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Compton Creek: thinking globally, acting locally

Published Sept. 27, 2013

COMPTON, Calif. – Compton Creek, a concrete-lined channel feeding into the Los Angeles County Drainage System, is beset by conditions prevalent in many of our nation’s waterways: debris, maintenance issues, and a lack plants, wildlife and recreation, to name a few. If students at Compton High School have anything to say, that may change some day.

Their plans to make a difference were presented as part of a Social Media Week event held Sept. 26 at the school. Actor Richard Gant hosted the proceedings that were broadcast over the internet.

Ed Murphy, of Heal the Bay, discussed Creek 101, a joint project with Compton High students to teach how science can address issues of importance to the community.

“Science can help people recognize what they see,” Murphy said. “How does trash get into the creek? How does that pollution affect the environment around creek? They can see where trash ends up, and it’s really sad.”

Creek 101 offered students the opportunity to conduct a trash inventory and to run water analysis tests for pH, metals and other chemicals that influence whether plants or wildlife can survive.

Tomas Beauchamp-Hernandez, chief of the district’s Operations Branch, discussed Compton Creek and the Corps’ efforts to maintain it.

“We typically remove 600 tons of trash from Compton Creek annually,” he said. “It’s important to maintain community involvement and support, and an important part of that is raising the level of understanding regarding the issues and the possibilities associated with the creek.”

“We have great coordination with national, state and local agencies, all the way down to the community level,” Beauchamp-Hernandez said.

Speaking of the Creek 101 project, he said, “You have to dream big. How would you move people? Increase awareness? We need to think outside the box, because the past won't work in the future. We learn from the opportunities that are available by reaching out, by getting the students to help with solutions.”

Sonya Trammell-Jones, an Equal Employment Opportunity specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, told the students that activities like Social Media Week often offer opportunities that may not be readily evident.

“This is how I got my spark,” she said. “My interest in working for the federal government came from a program like this.”

Trammell-Jones told about a presentation about science and music that a NASA astronaut gave at her school.

“I was still trying to figure my path,” she said. “And his presentation sparked an interest in me. Eventually, I ended up working as an executive assistant for him in Japan.”

Trammel-Jones said the important thing to consider is to take advantage of the opportunities, like Creek 101, that become available.

“Instead of telling them,” she said, “you show them the path.”

Murphy said Creek 101 was an opportunity to allow the students to see creek as something more than it is now and to use their imagination to think about what can be done to get it there.

“We can all sit back and dream,” Beauchamp-Hernandez said. “That creates innovation.”