John Kulbitskas

John Kulbitskas has been a trainer in the Jasper area of Smith Lake for the past seven years. He has conducted numerous AWW workshops to train and certified  monitors  in water quality monitoring, and monitored multiple sites on the southern end of the lake for nearly 20 years!

John musters a record crowd of 92 stakeholders for a standing-room-only crowd at the annual Smith Lake Civic Association meeting in January, <a href=

Let’s get to know John a bit better:

1. Where do you call home?
I call Smith Lake in Alabama home for the last 17 years and three years prior to that when we just visited on weekends. So 20 years total.

2. What stream, river, lake, bay, bayou is your favorite water-spot?
Naturally my favorite spot is Smith Lake, the entire lake I don’t think there is an area on the lake that I couldn’t enjoy myself on.

Beautiful Smith Lake at the dam, seen from the air.
Beautiful Smith Lake at the dam, seen from the air.

3. What water recreation/sports do you enjoy most?
Our favorite thing is just cruising the lake and exploring the different coves and backwaters, in the Walker County/ Winston County areas of the lake that serves a dual purpose as I am on the lookout for “STYROFOAM” those big chunks of flotation that seem to get away from the boathouses in the big storms. Fortunately after many years of collecting thousands of pounds it is finally dropping off. In the past we collected 10 tons before lunch, now it takes several days to get the same amount.

4. What got you interested in Alabama Water Watch?
I was raised in Minersville Pennsylvania, guess what we did there! Minersville was one of the towns near the headwaters of the Schuylkill River. Minersville discharged raw sewage directly into the river, the coal breakers washed coal and discharged the wash-water directly into the river. Google Schuylkill River and there is a ton of information on it. That river ran black as coal and stunk to high heaven. Our family took a trip to Philadelphia, about 100 mile east-southeast of Minersville, at that time my brother and I, about 10 and 12 years old, would not take a drink of water because it came from the river. Leaving Minersville at age 18, I forgot about rivers etc. for the next 12-13 years, then as luck would have it, I became involved with a company that dealt with “lumpy water”. For the next 35 years I dealt with municipalities and industries as they attempted to follow EPA guidelines to clean up our nation’s waterways. Then moving to Smith Lake, an extraordinarily clean lake, I got involved with the Smith Lake Civic Association, several members were doing water testing and I realized that that function would go a long way to keeping the lake clean. Past data would show immediately if pollution was happening to the lake. Since then, several battles have been successfully fought with entities which sought to use the lake as a dumping ground. Long way to get to that point, but that’s why I’m involved.

John with volunteer monitor trainee, Justine Herlihy, along with co-trainer, Eric.
John, with newly-certified volunteer monitor (and Mobile Baykeeper development director), Justine Herlihy, along with co-trainer, Eric.

5. What are your biggest challenges/issues in your favorite watershed?
The biggest challenges facing Smith Lake are twofold – one would be industrial development around the lake, and the other population pollution from septic tank overflows or non-operation. The government entities handling these factors are woefully ill equipped to do so. Our monitoring of the lake gives us ammunition to fight and force some of these entities to act.

6. Do you have some ‘lessons learned’ that you could pass on to the rest of us relative to watershed stewardship?
The lesson I have learned is that if you ignore the past i.e. the Schuylkill River it will come to haunt you. Today the Schuylkill is much better, Minersville no longer dumps all of its sewage into the river –some of it is now treated, but not all. But if I go to Philadelphia I drink bottled water!