Last week we partnered with @livinglandsandwaters to clean up the Ohio River. In total, we collected 7,188 lbs. of trash from the river in one morning. Most notably, we pulled out 3,930 lbs of scrap metal in addition to 52 tires. WOW! Special thanks to all other volunteers for coming out to help.
The Ohio River is central to life as a southern Ohioan. Many people rely on it for fishing, recreation, and transportation. Ask anyone who grew up in the area and they are sure to regal you with stories of past historic floods, boating adventures, and strong opinions about the water’s quality. All water from the Ohio River eventually makes its way into the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico, carrying everything from upstream with it. Unfortunately, due to the river’s frequent floods caused by the regions heavy rain storms, a lot of man –made materials end up washed into the river. This combined with a long history of close contact with humans as well as regulatory changes in waste disposal, it is not uncommon to see a lot of litter along the river’s banks or floating in the water.
Living Lands & Waters (LLW) was founded in the late 1990s to address this problem in rivers like the Ohio River and Mississippi River. Founded by a single, driven man in his boat, the organization now boasts four trash barges, 10 full time staff, and travels up and down the rivers for most of the year. LLW has had a long standing partnership with organizations in the Greater Cincinnati area and has hosted river clean-ups with the Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) for the last six years. This year, LLW spent a full month on the Ohio just outside Cincinnati, working with local businesses to clean up the river. On Clermont SWCD’s clean-up day, we had almost 30 volunteers from neighboring SWCDs and partner organizations. In total, we were able to collect 7,188 lbs. of trash from the river in one morning. Most notably, we pulled out 3,930 lbs. of scrap metal in addition to 52 tires.
Before our clean-up event, I had the opportunity to speak with Rachel Loomis, Education Coordinator for LLW about their programs and current conservation initiatives. She said that this year alone, they have collected 58,459.25 lbs. of trash from the Cincinnati area over the course of 18 clean-up events. This is roughly 10k more pounds of trash than they collected the previous month in Louisville, KY. When I asked her about the difference, she said that they tend to have more volunteers and clean-up events in the Cincinnati area and therefore are able to pull more junk out of the river. I also asked her what the most impactful action is that people can take to help out their local watersheds and she said to participate in hands-on events like litter clean-ups and spread the word to friends and family. The experience of being out on the river and having a positive impact while seeing just how much trash there is along the banks is unforgettable. These stories and personal connections are what will spur bigger systemic changes and are necessary to help protect our local environments. If you or your group are interested in learning more about LLW and their floating classroom, visit their website at https://www.livinglandsandwaters.org/ or keep an eye on our social media for our next clean-up event with them next year.