Tom Leigh, a former local Riverkeeper and Chesapeake Bay Trust program director, has been hired as a clean water expert to counsel multiple Eastern Shore localities. Leigh will provide technical support to four municipalities and two counties as they reduce water pollution. Much like small churches on the Shore used to share a circuit rider preacher, the localities will share Leigh’s expertise on cleaning up local creeks.
Leigh’s position is being funded through a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction grants program, as well as matching funds from the six localities and the Maryland Department of the Environment. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) spearheaded the creation of the position, and applied for the grant. Leigh technically will be an employee of CBF during the three-year grant period, but he will directly support the six localities in their efforts to reduce water pollution, and clean up local creeks, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
“This is an exciting beginning of a new model for cooperation and cost savings in cleaning up Eastern Shore water,” said Alan Girard, director of the CBF Eastern Shore Office.
The new position to be occupied by Leigh is one part of a wider collaboration between the localities to reduce polluted runoff from streets, parking lots, and other hard surfaces. This is the only major source of water pollution that is rising in Maryland. Finding ways to reduce runoff once a landscape is developed is challenging. The six localities decided that sharing resources to address this problem is more efficient and effective. The collaborative was born from a series of discussions hosted by local officials and partners called the Healthy Waters Round Table.
The six localities are Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties, and the municipalities of Easton, Salisbury, Oxford and Cambridge.
Leigh was a natural choice to serve as a shared expert by the localities. He formerly held positions as a water quality advocate with the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and the Chester River Association. He also worked as the director of programs and partnerships for the Chesapeake Bay Trust, managing a significant portion of the organization’s grant portfolio. Leigh served as an independent contractor for the University of Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology in Queenstown where he developed a compendium of pollution-reduction practices for local governments, organizations and private landowners. Earlier in his career, Leigh also was a project manager for Environmental Concern, Inc. in St. Michaels. He has lived most of his life on the Eastern Shore.
“With Tom’s leadership, CBF will work seamlessly with our partner counties and towns on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to plan, prioritize, and streamline projects that control polluted runoff,” Girard said. “Tom also will leverage new resources. Our goal is to clean our water faster, and to test a model for locally-shared technical service that can be replicated throughout Maryland and beyond.”
This work is made possible by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction grants program, which supports efforts within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to accelerate nutrient and sediment reductions with innovative, sustainable, and cost-effective approaches.