Trash in streams is more than just an eyesore – it can pollute our water supplies, damage fish and wildlife habitat, and spoil outdoor recreation. A stream clean-up can combat water pollution and bring your community together for clean water.
How can trash cause so much trouble for your community? As plastic breaks down, Bisphenol A (BPA) and other chemicals can leach into streams and rivers, which is where most Americans get their drinking water. Plastics and other litter can collect toxic chemicals and bacteria pollutants and distribute them throughout the waterway. Large trash items can cause stream erosion that further degrades water quality and can even contaminate the stream bed.
Trash also has physical impacts on your community. Glass and metal can cut anglers, kids, and dogs playing in the stream. Trash in the water can lead to fish kills due to decreased oxygen levels. As trash begins to break up, fish and other animals can mistake it for food, causing intestinal blockages, toxicity, and eventually death.
Tips To Get Started
- Community Check: Check with your city about any formal stream clean-up/adoption programs locally that may have specific requirements.
- Sunny Days: Schedule clean-ups during the day. Plan a rain date.
- Site Visit: Check out the stream site a day or two before the clean-up to ensure conditions are safe.
- Gear Up: Ensure every participant has gloves or some other form of hand protection. Bright safety vests can help you keep track of volunteers and ensure other people can see them too.
- Healthy Hydration: Drink plenty of fluids and make sure no volunteers try to drink from the stream!
- Use the Buddy System: Work in groups of two or more.
- Heath Hazards: If you find hazardous materials or worry that it is unsafe to collect an item, contact your city waste management agency.
- Recycle: Recycle as much of the trash you collect as possible.
- ICE: Ensure you have "in case of emergency" (ICE) contacts for each volunteer.
Stream clean-ups offer a great starting point for local partnerships. Companies in your community may encourage their employees to volunteer for local projects. Look to local stores not only for cash donations to support your efforts but also material donations (gloves, bags, safety vests) and maybe even employee volunteers.