Paddle Pushers Clean Up Allegheny Riverbanks as Part of National Effort

Valley News Dispatch
29 September 2012
By Jodi Weigand

A metal shopping cart, eight tires, a couple of boat batteries and a deflated water trampoline helped tip the scales to more than 30,000 pounds that Paddle Without Pollution volunteers have cleaned up this year.

“It’s a lot of stuff you wouldn’t expect,” said Grace Ison, 11, of Oakmont, who helped during a Saturday cleanup along the Allegheny River in Harmar. “Some of the stuff people threw away without thinking; it felt good to pick it up.”

A group of 24 volunteers spent more than four hours collecting trash from 3½ miles of riverbanks and Allegheny Islands State Park. The effort was part of National Public Lands Day, a national effort to clean up recreation trails and sites.

The group went out in kayaks and loaded what they could into the small paddle boats. The bigger debris went into a canoe.

Melissa and David Rohm, both 44, of Scott, founded Paddle Without Pollution last September. They’d been picking up trash unofficially during boating trips over the past dozen years, but were prompted to get organized after a trip on the Monongahela River.

“We paddled the Mon last year and were just shocked with how much stuff was there,” said David Rohm. “It was like a Third World country.”

They travel to any body of water from creeks to oceans. They’ve held cleanups at Cape May, the Susquehanna River and Lake Erie.

Last weekend, they hauled 1,800 pounds of tires and garbage from the Allegheny River and Bull Creek in Tarentum.

It’s bittersweet, but “we always get more than we expect,” said Melissa Rohm.

On shore Saturday, volunteers from Bishop Canevin High School in Oakwood sorted through the debris so that the group can track what is most commonly found among every 300 pounds of trash.

Among the more predictable debris were cigarette packs, plastic and glass bottles, kids toys and lost sandals.

“I think it’s just stuff you bring to the water,” said Ellen Urbanek, of Green Tree, the high school’s secretary. “It’s not as though it’s industrial or people were dumping.”

But people certainly should be more considerate, said science teacher Peggy Evans of Regent Square.

“You think it’s something you learn in kindergarten: Throw your stuff away in the right place,” she said.

Paddle Without Pollution’s core initiatives are pollution prevention and education programs and summer and after-school programs for inner city youth to teach paddling skills and help them connect with and appreciate nature.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or Staff writer Liz Hayes contributed to this report. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or