Planting trees is a very traditional way to celebrate Earth Day. Over the years the trees grow up to do many good things for the environment; filter water runoff before pollutants slip into streams, supply the oxygen we breathe and even reduce energy bills by cooling homes and businesses with their shade.
Wastewater treatment does not as quickly come to everyone’s mind on Earth Day.
In the rural town of Baileyton, Tennessee however, trees and wastewater treatment shared a stage as Mayor Thomas Casteel, City Recorder Barbara Tilson and other local leaders joined USDA Rural Development staff to mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by planting trees and announcing federal funding for needed improvements to the community’s wastewater treatment plant.
With shovels and trees in hand, we joined thousands of USDA employees and tens of thousands of other volunteers from D.C. to Baileyton, Tennessee and all across rural America in taking action to improve our nation’s natural resources, especially a clean, abundant water supply.
City Recorder Barbara Tilson, State Director Goode, First Tennessee Development District staff and USDA Greeneville Area Office staff helped start a new generation of trees on the playground at Baileyton Elementary School to mark the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day.
After announcing Recovery Act funding for needed improvements to the wastewater treatment system, Mayor Casteel and I led the group across the street from Town Hall to Baileyton Elementary School where Principal Kevin Ridley showed us where high winds over the last several years have damaged quite a few of the oldest trees that used to shade the school grounds.
Together we planted sapling oaks and tulip poplars (Tennessee’s state tree) in some of the gaps around the playground. Another 20 young trees were also planted along the site of a walking path being developed behind the school. As the older trees give way, there will now be a new generation to shelter the school.
According to Engineer Cathy Walden, the waste water system upgrades will double the capacity of the current waste treatment plant to meet growing demand from new businesses in the area and bring the facility into full compliance with state regulations.
A spring rain started falling as we finished up, watering the young trees in their new home and reminding us again how everything is connected.