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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora