RUSSELL COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – A massive cleanup effort is underway in Russell County, Virginia as officials say trash, and especially tires, are piling up in the Clinch River.
StreamSweepers, a job corps program out of Orange County, Virginia, is hoping to remove this man-made trash from rivers and streams.
“Our estimates put the tire count near 10,000,” said on-water manager, Kira Lander.
The group, made up of 17 to 24 year olds, is helping clean up the nearly 60 miles of of the Clinch River.
“I love it,” said Will Sowards, “I much rather be around flopping in the mud like a pig than having to be dressed up in a suit and tie. You just can’t beat it.”
“Anything you can imagine, we found it in the river,” said Dylan Hall, “from bags, to people’s old food, fishing gear, computers, washers, anything.”
Groups from StreamSweepers have also cleaned other rivers like the Rappahannock, Hazel, and Hughes.
Now, they are hoping to preserve what has been called one of the most biologically diverse rivers in North America.
“It’s the perfect place for our work,” said Lander. “We need to bring it back to that status and it’s failed in recent years.”
Their goal is to protect this natural habitat and those hoping to enjoy the river.
So far, the group has recovered nearly 300 tires from the river.
“The number of tires is just mind-boggling,” said Sowards.
They also hope to share the story of the river.
“If we can share it and people can see what it looks like to deal with it and the effects of it,” said Lander “then maybe we can prevent it from happening in the future.”
The StreamSweepers Russell County have partnered with the company Bridgestone to store tires at an off-site location until the company can come to pick them up for recycling.
Crews are expected to continue work cleaning the river through the summer.
You can find more about their clean up efforts HERE.