May 22, 2018

Talking Trash – Essex Land Trust Coordinates Shoreline Cleanup

In general, Essex is not one of those communities where trash in public places is a problem. Along the length of our Connecticut River shoreline, however, it is another matter. The amount of debris that accumulates along our shores is nothing short of amazing. Unfortunately, there seems to be a never-ending supply of debris along the riverbanks.

The Connecticut River’s steady flow towards its mouth brings with it logs, branches and other organic material that are swept into the river by storms, high tides and occasional flooding. It also brings with it an incredible array of items that have clearly been carelessly allowed to be swept away or dumped outright into the river.

For the past two years the Essex Land Trust has tried to do its part by focusing on cleaning up Essex’s Great Meadow. This past Fall, on a bright and sunny Saturday morning, 65 volunteers dedicated three hours to gathering all kinds of trash including, significant quantities of Styrofoam, bottles, cans, car tires and more.

This effort is part of an annual program sponsored by the Connecticut River Watershed Council Participating. Called the Source to Sea Cleanup, each September communities along the 410-mile length of the Connecticut River dedicate themselves to cleaning up their shoreline. This past year, 2,227 volunteers collected a total haul of 45 tons, which included electrical appliances, furniture, automotive parts, and mattresses, among many other items.

The list of debris collected on the Essex Great Meadow is shown below:

  1. Glass bottles (5 five gallon buckets)
  2. Plastic bottles (27 thirty gallon bags)
  3. Plastic items (3 five gallon buckets)
  4. Styrofoam (35 thirty gallon bags)
  5. Tires (19)
  6. Wood (19 lbs)
  7. Metal items (10)
  8. Other items (6′ x 3′ plastic tub, 50 gallon plastic and metal drums, 30 gallon plastic drum, 2′ x 4′ plastic float, fiberglass kayak, hunting tent, large float/raft, LP gas container, plastic sled)

Besides being unsightly, trash in our water bodies has a damaging effect on the environment particularly impacting wildlife and vegetation. One measure of this impact is the decomposition rate of common debris. The following chart illustrate how long items last in our environment, i.e., 200 years for aluminum cans and 450 years for plastic bottles.

Untitled

 

The Connecticut River has come a long way from the 1950s when it was called the “best landscaped sewer in the country.” The passage of the Clean Water Act and the ban on DDT in 1972 have done much to help the river recover to a Class B status, meaning that it is safe for all purposes excluding drinking. Turning to the future, our challenge is to build on the progress achieved by ensuring a cleaner and healthier river, one that would harken back to the days when the Algonquians gave it its name, the “quinetucket,” the place of the long tidal river.

The Land Trust intends to repeat the Great Meadow clean up this coming September. The date has already been set: Saturday, September 27 at 9 am. So, mark your calendars!

 

Share