CCPaSEC logoCentre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps

at ClearWater Conservancy

 

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Pennsylvania in 1997 established the statewide Senior Environmental Corps to offer an organized program of support for senior citizens wishing to become active in protecting the environment, the first state to do so. The State invited EASI (Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement), a national non-profit, to administer the program in partnership with the PA Department of Environmental Protection and Office of Aging. The program has received favorable national and United Nations notice.

EASI's concept builds on the belief that older Americans have the time, motivation, and talent to tackle some of the most important environmental concerns in their communities. In partnership with the state, EASI organized county PaSEC chapters, trained volunteers to monitor local stream waters, selected initial sites for testing, supplied chemicals and kits and the protocols for using them, and helped the chapters develop self-sustaining leadership. PaSEC chapters got going year by year in 17 Pennsylvania counties.

In February 2002 Centre County PaSEC had its first training program. Stream testing began that April. Organized under RSVP (retired Seniors Volunteer Program of Centre County), the chapter received direction and support from the County Conservation District. RSVP's Bonnie Wick handled administrative matters-insurance and financial accounting-and Conservation Water Specialist Ann Donovan wrote grants and introduced PaSEC to watershed associations and regional groups. Other partners include Trout Unlimited, the Penns Valley Conservation Association (PVCA), the Bald Eagle Watershed Association, the Beech Creek Watershed Association, Lock Haven University, Nature Abounds, and the PA Department of Environmental Protection.

Our members are grouped into thirteen teams, and monitor more than forty-five sites on Centre County streams. Monthly, we test for pH, nitrates, dissolved oxygen, total alkalinity, sulfates, and specific conductance.  Quality Control teams use duplicate samplings and laboratory comparisons to check and upgrade our teams' chemical test results. Twice a year the teams measure the biodiversity of their sites. Physical, chemical, and macroinvertebrate data from each stream is recorded on our web site. More than 15 years of visiting, observing, and testing Centre County streams have given us a detailed baseline awareness that protects the county's water resources.


In 2007, Pennsylvania stopped funding the EASI partnership, and EASI was forced to withdraw its training, networking, and financial support to the PaSECs. By then, our Centre County chapter had 48 members. EASI-trained Designated Trainers within our membership were there for new volunteers, and a strong sense of comradeship gave cohesion to our group. We petitioned to join ClearWater Conservancy in the same relationship we had enjoyed with RSVP, moving our program administration from RSVP.  RSVP still provides us with meeting space and accident insurance coverage.  ClearWater Concervancy accepted us as an independent committee, available to conduct biodiversity tests as they need them. In the summer of 2008, our PaSEC entered into a new partnership with PA DEP for collecting samples for E-coli testing in two streams. Our participation in this program continues, expanding to include other streams in Centre County.  In April 2009, CCPaSEC entered into a partnership with Nature Abounds, an organization with goals to support surviving PaSEC chapters and provide an online database for all PaSEC data. Nature Abounds now provides CCPaSEC with chemical reagents and equipment as their budget allows.  In April 2010, CCPaSEC entered into a partnership with Lock Haven University's Geology Department to provide chemical data and water samples from the Beech Creek watershed area near Marcellus Shale drilling locations for analyses of additional chemical parameters.  This data is available through our web site. 

Individual members contribute to public education about stream protection through overlapping memberships on township and watershed association boards, school field day training events, and senior education classes. A book by our president, Douglas Macneal, A Penns Creek Companion, owes its existence to the emphasis on outreach of our PaSEC. We look forward to monitoring with increasing effectiveness the non-point sources of pollution in Centre County which continue to damage Chesapeake Bay.

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