Ottawa Riverkeeper: Meredith Brown Celebration

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On November 28, supporters of the protection of the Ottawa River bid adieu to Riverkeeper Meredith Brown. The celebration took place at Ottawa’s Mill Street Brewery, where an appreciative crowd of 200 or more gathered to honour her 15-year tenure.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On November 28, supporters of the protection of the Ottawa River bid adieu to Riverkeeper Meredith Brown. The celebration took place at Ottawa’s Mill Street Brewery, where an appreciative crowd of 200 or more gathered to honour her 15-year tenure.
Pontiac Liberal MP William Amos was among many who spoke, recognizing Brown’s skill at weaving a group of individuals who care about the watershed into a cohesive, powerful team of volunteers.
Federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, also referenced Brown’s dedication, citing her ability to persevere with championing extremely challenging aspects of river protection.
Brown, with her usual team-building approach, recognized the efforts of many volunteers. In particular, she thanked original Ottawa Riverkeeper board members such as well-known environmental consultant, biologist Dan Brunton and artist-activist John Almstedt. Both continue to be instrumental in the ongoing protection of the Ottawa River.
Ottawa Riverkeeper (ORK)
Ottawa Riverkeeper is a member of an international grass-roots advocacy organization, Waterkeeper Alliance, founded by Robert Kennedy Jr. 
The first Ottawa Riverkeeper was Lara van Loon (2001-2004). Meredith Brown is the second, who has been speaking on behalf of the watershed’s health and
conservation since 2004. She was also ORK’s founding Executive Director, a position now held by Patrick Nadeau.
The ORK website explains, “A waterkeeper is a full-time, non-governmental ombudsman whose special responsibility is to be the full-time
public advocate for a water body. Fundamentally, it is the waterkeeper’s job to advocate compliance with environmental laws, respond to citizen complaints, identify problems that affect his or her body of water and recommend appropriate solutions. Waterkeepers are leaders in ensuring communities maintain control over their local waterways when threatened by development, industrialization or
toxic pollution.”
In Brown’s words
Brown said, “I thank all of the volunteers, donors, community leaders and experts who have helped and supported me. I’m proud of everything we have accomplished.”
“Our biggest strength is our people. The best way to protect a river the size of the Ottawa is to develop a very large, very dedicated river constituency – people who are willing to take action to restore the river, and to stand up to protect their local river, lake or creek,” she continued.
Volunteer thanks
As the evening progressed, several volunteers were mentioned. Bristol resident Jennifer Haughton was specifically recognized for her ongoing involvement. Haughton has been a Riverwatcher for years; like others living alongside the Ottawa River, she takes regular water samples along a specific reach of the river. More than fifty Riverwatchers gather data concerning toxins (like e-coli) in the water – which gives ORK an idea of the health of the water.
Continued, pressing issues
ORK is deeply concerned about the proposed nuclear waste landfill at Chalk River. Many other issues are challenging, such as sewage overflows, devastation to species like American eel, plus the presence of microplastics, triclosan, and many other pollutants.
Next Ottawa Riverkeeper: The search is on
Meredith Brown will continue with ORK as a board member, providing superb continuity to the organization. The search for a new Ottawa Riverkeeper has begun, and before long we will hopefully be welcoming a new team member to this worthwhile, important Waterkeeper Alliance group.