Cleanup volunteers pulled tires and more from river

By BRIAN FERRY

bferry@timesobserver.com

A particular group of volunteers really jumps in to make a difference and gets a lot of tires out of its miles.

And the Allegheny River is a cleaner place because of it.

“The Allegheny River represents an amazing destination, both for tourists and for entrepreneurs who will continue to spring up to serve that demographic,” John Beard, one of the organizers of the Allegheny River Clean-Up, said. “I have no doubt that we will one day look back on the river cleanup and realize that the start of the growth of this new industry was hastened and aided by the nameless volunteers who literally jumped in and made a difference.”

The final tally from the 2013 clean-up is in. This year, volunteers pulled 93 tires from the river, bringing the five-year total to 1,035 – or 33 tires per mile.

Of course, it’s not only tires those volunteers oust from the water.

The 297 volunteers collectively gathered four-and-a-half tons of metal – 9,170 pounds – from the water and islands this year. That running total is 51,119 pounds – 25 tons – or more than three quarters of a ton for each of the 31 miles.

General trash measured 38 cubic yards, or more than 1,000 cubic feet. Over five years, the total is 273 cubic yards, or over 7,000 cubic feet. Per mile, it’s almost nine cubic yards.

Among the varied items recovered were a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure, a 14-foot wooden boat, some wooden pallets and one iron pallet, a model Kwik-Fill tanker truck, a hockey mask, a boomerang, a computer monitor, and a steel bath tub.

This year the clean-up involved fewer volunteers than ever before and, with the exception of metal, yielded the least annual amount of each category of materials.

The results are not indicative of a lack of effort or dedication by the participants.

“The biggest change I’ve seen is ownership,” Piper Lindell, one of the organizers of the event, said. “This is no longer just the river that runs through our town, its ‘our river’. Every person that comes out to help seems to leave with that sense of ownership.”

“These folks are working hard year after year and should be really proud of themselves for the positive impact they’re making,” Lindell said. “They spend a long day getting grubby out there… I mean, 51,000 pounds of metal?? Covering 200-plus miles of river and creek over five years?”

“Without a doubt, there is less trash in the river,” Beard said. “The dumps that accumulated for generations are being emptied by the cleanup.”

“Volunteers report finding much less trash,” he said. “The number of tires is decreasing.”

Most of the large items deposited in the river have been there for many years. Current technology is not showing up. “In five years, we have found only one microwave and one computer screen,” Beard said. “We’re making a difference. The only negative is the constant supply of new aluminum beverage cans each year and we find that most unfortunate.”

“We’re heartened by the fact that trash is down this year, but that said, we still pulled out over five tons of metal, tires, trash, etc. this year alone,” he said. “We have turned a major corner, but we have, in the words of Robert Frost, ‘miles to go before we sleep’.”