Bay residents clear debris from Cahoon Creek

Volunteers pick up trash from the bank of Cahoon Creek on May 16. The annual citywide waterways cleanup was limited due to the coronavirus. Additional monthly creek cleanups are scheduled through the summer. Visit the Bay Village Green Team page on Facebook for details. Photo by Jennifer Hartzell

The 2020 Bay Village Spring Waterways Cleanup took place along Cahoon Creek on Saturday, May 16. This event is sponsored annually by the Bay Village Green Team, Bay High School’s Project Earth Club, The Village Foundation, and the City of Bay Village. This year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the cleanup looked a little different but still provided the same results.

A total of 22 volunteers of all ages met near the top of the sledding hill along Cahoon Creek between 10 and 10:30 a.m. Groups of less than 10 were sent out to pick up trash along the creek to Lake Erie. Volunteers provided their own gloves and were strongly encouraged to use face masks and bring their own bags. Large garbage bags were provided to anyone who didn’t bring one. A limited number of trash grabbers were available to use too.

Due to storms the day before, Cahoon Creek was much deeper and rougher than normal. Unfortunately this means a lot of trash that had been on the sides of the creek was swept out to Lake Erie before the cleanup, however volunteers were still able to collect over 70 pounds! A large percentage of the waste found is plastic, which does not weigh much, so 70 pounds is impressive. 

It was a beautiful morning for the cleanup as the sun burned the dense fog away. It was also nice to have an event on the calendar that didn’t get canceled and it was even better to talk to friends and community members while safely socially distancing with masks on. I know for my family our typical May Saturdays are jam-packed with sporting events. It was nice that all five of us could attend this together and know we were doing something that helps our city and Lake Erie stay beautiful.

As always, the goal of my columns is to provide you, the reader, with simple changes you can make in your lives to live more sustainably. I hope that I am, for the most part, successful in that. A creek cleanup is a perfect way to make a difference while simultaneously gaining a sense of community and feeling good about what you’ve just done.

I have also written multiple times about how, if you are unable to attend an organized waterway cleanup such as this, the simple act of picking up litter off of your street when you see it IS performing a waterway/beach cleanup because you are directly preventing waste from entering Lake Erie through storm drains. Please, by all means keep this up.

However, while all of this is important and each of our individual actions absolutely add up to an enormous collective effort, our efforts are still not going to solve the problem of plastic and waste entering the Lake without policy change. The amount of plastic being produced and distributed daily is too enormous a problem for us to think that by simply picking up trash we’re making anything more than a tiny dent.

A recent study done at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY, estimates that there are 381 tons of plastic in Lake Erie, which is more than 50 times greater than previously estimated. This study was done using 3D modeling to examine the types of plastic in the lake and took into account the different types of plastic that either float in the water or sink to the bottom. Previous estimates had only examined water samples taken from the surface which didn’t account for the six types of polymers that sink to the bottom.

I’m sure you’re thinking right now “Oh my, that is terrible! What can I possibly do about that gigantic problem as just one person?!” Well, it turns out there is something you can do, and it is not difficult. You can write emails and call local, state, and even national level legislators with your concerns. Take photos of the trash you find in your neighborhoods and in waterways and send those too. The more our local officials hear from us, the more seriously and thoughtfully they may take this problem and may be motivated to do something about it. 

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 11:28 AM, 05.19.2020