Young Professionals Helping Keep Local Creek Clean

Last Updated:
Fri, 2014-08-01 10:22

Amid 90-degree temperatures on Wednesday afternoon, a group of 14 young professionals strapped on their boots and gloves to participate in a creek cleanup at Little Sugar Creek. The Emerging Professionals (Epros) of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Charlotte chapter gathered at the corner of Brandywine and Westfield Roads to help with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services Department's Adopt-A-Stream program.

Adopt-a-Stream is a volunteer effort that keeps waterways healthy. Every day, litter enters streams through storm drains and illegal dumping. With over 2000 miles of streams, volunteers are needed to assist with cleaning up this unsightly litter and report water pollution problems.

One of the best ways to find problems is to get into the stream and walk the channel. Volunteers strap on boots and hip waders and make their way down into the creek bed with trash pickers in hand to collect litter and remove trash from the natural habitat. They make notes on the overall health of the stream including possible pollution problems and report their findings back to the Storm Water Services Department after every cleanup.

The USGBC Epros is open to anyone out of school and under age 30. Members of Charlotte's group include young professionals from JE Dunn Construction, Perkins+Will, Office Environments, BASF, Everblue Training Institute, Elite Maintenance, CBRE, Graybar, and Heat Transfer Sales of the Carolinas, Inc.

"I got involved with Epros because, as a professional, I think you need to be involved in the community, you know, do things that are related to your field to help out," said Scott Eggleston, the community service chair for the Epros. "The Epros is a really good start."

Eggleston was responsible for coordinating this year's creek cleanup event and worked closely with the Storm Water Services Department to set a date and acquire all tools for the participants. Following the cleanup, Eggleston submits a form to the department, outlining the conditions of the creek.

The evaluation suggested by the department asks for information about the appearance of the water, bank height, and texture of the soil. Several members, who had participated in prior cleanups, agreed that the overall health of the stream seemed to be improving since the Adopt-a-Stream efforts began.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services division has restored nine sections of Little Sugar Creek. These stream restoration efforts have repaired erosion damage to stream banks, protected against future erosion, restored the natural function of the floodplain, and helped to improve the overall health, flow, and ecosystem of the stream.

USGBC-NC Emerging Professionals Creek Cleanup

For the Epros, the creek cleanup not only provides an outlet for community service but also allows the team to swap stories about their outrageous findings in the creek. Ben Miller, 2014 chair of the Epros, shared a list of some items found. One outrageous item, he said, amounted to 30 percent of a vehicle, from head lights and tail lights to brakes and a license plate.

"I don't know what happened or how it got in the river, but thanks to us, it's now been pulled out of the river," Miller said.

Another participant, Kaila Slattery, volunteered alongside a man living under the bridge. She said she initially mistook him for an Emerging Professional, due to his age, but after talking with him, Slattery realized that the man was not there to assist with the creek cleanup. However, he "grabbed some bags and came down and helped me clean up the mess that was down at the bottom of the river. That was kind of cool."

The USGBC-NC Emerging Professionals participate in a Little Sugar Creek cleanup twice a year. For more information on getting involved with the local USGBC chapter or Emerging Professionals, visit or join the team at its monthly luncheons at Byron's South End the last Tuesday of every month.

By Lesley Cowie and Danielle Whitman