Thousands of volunteers participate in this year’s 29th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup
Drawing from results collected across 270 cleanup sites, more than 9,000 volunteers collected 400,000 pounds of trash throughout the watershed in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania during this year’s 29th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup.
“The impact of this cleanup goes beyond the pounds of litter removed every April. The cleanup is a building block in uniting people and organizations to connect with their local watershed,” said Lori Arguelles, Alice Ferguson Foundation’s President and CEO. “As one of the largest regional event of its kind, the Cleanup brings out community leaders and hundreds of local organizations. Every day, our partners and volunteers inspire us with their commitment to a healthy, clean, and trash free Potomac River Watershed.”
A wide range of litter was removed during the cleanup – including 21,025 plastic bags, 2,043 tires, 9,267 cigarettes, a variety of bicycles, car parts and more. Since its inception in 1989, the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup has mobilized more than 150,000 volunteers to remove more than 7 million pounds of trash.
“With the increasing awareness of the issue of microplastics accumulating in the oceans, it is critical we catch the trash at its source – on land,” said Hannah Seligmann, volunteer coordinator with the Alice Ferguson Foundation. “Every person who has picked up one straw, one plastic bag, one flip flop, has contributed to the massive momentum that keeps the water we drink safe.”
The Potomac is one of the largest rivers that flows into the Chesapeake Bay, and the source of up to 75% of the drinking and washing water in the region. Littering, runoff, and trash contribute to a widespread problem that affects everyone.
“Today, local action is more important than ever. Small efforts can have big effects when it comes to the health of our waterways,” said Matt Fleischer, Executive Director of The Rock Creek Conservancy. “This year alone we removed 817 bags of trash and 470 recycling from Rock Creek alone. That’s 1287 bags of litter that didn’t end up in the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean.”
The annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is one of many of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s programs designed to promote environmental sustainability in the region and connect people to the natural world. The Foundation’s Regional Litter Prevention Campaign empowers communities to “Take Control, Take Care of Your Trash,” led to a 30% reduction in observable littering behavior in the targeted District of Columbia neighborhoods between 2013 and 2015. Another program, Trash Free Schools, engages more than 2,000 students annually from more than 20 schools throughout the DC metro region.
Several hundred organizations and groups partner in the Cleanup each year, including Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Anacostia Watershed Society, C&O Canal Association, C & O Canal Trust, Charles County Public Works, City of Alexandria, DC Department of Energy and Environment, Fairfax County, Friends of Accotink Creek, Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Greenbelt Department of Public Works, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, Joint Base Andrews, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, Montgomery County Parks and Planning, National Park Service, Prince George’s County, Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Reston Association, Rock Creek Conservancy and Rock Creek Nature Center.
The Alice Ferguson Foundation connects people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices, and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship, and advocacy.