Cleaning the river

Warning, this story contains dangerously high levels of irony

Phil Sworden, a district forester with Conservation District, helps out at a water booth they have set up for children during Riverdays Saturday. The display is designed to educate people on water quality and what polution does to it.
Phil Sworden
A small group of people, a few canoes and a green raft helped a group of Midlanders accomplish what’s becoming tradition during Riverdays.
They volunteered their morning to wrestle pop bottles, car fenders, a 4 X 4 piece of lumber, a shovel blade and other trash from the water and banks of the Chippewa River.
The work began with registration at the Chippewa Nature Center, and the activity was overseen by Phil Stephens of the center. Before heading out along the river, Stephens guesstimated the effort would last until nearly 1 p.m., but the group was a bit ahead of schedule this year, reaching the Tridge at noon.
Why? Because as the years go by – this is the fifth – less and less junk is around to be hauled from the water.
“The canoes are getting a little less full as we do this,” Stephens said. “That’s a good sign,” however, the water’s been more muddy this year, hampering efforts to see the bottom and what might be resting there.
But that didn’t stop Carol Arnosky from becoming so involved in wrestling debris from the plants that grew around them on shore so hard that she fell a couple times. The end of the line was the canoe livery near the Tridge, and she and the others were covered with mud, walking in squishy and wet shoes, and sweating in the super hot sunshine.
The little flotilla garnered some attention from River Days visitors frolicking on the Tridge and at the Farmers Market, but swiftly emptied the trash and placing canoes on a trailer the canoes to head back to the center.
Marlena Saotome and her son, Hiroki, participated in the event with friends Arnosky, her husband and son. Arnosky said the clean up is part of her birthday celebration and since there wasn’t much to pick up, it mostly was a quiet canoe trip with friends. That’s a change from one year when there were so many people that they cleaned the Tittabawassee and the Pine rivers as well.
“One year, I found a salt and pepper shaker,” Arnosky said.
Saotome said her interesting find of the day was a box of cigarettes that still contained the cigarettes, as well as a place where someone had fished but left behind their cooler and a T-shirt.
“I love to volunteer,” but said she was nervous to help in the clean up.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Saotome said.
Marie Andrews also helped out after seeing the event listed in a Chippewa Nature Center booklet.
“It’s not really work, we were doing it with friends and we’re helping the environment,” said Bob Bissonnette.
If Dow Chemical would now clean up its dioxins from the Tittabawassee and the cocktail of deadly cocktails leaking from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, all would be hunky dory.

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