Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls

Upper Potomac RIVERKEEPER® Brent Walls first joined Potomac Riverkeeper Network in 2009. (Upper Potomac Riverkeeper is one of three Riverkeepers at Potomac Riverkeeper Network.) He received his Riverkeeper license in 2014 and is responsible for defending the public trust of the rivers and streams in the Upper Potomac by advocating for clean water and ensuring that the Clean Water Act is enforced. His region begins at the confluence of the Shenandoah River and the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry, WV.

Brent Walls has been an advocate for clean water for over a decade. With an Environmental Science background in fresh water ecology, Brent has a valuable scientific perspective. His experience in water quality sampling has ensured defensible enforcement actions and has been a unique advising asset with local watershed groups. Brent’s love of maps and proficiency with Geographical Information Systems has inspired the development of Water Trail maps in the Upper Potomac and has produced valuable interactive web maps and the creation of a mobile application to report water pollution. Brent’s past experiences include being the Watershed Coordinator and Acting Riverkeeper at Chester River Association for 5 years and serving 7 years in the U.S. Navy.

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Monitoring Program

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper is dedicated to monitoring the condition of the rivers through regular on-the-water patrols, volunteers, and citizen reports through the website and mobile phone app, the Water Reporter. In addition, he works with university law clinics, nonprofit legal groups and corporate law firms that provide pro bono legal services and conduct compliance reviews of pollution permits. Staff and legal interns also provide legal research on pollution permit compliance.

The evidence of pollution observed during monitoring includes polluted runoff from construction sites and farm land, fish kills and fish with lesions, algae blooms, illicit discharges from pipes and many other signs of compromised water quality. Some of problems are old and ongoing, but others are new. He notifies government oversight agencies, contact the polluter, and if needed, take legal action if other actions do not result in improvements.

  • The Water Reporter, a mobile reporting app — This app makes it easier to find and report pollution — and to report the fun things you see and do on the river. Working with Chesapeake Commons, Brent helped develop a mobile app, which is a Bay-wide initiative, to gather critical data on the waterways you love! The Water Reporter App for iPhone and iPad is now available for download for free! Once your report is submitted it will be sent to your local Waterkeeper and to a live map available on the Water Reporter Website. The Water Reporter app is not only for the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. There are 18 local Waterkeepers in the Chesapeake Bay region waiting for your reports. Reports will go to your local Waterkeeper.

Enforcement & Advocacy Program

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper uses information from monitoring and community activity and takes actions to create positive change. At any given time, Potomac Riverkeeper Network is working on roughly two dozen active enforcement and advocacy matters, including commenting on pollution permits when they are up for renewal, pushing government regulators to recognize major pollution problems and act on them, and filing lawsuits against polluters and government agencies that are allowing pollution to continue unchecked. Current actions, campaigns and projects.

Major Polluters

The Clean Water Act and other environmental laws allow residents to improve their local rivers and streams through “citizen suits.” On behalf of their members and the residents throughout the watershed, Potomac Riverkeeper Network and its attorneys routinely monitor known polluters. When they find that a facility is violating its pollution permit, they consider factors, such as the impact of the violations on public health, and the size and scope of the violations, before taking action.

After the review, in most cases, they contact the worst polluters to tell them to stop polluting the water supply and to clean up existing pollution. If they do not, they begin legal actions by filing a mandatory 60-day “letter of intent” to sue under the Clean Water Act. As a last resort, we will take a polluter to court to stop the pollution.

Stormwater

Potomac Riverkeeper Network tracks, comments on and challenges Clean Water Act permits for stormwater from construction sites, industrial sites, and municipal stormwater systems. Stormwater runs off the land and picks up sediment, fertilizer, trash, chemicals, and other pollutants and carries them into our creeks and rivers directly or through storm sewer systems.

Fracking & Mining

Mining is a common industry in the Upper Potomac River watershed, and it can cause acid mine drainage, heavy metal contamination, chemical pollution, and sedimentation. Fracking can contaminate groundwater, deplete freshwater supply, and the development of pipelines to transport natural gas could cause construction and erosion across large swaths of land. Upper Potomac Riverkeeper works with partners to monitor fracking and pipeline development in the Potomac Watershed, identifies water quality impacts of current mining activity, and assesses mining permits for sufficient water protections, taking legal action to strengthen regulations or enforce compliance when necessary. Upper Potomac Riverkeeper was a leader in two campaigns: No Potomac Pipeline and Don’t Frack Maryland (which successfully banned fracking in Maryland).

Recreation Program

Potomac Riverkeeper Network undertakes a number of activities and projects that enhance the use and enjoyment of the rivers, with the ultimate goal of increasing public awareness of and participation in protection of the rivers. Every year they hosts several paddling events during RiverPalooza.

Blue Trail Maps in the Upper Potomac

The West Virginia portion of the Potomac Watershed has several small stream systems that are great for paddling and fishing, but are not known by the general public. Information such as water safety, where to put boats in, what water level is good for paddling, and good fishing spots are sometimes hard to find. We plan to develop maps for these small streams and connect families and paddlers to the water. Patterson Creek is the first of several maps.

Patterson Creek, a tributary of the North Branch of the Potomac River, is a 51 mile long stretch of beautiful water flowing through the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.The map covers a large part of this creek, mapping 26 miles, and is available for free upon request, or print at home directly off our webpage. In addition, we collaborated with other local organizations and businesses, to lead improvement work at access sites along Patterson Creek.

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper has been designing the Opequon Creek Water Trail Map with assistance from the Opequon Creek Project Team and the Cacapon Institute. In addition to encouraging recreation on the creek, the map has been requested for the use in search and rescue operations.