Since 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency has given the Anacostia River a failing grade for cleanliness. In early 2018, the grade moved up to a D-. Properly caring for the creeks, streams, and rivers that make up the Watershed is vital to the health of area residents, to the water’s wildlife inhabitants, and for future generations for leisure activities such as fishing and swimming.
Joe’s Movement Emporium is a non-profit organization in Mount Rainier, Maryland with a focus on the creative arts. They have branched out into the environmental realm with the Joe’s Creative Works Stream Team project. Joe’s Stream Team is an environmental group, founded in June 2018, dedicated to the reduction and elimination of litter in the Anacostia River Watershed. The Stream Team is funded by a grant from Prince George’s County, allocated through The Clean Water Act. Joe’s is not alone in this effort: local area environmental groups such as the Anacostia River Keepers, Anacostia Watershed Society, Chesapeake Bay Trust, and the Prince George’s County Department of Environment are vital partners.
The exciting and innovative “bandalong” device is a focal point of the Stream Team’s cleanup efforts. Introduced by the environmental engineering firm, Storm Water Systems, the bandalong device is a floatable litter trap built into a canal, stream, river, or water way. Its overall function is to capture litter in the water whether it is thrown in directly or carried by rain storms or wind. Mount Rainier’s bandalong is the first in the state of Maryland and only one of 17 in the entire United States. Joe’s Stream Team is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the litter trap on a weekly basis, sorting captured litter into recyclables and garbage, and reporting litter data to partner organizations and the county.
Recording the data recorded tells us what materials frequently wind up as litter in our communities. Currently plastic bottles, plastic bags, and food and drink packaging are in the lead. This helps the Stream Team know how to best move forward for a cleaner, healthier, litter free environment. On an average weekly clean out, approximately 6 lbs. of garbage and 4 lbs. of recyclables are pulled out of the bandalong. That adds up to 40 lbs. of litter a month and 480 lbs. of litter per year just from one bandalong. The Anacostia Watershed has hundreds of canals, creeks, and streams that connect to the main river body. With only one litter trap in the entire state, this is a mission that will take a lot of planning and support.
The Stream Team is a small yet energized group, hoping to grow in the future and gain the support of the community. Kevin McNeill, a resident of Mount Rainier, is the crew’s supervisor and project coordinator. Richie Mon and Raymond Schulter, both graduates of the Creative Works Program based out of Joe’s Movement Emporium, are current crew members. Executive Director of Joe’s Movement Emporium, Brooke Kidd, has been a catalyst for this project existing in Mount Rainier. The team color is blue to represent clean water. The Stream Team likes to say they are nature workers who combat litter and its underlying causes, mainly in our water ways.
The Stream Team has been dedicated to engaging the public about litter prevention education, awareness, and engagement. The Team’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held in Mount Rainier in July 2018, where a number of community members and partner organizations were in attendance. The Stream Team had its first batch of volunteers in August 2018. Campers from the Mount Rainier Nature Center Summer program, aged 8 to 10, learned the difference between garbage and recyclables, and learned about the negative effects of pollution on wildlife and the environment.
In September of 2018, The Washington Post visited with and interviewed the Stream Team to get a firsthand look at the new bandalong technology and how the clean outs contribute to litter free waterways. The Stream Team has also been active in the surrounding communities of Mount Rainier. A noteworthy event was presenting at the Prince George’s County Department of Environment’s Student Environmental Alliance Summit, where the Team was able to engage with and educate over 150 students from high schools across Prince George’s County. In October of 2018, the Stream Team attended Festival Del Rio in Bladensburg, Maryland and pulled over 40 lbs. of litter from the shore line in just two hours. That was only a couple hours of work in one small spot of the river. The Anacostia River is over 8 miles in length, connecting to other major bodies of water before it feeds into the Atlantic Ocean.
Until communities are on the same page with awareness and action towards properly disposing of items, rather than creating littered streets, parks, playgrounds, yards, sidewalks, and water ways, groups like the Stream Team and devices like the bandalong litter trap are a necessity. In Spring and Summer of 2019, the Stream Team has plans to call on the help of the Mount Rainier community to lead by example for other towns and cities towards maintaining clean and healthy neighborhoods. The Stream Team is always looking for volunteers and partners to join in the fight against litter. This project is only on contract from June 2018 through June 2019, but the team is confident that with the proper amount of community support, the funding needed for this good work can be replenished.
You can reach the Stream Team directly by sending an email to StreamTeamPG@gmail.com, visiting the Facebook page at http://bit.ly/2I65wAF, or connecting with @JoesStreamTeam on Twitter and Instagram. Stay connected, stay involved, and let’s keep Mount Rainier clean together!