News / USA

US River Cleanup a Rite of Spring for Eco-Volunteers

A volunteer removes trash from Boiling Brook in Maryland.
A volunteer removes trash from Boiling Brook in Maryland.

Multimedia

June Soh

Every April, in the weeks leading up to Earth Day, tens of thousands of volunteers converge on parks, forests and streams throughout the sprawling, four-state Potomac River watershed, on America's East Coast. They come to gather up and haul away hundreds of tons of trash before it winds up in the Potomac - the main drinking water source for towns and cities across the region.   Our reporter joined some volunteers on a recent weekend cleanup and has this report.

"We are going to be picking up the regular trash in the yellow bags, picking up the recycling in the blue bags," said Sue Beffel.

Sue Beffel is the site leader for the cleanup at Colvin Run.  The Virginia stream is one of 428 cleanup sites all along the Potomac River, which runs through Washington, DC and flows into the Chesapeake Bay, an estuary on the Atlantic coast.  There's a wide variety of trash to clean up, including tires, plastic bottles, beer cans, and other careless cast-offs.

"Amazing how many cigarette butts, even in the middle of the woods," she said.

Beffel has been involved in these annual cleanups for 10 years.

"I wanted to find an activity that would really engage me," said Beffel. "And it seemed like the quality of my neighborhood, the quality of the water and the air was something that was very important to me."

Cindy Foster joined four years ago:

"Because I cannot stand all the scene when I walk through the woods, which I do frequently, all the things that are littered," said Foster. "So I help clean it up."

The Potomac River Watershed Cleanup began 23 years ago.   The Alice Ferguson Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Maryland, organizes the annual event. Michael Herman is the board president.  

"One of the things that is really important is there are five million people that live in the Potomac River basin.  Four millions of those individuals or 80 percent rely on this.  This is their drinking water.  If we don’t keep the river clean, we are talking about spoiled water for 80 percent of the population that lives in this area."

Herman says last year alone, more than 14,000 volunteers took part in cleanup activities and he expects the number to grow this year.

"The whole expression of the environmental movement is 'Think globally, but act locally.'  It is the idea that you can make a dramatic impact by just what you are doing in your own community," said Herman. "So a lot of these community volunteers, civic associations [are participating] today.  We [also] have some Boy Scouts [and]) Cub Scouts out here."

Nine-year-old Galen Gibbons, one of the Cub Scouts, is a committed volunteer.  He says it’s his fifth time at Boiling Brook park in Maryland.

"I just have to really clean up the environment," said Galen Gibbons. "We just got to do it [and] make it a better place for everyone.  We just got to do it."

Cindy Foster believes that her participation makes a difference.

"A teeny bit, yes, but a lot of people together with teeny bits makes big, big tons," she said.

The organizers say the cleanup efforts have removed more than three million tons of trash over the years.  And they say their ultimate goal is to make the Potomac River trash-free by 2013.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid