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It’s That Time of Year

Annual Potomac River cleanup set for April 3.

This year, they’re targeting the blue barrels. The 16th annual Potomac River Cleanup is set for April 3, and one of this year organizers want to get rid of the blue, plastic barrels sometimes found around the Potomac River.

“We’re making a big effort to find the blue barrels,” said Bryan Seipp who is coordinating the cleanup effort at several of the cleanup sites. “We want to try to find markings and document them.”

Seipp suspects that the barrels may be coming from only a few sources. He hopes that by noting their markings, they will be able to track down the source. ‘So that we can start a dialogue with those folks.”

Seipp is with the Potomac Conservancy, which is coordinating many of the cleanup efforts in the Washington, DC area. The overall cleanup is being administered by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, which started the cleanup 16 years ago. “It originated as a very small cleanup,” said Wende Pearson, of the Foundation. “It’s gone from two sites to 152.”

After last year’s wet weather and Hurricane Isabel, a substantial amount of trash has been washed into the River, Pearson said. “There is a higher volume of trash this year,” she said.

Last year, the Foundation documented the removal of 200,000 pounds of trash, Pearson said. Groups frequently pull tires out of the river and more unusual items like bathtubs, appliances and a safe; one group found half a car. “You name it, and people have found it,” Seipp said.

But for all of the large items, Seipp is more interested in the smaller things, like plastic soda bottles. Once the bottles are filled with mud and river water, they are no longer viable for recycling. “Those are easily recycled, otherwise,” Seipp said.

He hopes that by pulling such bottles out of the river, volunteers will become more aware of how they handle their own trash.

“It really helps the volunteers learn about their habitat,” Seipp said. “Carelessly placed garbage can easily end up in the river.”

Residents may pre-register, which can help organizers to allocate the volunteers efficiently, but they don’t need to. “They can just show up if they decide that day,” Seipp said.