Make Clean Rivers Month a year-long effort

Published 10:01 am Friday, June 1, 2018

To the Editor:

The Clean Rivers Month held in April and sponsored by the Franklin Garden Club and the Virginia Master Naturalists resulted in both good news and bad. The good news is we had many groups of volunteers go out to clean up our community and rid many of our roads, ponds, and streams of some of the trash thrown out by thoughtless people. The bad news is there are so many roads, holding ponds, boat ramps and stretches of river that we couldn’t get to for lack of volunteers.

We thank the volunteers as well as the motorists who stopped to thank us for volunteering. One of them stopped to give us cold water, and one suggested even trashier areas that we should be spending our time on! Many of our roads, ponds and streams in Franklin and Southampton County need picking up on a regular basis.

The consequences of trash needlessly thrown out are severe. Franklin and Southampton County are in the Chowan River basin where water drains into the Blackwater or Nottoway rivers, which form the Chowan River. From there it flows into the Meherrin River, the Albemarle Sound and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the trash that is thrown out along our roads and streams will eventually reach the ocean. Meanwhile, it does harm to wildlife in the river and to birds who search for food on the river’s edge.

One of the dominant types of trash picked up was plastic, in the form of cups, bottles, straws and, of course, plastic bags. It is estimated that there are now 200 million tons of plastic in our oceans and that our oceans could be void of life within two generations if nothing is done! A disturbing fact about plastics is that some types have a 400-year life. Other types break down into micro-plastics smaller than your fingernail. Birds eat these colorful pellets thinking they are food, filling their stomachs and making them feel full. They then starve to death because they are not eating real food. Another sad thing is that 50 percent of plastic products are used once and then thrown away.

What can we do to help protect our environment against litter? We need to train the next generation to treat our environment in a responsible way. Our local governments should put special emphasis on keeping our community clean, and adopt regulations to penalize anyone caught deliberately littering. Warning signs should be placed along roads that are particular problems stating that littering is illegal and that litterers will face a fine if caught.

Litter control needs to be an ongoing effort, so there needs to be more involvement in the Adopt-a-Spot or Adopt-a-Highway programs. Any civic group, church, business or community organization may volunteer in the City of Franklin by contacting the Community Development office at 562-8681. The requirements are that the spot must be picked up four times per year. Equipment such as litter getters, trash bags and reflective vests will be furnished. If the group wants a sign put along the route which displays the name of the group, they may request this.

In Southampton County, a group wanting to adopt a section of road may go on line to and search for the Adopt-a-Highway application. There are instructions on requirements for the program and instructions on filling out and submitting the application. The spot must be picked up at least twice per year. All the equipment needed will be furnished by VDOT. They may also call Jennifer Scarboro at 346-3073 for questions. A sign may also be requested publicizing the group which will be installed at the spot. Southampton County also has a Litter Control council, which is involved in keeping the county clean. You may contact Hart Council, Southampton County Public Works at 653-8190 concerning adopting a spot.

There are things that we as individuals may do to help protect our environment:

• Avoid using plastic straws in restaurants. If they end up as litter, they are a danger to wildlife.

• Use a re-useable water bottle rather than a plastic, throw-away bottle.

• Urge law makers to require grocery chains to offer paper grocery bags as an alternative to plastic. A small tax could be added if the customer insists on using plastic, with the proceeds going to Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (VDCR.) This may be a small burden to us all, but it will reduce the amount of plastic bags along our roads.

• If you know someone who is a litterer, explain the harm they are doing by littering and suggest ways that they may dispose of trash responsibly.

• If you are a cigarette smoker and throw the butts out along the road, this contributes to littering our streets and to harming our wildlife. Put them in a container.

• Please get involved in keeping our community clean, making Clean Rivers Month a year-long effort!

Dick Gilbert
Member of Virginia
Master Naturalists
Historic Southside Chapter