Cleaning Up the River, Cleaning Up Lives

By Kiri Kroner
This week I joined several other members from EPA’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) to participate in the kickoff of our Chesapeake Bay Expedition. We volunteered at the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) located in southeast DC and helped clean up a little trash along the Anacostia River. And by “a little” I mean we filled upwards of a dozen large bags with trash in the span of just two hours! We picked up garbage by land and by sea (I got to wear a pair of waders), and a few of us got a little wet in the process. One ELNer said that he’s now going to think twice before using a disposable plastic bottle since that was the most common item we saw during the cleanup. We were told that more garbage would end up in the same location after the next rain storm, but I felt our efforts were not futile. We made a difference that day improving the wetlands in our Nation’s capital, and if that feat were replicated many times here and in other places, well we’d be a lot better off.

I am passionate about ECC’s mission to help inner city kids rebuild their lives by cleaning up the Anacostia River. The thing about ECC that impressed me the most was that this is a community based organization. The at-risk youths are from the neighborhood – one of the toughest in the nation – working to clean up their neighborhood. Many then move on to fulfilling jobs armed with new skills to improve their lives. Not only is ECC empowering youth by cleaning up a river, they are in essence training the trainers, so these kids can help their peers learn too.

After we finished pulling as much trash out of the river as we could (I even found a baseball, possibly from the nearby National’s ballpark) we were joined by Bob Perciasepe, the Deputy Administrator of EPA, who came to wish us well on our Chesapeake Bay Expedition! I was thrilled at the chance to meet with him and discuss issues surrounding the Chesapeake Bay and the future of EPA. Bob is very interested in hearing about what we learn during our Expedition, so we better take good notes!

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About the author: Kiri Kroner is an Environmental Protection Specialist on the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Team in the Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water. She enjoys spending as much time as she can outside. In her remaining spare time, Kiri volunteers to help people in the developing world gain access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene education.

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