As we’ve grown as an organization, we’ve needed more and more hands involved with our day-to-day operations in order to keep moving in the right direction. One way we’ve been able to accomplish this over the past two years has been through the help and involvement from amazing interns and volunteers! Whether they be from the College of Charleston or the law school, these eager students have gotten down and dirty (literally) to help Charleston Waterkeeper in our mission to protect the public’s right to clean water.
For this reason, we’d like to introduce you to our most recent intern, Noelle London. Noelle has been serving as our policy intern for the past few months and will continue to do so until she packs up and leaves the United States – bound for Nicaragua for two years and three months. Noelle has been accepted into the Peace Corps as a Business Advisor and Educator and hopes to apply much of her experience with social and environmental policy to her time in Central America.
To introduce you to both Noelle and the project she’s been working on, we’ve compiled a little interview to give you guys an inside look at what happens within the organization on a day to day basis… Enjoy!
Charleston Waterkeeper: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Noelle London: I am a recent graduate from the College of Charleston with a degree in Economics and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and I grew up in Clemson, South Carolina. Growing up I watched both of my parents involve themselves in the community and social policy, and I was always searching for a path that would allow me to give back. On a trip to the Amazon about two years ago, I saw a sign in a village square stating, “Sin Agua, No Hay Democracia!” (Without Water, There Is No Democracy!). It was then I began to understand the importance of water in development, and since then, this saying has become my mantra.
CW: How’d you hear about Charleston Waterkeeper? What made you want to get involved?
NL: You guys had a great poster up in Ted’s Butcherblock advertising the Water Ball. I donated my handmade jewelry to the silent auction and volunteered at the event. After attending the Water Ball, I could tell there was a tremendous amount of energy behind the organization, and I wanted to be more involved.
CW: Tell us a little bit about the project you’ve been working on with Charleston Waterkeeper. It has something to do with industrial polluters in and around the Lowcountry, right?
NL: I’ll start with a little bit of background information. In 1972, environmental legislation was passed through Congress that came to be known as the Clean Water Act. In this legislation, today’s system of permitting wastewater discharges known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Program was developed. This legislation prohibits the discharge of pollutants directly into waterways without a permit. Because individual homes are usually connected to a municipal system, permits are issued to industrial, municipal and other facilities. Under the Act, on a monthly basis, NPDES permit holders are required to report their discharges to SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).
We are starting a project to audit all NPDES permit holders within the entire Charleston Harbor Watershed (over 200 permits!). Working with SCDHEC, we have identified current permit holders and soon will begin a physical review of the permits. In this audit, we will be examining reporting forms (called Discharge Monitoring Reports or DMRs) for the past five years. We will study excessive amounts of effluent, where there have been no attempts to remedy the situation. We also want to know more about those permit holders that have adopted responsible practices, and we plan to share their model practices with other industries. As an advocate for water law, it is important that Charleston Waterkeeper shed light on compliance issues under the parameters of the Clean Water Act and assure our community that important health and environmental laws are enforced, thus protecting our right to clean water.
CW: How will this research/work be used to help protect the public’s right to clean water?
NL: Public Participation is an important component of the Clean Water Act and the NPDES permitting process. The re-issuance of a permit is not guaranteed; so, if a particular permit is controversial, the permit is open for public comment. Charleston Waterkeeper is a citizen-based movement, and we are aiming to provide you, as concerned citizens, access to information and awareness pertaining to industrial polluters in the local area. Following the conclusions and findings of this project, Charleston Waterkeeper will serve as a catalyst to engage the community and restore the NPDES permit process back to the public.
CW: In having worked with the organization for several months, what’s one thing you’ve discovered/learned/observed about Charleston Waterkeeper that the average Joe might not know about…?
NL: I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with an organization of people so energetic and dedicated to a critically important cause. One thing I’ve learned? Among other things, Cyrus should be a marketing representative for Twitter. He’s got a great spiel and even I am almost convinced to start up an account. [NOTE: As of January 18, 2010, Noelle has yet to sign up for Twitter.]
We wish Noelle the best of luck in her adventures with the Peace Corps and are forever grateful for the amount of help she’s been over the past several months! Thanks, Noelle; keep up the great work!