By Kelci Schexnayder, Stewardship Intern
Hello from AWS! Last week we had a group of elementary school girls come out with us to the river, take a ride on our pontoon boat, and do some activities to learn about the wide variety of sources of pollution. A fellow intern told me about one gal who drew a beautiful solution to the litter problem, a trash can smack dab in the middle of the river for people to use instead of tossing their litter into the waters. What she didn’t know is that the AWS already has their own similar version of this! Our "trash trap" was installed in early 2009 and replaced with an updated version just last summer.
This trash was intercepted by our trash trap during a rain event at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast Washington, DC. AWS has found that bottles make up 45% of the trash volume.
Spanning the width of Nash Run, one of the most trashed streams in the watershed, the trap is made up of long metal rods that catch litter, large and small. After last week’s storms the stream flowed, and the trash trap really felt it. Filled to the brim with sand, soil, twigs, branches, and tons of trash, the trap was in desperate need of cleaning, so that it can do its job properly again and again. Masaya, the very designer of the trash trap, worked all morning to clear the trap of trash and get the sediment to fall through, and in the afternoon 3 of us joined him and worked for another 3.5 hours. Dirty and tired, we left the trap at the end of the day, and it STILL had a few hundred pounds of sediment and trash in it to be cleared.
Spanning the width of Nash Run, one of the most trashed streams in the watershed, the trap is made up of long metal rods that catch litter, large and small.
The trap is obviously doing a great job of limiting Nash Run’s impact on the amount of trash in the Anacostia, but it does take a considerable amount of effort, and that’s just one stream in an entire watershed! It mollifies the problem, but it certainly does not solve it. The cure for our sick river is to drastically reduce the amount of trash that even has the chance to grace our trash trap with its presence. So how do we do this?
We see signs that warn us of the penalties attached to littering, usually a hefty fine. But the laws are loosely enforced, so the threat is an empty one. Enforcement is a key factor, and we would love to hear ideas on how this problem can rise in the priorities of our nation. How do you enforce a law that only takes second to break? And more importantly how do we get the littering to stop?!
We need to get those that have the mentality that the streets are their trashcans and the bay is their landfill to come and see our trap and spend a few hours cleaning it. Maybe that should be the penalty for littering -- a few quality hours with our trash trap. Who knows, maybe they’ll find something that once belonged to them.
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