OHIO VALLEY — It may be five months away, but the date has been set and volunteers are being sought for the 2016 Ohio River Sweep.
Organized by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) since 1989, this year’s event has been set for June 18. River Sweep encompasses the entire length of the river from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill., as well as its tributaries, and enlists volunteers to remove trash and debris from its banks.
Locally, Point Pleasant has participated in the event for many years, the last three being spearheaded by the Point Pleasant River Museum. Jack Fowler, river museum director, said they will again participate and volunteers are needed. Scouts, students needing school community service hours, 4-H clubs and individuals are all encouraged to participate.
Fowler said there are usually between 25 to 35 people who help with the local sweep. Although he said the groups helping usually vary, there are a number of known “river” families who always show up.
“The event is pretty effective,” Fowler stated. “We had high water the last two years, though, that kept us from having it on the announced date. When you have to reschedule, it’s not as effective.”
Fowler said volunteers are given a free T-shirt, and gloves and trash bags are provided. The group begins at “The Point” in Point Pleasant Battle Monument State Park. If enough volunteers come out, half travel the bank of the Ohio River, and half travel the bank of the Kanawha River. If the volunteer count is lower, a decision must be made as to which river will be cleaned.
He added they try to clean the Ohio Riverbank from the park to where Crooked Creek comes in, below where the former Malleable Iron plant was located. On the Kanawha Riverbank, the group travels to Lock 11.
Fowler said while the volunteers are a vital part of River Sweep, it could not be accomplished locally without the assistance of AEP and Amherst Madison, which provides boats and help from the water. The volunteers collect the debris (mostly old rubber tires, bags, bottles and trash, according to Fowler), bag it, then leave the filled bags along the shoreline. The boats later travel to the areas to collect the full bags. They also transport people to shoreline areas that are not easily accessed on land.
According to ORSANCO, River Sweep is the largest environmental event of its kind, with tons of trash and debris being removed each year in the six states bordering the river.
People wanting to volunteer can visit the website at www.OhioRiverSweep.org for more details, or contact the river museum at 304-674-0144.
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.