Annual Watershed Clean-up Yields Tons of Debris
Dorothy Rowley | 4/13/2011, 11:09 p.m.
The annual effort to clean-up the Potomac Watershed (PWC) took place this past weekend with about 3,000 volunteers removing some 74 tons of debris at 143 sites - including debris-laden areas in Southeast and Prince George's County.
"We don't have all of the results in yet," PWC coordinator Becky Horner said.
"But we have expanded the clean-up that took place [April 9] to continue in the D.C. area the entire month."
The watershed encompasses an area of nearly 15,000 miles from southern central Pennsylvania to western Maryland and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. The area also covers 69 miles in the District of Columbia region where 3.7 million people live, as well as locations in St. Mary's County down toward Northumberland County in Virginia. The cleanup -- which engages citizens and community leaders -- includes inland areas like shorelines, parking lots and fields where the trash can be removed before finding its way into rivers, streams, bays and creeks.
"Trash and litter and all kinds of debris in the river are breeding grounds for vermin and bacteria, which are serious health hazards," Horner, 25 said.
"So removing that is of great help to the area," she said, adding that last year nearly 15,000 workers volunteered at 575 sites throughout the watershed that resulted in the removal of more than 250 tons of debris.
This year's effort coincided with Earth Day and marked the 23rd annual clean-up of the watershed which makes up 80 percent of the drinking water in the Washington, D.C. region.
Five million tons of trash have been removed since 1989 -- when volunteers began cleaning the shoreline in Accokeek, Md., -- some of the debris included tires, cigarette butts, metal cans, paper cups and plastic bags.
More than 20 sites were involved in the massive clean-up that occurred simultaneously along the shores of the Anacostia River and tributaries in nearby Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
In Ward 8, Jackie Ward, who works for Council member Marion Barry's office, led the effort for Oxon Run Park in Southeast.
"The cleanup went fabulously well," Ward, 50, said. "I had three bus loads of kids from George Washington University and we took out a refrigerator and pieces of a car."
Ward said the event was particularly important for her Southeast community because it taught its young people to become stewards of their environment.
"We have to be responsible for our own communities," Ward said.
"Like some of the elders say, 'if we don't take care of something, they have the right to come in and take it'."