Activities: Work with other volunteers from the City of Columbia to clean up area streams. Date: Saturday, October 10, 2014 Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Place:Various locations around Columbia
What to Expect: Basically the most rockin’ trash bash this side of the Missouri. Mike Heimos, the City of Columbia’s stormwater educator, has been running the show for at least ten years, but he goes so hard he doesn’t pause to count them. The first year he tried a city cleanup, 48 people showed up. Last year? 2,400.
They’re all marching under the banner of the Columbia Crawdads, a city-wide Stream Team that, Heimos says, “has such an amazing following. It just blows my mind.”
He’s not exaggerating. In addition to collecting more than a ton of trash each Clean Sweep, cleanup groups now hit Columbia streams 2-3 times each month. The Stormwater Education Facebook page has more than 1,300 fans, some of its YouTube videos have thousands of views, and its Instagram cranks out hundreds of photos of the faces and places the Heimos crew works to restore.
What to Do: Well, first and foremost, you have to register. Go do that now and come back to us. We’ll wait…
Ok, so you know where you’re going? You can start showing up there any time after 9:30 A.M. You’ll sign in your group, get your clean up supplies and receive instructions from the Stream Captains. Then you’ll pick up trash! You’ll make new friends! It’ll be great.
What to Bring: Yourself and everyone in your group! All supplies will be provided for at your site – clean up bags, gloves, just about everything you will need. Just make sure you have your toes covered and you’re comfortable in the weather.
Where you can go from here: “The goal of the Clean Sweep is to let people know they can do cleanups in Columbia as a volunteer opportunity,” Heimos says. “What we’ve found is, we don’t need to do this anymore; Once volunteers come and do it, they realize they can continue throughout the year.” In the past two months, for instance, Heimos has arranged 16 cleanups, and he only had to meet with a quarter of them to get them started. The rest already knew the drill.
“In Columbia, the polluter is us,” Heimos says. “We’re a suburban/urban area, there’s no factory on the hill pumping out pollution. It’s us: motor oil, cigarette butts, pet waste, Shakespeare’s cups, Harpo’s cups, plastic spoons and straws.”
So now’s your chance to turn “people pollution” into “people solutions.” Go sweep the Hinkson clean, and let us know how it goes!
Did you know that New York City’s municipal landfill has an anthropologist-in-residence? She looks at what the people of the city throw away, the history of sanitation workers, and lots of other fascinating things. That got me thinking . . . maybe a similar task could be taken for the spot where North America’s largest waterways meet. What could cleanup hauls at the Missouri-Mississippi Confluence tell us about litter habits in the eastern and western parts of our country?
The Missouri River
The Mississippi River
Confluence photos by AJ Feicht
Missouri River Relief (Stream Team #1875) has a head start on this research. They’ve tallied trash from their confluence cleanups for about the past five years. April 26th’s Earth Day event at the confluence continued to surprise volunteers and crew alike with a wealth of trash and treasure.
Rivermiles: 9 ( 8 miles of the Missouri, 1 mile of the Mississippi)
River Level: 10 ft (St. Charles gage) 14.8 ft. (on the Mississippi at St. Louis)
Tires: 30 (an estimated .5 tons)
Landfill: 2.8 tons
Scrap Metal:an estimated .7 tons
Total Tonnage:an estimated 4 tons
201 bags of trash
11 chunks o’ Styrofoam
11 5-gal. plastic buckets
1 20-gal. plastic tub
12 55-gal. plastic barrels
2 55-gal. metal drums
4 partial metal drums
1 water heater
1 propane tank
1 AC unit piece
1 600 lb Automotive Transformer
2 barge lines
1 car seat cushion
4 gas tanks
2 inner tubes
1 – 1957 fiberglass Saber boat
1 oil pan
1 metal trash can
5 metal poles
10 ft. of 2” angle iron
5 ft. of corrugated metal
1 – 6ft. metal pole
8 pieces of metal cable
2 metal locker doors
1 tiny saw blade
1 lateral drain tile
2 orange booms
1 chicken wire
1 Rubbermaid tote
1 Rubbermaid lid
1 wall to a Porta-Potti
2 PVC pipes
1 white picket fence
A gazillion million balls
1 softball owned by Gary Babetz
1 kiddie push cart
1 rubber canteen
2 milk crates
1 fishing pole
1 dog kennel top
2 pieces of wood with nails
1 big plastic bowl for Clifford
Trash Contest!!! (winners in bold)
1 yellow piggy bank
1 dead snake dead from plastic netting wrapped around it
1 dead gar
1 studded football massage ball
2 armless baby dolls
1 pair of purple vampire teeth
2 doll heads
1 water ski
1 plastic checker
1 plastic rabbit
1 plastic duck on wheels
1 easter egg
3 duck decoys
1 plastic penquin
1 wooden flower & bird
1 pink panther print on foam
1 black flip flop
1 men’s cologne box
1 igloo cooler
1 newspaper mailbox
1 plastic shovel
1 swim pad
1 light bulb
1 kids plastic table
1 plastic cone
1 window squeegee
1 large nail
1 fishing lure
1 toy fire truck
1 cassette tape
1 turtle shell
1 construction helmet
Several old glass bottles
1 9mm handgun
1 message in a bottle with several letters inside
Agencies & Groups: Missouri River Relief Crew, Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hanson Professional Services, Cub Scout Pack 97, Cadette Girl Scout Troop #435, Baden Powell Service Association 66th Confluence Scout Group, Anderson Pest Control, BioMerieux, Alpha Phi Omega– Washington University, Ethical Navigators 33, Flying Carps, Bank of America, St. Louis University, Boeing, Arnold Stream Team 211, Stream Team 3454 Anglers of Missouri, Saving the World Before Noon, Miramiguoa Master Naturalist, Weber Group, Kabul Waterdogs – Stream Team 3419, Stream Team 4855, Pack 3097, Stream Team River Rovers #4473,
Team Names: Flying Carp, X-Stream Team, Pack 97, Navigators, A-Team, Super Flying Ninja Kittens, Asian Carp Avengers, Anderson, River Dogs, Otters, Mo Mud Hens, Timberwolves, The Bass Fisherman, 66th Confluence Team, Hardcore Team Tough Guy, The Collaborators, River Rebels, Team Smokinbarrel
Itself, Vicki says. “The Blue River is very much a wastewater and stormwater stream,” she explains. “Brush Creek–the largest Missouri-side tributary to the Blue–has earned the nickname ‘Flush Creek’ in Kansas City. Because of rapid development in the headwaters, it’s just beat.”
Although much of the waterway is now contained in culverts, Blue River was once much mightier. “Daniel Boone couldn’t get across it during his travels,” Vicki says. “He had to go around. The Battle of Westport was on its banks. It’s really historic, and that’s another reason to preserve it.”
History of Project Blue River Rescue and the Power of Partnerships
Stream Team #175 was simply founded by “a teacher and a guy that liked the creek— Carroll Rinker and Lloyd Davies,” Vicki says. “We call him our Lloyd and Master, to be honest.” The project began as two cleanups, one in the spring and one in the fall, and has since focused on one cleanup in early April, based out of Lakeside Nature Center.
“Because it was all new territory, we started removing these historic dumps that were full of cars and households,” she says. “You can see some dump sites from Google Earth.” Lloyd got the National Guard to participate as a training exercise with cranes.
In 2000, the National Guard pulled out of the project, and the organizers needed a new heavy hauler. “We said, ‘Who’s got cranes and dozers?’ The city! The city needs to care about this.” When Vicki asked the city for help, she says, “I was young and stupid and didn’t know better, but they listened. Then when parks equipment wasn’t enough, they called public works.”
“The city does have to pay overtime for staff to drive these trucks, but with trash trucks that generally come with a driver and two guys, we [PBRR crew] are the two guys that throw the trash in,” Vicki says. “And then we give the drivers an apple, granola bar, pop and a t-shirt. People put in for that overtime way before the cleanup. It’s amazing the buy-in that we’ve gotten everywhere.”
Partnerships are the power of the project, she says. “If a group can’t participate one year, that’s ok, because a different group got larger. If a partner can’t fund one year, someone else will pick up the slack.” The organization doesn’t even send out mailings to advertise; It justs relies on word of mouth and its long history to draw volunteers. This method works because PBRR works. Here’s how:
Project Blue River Rescue’s three secrets to massive urban river cleanups:
1.) Develop a hierarchy. The planners have divided the river into four sections, each with 25+ individual work sites. Then they also break leaders into manageable chunks:
Site leaders are responsible for one site of about 25 volunteers
Section leaders are in charge of 3-4 contiguous or connected sites
Planning staff manage all the sections, and Vicki runs communication between the cleanup and city services.
On the day of the cleanup, they split the sign-in table into “child-friendly” groups and “adult-friendly” groups. Once a site is filled with 25 people, it’s off the table and new volunteers start filling the next space.
2.) Give each site its own identity. Volunteers aren’t dispatched to cold, lifeless places like “Site 1” or “Site 43.” Nope, Blue River Rescue gives each spot its own name or historic identity. “People care a lot about ‘Russel’s Fort Crossing,’ or ‘The Wall’ or ‘The Gulch’ or ‘Wildcat Hollow,” Vicki says. “I think that helps people identify more with their site that way.” When there aren’t enough historic names to go around, they just make it up. That’s ok, too.
3.) Scout it. Scout it good. It’s necessary to know what to expect on Blue River’s banks well before cleanup day. “We walk it and walk it, giving special attention to drift piles, creeks and little drainages because they always carry and catch trash,” Vicki says. Scouts also check roadsides because plants keeps trash from getting down to the floodplain.
After the reconnaissance mission, they know what supplies to prepare: glass dumps need rakes and mesh bags; big dumps with tires need chains and a pulley system, and so on. “If you need a boat, we’ll get you one,” Vicki says. “If you need a bobcat, we’re going to get you a bobcat, and if you need a bigger bobcat we’re going to get you a bigger bobcat.” Need a crane? No problem. This is all planned weeks in advance.
Another thing important to remember after facing so much litter, is that all’s not lost. “At the end of the day, we encourage people to not get too caught up with the trash,” Vicki says. “The Blue can be really nice when it gets warm and sunny, and the wind blows a little bit. It’s still a beautiful river.”