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Sweep reaps junk from river bank

SOUTH POINT — For the past 21 years the annual River Sweep has proved a scavenger hunt without the predetermined list of crazy items to recover as volunteers descend on the Ohio River banks for a few hours on a Saturday once a year.

And Marian Davis of South Point has been there for all but one of those years, picking up trash and keeping the river by his home clean.

“I always help with anything environmental, anything to help other people,” Davis said.

He was one of 65 Lawrence County volunteers working the sweep last Saturday pulling out 120 bags of pure junk. Most items were the common detritus of any household: 20oz soda or water bottles, cigarette butts and fast food wrappers.

However some sweepers found a few uncommon things: A tire, a plastic sawhorse, a milk jug, gasoline can and a mattress.

Their venues were the Ironton Boat Ramp, South Point Boat Ramp, Symmes Creek Boat Ramp at Chesapeake and Lock 27 at Proctorville.

The River Sweep started out in 1989 as a pilot project cleaning up the section of Ohio from Cincinnati to Ashland, Ky. That year 1,000 volunteers joined the effort that got heavy support from Ashland Inc. In 2008 that figure jumped to 21,000 volunteers for a six-state effort going from above Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill.

That covers more than 3,000 miles of shoreline whose only goal each spring is to clear the litter along the Ohio.

With the improvement of the water quality of the river, ORSANCO officials couldn’t understand why the Ohio continued to have such a bad reputation.

“People had such a horrible image of the river,” Jeanne Ison of ORSANCO said.

Then after taking a boat ride down the river, officials discovered a shore land littered with garbage. That inspired the current clean-up.

Davis got involved when he heard the first sweep advertised. Since then he is considered one of the regulars by the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District who coordinate the local portion of the six- state sweep.

Sponsors this year were GJ Pepsi for soda, 7-Up South Point for water, Food Fair and Kroger for donuts, Walmart/Sam’s Club for first aid supplies, CAO Family Medical Centers for gloves and Rumpke for dumpsters.

“There’s nothing hard about it. We don’t pick up anything that is dangerous. Anything that is hazardous it will be picked up, but we don’t have to handle it,” Davis said. “I just like to see things clean and being fixed up for future generations.”