July 27, 2005
An abandoned meth lab. A popped safe. A car buried in silt. All the makings for an intriguing story – but not the one you might expect. It’s the story of a river cleanup not a drug deal gone bad. All of these items were pulled from the Great Miami River last weekend – along with dirty diapers, hundreds of plastic bottles – nearly 200 tons of trash (or the weight of three Boeing 747 jumbo jets).
More than 1,200 volunteers participated July 22 and 23 in the “Clean Sweep of the Great Miami River” – a first-time effort to clean up the entire 160-mile river in one weekend.
And clean it up they did. Private citizens, businesses, conservation organizations, and government agencies retrieved more than 400,000 pounds of trash and about 1,000 tires. Companies and cities along the river pitched in with volunteers and equipment to make the two-day event possible.
“I think we all did a great job planning and teaming together,” said Tim McLelland of the Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium, who helped organize the cleanup in the Butler County area.
“We had perfect weather, but we’d have gone with it even in the rain,” said Don Freisthler from the City of Sidney.
Braving the elements was only one example of the dedication of organizers.
“One of my key volunteers stepped on a nail during the clean-up, but he wasn’t going to let a little thing like that keep him from finishing his segment,” said Jeff Lange, president of Protect Our Water Ways (POWW) of Piqua. It was Lange’s group – which took on a 16-mile stretch of river – that found the safe which was turned over to local law enforcement officials who transported it to their evidence room.
With the extensive list of items recovered from the river, it’s hard to imagine that volunteers let anything get away, but some items were just too large to carry either in a canoe or on foot.
Bruce Koehler, President of Friends of the Great Miami, listed a refrigerator perched about 10 feet up in a tree at Oxbow Wetland, just a few miles upstream from the Ohio River.
Like many cities along the river, City of Piqua law enforcement officers patrol the streamside recreational trails regularly. Chief of Police Wayne Wilcox said, “If we can attach an identity to the person responsible for littering, we’ll follow up and prosecute. Any citizen who can notify us when they see dumping occur will help us fix this trash problem.”
The 2005 Clean Sweep was sponsored by Cargill, Veolia Water, the Miami Conservancy District, Butler Soil & Water Conservation District, the Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium, and the Butler County Storm Water District.