When Helen Dickson moved to the Bay Area a year ago, one of the first things she did was to contact Baykeeper and offer to be a Volunteer Pollution Investigator. Since then, she has not only tracked down potential industrial polluters, she’s also helped Baykeeper coordinate our volunteer investigation program.
As a Baykeeper volunteer, she says, “One of the hardest things I’ve done is also the most fun: picking out the right moment when rain is falling to go out to an industrial site and collect a sample of runoff water.” Volunteer Pollution Investigators collect samples that are tested at a lab, and if pollutants are present, the lab reports become evidence in a Baykeeper Clean Water Act lawsuit aimed at stopping the pollution. Sometimes, collecting water samples has meant Helen has to get up in the middle of the night. “I don’t look forward to that, but I always enjoy it,” she says.
In addition to going out in the rain to collect water samples, Helen and our other Volunteer Pollution Investigators conduct advance surveys of Bay Area industrial facilities in dry weather to identify possible sources of runoff pollution. Helen has also administered the volunteer coordination website and managed communications with other Volunteer Pollution Investigators.
A recent university graduate, Helen previously worked in a UC Santa Barbara research lab on water quality investigations. She loved working on water quality, but wanted to do more work outdoors and shift from academia to the nonprofit sector. Now she works part-time for the San Pablo Watershed Neighbors Education & Restoration Society (SPAWNERS). She’s also a part-time dog walker, “which lets me keep volunteering,” she says. In addition to her work with Baykeeper, Helen volunteers with Friends of Five Creeks in the Berkeley-El Cerrito area.
Helen chose to work with our organization because “I really admire what Baykeeper is doing. I don’t think anyone else in the Bay Area is enforcing the Clean Water Act, and I think it’s really cool that citizens can get involved in enforcement.”
Baykeeper extends a big thanks to Helen and all our Volunteer Pollution Investigators.
Learn more about Baykeeper’s Bay-Safe Industry Campaign to stop industrial runoff pollution in San Francisco Bay.