Stream clean up promotes environmental ownership

Emphasizing the importance of caring about the environment, the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy organized a large-scale stream clean up.


Rachel Schewe

Trash pick up…Loading up bags of trash, (from left) volunteers Joe Hebelka, Lillian Fieck, Andy Fieck and Ava Beskar work together to clean up their local ecosystems.

The event aims to bring community members together and create awareness about the effects of pollution by providing a safe way to collect trash.
Volunteers signed up to collect trash at one of 145 collection sites from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
According to Jessie Kemper, the Director of Conservation at the Perkiomen Watershed Conservatory, the stream cleanup has grown to become the “largest single day stream clean up in the state of Pennsylvania.”
“Last year we pulled out almost 2,000 bags of trash 255 tires and almost 3,000 pounds of scrap metal,” Kemper said. Stream clean up volunteer Andy
Feick has been volunteering for the event with his daughter Lillian for years.
“[Volunteering] is a way for direct support, to get the litter before it ends up in the ocean,” Feick said. “Everything here ends up washing into the creek and then into the ocean.”
Kemper said that many volunteers and large group keep coming back to the event year after year because they “notice the need” in the community and “want to do something to improve our local environment.”
“[The clean up is] a great way to get community members involved and caring about the environment and feeling ownership over our natural spaces and hopefully educating people and trying to prevent pollution and littering from happening,” Kemper said.
Educating the public about the dangers of pollution and littering is a big part in creating postitive change in the environment.
“I think [littering] is a very small problem that could turn into a very big problem if you don’t do anything about it,” stream clean up volunteer Lillian Feick said. According to Kemper, trash left in waterways and natural areas can have negative effects on wildlife and the environment.
“[Trash] can be ingested by birds and fish. Some trash items when it breaks down can release harmful chemicals like cigarette butts which is the number one littered item in the world,” Kemper said.
Stream clean up volunteer Joe Hebelka volunteers with the event to help protect the future of our environment and its inhabitants.
“Small efforts by a few individuals can make a big difference,” Hebelka said. “I’m just returning a favor to nature.”
According to Feick our ecosystems are “under a big strain” partly caused by the amount of trash and pollution in the environment.
Feick said that as a society we need to all put in the effort to protect our environment.
“[Picking up trash] is part of a wholistic effort that we all need to have to make it work. All of our ecosystems are under a big strain and [littering and pollution] is a big part of that,” Feick said.
After the trash is collected during the stream clean up the conservancy recycles materials like metal, electronics and tires.
The trash that is unable to be recycled is placed into dumpsters donated by Sustainable Waste Solutions.
According to Kemper, Sustainable Waste Solutions is a sustainable company that “doesn’t use landfills.”