Organizers plan for 18th annual beautification project
More than 500 volunteers and community residents will wade through the White River and its banks cleaning up trash and removing man-made waste from the county’s largest waterway on Sept. 8. No one knows what they might find when participating in the annual White River Clean-up, but volunteers do know they are helping out the community and environment.
“It’s caring about the river. It’s our drinking water source,” said White River Clean-up Organizer Tim Stottlemyer. “The river is a jewel that runs through our community.”
What’s been discovered in the river?
“You name it; we’ve found it the river,” said Stottlemyer, a MS4 program manager with the city of Noblesville’s Clean Storm Water Program. “There’s a lot of stuff that makes us scratch our head.”
Unexpected items include couches, mattresses, refrigerators, old car bumpers and rims.
“We’ve found a whole motorcycle that had been submerged for years,” he said. “Every year we find a good assortment up and down the river. You go to any part of the river and you’ll find stuff.”
While the discovery of such items makes some volunteers excited, Stottlemyer is not happy to see items like water heaters discarded in the river.
“That’s just malicious dumping,” he said. “It’s people who are too lazy to do the right thing. That’s our water source.”
Stottlemyer said more than 415 tons of trash has been removed from White River during the annual clean-ups, including an old dumpsite.
“Since 2004, 25 tons of recycled steel and metal have come out of the river,” he said, adding that almost 200 tons of landfill waste has been removed during that timeframe.
Meet Tim Stottlemyer
Hobbies: Mountain biking
Favorite part of your job: Finding new ways to protect and keep our waterways clean.
If you weren’t an MS4 Program Manager, what other type of job would you be doing: I like fixing things, so I am not sure it matters if it’s a problem with water quality or an old car, I just like to find solutions and fix things so they operate as they should.
Awards/Honors: “Excellence in Stormwater Management 2008” by the Indiana Association of Floodplain and Stormwater Management.
Personal quote: “When you arrive at the fork in the road, take it!” ~ Yogi Berra
One of the biggest pollutants is tires. Stottlemyer said that 2,709 tires have been removed from the White River during the clean-up. In the past four years, groups have removed 220, 256, 239 and 101 tires, respectively.
“Tires are the most common thing we find. It just seems to not have an end to it,” he said. “It’s amazing to us that we can still pull 100 tires out after removing 400, 500 and 600 (in previous years).”
Stottlemyer said the county is “running out of hot spot locations” thanks to years of clean-up efforts; however, residents still dump items off bridges and trash is migrating downstream from other communities.
“There’s a big rural area between us and upstream. People store stuff in the floodway and when there is a big rain it carries it away,” he said. “Water has a huge force to it and carries things very long ways.”
Because of the lower water levels, Stottlemyer said the drought is a “double-edged sword.” While the lower levels provides more items to be located and pulled, it also means there is less water for crafts to float on. As more items are collected, the watercrafts will become heavier and less buoyant.
“With water down there is more stuff, and that’s great, but the hard thing is, where does it go?” he said. “We’re creating different take-out points for trash.”
While the event began in Noblesville, the clean-up has expanded to each of the three Hamilton County municipalities along the river – Noblesville, Fishers and Carmel. Stottlemyer said the biggest challenge is moving people around and feeding them.
“It’s like herding cats,” he joked. “We have a crew on every river mile in Hamilton County.”
Are the clean-up efforts making a difference? Stottlemyer believes so.
“Will a day come when we don’t need to put on the events? I don’t think that’s possibly feasible because we are all humans and urbanization is kinda messy. Do I wish that will happen? Yes, but there is always going to be pollution,” he said.
Even if you can’t attend the clean-up, there are efforts you can do at home. Stottlemyer advised residents that they should never dump anything down a storm drain and that soap, dirt and chemicals from simply washing a car in your driveway impact the waterway.
“We need to reprogram our brains on how we see pollution,” he said. “Storm drains in the city lead to the White River, or a stream that leads to the White River. We do things on land that will negatively or positively impact the river.”
The Hamilton County White River Cleanup has been one of the very largest in the region with tremendous community turnout and public support. Other communities in the Upper White River Watershed, which include 14 counties, have also coordinated their own existing river cleanup events on the same day, making this one of the largest-scale cooperative clean up events in the nation.
Volunteers of all ages are welcome (children must be accompanied by an adult) and have the option of participating in the Noblesville area – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Moose Lodge at 950 Field Drive; or the Carmel/Fishers area – 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Renner’s Automotive at 8190 E. 146th St. (northwest corner of 146th Street and White River).
Those volunteering should plan to get dirty and wear sturdy shoes and gloves. Lunch and supplies will be provided. Groups of five or more are asked to preregister by e-mailing email@example.com. Individuals and small groups can register onsite the morning of the event. For more information, call Tim Stottlemyer at 770-5132 or visit www.cityofnoblesville.org/cleanwater.