Meeting Weighs Anchor on Trash
Mixed Results Emerge from Session on Debris in River and Behind Dam

Morgantown Dominion Post
29 April 2004

Rivers ebb and flow. So do efforts to solve complex problems.

Last week, members of our community met to discuss how to prevent and control trash floating on the Monongahela River and behind the Morgantown Lock and Dam.

Everyone agree it's a problem and everyone wants to fix it.

After that, much of what was said came down to "what we want to do and how much we're willing to pay to do something about it," as a state Division of Natural Resources representative put it.

Several proposals pointed to simply tracing the trash's point of origin and cleaning it up there.

One idea even emerged from the discussion phase to the scheduled phase for this weekend. A Vision 2020 subcommittee on river recreation announced it's sponsoring a River Sweep cleanup. We urge our readers to participate in this event.

We have to start somewhere, and scouring the steep banks of the Mon River, though fraught with difficulty, makes sense.

Another proposal that appears to have merit is pursuing grants to identify tributaries of the Mon River where trash is being washed into it. Then recruiting groups to adopt those streams to clean up, much like the Adopt-A-Highway program.

And there was also talk about posting "Do Not Litter" signs and a litterbug hotline -- all worthwhile ideas.

Yet we got the impression that this meeting never got into the flow on the primary issue, the debris field behind the lock and dam.

It was explained that when the Mon's water levels are high this phenomenon is much more noticeable, but also presents the opportune time to dispose of the trash.

High water not only flushes more debris into the river, it also gives the lock operator the chance to raise the gates to pull the trash into the river below.

One alternative to this current out of sight, out of mind attitude, is a trash-collecting boat. However, the boat's price tag and its yearly operation comes in a little under $500,000.

Beyond flushing the trash downstream, and probably needing to float a bond to buy and operate a boat, little was accomplished on this issue.

However, like most projects, from household to international, it's all a matter of time and money -- mostly money.

Yet simply getting all the players, the private and public sectors; civic and environmental groups; and others in the same room to discuss the same issue makes all the difference.

And the problem of the dam trash is not a consistent situation, much less a daily one, as one participant at the meeting described it, while trash on the banks of the river and its tributaries is.

But, if we intend to clean any of it up it will take a steady effort from all of us.