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Essex to Hold First Source to Sea Cleanup Oct. 2

The environmental consequences of trash in local waterways are far reaching, according to the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC). Anyone who wants to make a difference can participate in a town-wide Source to Sea Cleanup in Essex that runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 2. Volunteer registration is available online at www.ctriver.org/cleanup.

Mike Long, co-chair of Sustainable Essex, one of the groups organizing the event, said that it’s the first Essex-specific cleanup being done with guidance from CRC.

CRC’s annual Source to Sea Cleanup enlists thousands of volunteers to pick-up trash along the banks of the Connecticut River from Stratford, New Hampshire to Old Saybrook.

The event has helped with the removal of 1,202 tons of trash from rivers over the past 24 years, according to CRC’s Cleanup Chronicle. This is the 25th year that the organization has held the Source to Sea Cleanup.

Volunteers in Essex will first check-in at the rear gate of the Essex Fire Station on West Avenue at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 2.

“When they show up, they’ll be given a map. They’ll be given gloves [and] bags and they’ll be assigned a specific place in town,” said Long, who adds that site leaders are assigned to each of the designated cleanup areas.

These eight or nine areas were identified in collaboration with the Essex Land Trust, using the organization’s open space properties map.

“We identified areas adjacent to properties owned by the land trust and properties that were likely to have trash build up or where we know there has been a problem with trash building up in the past,” said Long.

The cleanup is anticipated to last approximately 2 to 2 ½ hours long, with the check-in and check-out process included.

Volunteers are encouraged to wear appropriate footwear, such as boots, long pants, and long-sleeve shirts.

“This is still tick season and they need to be mindful of that, so we’re strongly recommending that” people wear appropriate attire, Long said. “As far as other things that they should bring, we’re suggesting water, bug spray, sunscreen, and we’re also saying, bring your enthusiasm.”

An important part of the day is tallying the amount and types of trash collected, which participants can do using the Clean Swell app or on a paper form.

“They’re actually tallying the type of trash: tires, plastic straws, balloons, plastic bags, you name it,” said Long. “I mean there’s many, many, many categories.”

Once the data is uploaded, it is summarized and tabulated by CRC. In 2020, 34.9 tons of trash were collected during CRC’s Source to Sea Cleanup event. This includes 3,036 plastic bottles, 3,149 aluminum cans, 2,074 glass bottles and 2,395 nips or shot-size alcohol bottles, as examples.

“The great thing about this is that it’s providing some real solid, hard data for what is getting into our waterways, into our rivers,” said Long. “And it’s actually, the Connecticut River Conservancy has actually used this to push for certain kinds of legislation.”

In general, the legislation supported by CRC aims to promote and encourage recycling, according to its website. CRC also aims to reduce or ban the use of certain materials that are associated with negative environmental impacts, such as plastic bags or styrofoam.

A portion of the costs for the Source to Sea Cleanup event in Essex was raised through an online crowd funding campaign, qualifying Sustainable Essex for a grant from Sustainable CT’s Community Match Fund.

“Sustainable Essex has been really, really fortunate in terms of the financial support we’ve gotten from the residents of this town,” said Long. “It’s really been very gratifying.”

Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at e.reinhart@shorepublishing.com.

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