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Educate>Lancaster County Effects on the Chesapeake Bay

Lancaster County Effects on the Chesapeake Bay

Susquhanna River
Photo by: Eileen Culp

The concept of LIVE Green Lancaster is not to simply create awareness of green living, but to implement an effective green living plan at little cost to the residents of Lancaster, Penn., specifically within the city. Rain barrels are available to interested residents paying one –third of what they normally cost. The LIVE Green organization attempts to find already-built structures work to implement various aspects of sustainability such as green roofing, which is covered mainly by grants. It is important to make Lancaster County sustainable because it directly affects the Chesapeake Bay due to its environmental effects of the surrounding areas.


The Smith Family Chronicals

Rain Barrels

Green Roofing

Chesapeake Bay

Proposed Solutions

Frequently Asked Questions


The Smith Family Chronicles

When Kelly Smith’s husband Joe finally caved into replacing their roof on the twenty-five year old house, which they built, and to them was their dream home, Kelly immediately began searching for a proper and efficient local contractor. The contractor they chose was from Lancaster County and the work that was done had been fantastic, as they went through this in the portfolio that was shown to the Smith’s when they were evaluating their choices. The project started on their single-family roof, where the roof was beginning to show its age. When the large dumpster arrived to haul away the excess and the unusable goods, the Smith family got worried.

When the shingles were brought in a trailer, much like the ones that are residential and easily attach to the back of a truck and were also five feet high, the family then realized that there were a lot of small pieces that went into securing a roof.  The shingles would accumulate with an approximate number of 1,200 to 1,400 shingles for when they dismantle the roof and when they add more on. The trash bin was filling up quickly with the shingles that would be thrown away.

The tar from the shingles and the pieces of slate that created durability for these shingles began to make the dumpster start to overflow. While there was a stoppage in the work, another dumpster came to replace the one that was started. The youngest Smith, Bobby, asked one of the workers, “What will you turn those materials into?”

When the worker looked at him as if he was crazy, he said, “What will we make out of them?” “We put them in a landfill and from there they will sit until they erode many, many years from now.”

Joe Smith knelt down when he say how sad Bobby’s face was and reassured him, “Don’t worry buddy, this is why we are doing a live also known as a Green Roof. It will save us money in the long run and will also allow us to contribute to saving the planet’s air by having a full garden atop our house!”

Bobby asked, “What is so special about having a ga3den on our house. What about our roof?”

Joe picked up Bobby and explained to him that while there would be plants and rocks on top of their house, it will act like a roof. “It will hold water for when it rains so our plants will be able to live happily and when it rains a lot, the water will be distributed through our small gardens around the house.”

As Bobby contemplated this answer he then asked a question wiser than his years, “What will happen when we have a drought like we always do during the summer?”

His father chuckled at the expression on his face; he was so interested and worried at the same time that his roof might suffer from the drought, where his father assured him that the vegetation on the roof would be taken care of because the plants that they used hold moisture throughout the year.

Bobby took all of these explanations in, walked over to the construction worker taking a break from dismantling the roof and said, “You might not want to encourage people to buy that since my roof will last longer than my neighbors. My kids will even use the roof. What can you say about that?”

Photo by: Eileen Culp

Why is this fable used in distinguishing the concept of live green or green roofing? One reason: it takes a look at what the housing market currently uses for their roofs and what can be done with the used product, which is basically nothing. But it provides an insight also to the fact that the youth around each and every single one of us are all paying attention to what is going on in their home lives to try to be kind to the environment. While they can hear all about it at school, if not implemented at their homes, then they learn what to do but cannot use it in everyday lives.

Another reason to use this fable is to assure residents that while the green roofing system is costly, it also allows Lancaster county residents the chance to reuse rainwater in their surrounding homes, much like those through rain barrels. The rain water will be used to drain into the surrounding yards with the intent that will be absorbed to allow vegetation to be rich and lush with green leaves and in overall health.

To put this into perspective, this hypothetical situation in where a non-contractor will attempt to explain just what is done when a roof is replaced (and my area of expertise is solely based on personal experience): To take into consideration a single family home and replacing a roof by a local contractor and the effects of the roofing business in the minds of children.

Hopefully this piece of information, a large quantity of information wrapped into one simplified piece, will encourage you to share this information and do more: Do more by doing what you will be sharing. Know that while one person out of six billion plus worldwide, the voice that is the loudest is your own. Save the resources and save the Chesapeake Bay!

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While the rain barrel technology is somewhat new and most Lancaster County residents are unaware of their uses, features and benefits. These items, as described to me by Fritz Schroeder who works with LIVE Green Lancaster claimed these barrels to be, “a huge investment once one person outweighs their costs.” The cost is relatively steep at: but with organizations such as LIVE Green Lancaster, their purpose is to help provide these rain barrels to Lancaster City (and only City residents currently) at a much discounted rate.

If someone possesses the “handy man” skills, it would not be difficult to install one on your home or business. Luckily, LIVE Green Lancaster also assists with the costs to install one of these rain barrels. LIVE Green Lancaster allows a charge of thirty to fifty dollars for a rain barrel, which is a significant savings. The price does not include installation, which at the time of a conversation with a LIVE Green Lancaster representative, would run the homeowner an additional fifty dollars.

It is rest assured that if you would choose to go this route, that there would also save a commendable amount. Each rain barrel is equipped with the amount of rain in your local area of Lancaster City. While LIVE Green Lancaster would like to be able to offer all residents of Lancaster County the opportunity to purchase rain barrels for their specific location, but due to funding and procedures, this is not possible. They are willing to try to help you find a discounted rain barrel if it applies to your location.

Please see the References section for a direct link to the LIVE Green Lancaster website, to make a contact with them, and pick their brains for more information.

Many people may be thinking: What exactly is the point of these rain barrels and why would I want to have something like this attached to my house? First off, it will not only help save the rainwater pollutants to be steered away from the Chesapeake Bay (which is covered later within this document) but it is also something that will save the homeowner time and money in maintaining their private landscaping needs. As noted on LIVE Green Lancaster: Lancaster County experiences an average yearly rainfall of 36.82 inches with approximately rain storms on average of over 1 inch and approximately 24 storms that produce a half-inch.

Photo by: Javita Thompson

Think about it this way: imagine during the hot and humid summer here in Lancaster, when all of the lawns on your local block or neighborhood are brown, crunchy, and your lawn is the only lushous green one. The grass is rich and while many of your neighbors may think your lawn is being cared for by a professional gardener, you are aware that the appearance has little to do with how much you have helped the environment.

For instance, one could imagine just how much more helpful extra water would be, especially during the hazy, hot and humid summer months here in Lancaster County. It would save you money based on the costs of landscaping upkeep and you would be able to use the water collected for washing other things, such as:

  • outdoor windows

  • siding

  • doors cars

  • lawnmowers

  • bicycles

  • sheds

One thing to keep in mind, both based on my conversation held with Fritz Schroeder as well as the LIVE Green Lancaster web site, is that chances are a rain barrel will overflow due to very large rain storms. An example would be the Tropical Storm Nicole that took place on Thursday September 30, 2010 where Lancaster County became a small river. That day, there were several inches of rain, in upwards of five to seven inches fell, and the point of a rain barrel is to capture most of the rainwater to avoid runoff situations.

‘Runoff’ is a term used to specify the excessive amounts of rain on non-porous (or meaning surfaces that do not absorb water) that then carries the pollutants from human and animals into a stream, which in this area, then leads to the Conestoga or Susquehanna River and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay.

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This is what is being lost due to the lack of Green Roofing
Photo by: Eileen Culp


The idea of green roofing can be constructed by also calling these structures “live” such as places that house live vegetation and information that is both beneficial to the structure and the surrounding vegetation around the property being served. The concept of a green roof is something that is relatively easy to understand, the costs of installing and maintaining a green roof may also not work for you and your specific needs.

Based on my interview with Fritz Schroeder, Director of Programs with LIVE Green Lancaster, the concepts of a green roof require several items that must be completed by the structure to be considered for installation.

These items include, but are not limited to:

    • Each structure has the ability to hope thirty pounds in a square foot for a roof, but the green roofs weigh in upwards of fifty pounds when completely saturated. For this new roof to be installed on an already existing building there will have to have structural updating to support the weight of the green roof, which could also include adding steel beams to the structure as well as increasing its overall stability.
    • Each structure must also have a flat roof that is capable of draining the excess water.
    • It is ideal for each structure to have a “holding area” for the excess water to be distributed throughout the area in order for the water to remain useful, clean, and most importantly natural.


    • Photo by: Eileen Culp

The roofing industry is something that generates several portions of waste each year. Some food for thought: think about the amount of waste and chemicals that is produced each year by this industry. Many consumers do not pay attention to what exactly happens when a roof is replaced.

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What effect do all of these things have on the Chesapeake Bay? Many people have glanced sideways at me while researching the topic: What is the point of studying the Chesapeake Bay when your main targeted area is Lancaster County? 

In order to fully understand the abilities of the Chesapeake Bay, one must first look at its location in proximity to Lancaster County and taking the concepts that: it is only a one hour, with a possibility of more depending on the day and any accidents on I-83, and you would be at the Bay.

The Bay is a staple of being a resident in this portion of the country. Not only is there plenty of activities around and on the actual Bay, it is a staple for fishermen. The Chesapeake Bay is a place that is something unimaginative if it would be ruined or not in existence anymore; but rather a place to enjoy leisurely activities.

While there are always good and bad aspects of life, the residents of Lancaster County are contributing to the discretion of the Chesapeake Bay during their everyday lives. The county is heavily engulfed by farmland, much of pollutants found in the bay are either from farming toxins or by commercially used products, such as our previous example of the shingles and the components in them.

If we would break down the chemicals and factors used to determine the dissemination of the Chesapeake Bay, it would more than likely force us to take a serious look at ourselves in order to be better consumers and overall be more knowledgeable in saving the Chesapeake Bay.

Take a look at the following contributing factors that are causing the Chesapeake Bay to dwindle from its important existence. Could you choose one or more things to change?


Photo by: Javita Thompson



While the concept is really simple, could you look at yourself in the mirror and say that you follow every rule when it comes to recycling? Each county, and even sometimes each bureau, township, or city within Lancaster County may have slight changes, do you still follow them?

When it comes to recycling, there are many items that would make some people uncomfortable, but the list is longer than one could imagine. When the curiosity got the best of me, my fellow peers and i questioned, “What items can we take to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority to be recycled?”

Recyclable household items that can be taken to Lancaster County:

  • aluminum cans

  • batteries

  • cooking and/or frying oil

  • glass jars and bottles

  • household cleaners and polishers (such as furniture polish cans)

  • magazines and newspapers

  • lawn mowers

  • appliances

  • fire extinguishers

  • paint and the various types of paint stains

  • televisions

Why would someone want to bring their items to these centers and not just throw them away, especially batteries and used household cleaning containers? It is a question Green Experts have been asking for quite some time and the truth comes down to this: The United States is a nation of consumerism.

Along with consumersim comes the need of having the best and newest materialistic items advertisted. Most materialistic items are packaged in a great deal of unnecessary and expensive metals and plastics.

Therefore, even when the packages are considered “cool” and whatever is inside them is “Something I have to have!” then the packaging materials are disposed of and not recycled like they should be.

Check out the references page for a direct link to the items that can be recycled in Lancaster County.

Many people do not properly discard their plastics to be recycled or do they purchase green recycling bins that are congruent with the local trash company. Many throw out the used plastics into plastic trash bags which are then they are tossed into a landfill where it takes several years to disintegrate and decompose.

As many Lancaster County citizens already know, plastics are not made out of ordinary products, either naturally or chemically altered, but are made with oil and fuels. In order to produce these plastics, drilling needs to occur in order for these components to be extracted from the earth to make a simple, plastic twenty-ounce soda bottle or a plastic gallon of water or milk.


Put these bottles in their proper place: a Recycling bin.
Photo by: Eileen Culp


Plastic Bags

We have all seen them while out shopping at a value store and especially they are thrown at our faces at the grocery store: that reusable, mesh bags which offer a five cents discount for reusing them when they cost us ninety-nine cents. Why was there such a push? Out around Columbia, Penn. which is located in Lancaster County, about ten minutes from the Susquehanna River, a few of the market-goers were questioned about the use of plastic bags versus reusable bags.

At a first glance one would assume that the farmer’s market would have a lot of their produce and goods available for sale to be placed in the brown paper bags. Also upon the first impressions of this quaint market, it would seem that the average age of the market-goers was sixty and older. It was not asked about their age, demographics or income but rather was just something to take into consideration since Columbia, Penn. is so close to the Susquehanna River.

It was surprising that these residents were cautious about the Chesapeake Bay, but would not really elaborate on their involvement with the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. The market-goers carried reusable and mesh bags, in all sorts of colors.

Based on communication research and in an effort to try to get a true feeling from the general public regarding their thoughts on the reuable bag issue, I felt it necessary to be able to question the residents in case any trends were noticed or if there were any other topics needed to be researched further.

With the tossing of a plastic bag, it brings back memories of a story a relative told the family: With the plastic bags in the oceans, the fish drown. Is this a mean thing to tell a five year old and her two older sisters eleven and thirteen respectively? Probably, but made us think about the situation back in 1991 about the overall consumerism mantra to want everything and then figure out how to resolve whatever it was that was just purchased, well these issues can be handled later.

It appears that this “later” that was once spoken about is finally here and the question starts with you, the reader: What choices will you make to impact your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so forth down the road?

With a simple solution about changing the types of bag that are carried and used while out shopping, imagine if one out of every ten people would make the change. The plastic bags would definitely be piled up: in a warehouse that were unused. There is no reason why people should not use these recyclable bags because they come in an array of adorable patterns, colors, for the guys there are local football and baseball teams readily made available. Several businesses have jumped ship in specifically making these bags for special giveaways, both toe customers and employees. Doesn’t this make you want to go out and purchase a cute reusable shopping tote right now?


Lawn and Landscape Maintenance

With the amount of chemicals that are available to keep our lawns healthy and green, chances are in the process of having the lawns appear to be green and healthy; the chemicals are not approved by: the Environment.

While rain barrels are a useful tool for helping to keep and maintain a healthy landscape outside of a residence or even an office building, they can only do so much for when the issue is not allowing these plants and flowers to get enough water, but rather nutrients which will increase their longevity.

With guidance from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, when planning on using fertilizer on a lawn or other different types of environments featuring plants around the homes, one of the key factors that are suggested is to not overuse fertilizers. Meaning, use a small portion of fertilizer, which they suggest should take place during the fall for best results, and to stay away from hard surfaces, such as sidewalks, driveways, or the roadways.


Photo by: Eileen Culp

Fertilizer can be used without worrying too much about damaging the local vegetation and environment if it is applied with a porous surface nearby that in case there is excess water or other liquids around, they can absorb to the vegetation. Much like a Green Roof that features various types of vegetation to keep the plants to thrive and use the nutrients it receives from nature to be useful, and allow the rain to be soaked up by the roof and the excess by nature.

The use of animal manure is also a key player in the pollution that eventually leads to the Chesapeake Bay. While the different types of animal manure are relevant to try to get around dumping chemical-induced toxins to make our tomatoes grow bigger or watermelons juicier, as an example that can relate to residential farmers.


Photo by: Javita Thompson

The manure, as well as a host of other issues with commercial farming, can produce toxins within the air and surrounding environments. Riding around in Lancaster County in a car with the windows opened or the top down in a convertible, one cannot miss the odor emulating from the farms, mainly residential. This smell is known to locals as the “Lancaster County smell,” but we cannot really take control over the entire situation, as this smell is found all across the county on other farms as well.

Besides the awful odor from the manure, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation lists three other items as being problematic when dealing with residential farms. The three things that are listed includes: nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. In compiling research throughout Lancaster County, one of the main pieces missing from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s lists would definitely have to be the use of oil and gases around these residential farms.  

Since the introduction of machinery, especially during the Industrialization period, the use of it has become a certain way of life. These pieces of machinery allow the farmers to accomplish more of their tasks that are on a specific time basis to be done faster, without hiring more help. Yes, the machinery is a large up-front cost for the farmer at first, but in the end would be able to save money based on what their specific needs will be.

How does this involve our planet, but more specifically Lancaster County and the Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore, Maryland? With the various uses of the technology and since machinery drips oil and other fluids throughout the fields, this would allow these toxins to not be able to be absorbed by the environment, which then would create more runoff. With the more runoff, it would force the farmers to take other options to try to capture all that they possibly can.

Of the three that are listed above, can you see yourself as making a change? If you make a decision for one thing to be changed about a consumerism-based lifestyle that would help save the planet, than that is one less person polluting the air, ground, and water.

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What to do when it seems that everything that we were brought up to do and recycle turns out to be wrong? Have no fear. The world tells us one thing but as consumers and educated people, we must first find some way to venture onwards and allow the green living take shape.
I am proposing the following solutions to be included on helping to save the Chesapeake Bay, based on Lancaster County standards:

1.) Set specific water qualities for Lancaster County.

Do not rely on the governmental standards that are set forth to clean up the Bay. These plans have been in place for several years and are threatening to penalize Pennsylvania if they do not reduce the amount of waste that is dumped into the Bay each year, according to the interview I held with Fritz Schroeder.

While the ideas of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay seem plausible, the governments of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland are promising harsh penalties if there is no improvement to the quality of the Chesapeake Bay. The idea behind the concept is adequate, but from observations, there have been no straight guidelines set.

2.) Take Action

In order to assist in cleaning up the Bay, the residents need to take action and be educated. Hold informational fairs or expositions when it comes to alerting the public. Get in front of local residents from all over Lancaster County. Work with the United Way of Lancaster County, the Lancaster County Chamber of Business, other local Green businesses, and scatter information using Twitter and Facebook (with the sole basis of easy and free tools to spread the awareness to Lancaster County residents and beyond) to also create more awareness. It might help to gather a list of organizations that are based in Lancaster County and are geared towards Green Living and can work simultaneously with each other. After a solid base has been established, it would then be relevant to expand out to other Lancaster County businesses who wish to implement green tactics in their businesses.

The idea with starting with Lancaster County-based organizations would work the best if the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry is contacted.  The Chamber, as it is referred to, has a strong threshold with numerous organizations and is very influential throughout the county. Within the Chamber, there is a feature that refers to the value of specific programs and features, items that share the same interests among several of the members of the Chamber. These specific programs are called “Value Added Programs” and their sole mission is to bring awareness and link Lancaster County businesses together that shame the same ideas and passions.

If the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as well as local Lancaster-based organizations would collaborate and join forces, that the idea of being green in order to save the Chesapeake Bay could be in the works. Another good tool that these Chamber affiliates have is that they use local college students in their organizations. With the increased number of attendees to colleges, their ideas and new-end knowledge of various computer programs, tactics, and relevancies in their major is an aspect that should be kept here in Lancaster. For more information, see the References for a direct link to the web site.

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Photo provided by Eileen Culp


What is LIVE Green Lancaster?

LIVE Green Lancaster is an organization that strives for Lancaster City residents and beyond to be aware and know how to live green. More importantly, they strive to make the costs of living green more rewarding, by providing products and services that are the highest quality and are also at the lowest price.

To seek more information, check out their website:


What is the difference between a “green roof” also referred to a “live roof?”

There is no difference between these two terms for the same concept. Many people refer to is as a “live roof” to indicate living plants on the roof.


Why weren't the problems with the Chesapeake Bay figured out at an earlier date?

This perhaps is one of the best questions out there today. I am not a scientist but I do believe that with the attention of being green and the dying fish supply in the Bay scared residents.


Where can I get more information about saving the Chesapeake Bay?

You can visit LIVE Green Lancaster at: or the Chesapeake Bay Foundation at: or Lancaster County Solid Waste Management at:


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This site was created by Eileen Culp at Millersville University of Pennsylvania

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