Friday, November 18, 2022

Master Watershed Stewards Help Purge Plastics On The Lower Susquehanna River

Plastic pollution is a significant issue that needs everyone's attention and has particularly garnered the attention of conservation organizations in York and Lancaster Counties.

Three years ago, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association and partners including the Master Watershed Stewards, Watershed Alliance of York, Lancaster Conservancy, Shank's Mare Outfitters, Susquehanna National Heritage Area, and concerned individuals launched what would become The Annual Great Plastic Purge on the Lower Susquehanna. 

Annually, the large-scale cleanup takes place somewhere within the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed. This year's focus was the Lake Clarke area, a 10-mile reservoir or "lake" formed by the hydroelectric Safe Harbor Dam.

On October 15 and 16, a dedicated, determined group of volunteers embarked on an adventure trekking to the islands and slogging the shorelines of the Lower Susquehanna picking trash. 

They literally hauled boatloads of trash to dumpsters strategically located on the Lancaster and York shorelines. 

Hauls consisted of plastics, styrofoam, tires, and more! The eager volunteers removed 5,920 pounds (2.96 tons) of trash from the mighty Susquehanna in just two days.

Litter and debris is flushed into the Susquehanna River by upstream tributaries. Plastic waste enters both land and water sources through littering, poor waste management, stormwater runoff, boats, and more. 

Many plastics float, so countless plastic items of all shapes and sizes make their journey downstream, eventually making their way to the oceans. 

Statistics are staggering! According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 8 million metric tons of discarded plastic makes its way to the oceans each year. 

Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, and every week, 10 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. 

Plastics can be useful, but plastic does not decompose. They can stay in the environment indefinitely, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. 

Microplastics are bits of plastic less than 5 mm in size, smaller than a popcorn kernel. They are much more difficult to remove and are found in every ecosystem on Earth. 

The problem is vast, but everyone can make conscious decisions to reduce the use of single use plastics!

Consider the following:

-- Purchase items with less packaging.

-- Use reusable water bottles/coffee mugs.

-- Refuse plastic straws/lids when dining out. Consider purchasing a reusable straw.

-- Pack trash free lunches. Use reusable containers/utensils.

-- Use reusable shopping bags rather than plastic ones.

-- When eating out, take a reusable container for leftovers.

-- Recycle when possible.

-- Use microplastic catch bags when washing fleece and other synthetic fabrics.

-- Secure waste bins on collection days.

-- Buy used.

-- Repair/maintain products like clothing and appliances.

-- Borrow, rent, or share items you don't use frequently.

-- Get involved! Participate in local clean-ups.

-- Educate about plastic waste and impacts on the environment.

Ted Evgeniadis, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, states, "We appreciate the support from the Penn State Master Watershed Steward Program and all partners for facilitating a successful cleanup effort along the Susquehanna River in Lancaster and York Counties. We will be concentrating our River cleanup efforts further south to Lake Aldred for the 4th Annual Great Plastic Purge in 2023." 

This annual cleanup will help protect downstream neighbors and will help protect wildlife and valuable habitat.

(Photo: Duane Hyson (York MWS) and Emily Neideigh (Watershed Specialist for York County Conservation District) work to remove trash from Lake Clarke.)

(Reprinted from the Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletterClick Here to sign up for your own copy-- bottom of page.)

Upcoming Event:

-- Penn State Extension Hosts 9-Part Woods In Your Backyard Webinar Series Starting Jan. 11

Related Articles: 

-- Penn State Master Watershed Stewards Now Accepting Applications, Holding Info Sessions

-- Penn State Extension Hosts Nov. 29 Webinar On The Roadside Guide To Clean Water - Recognizing Efforts To Keep Your Community’s Water Clean  [PaEN]

-- Native Meadow Will Benefit Environment In New Caln Township Meadow Park In Chester County  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Extension Report On Private Water Supply Education & Water Testing In 2022  [PaEN]

[Posted: November 18, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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