PIQUA — Volunteers will be heading out once again this summer to care for the Great Miami River by collecting debris from a 16-mile stretch of the river.
On Saturday, July 16, members of and volunteers for Protecting Our Water Ways (POWW) will be taking part in the group’s 13th annual Clean Sweep of the Great Miami River, clearing trash from the river between south Sidney and south Piqua.
Jeff Lange, founder and executive director POWW, explained that they utilize 120-plus volunteers in 45-plus canoes, a handful of pick-up trucks, a crane, a dump truck, trailers, and a skidsteer.
“We break out into four teams,” Lange said. “Each team is responsible for approximately 4 miles of the river.”
The A teams starts at Roadside Park, off of County Road 25-A just south of Sidney. The B team starts under Interstate-75 bridge over the river off of Miami River Road. The C team starts at Piqua-Lockington Road and the river. Lastly, the D teams starts at the low dam on river just southeast of Roadside Park off of State Route 66 in north Piqua.
The volunteers ride in the canoes, picking trash out of the river and collecting it in their canoes. When their canoes become too full of trash for the volunteers to ride in them anymore, they get out and walk alongside the canoes in the water as they continue to collect trash.
“They pick up any item of debris they find on the banks,” Lange said.
For big items, volunteers walk alongside the river and load those items — such as tires or kitchen sinks — into the trucks that more volunteers drive along the river.
“They will take unusually large items that the canoe teams might find,” Lange said.
They are not able to recycle each individual aluminum can that they find, particularly because much of the cans and bottles are full of dirt, but they do recycle tires and other large items.
At the bridge on Vandemark Road in Sidney, POWW volunteers utilize a crane to help the teams unload the trash from their canoes like a pit stop.
“It’s a very well-oiled machine,” Lange said about the entire process.
Last year was the first year that POWW was not able to utilize canoes for the Clean Sweep of the Great Miami River due to the river being flooded, but they were still able to collect 4,600 pounds of trash and 46 tires. Overall, POWW has collected 148,500 pounds of trash — or 70 tons. They have also picked up around 1,400 tires over the past 12 years. Volunteers have also given up 8,000 hours to participate in the cleaning up the river.
On the day of the event, teams will show up at 8 a.m. and will head out in their canoes at around 8:30 a.m. At around noon, they are served a free lunch and they give out “Most Unusual Find” awards to each of the teams.
The teams are currently full, but if there is anyone who was interested in walking alongside the river or in acting as a fill-in for any of the team members not able to it that day, they can go to www.protectingourwaterways.org. Those outside of the Piqua area can go to www.cleansweepofthegreatmiamiriver.org to go to an interactive map to find other teams near them to to possibly help clean up another section of the river.
Cargill is the main sponsor for the annual Clean Sweep of the Great Miami River.
The event’s 10 major sponsors include Atlantis Sportswear, Miami Conservancy District, POWW, Amrican Rivers, Bonbright Distributors, Sweetwater Brewery, Heidelberg Distribution Company, the city of Sidney, Butler Stormwater Consortium, and Cox Media.
“We couldn’t do it without their help,” Lange said.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336