeping bag can be!

By noon, all the teams but one were in and accounted for, the last team was nowhere in sight. After many tense minutes, they finally came into view. Now, if TV theme music could have been heard, the song from Sanford and Sons would have definitely been playing. The team was paddling with all their might, but barely moving forward. Their canoe had the appearance of a garbage scow. Every inch was crammed with trash, a four foot diameter table top was lying across the gunwales between the bow and the stern and more trash was piled on top of it. Behind the canoe were a mini-fridge, a gas tank, and a set of stairs all floating along tied one to the other. It took a half a dozen of us to carry their load up the bank to the staging area; in fact, it took five just to haul the canoe up the path because of the huge piece of water-laden foam rubber in the bottom!

All told, the teams filled ¾ of a 15 yard dumpster with over 1,000 pounds of trash! After a box lunch, the tired volunteers took one last look at the pile of trash and headed for home.

I would like to thank our teams and our sponsors for making A Network of Support for the White River a huge success!

In the ship, The Ebony, sponsored by Mary Ellen & Gene Ton, were their grandsons JT Ton and Brad Ton.

The ship, Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Landscape Architects was ably captained by Rick Brown and Cody Brown.

Elements Engineering’s vessel was guided by George Caraghiaur and Joanne Bule.

Alan Francoeur and Lori Gooding piloted the boat co-sponsored by Medical Records to Go and christened the Zoe by Jane Burch.

crittur.com’s can-do canoe was paddled by Scott Martin and George Seat.

Nancy Cuppy and Drew Cuppy guided the canoe sponsored by Integrated Development Services.

EnthEnergy’s vessel was ably manned by Jamal Handy and Tim Holtz.

The Perfect Life was sponsored by Ron West and was powered by Jack Manard and Karen Schneider.

Carmen and I canoed the Gabby Belle, sponsored by Judy and Dave Hollander.

Our fantastic land crew consisted of Kathleen and Tom Gruhl, Andrea Osman and Angie Worzala.

Last, but not least, I would like to thank Cypress Communications for helping to sponsor this event.

To view more photos of the event click HERE and also HERE.