Sunday, June 18, 2000

A clean sweep for Ohio River


650 ignore rain to help clear banks

By Mara H. Gottfried
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Rainy weather may have deterred some people from cleaning up litter along the banks of the Ohio River Saturday, but it didn't stop 5-year-old Alec Coughlin.

        The Mason youngster, wearing blue rain boots and oversized gloves, said the volunteers' work is important “so people can walk by the river and the Earth can be good and clean.”

        Volunteers from six states combed more than 3,000 miles of the Ohio River shoreline and its tributaries for washed-up junk Saturday. About 650 volunteered at sites around Greater Cincinnati, compared with approximately 1,000 who helped last year.

        “I think you have to consider the past 24 hours and the rainfall we've had,” said Jeanne Ison, project director of the 12th annual River Sweep. “I'm a little disappointed, but I'm thankful that people did come out.”

        The river sweep, sponsored by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, is the largest environmental event of its kind. It encompasses six states, from Pennsylvania to Illinois. The goal is to draw attention to the Ohio River's litter and remove it from the shoreline.

        “This makes people more environmentally aware and helps a lot with instilling pride in our river and making it more clean and beautiful,” said Courtney PeGan, Dearborn County coordinator.

        Last year, volunteers collected more than 9,000 tons of trash throughout the six states. Although a final count wasn't available Saturday, the Schmidt Field cleanup produced an overflowing Dumpster. Among the items found: an empty propane tank, a hockey puck, a chain-link fence, a large mattress and enough tires for several cars.

        Volunteer Cindy Meridith, who has participated in River Sweep since its 1989 inception, finds less trash each year. However, she does not attribute it to more environmentally conscious people.

        “It's great because every year we come back here, we fill the Dumpster less,” the Mount Healthy woman said. “We picked up so much trash in the early years, I don't think there's as much left anymore.”

        Mark Essex of South Cumminsville said telling people about why they should care about the environment might mean less litter.

        “The way you create awareness is to get involved because when people see all the junk along the river, they become more aware that it was because of them that it got there,” he said.

        The soggy day didn't produce major problems at many of the local cleanup sites. However, high water at the Four Seasons Marina did halt the cleanup there.

        Although Ms. Ison said the river cleanup has progressed through the years, she said there is still a long way to go.

        “It would be nice if one day we could say, "There's no more trash or debris on the river. Our job is done; we don't have to do this anymore.' But I think that's a few years away yet,” she said.        



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