Berlin Falls to get help from pro-bono scientists at TEX
(March 10, 2016) When Berlin bought the former Tyson’s Chicken plant on old Ocean City Boulevard, now being called Berlin Falls, the town pledged that partnerships and unique, creative approaches – not just town tax dollars – would help transform the property into something of which the citizens could be.
Looking for help with environmental remediation of the once-industrial site, Berlin has kept its word by contacting the Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX), a Washington, D.C.-based collective that, with assistance from the American Geophysical Union, has access to more than 62,000 scientists who study the Earth and space.
According to its literature, TEX can help towns “enhance the resilience and sustainability of your community by helping you access and apply the best available knowledge from this international pool of experts.”
“We’ve been around for about three years, Dr. Natasha Udu-gama, director of community partnerships, explained during a phone interview last Thursday. “We started with about four or five pilot projects, and now we’re up to about 20 different projects, both national and international,” she said. “Most of our projects are in the U.S., but we also have a couple of projects in Asia and one in Africa.”
In essence, TEX offers scientific expertise on a pro-bono basis. When selecting whom it helps, Udu-gama said the group first identifies the issue, using climate change as an example, and then uates how well it believes the community can work with its scientists.
“We’re willing to help any community that comes to us. That community can be a small town, like Berlin, it can be a big city, like Las Vegas, and it can be a community organization, such as in the Horn of Africa and Sri Lanka,” Udu-gama said. “We work with different iterations of community. Those that are willing and have the community resources and time to work with our scientists – that’s really important.”
Udu-gama said she learned about Berlin through its involvement with the International City/County Management Association, another partnership, where the town is part of the sustainable action committee.
“They sent out a blurb via the committee, and [Town Administrator] Laura Allen, specifically, expressed interest in wanting to do a project with us,” Udu-gama said.
At Berlin Falls, Udu-gama said TEX would examine the issue of E. coli in the lagoons.
“Essentially what we do is try to understand the community’s point of view regarding an issue that involves either climate change, natural hazards or natural resources, and so, in this case, they wanted to understand what are the levels of E. coli and what sort of monitoring and testing should be done in order for it to be safe enough for recreational use,” she said.
“We’re in the process of looking for a scientist that would be able to provide them with sufficient data and information that would allow them to make an appropriate decision.”
Although she declined to speculate on the specifics of the remediation required to clean up the lagoons, Udu-gama said the problem was not unusual.
“There’s actually another city we’re working with now that has almost the exact same issue – but not in Maryland,” she said. “It’s very common.”
Udu-gama said she was confident a scientist would be assigned to the project soon.
“That shouldn’t take too much longer,” she said. “I will be interviewing a scientist tomorrow, and she’s very much interested in this topic and has the right expertise. Hopefully, she’s the one. If not, by the end of next week we should be able to link Berlin with a scientist.”