Ohio River Sweep helps clean up region

PARKERSBURG – More than 100 bags of trash were recovered by volunteers from along the Ohio River at Wood County on Saturday during the 2013 Ohio River Sweep.

“Every year we have individuals, families and groups volunteer to help out,” said Richa Bradford, secretary of the Wood County Solid Waste Authority.

One of the companies that had volunteers participate in the area effort was Hino Motors Manufacturing of Williamstown, which had 10 employees help at the Williamstown site at the Williamstown Boat Ramp.

“(Participating in the River Sweep) goes along with Hino’s commitment to the environment,” said Stephen Stalnaker, Hino general manager. “We have been doing a lot of projects in and around our plant and the community to celebrate June as World Environmental Month.

“Participating in this is a good way for us to get out in the community,” he added. “The community gives a lot to us and this is one way we can give back.”

John Reed, director of the Wood County SWA, said that while he is pleased for the 141 volunteers at the sites in Williamstown, at Parkersburg’s Point Park and on Blennerhassett Island, he is disappointed more couldn’t be done.

“My biggest disappointment is the water being up,” Reed said, regarding conditions left by recent heavy rains in the area. “It crested Friday night, but won’t recede enough to clean the river banks until Monday and that is where the large items are hidden under the water.”

The annual event typically also includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge bringing its boat to collect trash not accessible from land, but the high water prevented that this year, Bradford said.

“It is really unfortunate because there is so much trash down there we can’t get to,” she added.

In years past volunteers collected large items from the banks of the area’s rivers including chairs, a computer, a rocking horse and tires.

“Unfortunately, because of the high water from last week’s rain, we weren’t able to get to those items, but we will see them again when the waters recede,” Reed said. “It goes to show you can’t predict mother nature.”

The annual cleanup involves more than 3,000 miles of Ohio River shoreline from Pennsylvania to Illinois. The River Sweep started in 1989 and is the longest-running river cleanup effort in the country.

This year’s event in Williamstown saw 43 volunteers collect 21 bags of trash while Point Park had 33 volunteers pick up 27 bags of trash and Blennerhassett Island had 54 bags collected.

The event is sponsored by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission and West Virginia Make It Shine Program, along with sponsors from all participating states. Several sites along the Ohio River in Wood and Washington counties participated.

Last year nearly 21,000 volunteers participated, collecting thousands of tons of trash.