Officials Hope for River Debris Solution
Resolution Could Help Clean Waste from Behind Dam

Trash and debris pile up behind Morgantown's locks on the Monongahela River late last week. The City of Morgantown is one of many government entities that have passed a resolution requesting federal funds to start a pilot debris removal and disposal program.Photo by Jason DeProspero/The Dominion Post

By Misty Poe Phillips
The Dominion Post
November 10, 2003.

Several years ago, Bob Bell was driving across the Westover Bridge and noticed a large amount of debris floating down the river. Years of owning a business on the banks of the Monongahela River gave him reason to know this was not an uncommon experience.
But that day, Bell decided to stop his car to look at the refuse in the river.
The county commissioner counted 22 discarded tires floating in the water and three 50-gallon barrels -all among countless pieces of garbage and clumps of tree branches.
"Now that was just what I could see to count. And if three barrels were floating in the water, what was at the bottom of those barrels?" he asked.
After years of wondering what could be done about the trash that piles up behind the locks, Bell is
heading up the effort to start a pilot program for river debris removal and disposal.
Several municipalities along the Mon River are showing their support of the program by passing resolutions that request federal funds for a solution to the river debris problem. The resolution originated at a Region VI Planning and Development Council meeting and has been passed by the county commission, the Mon County Solid Waste Authority and the Mon County Development Authority.
"This is an issue that has kept coming up periodically for years and years and years," said Don Reinke, director of the Mon County Development Authority. "Some people complain about the build up of trash and debris, but here's an instance where some folks are actually trying to do something about it."
Morgantown City Council was the most recent government body to pass the resolution.
"Our situation is different. The river is a gateway to a city -- along the same stretch with a new park, new amphitheater and $200 million in investment," Morgantown Mayor Ron Justice said last week.
While the city has supported resolutions in the past that identified the problem, Justice said, this resolution is different. A solution is offered.
Bell said that by supporting the resolution, cities are showing they are ready to partner with the federal government to solve the river debris problem. The resolution suggests the federal government be responsible for developing the technology to remove debris while local governments concentrate on its disposal.
A three-phase approach has been offered:

If successful, the proposed project could serve as a model for riverfront cities across the nation, Bell said.
"I believe once we show them what is collected at this site, the federal government will see an urgency that this needs to be done in all of the nation's rivers," he explained.
"We need money right now for a pilot project to be able to collect the trash, pull it into shore and do a sort of semi-inventory to know what's in there," Bell said. "What's floating down the river? Our drinking water is floating down the river, and we don't know what else is in there."