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Thursday, 03 November 2022

In 2020, KTB was awarded a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under their Trash Free Waters Program. This grant has been used to fund infrastructure, research and programming in three regions of Texas: Central, Houston/Galveston and the Rio Grande Valley.

I recently had the opportunity to take a road trip to the Houston area and visit our EPA partners and projects. During this trip I was able to meet with our partners at Black Cat GIS, take a boat ride with Buffalo Bayou Partnership and tour the facility for our newest partner, the Galveston Bay Foundation. I was privileged to be joined by our EPA contact, Huy Vu, who works out of the Houston area. Check out my diary for details on the projects we are working on and some fun photos from the trip!

 Wednesday, October 19, 2022

After lunch with our friends from the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), I spent my first day exploring the new facilities of the Galveston Bay Foundation. I was greeted by Pear, a diamondback terrapin who came to see if I had a treat for her. A little disappointed, Pear directed me to our friends Lisa and Emily, who were bringing Huy, our EPA rep, up to speed on our upcoming project.

Under the EPA grant, KTB will provide funding to improve the GBAN website. GBAN stands for Galveston Bay Action Network and is a citizen reporting tool for illegal dumping and other pollution in the Galveston Bay area. This site creates a report from the information filled out and sends it to the correct agency for cleanup and action. Increased usage of this site will allow more agencies in the area to keep up with illegal dumping, chemical spills, vessel and trap abandonment and any other types of pollution that needs to be addressed to keep Galveston Bay healthy. Staff hopes to increase awareness of the tool, improve their follow up and make the site more user friendly.

Along with talks on our upcoming project, Huy and I were given a tour of their new property in Kemah, TX. The four-acre property includes a warehouse type office space, a pavilion by the Bay and a living shoreline. Future development includes a “green” education building, as well as trails, boardwalks, an observation deck, and pier to provide access to the property’s many natural habitats. “Our new location in Kemah will serve as a destination where visitors of all ages can experience the wonder and awe of the Bay and learn about the rich diversity of Gulf Coast plants and wildlife, conservation, and science.”

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Today I joined KTB staff and 22 attendees from local affiliates at the KTB Houston Regional Training. The event was held at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land and provided such a fun and unique backdrop to our experience. It was even more special to experience the museum during the quiet hours before opening. You can never get tired of telling folks to find the restrooms by taking a left after the dinosaurs. The backdrop of an old prison and the presence of creative science exhibits made it quite the venue!

Along with my talk on volunteer management, I also supported a presentation by Lee Anne Wilde of Black Cat GIS. As one of our EPA partners, Black Cat GIS is doing important research in the Houston-Galveston area to map litter and create an interactive tool to predict where litter will accumulate and identify hot spots in the area. This mapping program will be connected to the Texas Litter Database and hopes are to have it populate and change as new data is added into the Database. Black Cat GIS is also developing a formal audit methodology called STOP, which is the topic of the Regional Training presentation and an additional training that evening for Keep Dickinson Beautiful. Check out the KDB offices in a historic train station! Definitely some great locations for the day!


Friday, October 21, 2022

Sadly, I must end my road trip and return home today, but I have one last adventure to complete before I go. I met Lee Anne and Huy at the Buffalo Bayou Canoe Launch and we waited patiently with our sunscreen and sun hats. Right on time, Captain Robby Robinson of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership arrived to take us on a tour of their EPA project. A natural engineer, Robby has done some amazing work on the bayou. From configuring and anchoring several boom systems funded by the EPA grant, to designing and building an innovative vacuum boat that literally sucks up the floatable litter collected by the booms and throughout the shoreline. Robby is also a wealth of knowledge on the bayou from water quality to wildlife. It was an informative trip and great to see the booms at work, all the wildlife that is thriving in the area and even get a glimpse of the new vacuum boat!

After a quick lunch to wrap up our visit, I hit the road and headed home. It was a packed trip full of projects, partners, training and even a little sightseeing. I learned not to complain about the Austin area traffic and to appreciate the fun stuff along the way: NASA and a glimpse at the space shuttle on top of an airplane, Minute Maid Park where the Astros made it to the World Series, a historic train depot and prison, a glimpse of Galveston Bay and we can’t forget all of the dinosaurs! Thanks Houston, you were a great host!

If you have questions about any of our EPA Trash Free Waters projects or partners please reach out to

Blog written by Karen Maldonado, Litter Cleanup and Research Manager