Members from AU’s EcoSense spent their Saturday picking up trash for the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, an annual event that has removed three million tons of trash since 1954, according to an event press release.
The cleanup, hosted by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, took place along the Potomac River throughout D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The Potomac River provides 80 percent of the D.C. area’s drinking water. Last year, 291 tons of trash was removed during the annual cleanup, according to the press release.
This year’s cleanup was the 22nd annual effort to reduce litter in the Potomac River. The event was organized by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, a non-profit with the mission to “provide experiences that encourage connections between people, the natural environment, farming and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed,” according to the Foundation’s Web site.
Brian Perry, a spokesperson for the Foundation, said cleanup of the Potomac River took place at 250 different locations on Saturday. There are many sites where cleanups are going on all year, but trash is picked up simultaneously at all of the sites only once a year.
The trash has been counted from approximately 21 percent of Saturday’s locations. Preliminary reporting of these cleanup sites indicate that more than 60,000 plastic beverage containers and a total of almost 60 tons of trash were removed, as well as 14,033 plastic bags and 10,508 cigarette butts. Results for the other 79 percent of the sites are still being calculated, Perry said.
“It was great — there were school kids; there were families out there; there were workers from the Alice Ferguson Foundation,” Perry said. “There’s actually somebody who flew all the way from England just to be here yesterday.”
Jennifer Jones, sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and President of EcoSense at AU, said five AU students from EcoSense went to the cleanup at Glover-Archbold Park. Jones said she found some interesting items during the cleanup.
“The most interesting thing we found was a cover for the top of a city light post,” she said. “We also found a mattress and a shopping cart. There were tons of cans, bottles and bags. Some of the trash was 15 years old and half-buried.”
Perry said that someone found a toilet during the cleanup.
“We had a little 6-year-old kid who found a full toilet,” he said. “When he found the toilet he yelled, ‘Mommy, mommy, look — I found a potty!’”
Jones was among about 75 other volunteers at the park, she said. Students from Georgetown University and George Washington University were there too, as well as volunteers from the neighborhood community.
Stephen Bronskill, a freshman in the School of Pubic Affairs, is community service director for EcoSense and College Democrats and one of the founders of AU’s new Community Service Coalition. EcoSense was the primary organizer for AU students’ participation, but the AU Community Service Coalition also organized AU student attendance, Bronskill said.
Nine major campus organizations have joined the Coalition since its inception since February, including the Class of 2013, AU Students for Better Education, the AU Community Service Center, College Democrats, Eagles for D.C., EcoSense, School of Public Affairs Leadership, the SPA Council and the Student Honors Board. Student Government, College Republicans, Honors 101 and the Residence Hall Association will join the organization in the coming weeks, Bronskill said.
Bronskill said he enjoyed taking part in the cleanup on Saturday because students from a number of AU campus organizations worked together.
“The event, itself, was a blast and showed that AU is at its best when it serves others,” he said. “After making new friends, spending a day outside and helping out in the community, I can’t wait for future community service events.”
Corrections: The AU Community Service Coalition is in the process of discussing with Student Government, College Republicans, Honors 101 and the Residence Hall Association among other organizations about joining the coalition. No final decisions have been made yet. All AU organizations are welcome to join the coalition. Additionally, the cleanup began in 1989.