Monday, September 19, 2011

Many hands to pick up a lot of trash... the ICC comes to Vermont!

Though we have been doing the vast majority of our work along the (east) New England coast, it was very exciting to come home to VT for some marine debris work right on Lake Champlain on the west coast of New England. Saturday, Rozalia Project headed up Vermont's involvement in the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Clean-up. Vermont was one of only 4 states not to participate last year and that is ridiculous... our lake is huge, spans two countries AND directly connects us to the ocean via two major rivers so we really have no choice but to participate.

And thank goodness we did. It will be very interesting to see what we find next year because this year, we were all shocked at the amount of trash that was picked up within 1/8th of a mile on either side of the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, our hosts for the afternoon. The reason next year will be telling is that this clean up came on the heels of two brutal disasters for the Champlain Valley and Vermont/Upstate New York. Last spring the lake stayed feet above flood level for over a month destroying waterfront property, docks and more. And of course, just over over two weeks ago, with Hurricane Irene, Vermont had it's worst flooding in nearly 100 years with the Winooksi River, among others, at 23 feet above flood stage. The Winooski drains into the Lake and the destruction caused by Irene had marine debris in the form of people's homes and whole yards  as well as many of the state's roads and bridges washing down our rivers.  

Among the haul, we certainly can attribute the large metal canoe and municipal intake pipe as results of the storm. However, nearly 70 pounds of recycling  and the majority of the 409 pounds in 1,864 pieces of trash looked more careless in nature. We followed close to expected worldwide numbers with our top five items (in numbers of items):
Food wrappers: 293
Cigarettes: 275
Styrofoam pieces: 254
Caps and lids: 217
Plastic bottles: 153

Other finds included the expected cups, cans, glass bottles, tape and plastic sheet as well as the less expected shotgun shells, tires and light bulbs with a bit of the wish-we-didn't-see-it thrown in - syringes (2), condoms (12), diapers (4) and a pair of undergarments. Eew.

As you know, I really love getting and seeing trash taken out of any body of water and I am psyched with the haul. But, a big highlight of the day was the people. There was a college sailing regatta happening at the same time, they were delayed due to lack of wind for much of the afternoon which was great for us. We have to thank all of the sailors who helped especially the Middlebury College Sailing Team. They rocked the clean up bringing back 6 overstuffed bags of trash and recycling plus tires and the intake tube - the whole time looking like they were having fun. My kind of people. I think I might have found an intern or two for next year from that group as well! We also had a great turn out from UVM. Coco, their sailing coach, singlehandedly filled two big bags with trash and kept the data card accurate and we had some more students come down the hill to scour the shore by foot and by kayak. It was a group of 3 UVM students who teamed up with Tom Peterson and his 30' sailboat and crew (Tom joined us on American Promise this summer) to recover the aluminum canoe off the rocks (among other bits of trash and recycling).
One of my favorite parts of the day were the kids. We had a bunch of families come down and the kids worked as hard if not harder than their parents. I LOVE seeing that (and all the kids who stayed for the Trash Bash got t-shirts, I couldn't resist).

As always we are rarely able to do anything alone and this day was no exception. Our first thank you is to everyone who came and helped picking up trash and keeping good record of what they found. I want to thank my friend Marsi Foster for giving up an afternoon at the harvest festival with her family to help me at the registration desk (she was perfect). The Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center were excellent hosts, as always, and a big shout out to Colin for giving us Chris, Bill and the other volunteers when your work was done. Thanks to CSC's efforts, CSWD is going to do a free dumpster pick up to remove the trash from the day. And to Gary Kjellen for cleaning up on South Hero and making the trek to Burlington to drop off his data card and say a few words about the Lake Champlain Committee.

Looking ahead we are psyched and inspired to keep the ball rolling in Vermont. Our mission is marine debris, we are Vermonters and we just had a wake up call that Vermont has no less marine debris than many of the coastal sites we visited.

Stay tuned as we head up additional clean ups this fall and next year's ICC in Vermont will be even bigger and more effective with sits across the state!

Thank you again for a great day and a great start to what I am optimistic will be many bigger, better ICC's and best of all, a much, much cleaner Lake Champlain.


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