Thousands of Brave Volunteers, including Boy Scouts, Clean Trash from Potomac Watershed

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARYLAND, VIRGINIA, WEST VIRGINIA, PENNSYLVANIA – Committed citizens by the thousands braved severe weather and gave the Watershed a Spring cleaning Saturday during the 17th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. On the eve of this year’s event, Cleanup organizers at the Alice Ferguson Foundation brokered the first-ever Potomac Trash Treaty among key political leaders in the watershed. The Potomac Trash Treaty commits officials to achieving a trash-free Potomac by 2013.

With only 45% of the registered cleanup sites reporting trash collection data on Saturday, 70 tons of trash were removed by more than 2,600 volunteers at 108 of the 240 registered sites throughout the Potomac Watershed – all in less than three hours.

“The volunteers who come out to the Cleanup every year are people who want to make a positive contribution to their communities and we are all grateful for their effort,” said U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer (D–MD). “That’s why I volunteer for and support the Cleanup and the Potomac Trash Treaty, because sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and pick up some trash,” continued Rep. Hoyer, who spent a drenched morning participating at the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s site in Accokeek, MD.

“These partners and volunteers are amazing,” said Tracy Bowen, Executive Director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. “Based on the dramatic weather forecasts preceding Cleanup day, we did not expect this turnout or the enthusiasm we found from the larger Potomac community. These people really came through for the river!”

Cleanup partners and volunteers proved undaunted by the impending bad weather. Of the 50 National Park Service cleanup sites only two canceled – due to high water levels. Enthused volunteers from John Hanson French Immersion and Montessori School in Prince George’s County, MD reported “We cannot believe the amount of trash we found. We are not going to quit,” Nanjemoy Community volunteers in Charles County, MD stayed out through the pouring rain because they “just had to finish.”

The oldest participant was from Fairfax County, a 90-year old member of the Greenspring Nature Trail Club. Once again, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts participated in 25% of all cleanup sites. U.S. military involvement hit an all-time-high with over 400 participating at five sites, including over 280 at Indian Head Naval Warfare Center in Charles County, MD. Businesses were out in full force, such as Winchester Homes of Rockville, Maryland who had over 100 employees involved. Jimmy Buffet Fans in the “Parrothead Club” scoured Daingerfield Island in Alexandria, VA. Members of the Bass Federation of Cumberland, MD traveled to Anacostia National Park to pitch in.

Kendl P. Philbrick, Governor Ehrlich’s Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, who participated as a volunteer said, “The great thing about the Cleanup is that it happens at sites up and down the Potomac watershed, not just at one location, and positively impacts the Chesapeake Bay, which we’re working very hard to clean up.” Philbrick continued, “The volunteers do very important work cleaning up trash that would otherwise end up in the river and impact submerged underwater plants and injure birds and wildlife.”

As in past years, Cleanup volunteers found many interesting trash items. Fletchers Boat House in Washington DC were recipients of high water deposits of six industrial barrels, a refrigerator, car battery, lawn chair, rusted metal street sign. South Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County found an empty cash register drawer. Eight Day Design employees in Arlington, VA found a $20 bill.
Student volunteers in Whitehaven Park in Washington, DC found ten hubcaps, twelve golfballs, six tennis balls and fifteen bags of trash.

Other interesting items found were: Civil War sword; bedroom dresser filled with clothes; Harley-Davidson motorcycle seat; 50 dinara in Bosnian currency; 200-gallon plastic tank; Kelvinator refrigerator/freezer; police cruiser grille; $20 bill; and an airplane tire.

Many of the registered cleanup sites elected to postpone their cleanup efforts until a later date. Bill Gardener Mayor of the City of Hyattsville, arrived at his Sligo Creek cleanup site in Prince George’s County, and their team of volunteers including a group of students from American University agreed to return the next day on Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Mayor Gardener said, “I will be back out again tomorrow.”

Volunteers are urged to check the Potomac Cleanup website at www.potomaccleanup.org or call (301) 292-5665 to find an upcoming cleanup.

This year’s major Cleanup sponsor is Koch Industries, Inc. Significant additional financial support is provided by the following: Chesapeake Bay Trust; Beveridge & Diamond, PC; Earth Data International; Exxon Mobil Corporation; D.C. United Major League Soccer Team; L.L. Bean, Inc.; and Somerset Development. A full list of sponsors is online at www.PotomacCleanup.org. Since 1989, over 2 million pounds of trash have been hauled from the watershed by over 30,000 volunteers during the annual Cleanup.

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