MIAMI COUNTY — With the help and desire of the community wanting to make a city a better place, it can happen. For the past 11 years, the Great Miami River in Miami County has been kept clean of trash, thanks to the non-profit organization Protecting Our Water-Ways (POWW) and volunteers.
The 12th Annual POWW Clean Sweep of the Great Miami River will take place Saturday, July 18. POWW and community volunteers will take canoe boats and pick-up trucks, or walk to clean out trash from the river from south Sidney to south Piqua, covering 16 miles of the river.
“You’d be surprised of people that know the river is there, but don’t see it,” said Jeff Lange, president and founder of POWW. “The river is there for everyone to enjoy; when you see it, it’s beautiful. And it’s a lot more beautiful when there’s not trash in it.”
The river has been a part of Lange for most of his life; his parents took his family canoeing on the river and he paddled with his friends in high school. He recalls during that time seeing the river overlying with trash. “I thought that was pretty disgusting,” he said.
This inspired Lange to create POWW and write grants to local businesses to help make changes to the river. The grants helped to buy equipment such as canoes, a dump truck, and a pick-up truck.
Since its creation, the organization and volunteers have taken 135,000 pounds of trash from the river, investing 7,200 hours of volunteer work. There have been 1,300 tires retrieved and properly disposed of. This year, there will be 120 volunteers and over 40 canoes going along the river to make it a cleaner and safer place.
“People are coming back to rivers,” Lange said. “It’s rather neat to see people enjoy it again. I don’t think any of these people would come out with all of this trash out here.”
As for why people continue to dump waste into the river, Lange thinks it comes down to ignorance and poverty.
“I think there’s a lot of ignorance with people dumping in the river. Lots of people that think ‘out of sight, out of mind,’” Lange said. “People say, ‘why pay for trash service when it can be dumped in the river?’ You have someone on very low income that will chuck tires on the river to save 20 bucks.”
Luckily, with increased awareness of the movement, the amount of waste has gone down over the years by approximately 10,000 pounds, Lange said.
For more information on POWW and the Clean Sweep, visit www.protectingourwaterways.org.