WELLESLEY ISLAND, N.Y. (WWTI) — Shorelines covered in dangerous toxins. That is what volunteers found during a St. Lawrence River cleanup in the final days of July.
This effort, led by Clayton-based organization Save The River, was labeled as a “river-wide” event, with volunteers participating from Cape Vincent to the lower end of Chippewa Bay. Before the cleanups began, the organization had 200 volunteers registered.
According to Save The River Assistant Director Lauren Eggleston, the goal of these cleanup days is to not only to remove trash from the River but also to educate the public on the threats the natural environment is facing.
“There is a lot of pollution in our waterways,” Eggleston said. “One of the things that trash cleanups like this provide, is its a tool. We are getting trash out of the river, but then it makes people think what goes into the system in the first place.”
During the first morning, volunteers on Wellesley Island in a group led by Thousand Islands Park, found items ranging in size from abandoned floating docks to almost microscopic polystyrene bits.
Although the larger pieces were shocking, Eggleston warned that the small findings are some of the most dangerous.
“Those small bits are what breaks down into microplastics,” she explained. “And those are what have impacts on human health and wildlife health.”
These particles can be easily overlooked as they blended into rocks and sand. Volunteers audibly exclaimed statements in disbelief as toxic bits were everywhere.
But this only amplified their call to action.
“To see such a beautiful river just trashed, it’s really kind of sad,” Youth Volunteer Jack Benoit exclaimed. “The cleaner the river will actually be if we have more people.”
Thousand Islands Park Association Member and Cleanup Team Leader Jim Brasser also explained that the Park invited all of its families to the event. He said this was to help increase awareness of an issue affecting the entire community.
“A clean River is obviously important to all of us,” Brasser said. “And it doesn’t just happen by itself. You have to work at it.”
The second day of the cleanup event will take place on Saturday, July 30. Additional Trash Free River Cleanups are scheduled on the Save The River website.