From Hampshire County in West Virginia to St. Mary’s County in Maryland, more than 4,000 volunteers turned out along the Potomac and its tributaries to clean nearly 70 tons of trash from the river April 7.
During the 13th annual event, volunteers recovered a 1955 Chevrolet, 2,000 balls, 709 tires, two wringing washing machines — and several kitchen sinks.
Other miscellaneous items that turned up included: a box of new yo-yos, a working cell phone, two $20 bills, a treadmill , five traffic signs, lots of cups from 7-11 and Starbucks, 21 shopping carts, a paddle boat, two coconuts, five full bottles of soda, a wedding picture, a bread rack, doll arms, two water skis, a hairpiece, six grills, half of a life-size plastic goose and a cannon ball that was donated to the Reston Historical Society.
“It was by far the largest turnout we have ever had,” said Tracy Bowen, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, an environmental education nonprofit organization that coordinates the annual event.
“It takes careless people to create the problem and its takes a caring community to solve it,” she said.
The theme of the event was “From Our Streets to Our River,” highlighting the fact that stormwater runoff is one of the major sources of pollution to the Potomac.
The cleanup was funded in part by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the National Park Service.
On the same day a bit further up the Bay, more than 600 people turned out to clean up 63 sites in streams in the Metropolitan Baltimore area.
The event, sonsored by the Irvine Nature Center and the Jones Falls Watershed Association, gathered 21,700 pounds of trash from five different streams in the city and four surrounding counties.
“We had consumer trash, tires, lots of shopping carts, several bicycles and a couple of carcasses of animals that had seen better days,” said Roseanne Glick, of the Irvine Nature Center. “At one of the sites, some guns were discovered.”
Although some kind of cleanup has been going on in the area in each of the 26 years since the nature center was started, this year’s was by far the biggest, having grown from just 17 sites last year.
Patterned after the Potomac Cleanup, Glick said she hopes to expand to another 20 sites next year, and eventually link up with the Potomac to create an even larger regional effort.
“Eventually, maybe we can take over the whole mid-Atlantic with a cleanup on that day,” she said.