HUNTINGTON — On any given Saturday, it's nothing to see a couple of people moving a TV set around town.
But not like this one. This one, one has to assume, was tuned to the World Fishing Network.
On Saturday morning, a waterlogged TV set was just one of the large items pulled out of the Ohio River at Harris Riverfront Park as about 40 workers from the Huntington-based company Koppers joined in to help at the 30th annual Ohio River Sweep.
"They get a lot of things - refrigerators and even TV sets, like they are pulling out now," said Bobby Lee Messer, of the Fourpole Creek Watershed Association, shaking his head. "How does a TV set end up in the water? Hey, guys, you might get $5 for that if you take it to the pawn shop."
Although Messer was joking about the pawn shop, it was no joke what trash volunteers pulled out of the Ohio River, which is a drinking water source for millions of people.
Malcolm Wells, one of the Koppers volunteers who was working the perennial trash pile that accumulated at the city of Huntington boat garage, said he had pulled out bottles, paint cans, basketballs, hoses, tires, snuff cans and a couple of bobbers in just about an hour of volunteering at Harris Riverfront Park.
Mark Connelly and Karen Hoth, of Fourpole Creek Watershed Association, organized the Huntington cleanup.
Nationally, the 30th annual Ohio River Sweep was organized by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) with help from several states' environmental protection and natural resource agencies. Based out of Cincinnati, ORSANCO is an interstate water pollution agency for the Ohio River Valley. The cleanup is sponsored by AEP River Operations, CSX, Dominion Foundation, Dow Corning Foundation, DuPont Washington Works, Marathon Oil Corp. and West Virginia American Water.
More than 21,000 volunteers from six states - West Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania - come together each year to remove more than 320 tons of trash and other debris from the banks of the Ohio River and its tributaries. The cleanup encompasses the entire length of the river, from its origin in Pittsburgh to its end in Cairo, Illinois, and covers more than 3,000 miles of shoreline of the Ohio River.
More than 25 million people, or 8% of the U.S. population, live in the Ohio River Basin. The Ohio River is a source of drinking water for more than 5 million people.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) coordinated West Virginia's participation in the River Sweep at 18 sites in 11 counties.
Locally, there were also River Sweep cleanups in the Highlawn neighborhood (McClelland Park) in Huntington, Point Pleasant, Boyd County in Kentucky and multiple spots in Lawrence and Scioto counties.
By 10:30 a.m., Connelly and Hoth had already checked in more than 60 volunteers including the large group from Koppers, as well as a number of teens from River Park Hospital.
Set up under the pavilion in the west end of the riverfront park was the Fourpole Creek Watershed Association.
"What we are doing here is really important, particularly with the young people," Connelly said. "They need to know how important water is to life and how beautiful it is aesthetically."
Also tabling the event was Robin Blakeman, of the OVEC. Blakeman not only had ORSANCO provide coloring books for kids, but was also passing out information about the newly formed Tri-State Water Defenders, which has for the past two years been hosting a variety of public events and tabling at events.
"Our flier from Tri-State Water Defenders tells people not only the basic information about the river but who to contact if there is a problem, like a spill or a problem with their own tap water," Blakeman said.
Local environmental group meetings
The Ohio River Sweep may have come and gone, but individuals who are concerned about water quality and environmental health can check in with local groups that meet regularly.
n Fourpole Creek Watershed Association: Meets at 6:30 p.m. every second Tuesday of the month at the offices of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, 725 14th St. W., Huntington. Go online at https://www.facebook.com/groups/165639760148414/ for more information.
n Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition: Located at 725 14th St. W., Huntington, OVEC has been around since 1987. It is a grassroots organization dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the environment through education, grassroots organizing and coalition building, leadership development and media outreach. Go online at https://ohvec.org/ for more information.
n West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection: For more DEP news and information, go to www.dep.wv.gov or connect with the agency on social media platforms.