Volunteers needed to clean trash off banks of Ohio River on Saturday

River Sweep has taken place since 1989, even during the pandemic.

COVINGTON, Ky. – Volunteers are invited to clean trash from the banks of the Ohio River on Saturday as part of the Covington “leg” of national River Sweep activities held every year.

Expect muddy shoes and clothes, sore muscles, a sense of accomplishment – and interesting surprises.

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. But over the years, volunteers have found or dug out a wide variety of things: a wheelchair tire, a weight attached to a chain, baby dolls, a shopping cart, a basketball rim, televisions, and a Big Wheel.

“You just never know what you’ll find on the banks of the river,” said Sheila Fields, manager of Covington’s Solid Waste and Recycling Division, which is partnering with Keep Covington Beautiful on the event. “Volunteers love to share stories and show off their piles – it’s really a fun event because of the camaraderie.” 

But Fields said River Sweep isn’t only about making the river’s edge look pretty – it’s also about keeping trash and debris out of the water itself.

“If not picked up, every piece of litter you see – whether it’s jug on the riverbank, a cigarette butt on a sidewalk, or a fast-food cup in a street – will eventually wash into the river,” Fields said. “Keeping our rivers clean is the ultimate goal of everything we do, from River Sweep to street-sweeping to our cigarette urn initiative. It’s also why we need businesses to sweep the sidewalks outside their front door and check the Dumpsters and cans in their back parking lots.”

What you need to know

  • The event runs 9 a.m. to noon.
  • Meet at 14 Pete Rose Pier, which can be reached by following Bakewell Street/Pete Rose Pier north to the river side of the flood wall. There is plenty of parking available. 
  • A light breakfast and lunch will be provided, as will gloves, litter grabbers, and trash bags.
  • See Keep Covington Beautiful’s River Sweep webpage for more information. (The registration button is at the top of the page. It’s helpful to organizers if volunteers register.)

Through the years

The event is part of the annual River Sweep initiative organized by ORSANCO (the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission). It seeks to clean the shorelines of the 981-mile Ohio River and its tributaries in six states from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Cairo, Ill.

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