Mississippi clean up project removing loads of waste from waterway

Posted on: October 26, 2016

By Sarah Cavanagh

The Mississippi Clean-up Project (MCP) was established in 2005 with one goal: to clean up and restore our local waterways, streams and lake. Since its inception, founder and primary administrator Doug Snedden, has been wading into the Mississippi and wading out with every manner of solid waste. From items like bottles and cans to tires and shopping carts to 200 gallon oil tanks. Without a government agency or professional organization tasked with removing trash from our river system, Snedden took it upon himself to fill an obvious void. His efforts, and those of project participants, work to remove dangerous waste and bring ecological balance back to the waterway. The project runs each year from May until September and updates are posted on the MCP blog.

As primary administrator, he coordinates all project activities, volunteer schedules, waste disposal, boat and vehicle operations, safety procedures, coordinates with outside services like the town and police department and maintains the MCP blog. In short, Snedden is a very busy man.

When asked what the most unusual item is that he’s ever removed, Snedden recounts a time he came across 10 industrial hole boring steel shafts, each shaft measuring an astounding 10 feet in length and weighing approximately 100 pounds.

One commonly discarded item of particular menace is tires. In the short stretch of the Mississippi River in Carleton Place between the McNeely Ave and Highway 7 bridges, the MCP has found approximately 972 tires since 2005. However, the undocumented calculation for that same short area is twelve hundred tires. Discarded tires are a very serious environmental threat to our river system. Chemicals like, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) oils and hazardous waste like lead are released when they breakdown and toxic to aquatic life and to us.

In that same area of the river, 27,000 documented solid waste pieces weighing 117,400 pounds have been removed by the project. Snedden estimates that the undocumented total in the last 11 years has been in excess of 40,000 pieces and 140,000 pounds. Items as crazy to imagine as freezers and refrigerators have been removed.

The blog also lists, by year, every item and the approximate gross weight removed from the river system. Sadly, the totals have been on the rise. The totals already available for the 2016 season are staggering.

An unbelievable 31,700 pounds of solid waste have been removed from the area in four months including 11 50 gallon barrels, six bicycles, 22 lawn chairs, a 250 pound industrial drive shaft, a tv and a baby stroller.

It all raises the question, who’s tossing drive shafts, oil tanks and freezers into the river? Some items listed can rationalized as the result of wind storms (things like lawn chairs), angler mishaps (fishing rods and hooks) or beach loses (small toys) but the larger items are flat out purposeful dumping, which is shocking and disheartening. In this day and age of accessible recycling and disposal options, not to mention the wealth of knowledge on how dangerous dumping can be to the environment, there is absolutely no excuse for this disregard for our river system. There is an entire page on the Town of Carleton Place website (http://carletonplace.ca/waste-collection-p2418.php) on waste collection and disposal. When in doubt about how to dispose of an unusual item please refer to it.

Let’s help out our river man, our champion of the Mississippi, by lessening his load. If you’d like to learn more about the Mississippi Clean up Project or even volunteer please visit the blog or contact Doug Snedden at dougsnedden@hotmail.com.