In the muck, volunteers clean waterway

Ronald Rodriguez pulls a tire from the mud. PHOTO/CHRISTIAN MILLER

OU News Bureau

On any given workday, General Motors Co. employee Ronald Rodriguez is in the office. On Wednesday, Oct. 18, he was knee deep in mud.

Rodriguez and 13 other volunteers gathered at Beaver Creek Park in Sterling Heights for the Clinton River Watershed Council’s weekly cleanup.

The goal is to remove trash that contaminates junctions flowing into the Clinton River, one of Michigan’s most polluted waterways. The organization is just one of 26 similar groups statewide.

The Clinton River Watershed spans 760 square miles, covering four counties, 72 communities and 1.5 million people.

GM volunteers unload tires, a bicycle and a recliner collected from the creek. PHOTO/CHRISTIAN MILLER

The council hosts 50 cleanups a year at public areas along the watershed, taking off the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Weather permitting, the events are 10 a.m.-noon Wednesdays and 4 p.m.-6 p.m. every third Wednesday of the month.

Last year, the group collected 12,241 pounds of trash and debris from areas within the Clinton River watershed and the shoreline of Lake St. Clair.

The worst city for pollution was Pontiac, with 3,000 pounds removed.

“I went to my first cleanup about two months ago,” intern Julie Markiewicz said. “We get a lot of regular volunteers that come no matter where the location is.”

One volunteer, Chuck Lumpkin, has been around since the weekly cleanups began five years ago.

Chuck Lumpkin

“We’ve found a lot of weird things over the years,” Lumpkin said. “There’s a lot of liquor bottles, both plastic and glass, but I’ve seen refrigerators, bicycles, car tires, car parts, furniture, microwaves, portable toilets and even a safe pulled from the water.”

On this day, Rodriguez spent the majority of his time unearthing car tires while his counterparts from GM hauled off bed springs and other objects.

“Our group really feels like a family, so when we get together outside we have a lot of laughs and get the work done,” Rodriguez said. “It’s nice doing this because you get to see the fruits of your labor instantly.”

In two hours, volunteers pulled an estimated 1,200 pounds of trash from the muck in Beaver Creek.

Melissa Golembieski

Program assistant Melissa Golembieski outlined the procedure of how the trash is handled after being hauled from the waterside.

“Right now, we just dispose of it in the trash and the cities handle it,” Golembieski said. “I have been in contact with a separate organization that can separate and recycle the materials, but it’s difficult because they’re only accepting plastic.”

To measure progress, the members log how much trash they collect at each cleanup.

“Every year, we do our annual report where we get an estimate of how much trash we collect at all of these cleanups and we record it at the office,” Golembieski said. “We’ve seen that trash levels have declined over the years, but when you have busy parks with people always visiting them, there’s going to be trash.”


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Posted by on Oct 25 2017. Filed under Featured article, Macomb C.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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