Houghton High School students got to enjoy the outdoors Thursday morning, while learning about local history and cleaning up the environment. It was the perfect way to celebrate Earth Day in collaboration with Joan Chadde from Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center.
Not everyone knows where Huron Creek is. There are no signs for it and its character has changed over the years. It originates near Green Acres Road and the Copper Country Mall. A reservoir was formed to help with mining operations in the 1800’s. It meanders north through what is now a commercial district, past Wal-Mart and strip malls until it empties into the Portage at Kestner Park. Chadde says the area near Sharon Avenue used to be an unregulated landfill before it was developed. Huron Creek was once severely polluted.
There would be a red slime all over the rocks. You couldn’t find any organisms. Scientists collect organisms as an indicator of water quality. You couldn’t find any! What it was is the landfill was leaking into the creek.
Today, the creek has made a comeback, but litter is a problem. Wind and snow make it nearly inevitable that a shopping bag or fast food container will get away from someone in wintertime. Once the melt happens, cleanup is needed and that is what Houghton students were tasked with Thursday. This year, more people have been ordering take out, and reusable bags were banned early on in the COVID-19 pandemic because of disease transmission concerns. Litter clean up is needed more than ever.