River Cleanups Matter!
I sometimes get asked why we do river cleanups. What difference does it make? If stormwater pollution and bacteria are our main water quality problems, then why bother picking up trash – it won’t improve water quality, right?
Well, river cleanups do make a difference, and that difference is not just aesthetic. Wildlife can easily become entangled in fishing line, plastic bags, balloons and similar items. Fish and birds mistake bits of styrofoam, cigarette butts, plastic cigar tips and lead fishing weights as food.
Furthermore, plastic pollution is an emerging issue of concern in the Great Lakes, for a number of reasons. Alliance for the Great Lakes reports that plastic makes up 77-90% of debris collected during their beach cleanup events. Tiny pieces of plastic can be ingested by fish and other aquatic organisms, potentially leading to malnutrition or harming their digestive systems. As plastics break down, they can leach harmful chemicals into the water; or, they organic pollutants can become attached to the plastics and concentrate in fish tissue.
So where does all this plastic and other trash come from? Our streams and rivers, which receive litter washed off the streets and through the storm sewer system, or that has otherwise been carelessly discarded. In fact, river cleanups are the last line of defense before the trash makes its way into Lake Erie. Once in the lake, there is very little chance of the trash ever being recovered.
So join Cuyahoga SWCD and our partners at a River Cleanup this year and help save the critters that call our rivers and Lake Erie home.
Upcoming River Cleanups:
Blog Author: Jared Bartley, Rocky River Watershed Coordinator