Five members of Green GW joined with students from Georgetown and American universities to take part in the 22nd Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup Saturday morning.
Students volunteered to pick up garbage along with community residents and members of environmental groups at Glover Archbold Park, one of hundreds of sites registered with the Alice Ferguson Foundation for the event.
“This is the first year for GW, Georgetown and AU students to be here,” said Kent Slowinski, the site coordinator for Glover Park.
Spencer Olson, president of Green GW, said his group collaborates with Georgetown’s EcoAction and AU’s Ecosense to coordinate volunteers for events like Saturday’s.
EcoAction President Jonathan Cohn said he alerted the neighboring schools about the event after learning about it from Slowinski, a Georgetown alumnus.
Cohn participated in the cleanup last year, and said he thought the Glover Park location was good for all three schools.
The cleanup site, within walking distance from Georgetown University and GW’s Mount Vernon Campus, seemed like a “well-kept area,” said Sarah Scoville, Green GW’s social media manager.
Bags of trash were soon filled, however, within the first two hours of the event that took place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Scoville’s trash bag included what she thought were the “normal culprits,” such as beer bottles, plastic bags, water bottles and Starbucks cups.
More unusual garbage items included a shopping cart, tires, and shoes.
“It’s amazing what people throw away,” said Matt Buccelli, a junior from Georgetown’s EcoAction.
In total, around 75 volunteers attended the Glover Park site, one of the 33 sites in D.C. and 489 registered sites in the District, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, all of which are all part of the Potomac River watershed, said Project Coordinator Becky Horner.
The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay and is the fourth largest river along the Atlantic coast. Many of the pressing environmental problems in this region affect water quality in particular, and 90 percent of D.C.’s drinking water originates in the Potomac, according to the Potomac Conservancy’s 2009 State of the Nation’s River report.
“When water runs off impermeable surfaces, it degrades the water,” said Jocelyn Ziemian, a volunteer from Dupont Circle who works in biodiversity and land conservation.
Ziemian said that impermeable surfaces from urban sprawl and residential development can lead to water quality problems.
“I don’t think people realize that what they’re doing has an impact,” said Ann Haas, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 3D and an employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteering at the park.
“It’s a matter of alerting people that there are consequences. It’s a matter of education. It’s a matter of making people aware,” she said.
By the end of the event, as many as 70 bags of trash were collected at the Glover Park site. In total, 61.4025 tons of trash was collected across the Potomac Watershed, according to the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Web site, and more sites were still reporting results.
As of 3:40 p.m. Saturday, thousands of volunteers had collected 63,550 recyclable beverage containers, 14,073 plastic bags, and 10,558 cigarette butts.
“It’s amazing how just a few people can make things look so much better here in just two hours,” said Ryan Lore, a Glover Park resident who often goes hiking at the park.
“It’s wonderful. I’m so happy that so many schools and community members came out,” Palmisano said.