Help Clean Up the River

Help Clean Up the River

Potomac Watershed Cleanup Day on April 6.

Potomac's newly adopted Master Plan protects the Potomac River from high-density development. It is up to all citizens to keep the river clean.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation is spearheading the 14th annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup — a cooperative effort with federal, state, county and city governments, environmental and civic organizations, school groups, businesses and concerned citizens — on Saturday, April 6, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

"Citizen involvement is one of the most important things of this event. It gets a lot of trash out of the river, but it is also for people to realize the problem," said Matt Berres, of the Potomac Conservancy, who has coordinated site cleanups at Riley's Lock, Swain's Lock and Lock 8.

"A lot of trash we see is washed in from storm water drains — coffee cups, plastic bottles mostly come from people who drop them on the side of the road. People who participate can say, 'I can be a lot more conscientious.'"

SINCE THE FIRST cleanup day, volunteers have removed more than 1.2 million pounds of trash from the Potomac River and over 100 of its tributaries.

"Every year is interesting, that's for sure," said Berres. "Last year, for example, we pulled out a plethora of blue 50 gallon plastic drums, apparently which had washed down river. We traced one to a sugar factory … it smelled like Koolaid and was probably used for a flotation device."

The Potomac Conservancy has been involved for the past four years.

The cleanup is funded in part by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the National Park Service, a major partner in the cleanup with 40 sites throughout the watershed.

Part of the message of the cleanup program is to promote awareness of how trash moves from neighborhoods to nature, from streets to storm drains to the area's waterways.

"The Potomac belongs to everyone. It's everyone's responsibility to keep it clean and safe," said Tracy Bowen, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation.