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Cleanup Sets Trash-Picking Record

Potomac gives up 376,933 pounds


     Giant tires, propane gas tanks and shopping carts bogged down with mud.

    Trash-picking volunteers found this trash and more in the littered waters of the Potomac River at the 31st annual Watershed Cleanup. The Alice Ferguson Foundation initiative sent out 9,745 volunteers between mid-March and late-May. They scooped 376,933 pounds of trash into garbage bags.

     This is 30,000 more pounds than last year’s total, according to program coordinator Samantha Battersey. In its 31 years of service, the Cleanup — a $100,000 operation each year — has collected more than seven million pounds of trash, she added.

     “This makes a huge difference,” Battersey said. “Yes, there’s trash every year, but in our results from year to year, you see a difference. There’s less straws, there’s less plastic bags.”

     Escaped plastic bags and trash flow to the Bay and the ocean, where it endangers fish, sea critters and dolphins. Plastic can even find its way into our diet. 

     Every piece of trash plucked from the waters saves a creature out there, said Randy McCauley, 60. The Prince George’s County resident has been picking trash along the river for more than 20 years and now considers himself a veteran of the fight.

      “The one thing I really don’t like is trash,” he said. “It bugs the heck out of me.”

     This year, McCauley traveled with a team of six to Motley Point, garbed in heavy clothing and armed with blue and yellow trash bags for the four-hour battle. It was a sunny, warm day, and the tide was low. McCauley’s team waded through briars, mud and marshes to snag 15 bags of trash, tires and 20 bins of recyclables.

     Afterward, he canceled his plans to go out. He was too tired but immensely relieved at the same time.

      “It’s a great feeling,” he said. “When you walk away, you can see your work and you can see what you have done and how pristine it is.”

     There is one thing both Battersey and McCauley agree on: they need more help.

     Battersey said the initiative has really expanded since 1989, when they had a very small operation, but every extra person is needed.

     “We are stewards of the Earth,” she said. “It is important we cherish it and keep it beautiful.”