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Volunteers pitch in to keep Ohio River banks cleaner

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 11:26 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Working in the world of water, you learn a thing or two about the importance of taking care of its supply. That's the reason Dan Bickerton was out Saturday morning, walking along the riverbank picking up litter and debris.

"Because I work for West Virginia American Water, I really understand the importance of our water supply and keeping it clean," said Bickerton of Huntington, who has participated in multiple river cleanup projects. "It's a little different for me maybe, but because I deal with it every day, I see how important something like Ohio River Sweep is."

Bickerton was one of many volunteers out Saturday for the Tri-State edition of Ohio River Sweep. Since 1989, the cleanup has spanned the entire length of the river from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill., including nearly 3,000 miles of shoreline and many tributaries. Saturday's cleanup efforts in Huntington involved the cleaning of three miles of tributaries along the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, with teams at Harris Riverfront Park, Harveytown Park, Guyandotte and St. Cloud Commons.

Bethany Williams, who works on the PATH project with the Rahall Transportation Institute, said RTI's role as a multimodal transportation leader in the community means it supports efforts that encourage clean maritime use and improvements to the area's quality of life.

"RTI wants to support the efforts of creating a cleaner and more welcoming environment for our community as well as creating cleaner shorelines," Williams said. "Having a cleaner environment improves the quality of life for our area, especially the PATH trails which follow tributaries that lead into the Ohio River."

Late Saturday morning, Bickerton said he wasn't seeing the typical garbage and debris he normally picks up along the river, partly because recent rains have caused water levels to rise. The Ohio River crested at 32 feet early Saturday, and had dropped to 31 feet by Saturday afternoon.

"The river's up, so we're not getting the typical volume of plastic bottles, Styrofoam cups, litter and trash," he said, adding that routine cleanup events are necessary because of littering and household trash that is not disposed of properly.

"When the river comes up, it sweeps trash away, and we're left dealing with it," Bickerton said. "It's a never-ending problem, unfortunately."

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