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City and County Pick It Up; Litter That Is

Baltimore City and County are fighting a common enemy these days: trash.  Both are finding ways to keep their foe out of the streams and rivers that flow through the two jurisdictions and into the Chesapeake Bay.

In the county, a series of booms guide those potato chip bags and fast food wrappers that wash into the Back River from Herring Run to the shoreline off Diamond Point Road in Essex. The booms, installed four years ago, are one piece of the anti-trash strategy.

Officials held public meetings in May and June to explain to residents how litter makes waterways, unattractive, un-swimmable and un-fishable and to encourage them to get involved with cleaning it up.

“When we make people aware and we start to organize people, the effort is to try to not only clean our communities and volunteer to do that, but to also volunteer with our future efforts to address trash,” said Vince Gardina, director of the County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability.

Most streams that flow through the county meander into the city as well.  Some come back out to the county. Others drain right into the Inner Harbor.

Gardina says the city is doing its part in the trash war as well.

City Side of the Fight

The city took its mechanical street sweeping program city-wide in April. Previously it had focused on commuter routes and downtown.

The sweepers collected 190 tons of trash in the first two weeks after expanding the program. That’s equal to the weight of 25 elephants.

The city also started a municipal trash can program in June.  More than 9,000 residents in Belair-Edison and parts of Greater Mondawmin received heavy duty trash cans.

And then there’s the Water Wheel off Pier Six.  The wheel, which runs on solar power and the flow of the Jones Falls, has been in operation since May and picked up more than 58 tons of trash.  It can handle up to 50,000 pounds of trash a day.  The amount of trash in the harbor depends on the weather.

“If there's no rain, you're not going to see a whole lot of trash on a given day,” said Adam Lindquist, project manager for the Healthy Harbor Initiative. “But if it’s pouring, we might change out the dumpster three, maybe even four times.”

Lindquist recorded a video of the wheel in action after a heavy rain storm on May 15.  The video was posted to YouTube where it has clocked in more than a million views.

How Much Is Too Much

City and county officials are working with the state Department of the Environment to determine how much litter a watershed can handle; focusing on the Baltimore Harbor Watershed between the city and the county.

That’s called total maximum daily load, or TMDL.

Once that is determined, it becomes part of a plan to reduce litter that is submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency.  The plan is to be implemented upon approval from the federal government.