River Sweep ’21: Volunteers needed (but expect to get muddy)

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COVINGTON, Ky. – Dozens of volunteers are needed Saturday to clean trash from the banks of the Ohio River as part of the Covington “leg” of the national River Sweep 2021 event.
 
Expect muddy shoes, sore muscles, a sense of accomplishment – and interesting surprises.
 
“You just never know what you’ll find on the banks of the river,” said Sheila Fields, Covington’s Solid Waste and Recycling coordinator. “One year we dug a shopping cart out of the mud, and our scouting trips have already revealed a bookcase and a freezer.”
 
And whereas volunteers in the past have found “strange” things (a wheelchair tire and a weight attached to a chain) … “creepy” things (old baby dolls) … “gross” things (the carcass of a 3-foot alligator gar) … and “heavy” things (a basketball rim and televisions), the most common pieces of debris will be anything that floats: Styrofoam, smokeless tobacco cans, cigar filters, soccer balls, buckets, and the omnipresent plastic bottles.
 
If doing something for the environment and the community is your thing, meet Saturday just before 9 a.m. on the river side of the floodwall behind the Theatre House, said Jen Barnett, president of Keep Covington Beautiful. Volunteers will break into small teams and head east and west from that location.
 
Gloves, tools, trash bags, and water will be provided, but volunteers should wear sturdy shoes and clothes that can get dirty. Also provided this year will be food: Stop by Lil’s Bagels before the event for a free bagel and coffee, and by Butler’s Pantry after the event for a free sandwich and drink.
 
Volunteers are encouraged to register ahead of time HERE to help organizers plan.
 
“Whereas River Sweep is about giving back to the community and helping the environment, you also have fun and make friends along the way – and you get free food,” Barnett said.
 
The Covington event is part of the annual River Sweep initiative organized by ORSANCO (the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission) that seeks to clean the shorelines of the 981-mile Ohio River and its tributaries in six states from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Cairo, Ill.
 
Because of the pandemic, last year’s event was kept smaller. But three teams of 10 “recruits” in Covington filled a 30-cubic-yard construction Dumpster from Rumpke Waste & Recycling with 3.19 tons of debris, not counting extra bags of cans and plastic bottles set aside to be recycled.
 
Whereas the threat from COVID-19 has somewhat subsided, volunteers should observe common-sense safety protocols by keeping distance from each other and wearing masks when bunched up.
 
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