Taking Action to Protect Rivers

Macomb, IL – Aristotle said "Boundaries don't protect rivers - people do." A few dozen people put that theory to test in Macomb on September 19. Their work was part of a larger river clean-up project in Illinois.

The volunteers gathered in the Physical Plant parking lot at Western Illinois University before heading to areas around the river. Pat Sullivan of the Lamoine River Ecosystem Partnership shared instructions and advice before sending them into the field.

Sullivan organized this clean-up of the river, though she says removing debris is not necessarily the main goal.

"The biggest thing is to create awareness that we can all do our part. Everybody can do something about litter," says Sullivan. "Every single day, you can pick up a piece of litter. Rivers collect a lot of that litter and by doing our part we help protect the river."

The Lamoine River clean-up was part of the Illinois River Sweep. This is the ninth year people have gathered on the third Saturday of September to clean the Illinois River and its tributaries.

Sullivan says the Lamoine is the sixth largest tributary of the Illinois. The Lamoine meanders through six counties in west-central Illinois before feeding into the Illinois River near Beardstown.

The Volunteers

Rebecca Fischer drove an hour from her home in Quincy to lend a hand with the Lamoine River clean-up. Fischer says she wants to do her part to help the environment, even if it means doing just a little bit at a time.

"I think you can look back and see what you did and say "Wow! I did that and it looks beautiful.' Even if it's just one square mile, it's an improvment. It's better than looking at junk along the way," says Fischer.

Most of the volunteers are students at Western Illinois University. During the clean-up, they said the river itself appears to be pretty clean, though Mark Smith waded into the water near a footbridge to haul out a bicycle.

"At first I thought it was just a tire," says Smith. "But as soon as I started pulling on it I noticed there was a little more weight to it so I just kept pulling it out."

Smith is a sophomore from Moline. He's interested in the environment so that's why he woke up early on a Saturday to help out.

Smith recognizes that the litter removed by the volunteers might be replaced with more litter, perhaps in less than 24 hours. But he says their work is important because it leave less work for the next person who comes through on a Lamoine River clean-up.

"It's kind of like cleaning your room," says Smith. "If you let it all go, it's going to take you 10 times longer to clean. But if you just clean it every day or almost every day, it's not that bad."

Pat Sullivan also thinks every little bit helps. Sullivan believes she was put on this earth to be a steward of the land and water. "(So) I try to walk the talk. I teach environmental education as a job so I need to walk the talk. I try to do that on a daily basis," says Sullivan.

Results of the Clean-Up

Those who walked the areas around the Lamoine River could clearly see what they accomplished during their three-hour clean-up. They removed 28 garbage bags of litter. Some of the junk was too large to fit in bags. It includes one large overstuffed chair, one cafeteria chair, the frame to a hammock, a lot of glass, rusty metal old bed springs, and a large piece of carpet.