Dad's Day Effort Aids Five Rivers, Collects 65-plus Tons of Trash

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
19 June 2011
By Jill King Greenwood

Brian Swauger and his family decided to make the 2011 River Sweep a Father's Day weekend event.

Swauger was working with his wife Lori, and daughters, Haley 5, and Amy Ernst, 11, picking up trash along the Allegheny River in Kittanning on Saturday morning when he found a dead Great Blue Heron along the shoreline.

"Somebody killed it, threw a rock or something at it," Swauger said. "They knew what they did was wrong because it was placed in a bag and stuck between some rocks."

More than 500 volunteers picked up more than 65 tons of trash and nearly 200 tires along the Ohio, Allegheny, Beaver, Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers and their tributaries at 20 cleanup sites, said coordinator Betsy Mallison. It was the 21st year for the event, which took place in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

"In the first years we did the cleanup we saw quite a bit of debris, including enough appliances and other things to put a house together," Mallison said. "But people are more aware now, and they use the rivers more. And the cleanup is very much a family event. It always falls on Father's Day weekend and our theme is to help Dad take out the trash."

The River Sweep is an annual six-state effort to clean up litter and debris in the Ohio River watershed and is the largest organized volunteer river cleanup effort in the country, Mallison said. Volunteers will clean the river in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Illinois, covering more than 2,400 miles of shoreline, she said.

Pennsylvania's cleanup is sponsored by the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission and several corporations.

"It's the combination of community groups, churches, scout troops, sportsmen's groups, concerned citizens and corporate volunteers who all come together to make an impact on our waterways," Mallison said. "The River Sweep builds awareness of our waterways."

Jill King Greenwood can be reached at or 412-321-2160.