Sweeping local riverbank clean

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 19, 2000

CHESAPEAKE – Volunteers from across the county gathered this weekend at the Symmes Creek boat ramp, and at many other stops along the Ohio River, to clean up what others left behind.

Monday, June 19, 2000

CHESAPEAKE – Volunteers from across the county gathered this weekend at the Symmes Creek boat ramp, and at many other stops along the Ohio River, to clean up what others left behind.

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The Ohio River Sweep’s goal is to clean up the riverbanks. The Lawrence County leg of the project took about two hours – narrowly beating the rain that hit the area. But, even if the showers had come, the volunteers were prepared.

"We brought rain gear, but rain wouldn’t stop us from cleaning up," said Paula Murphy, a volunteer with Boy Scout Troop 50.

"It’s environmental," she added. "We have to protect what we have for the kids."

Boy Scout Troop 50 was part of a joint effort, which included 40 volunteers. The group gathered at 8 a.m. at the Chesapeake Courthouse and arrived at the dock 10 minutes later to start cleaning.

The River Sweep program started 11 years ago and includes the states of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylania.

"I remember about 10 years ago, you could practically walk across the (Ohio) river on plastic jugs," said Mike Conaway, litter control manager for the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.

All trash collected Saturday was deposited in a dumpster, which was provided by Browning-Ferriss Industries (BFI).

Although there was a lot of the unusual trash along the riverbank, there was a big catch in the Symmes Creek this year, too. It didn’t have fins, but rather, rusty blades.

"We pulled an old lawnmower out," Conaway said.

This year’s sweep was a little better than those of previous years, Conaway added.

"Lately people’s habits have changed," he said. "They have become more aware about their environment. In previous years, we’ve found microwaves and refrigerators."

Conaway said he thinks the litter conditions in Chesapeake have improved over the past decade.

"It looks better out there," he said. "You can see the difference."

Volunteer Ronald Westmoreland Jr. of South Point said he has noticed a change, too.

"There was not a lot of stuff (to clean) this year," he said. "Just paper, river debris, wood. A lot of people pitched in, and we got the job done quickly. It’s great to get people to come out and clean up the rivers."

Westmoreland provided refreshments for the volunteers, and also helped clean up.

Chesapeake police sufficiently patrol the Symmes Creek dock, so there aren’t too many beer cans or other late-night-party-related trash, the volunteers said.

"We find mostly pop cans, trash from fast food where people come to the dock and take lunch breaks," Westmoreland said. "They just won’t use the garbage cans."

Volunteer Anthony Saunders said the littering is the result of how people are brought up in childhood.

"It’s all about how you were raised," Saunders said. "If you’re going to throw trash in a can, you’re going to throw trash in a can. But if you don’t have any respect for others, you’re like, ‘whatever, I don’t care,’ and throw trash anywhere."

In addition to the Symmes Creek volunteers, trash hunters also worked at Center Street Landing in Ironton and in many cities that border the Ohio.

Volunteers fanned out along the banks of the Ohio River and other waterways and found refrigerators, wheelbarrows and a nearly full bottle of rum as part of a six-state cleanup of riverbanks.

The annual River Sweep on Saturday was aimed at reducing pollution along the river in Pennsylvania, where it starts, and Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and West Virginia.

About 1,000 people went after trash in Pennsylvania and found enough to fill about 2,000 garbage bags.

”We’ve added new sites this year where we hope to encourage the kind of watershed stewardship that is happening at the original River Sweep sites,” said Terry Fabian, a field operations secretary for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

”When this started 11 years ago, it was just to clean up along the Ohio. But now we go from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill., and we take in other rivers – the Mon (Monongahela), the Yough (Youghiogheny) and their tributaries, even,” said Steve Sortino, a state environmental worker who was working in Pittsburgh.