- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The shore of the Anacostia River has been bustling with activity in recent weeks, as volunteers wade out as far as 60 feet into the murky water to collect trash and pile it into flat-bottom boats.

“It’s plastic bottles, Styrofoam, cans — and most of it comes right out of the storm sewers,” said Chad Pregracke, the president of Illinois-based Living Lands and Waters.

Mr. Pregracke, 31, is one of more than 2,500 volunteers participating in the river cleanup that began April 1. The trash, which also includes furniture and household appliances, eventually is loaded onto a large barge anchored south of the Capitol.

Environmentalists are hoping the image of the trash-laden barge framed against the city’s skyline will alarm the public — and encourage them to join future cleanup efforts and change the way they handle trash in their neighborhoods.

“It’s something that people can do to have a stake in the river,” Mr. Pregracke said.

The Capital River Relief barge is expected to be moved today from the Anacostia to the Potomac River, where it will be anchored near Hains Point so similar work can be done along that waterway. The barge will be towed away from the city in mid-May.

“Every time it rains even an eighth of an inch, trash just flows into the river,” said Charles Stotts, 18, an Earth Conservation Corps member from Southeast. A hot tub is among the items he has pulled out of the river in recent days.

Volunteers are being told that similar trash problems can be found along portions of the Rappahannock, James and other rivers that lead to the Chesapeake Bay.

“This is where the drinking water comes from,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.

About 16 million people now live in the 64,000-square-mile watershed that covers an area from Cooperstown, N.Y., from the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, to Portsmouth, Va., where the Chesapeake flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

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