PORTSMOUTH, Virginia – Sunglasses. Check! Bug spray. Check! Bottled water. Check! Trash bags. Check! Gloves. Check!
This isn’t a list for camping, but items the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided to more than 70 volunteers participating in the 26th annual Clean the Bay Day.
Volunteers gave the shoreline of the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area here a big spring cleaning the morning of June 7. As the sun peeked through the clouds, volunteers lined up to sign in and grab a bite to eat before starting the three-hour shore clean-up effort.
The community involvement was the largest this year, with groups joining Corps forces from 10 cities in Hampton Roads, four high schools, boy and girl scout troops, area military and college students to name a few.
"Personally, the best part was serving with the large number of youth who joined us. The bulk of the volunteers were under twenty-one," said Col. Paul Olsen, district commander and third-year volunteer.
The Norfolk District collected 68 bags of trash: 1,410 pounds of bagged trash and approximately 590 pounds of bulk non-bagged items. The clean-up contributed to the day’s final numbers: the Chesapeake Bay Foundation estimated 6,000 volunteers at nearly 250 sites across the state removed approximately 110,000 pounds of litter and debris along 460 miles of shoreline.
The most unusual items included a sledge hammer, a dog carcass, a kayak paddle, a dead turtle, a respirator, an arrow and one big red ball. The majority of debris were cigarette butts, plastic bottles and Styrofoam from buoys. Other unique items found in rivers and streams and reported to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation included a merry-go-round, rice cooker, laptop, dentures, a full bottle of wine, hair extensions, and a headless statue of St. Francis.
"I think the more we clean up, the more people will understand that nature is beautiful without trash,” said Ella Skeeter-Webster, a program analyst and the Norfolk District event organizer this year. “It is very exciting to see our young people choose to come out on a beautiful Saturday morning and perform community service by contributing to the betterment of our environment. The character demonstrated by their actions reassures my hope for the future."
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation coordinates the event in partnership with local governments and corporate sponsors, and is held the first Saturday in June each year. The goal is for volunteers to remove as much litter and debris from Virginia creeks, streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. The event draws thousands of individual volunteers, families, clubs, businesses, non-profits, conservation groups, and military personnel to cleanup shorelines across the Commonwealth, from Hampton Roads to Northern Virginia, the Eastern Shore to the Shenandoah Valley.
The Norfolk team was one of several hundred in Virginia that harnessed the collective efforts of volunteers to achieve big results. Last year, about 6,500 volunteers removed 135,000 pounds of debris from more than 200 sites encompassing 500 miles of streams and shoreline.
Volunteers all over Virginia, from Hampton Roads to Northern Virginia, from the Eastern Shore to the Shenandoah Valley, work by land and boat to give the Bay a massive spring cleaning every year. Elected officials, their staffs, enlisted men and women, scout groups, churches, small businesses, large corporations and thousands of individuals and families turned out for this year's Clean the Bay Day.
“The Bay and its waterways work for us every single day, boosting our economy and quality of life,” said Tanner Council, the CBF Clean the Bay Day coordinator.
“Today we’re tackling the visible pollution; what’s even more challenging is addressing the pollution that’s not so visible,” Council said. “If we don’t continue to make progress reducing the nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution targeted by Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, the state’s plan to restore the Bay and its rivers, we will continue to have dirty waters, human health hazards, and an economy that cannot reap the rewards of a healthy Bay.”
Since 1989, Clean the Bay Day has engaged approximately 128,000 volunteers who have removed more than 6 million pounds of debris from nearly 6,000 miles of shoreline. This year, organizers have noted a decrease in the overall quantity of litter, indicating that these sites are seeing sustained improvement.
Interesting facts from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
You can continue to save the Bay throughout the year by becoming a better Bay steward at home. Here are a few ideas:
- Speak out! Let your voice be heard regarding important legislation affecting our Chesapeake Bay and rivers. Write or call your senators and congressional representative, urging them to vote in an environmentally responsible way.
- Use natural cleaners—use natural, non-toxic, phosphate-free cleaners like baking soda or borax with hot water for most household cleaning tasks. You'll be reducing toxic chemicals in wastewater while saving money.
- Reduce fertilizer use—always get a soil test first to be sure what your lawn requires; use fertilizer sparingly, and only when necessary. Excessive fertilizers contribute to nitrogen and phosphorous overload in rivers and the Bay, which can lead to low oxygen levels and dead zones.
- Remember "Only rain in storm drains"—allow only rain to go down the storm drain and use a broom not a hose or power blower, to clean debris from decks, patios and driveways. You'll save water, reduce emissions, and curb storm water runoff.
- Practice Bay-friendly car care—take your vehicle to a commercial car wash or wash your car on an unpaved surface with phosphate-free soap so water soaks into the ground, not into the storm drain.
- Reduce rainwater runoff—direct rainwater away from paved surfaces; direct gutter downspouts onto lawn or flower beds, or into a rain barrel.
Flickr Photos of Norfolk District Clean the bay Day event June 7, 2014:
Animoto Video (Produced by Pamela K Spaugy/Norfolk District)
Chesapeake Bay Foundation