Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Signing of A RIVER AGAIN, Chari Towne's book on the Schuylkill cleanup, slated Dec. 19

The 135-mile Schuylkill River is not only a scenic, beautiful waterway that winds through Pennsylvania - It's also the source of my drinking water, and the landmark I look for when biking the Schuylkill River Trail.

The river wasn't always as clean as it is today.

Author Chari Towne has written a book about the project that helped to clean up the Schuylkill about seven decades ago.

Towne will be signing copies of her new book, "A River Again," from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the Schuylkill River Heritage Area offices, 140 College Drive, in Pottstown.

According to a press release promoting the book signing from the SRHA:

"In the mid-20th century, the Schuylkill was one of the nation’s dirtiest rivers.

Throughout the Industrial Revolution, its waters served as a dumping site for factory pollutants, raw sewage and, perhaps most damaging of all, coal waste, known as culm. By 1945 an estimated 38 million tons of culm had accumulated in its channel.

The Schuylkill was on the brink of becoming a wasteland until, in 1945, the state of Pennsylvania agreed to undertake the Schuylkill River Project. It was the first major government-funded environmental cleanup, and it dredged millions of tons of coal culm from the river. That story, the events that led up to it, and the impact that it had, are the subject of a new book, A River Again, by Chari Towne."

During Towne's book signing, which is free and open to the public, the Heritage Area’s River of Revolutions Interpretive Center will also be open. Doors open at 6:30, and the lecture begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed by book signing. 

Light refreshments will be served. In order to have an idea of how many will attend, the SHRA asks that anyone who is planning to attend RSVP by calling 484-945-0200, or email  

The hardcover books will be available for $21.95 at the book signing, and may also be purchased directly from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network at It is also available as a free publication on that website, and can be downloaded from the “Resources” tab by clicking on “Free publications.” 
About the author:

Towne is a former Olympic rower (1984 games) who trained on the Schuylkill, and today works as the Schuylkill Watershed Specialist for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor of arts degree in English and a master of science degree in natural resource planning. Her book was funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources administered through the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. Other funders include The Jerlyn Foundation and The William Penn Foundation.

According to the press release, researching and writing "A River Again" took Towne about four years, but her interest in penning a book about the river’s cleanup goes back much farther.

“For more than 10 years I wanted to write this story, because it was something I realized most people didn’t know a lot about, or had misconceptions about,” said Towne.

Book summary:

A River Again tells the story of how a series of environmentally harmful practices throughout the Industrial Revolution so defiled the river that its value as a source of drinking water was severely threatened. It introduces the politicians and environmental leaders who pushed for legislation to eliminate pollution and fought for funding to clean it.

The book includes photos of the dredging project and the sediment-filled river, further illustrating the enormity of the problem and the vast effort required to remove the coal culm.

Towne hopes readers come away with a greater respect for the Schuylkill and a thirst to learn more about its fascinating environmental history.

“People think the Schuylkill is so polluted today. It’s hard for them to put in context just how far the river has come. I’d like to see them regain that perspective,” Towne said.

About the SHRA:

The Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, managed by the nonprofit Schuylkill River Greenway Association, uses conservation, education, recreation, historic preservation and tourism as tools for community revitalization and economic development. Visit to learn more.

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