Day of Service Along the Delaware River

by Tom Damm

Signing up for the clean up

Signing up for the cleanup

Actions of all sizes are helping to restore the Delaware River and its surrounding areas.

There are broad steps, like the recently approved Delaware River Basin Conservation Act that will help coordinate and advance protection activities.

And there are more focused ones, like this week’s trash cleanup at the Bristol Marsh in Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania.

On Monday morning – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service – a dozen EPA employees, plus family and friends joined other volunteers, mainly high school and middle school students, to spruce up this critical resource along the main stem of the Delaware River.

With trash bags in hand, the nearly 90 volunteers – almost double the expected number – combed the marsh for discarded items.

Small sample of the junk pulled from the marsh

Small sample of the junk pulled from the marsh

Along with the commonplace bottles, cans and paper litter, we had some unusual finds: a buoy, a One Way sign, flip flops, even a bedframe, unearthed as if it were an archeological discovery.

The effort to give the marsh a clean slate, organized by the Nature Conservancy and the Heritage Conservancy, was well worth it considering all the marsh returns for the favor.

The freshwater tidal marsh, a wetland rarely found in Pennsylvania, supports a wide variety of plants, birds and animals.  It also provides spawning and nursery areas for fish and improves water quality by filtering pollutants and adding oxygen.

The marsh promotes recreational activities like bird watching, nature study and fishing and protects the riverfront from the impacts of flooding and stormwater pollution while trapping trash that floats in from the Delaware.

Hauling out a tire

Hauling out a tire

A range of efforts – some that will take many years, others just a few hours on a holiday morning – are making a difference for the Delaware and its 13,600-square-foot basin that provides drinking water for more than 15 million people and contributes billions of dollars to the regional economy.

From major new initiatives to the removal of societal junk from Bristol Marsh, many hands are at work in the cleanup.


About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.