Greenfield, MA— The 410+ mile long Connecticut River and nearby rivers and streams are cleaner thanks to thousands of hard working volunteers. On Friday & Saturday, September 23 & 24, volunteers from businesses, faith communities, watershed groups, schools, community and youth organizations grabbed trash bags and work gloves for the 20th annual Source to Sea Cleanup. Organized by the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRC), the Source to Sea Cleanup is a two-day collaborative trash clean-up event in all four states of the Connecticut River basin (NH, VT, MA, CT).
The good news is that many clean-up groups are reporting that their sites are staying cleaner and some groups are searching for new locations to clean. Martha Thoms of the Meriden Motor Boat Club in Portland, CT has joined the Source to Sea Cleanup for many years. “We all agree that the river banks are much cleaner than the past four years that we have been a part of this event,” notes Thoms. “Source to Sea Cleanup volunteers have worked hard to combat litter and illegally dumped trash,” says Alicea Charamut, CRC’s Cleanup Coordinator. “Their hard work and dedication is inspiring and makes a real difference for our rivers. But our work isn’t done until we put ourselves out of the river cleanup business.”
Final trash totals are still being tallied, but it’s estimated that 2,500-2,700 volunteers participated in this year’s event, including at least 30 corporate and business employee service groups. Volunteers cleaned rivers from Pittsburg, NH near the Canadian border all the way to the mouth of the Connecticut River in Old Lyme, CT. On average, 40-50 tons of trash is removed from in and near our rivers every year.
In addition to the tons of trash removed this year by volunteers, CRC uses the Source to Sea Cleanup as an opportunity to clean up large trash dump sites and remove large debris items from our rivers.
- In East Burke, VT, Cleanup sponsor Milone & MacBroom worked with the Burke Conservation Commission and Northwoods Stewardship Center to remove metal and automotive debris near the East Burke Dam on the Passumpsic River. CRC is working with the town and partners on plans to remove this dam.
- In Lyme, NH, Cleanup sponsor King Arthur Flour used a boat donated by Fairlee Marine to clean up old metal and household debris, including bed springs, kitchen stove and furniture from the Connecticut River.
- In Guilford, VT, an abandoned, flood-damaged home left over from Tropical Storm Irene was cleaned up from the banks of the Green River.
- In Greenfield, MA, Cleanup sponsor PV Squared Solar removed large debris from the Green River including an air conditioning unit and a full 5-foot gas canister – likely Tropical Storm Irene debris as well.
- In Hatfield, MA, multiple couches were removed from the banks of the Mill River near the confluence with the Connecticut River.
- In Hadley, MA, six large barrels – potentially hazardous materials – were reported to MA Department of Environmental Protection for investigation and proper disposal.
- In Middletown, CT, five children’s bicycles were pulled from the Coginchaug River. The bicycles will be delivered to Bikes for Kids in Essex for repair and delivery to children in need.
CRC’s goal is to keep trash and tires from getting in your rivers in the first place. In addition to coordinating volunteers to pick up trash, CRC also collects data from Cleanup groups about the amount and types of trash they find. This data supports year-round advocacy efforts and informs policies and legislation that will keep waste out of our rivers. CRC is working with river states on establishing extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems that hold producers responsible for free and easy disposal of items like paint, tires, mattresses, electronics, batteries and more. This will reduce the incentive for illegal dumping. CRC also supports phasing out and finding replacements for Styrofoam products—especially Styrofoam dock supports, in favor of enclosed foam or non-foam dock materials—as well as reducing the use of and increasing the recycling of plastic bottles and plastic bags.
“The biggest change happens when every single one of us make small changes in our daily lives to reduce waste,” says Charamut. She suggests carrying a re-usable water bottle instead of purchasing bottled water, using re-usable shopping bags instead of disposable plastic bags, or bringing a re-usable travel mug when getting your morning cup of coffee as easy ways to reduce waste. Feeling ambitious? You can follow the lead of other towns in the region and talk to your local officials about banning plastic bottles, plastic bags or Styrofoam take-out containers in your town.
“We all have a responsibility to solve this problem—individuals, manufacturers, businesses, and government,” says Andrew Fisk, CRC Executive Director. “Financial support from our Lead Sponsors – NRG Energy’s Middletown Generating Station, Pratt & Whitney, TransCanada, and Whistler – enables us to continue growing the Source to Sea Cleanup so that it has an impact beyond the two days of clean up.”
The Connecticut River Watershed Council works to protect the watershed from source to sea. As stewards of this heritage, we celebrate our four-state treasure and collaborate, educate, organize, restore and intervene to preserve its health for generations to come. Our work informs our vision of economic and ecological abundance. To learn more about CRC, or to make a contribution to help protect the Connecticut River, visit ctriver.org or call 413-772-2020, ext. 201.