Letters to the Editor
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Potomac Cleanup Yields 162 Tons of Trash
Dear Bay Weekly:
In a remarkable story of cooperation, more than 3,500 volunteers associated with 200 regional associations and nonprofits worked side-by-side this past weekend toward a shared vision of a trash-free Potomac within 10 years. On April 3 at the Alice Ferguson Foundations 16th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, 158 sites in all four watershed states and the District of Columbia hosted elected officials and community members as they removed bottles, tires, household appliances and car parts from our river.
Everyone enjoys the benefits of trash-free spaces, and there is no single demographic most likely to litter. Appropriately, people from all walks of life stepped out and stepped up last weekend, pulling an estimated 162 tons of trash off the shoreline. The diversity of organizations ranged from the Prince Georges County Correctional Facility to the Cobb Island Yacht Club to a Cub Scout troop birthday party. U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer rolled up his sleeves and returned for his sixth year participating in the event. His voice along with those of Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich and U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen brought attention to this effort.
Over the course of a day, each of us will produce about four to five pounds of trash, amounting to one ton of trash annually, and research tells us that 18 percent of all littered items end up in our waterways as pollution. Trash endangers the lives of fish and other animals, provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and decrease property values and tourism. While trash is not the most dangerous pollutant in the Potomac River, it is visible evidence that human behavior needs to change. But research also shows that cleaning up litter helps to prevent further littering.
Our trash problem is not just aesthetic, but economic. The annual cost of roadside litter control nationwide is $115 million. In West Virginia, more than $1 million is spent annually to remove litter from highways. The Maryland and Virginia Departments of Transportation spend about $7.5 and $6 million respectively each year. On the positive side, our Saturday cleanup effort saved our local governments more than $250,000, based on salary figures for regional sanitation workers and the more than 10,000 volunteers hours we logged in.
Having grown from 12 volunteer participants at two cleanup sites in 1988 to 3,500 volunteers at 158 sites last week, the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup has become a monumental effort and a model for civic action, providing a catalyst for changing behaviors and engaging in dialogue. We extend a heartfelt thanks to the many volunteers, partners, sponsors and officials who continue to demonstrate their commitment to the Potomac and its health. While the task at hand is daunting, we want to celebrate our collective success. If so few were able to make such a remarkable difference in three hours, we might indeed witness a trash-free Potomac and be out of the litter business within 10 years.
Tracy Bowen: Executive Director, Alice Ferguson Foundation, Accokeek
Read Local, Shop Local
Dear Bay Weekly:
I cannot tell you how much I enjoy your publication! I work at Anne Arundel Medical Center and appreciate the copies left so I can read during lunch every week.
I do want to ask a favor. I need a fireplace insert and would like to use a local business. Any suggestions?
Danelle Folts, Annapolis
Editors note: Home Comfort Central in Prince Frederick is a local business and advertiser consistently praised by Bay Weekly readers. Learn more about them in Bay Weekly Business Biographies: Vol. XII, No. 15: April 8.