Hackett said stormwater pollution is more difficult to tackle because it can come from a wide variety of sources.
The cleanup was also part of another project, a partnership between the Town of Hillsborough and a class of capstone students in UNC’s Environment, Ecology and Energy Program, or E3P. The students teamed up with the Stormwater and Environmental Services Division to conduct a watershed study on the Bellevue Branch Creek watershed.
“We thought when this problem came to light of all this trash and debris, this was a perfect way to kick off a larger study,” Hackett said.
Hackett said students collected samples about two weeks ago to analyze and create a report on water quality in the watershed, so the town can better decide what water improvement projects can be undertaken in the future.
“It’s exciting to me to be able to get a group of enthusiastic students to get involved in a real life project that will provide some information we’ll be able to use,” Hackett said.
Although the capstone class was not directly involved in the litter cleanup event, their research is part of the same effort to study the Bellevue Branch watershed and recommend further improvements to its water quality.
Kaylyn Gootman is a Ph.D. candidate who leads the capstone project with eight undergraduate environmental science majors. All environmental science and studies majors are required to take a capstone class for experiential education credit before they graduate, and she said these programs aim to give students the opportunity to solve a real research question collaboratively as a team.
“We’re really at the beginning stages of them gathering information and data, and being able to say something about water quality, and the health of the watershed,” Gootman said.
Gootman said students have been working all semester studying this particular watershed in order to prepare a report for town officials with recommendations for improvements.
“The students are assessing that watershed, they are collecting data, and they are compiling information about the sources of stressors to that watershed, and possible solutions of how to mitigate and mediate any of those environmental problems,” Gootman said.
Reid Brown, a junior environmental science major in the capstone course, said he appreciated the chance to get out into the field and do research. Brown worked on making a map of land usage in the area surrounding the stream.
“I have really thoroughly enjoyed it,” Brown said. “In a way, it’s kind of like work and play at the same time when you get out there.”