Rain keeps River Sweep turnout low

PARKERSBURG – Early morning rain and fog as well as high water levels dampened turnout Saturday for this year’s Ohio River Sweep.

The River Sweep is an annual six-state event that extends the entire length of the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Cairo, Ill. The event is organized by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) each year.

John Reed, director of the Wood County Solid Waste Authority, helped organize local cleanups at Point Park, Corning Park, Williamstown Boat Ramp and Civitan Park in Belpre. Reed said though there wasn’t an exact count immediately available Saturday morning, he believed the event drew about half the number of volunteers it has in years past.

“I know it’s definitely going to be less than 100,” he said. “In past years we’ve had 120-150 volunteers. This year we may be lucky to have 65.”

Numerous thunderstorms Friday afternoon and overnight, combined with a misty morning, made already flooded riverbanks even muddier and likely kept volunteers at home Saturday morning, Reed said. Fog also covered many riverbanks when the sweep began at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s very slow turnout this year,” Reed said. “This is the slowest turnout I’ve seen in the six years I’ve been involved.”

The two main local sponsors were DuPont and Hino Motors. Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops 129 along with workers from DuPont Washington Works helped with the cleanup.

“The Ohio River is such an important part of recreation and commerce in our community,” said Karl Boelter, plant manager for DuPont Washington Works. “Our employees have adopted part of Route 892 for trash pick and we are very proud to be a sponsor of the River Sweep, too. These programs are making an impact in the quality of life for everyone and we’re very pleased to be part of it.”

Reed said Waste Management donated use of trash trucks and crews for the cleanup in Williamstown, while the City of Parkersburg did the same at Corning Park. Tim Graham Excavating of Parkersburg donated the time and manpower to pick up larger trash items, he said.

Last year Reed said crews found an air conditioning unit along the riverbank, and volunteers often find 55-gallon drums which have washed away from docks. Old tires also are often discarded along the riverbanks, though with the high water this year Reed said crews might not be finding as much.

Volunteers were provided with lunches around noon Saturday at the end of the sweep. Reed said extra food would be donated to the Latrobe Street Mission.

“I think they’ll be getting a lot of sandwiches this year,” he said.