April 14 dawned sunny and warm as 22 Marymount University students in Biology instructor Bonnie Burgess’s Environmental Science course donned boots and old clothes to participate in Potomac Watershed Cleanup Day. The Potomac Watershed covers parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and Washington, DC, and the Cleanup is an annual event sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation. The steep, rocky site where the MU group volunteered to pick up trash – along the Virginia side of the Potomac River, adjacent to Chain Bridge on Pimmit Run stream – was sponsored by Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.
Marymount’s Biology and Physical Sciences Department has a volunteer service requirement, and Burgess has made the Watershed Cleanup Day part of her curriculum for the past three years. She explained, “I always look for volunteer opportunities that have an environmental component; this is an annual project that benefits the entire Potomac Watershed.”
Students were excited about the hands-on service activity. Dan Garcia, a Computer Science major, noted, “It’s nice getting out in the field. Most classes don’t get to do that.” Kim McLeod, a Multidisciplinary Studies major, who plans to be an elementary school teacher, added, “Today has made me want to get more involved!”
The group picked up items ranging from plastic bottles and cigarette butts to discarded tires and rusted car mufflers -- filling dozens of bags. Recyclables were collected separately in yellow bags, while trash went into blue bags. Two students used rocks as tools to dig out yards of orange plastic fencing that had been partially buried!
Burgess was impressed that the amount of large, bulk trash was significantly less than in past years, which she believes indicates the annual effort is making a difference for the health of the Potomac.
At the end of the day, volunteers across the entire watershed collected over 81 tons of garbage; 14,164 cigarette butts; 80,600 recyclable bottle containers; and 13,944 plastic bags.
(Photos by Bob Brown '15, a Communication major)
Photo 1 – Alison Bidwick ’15 (left), a Business Administration major, and Sarah Naji ’12, an Interior Design major, remove a tire.
Photo 2 – Dan Garcia ’14, an IT major, and Catrina Lorensen ’14, an Art major, pick up trash.
Photo 3 – Bonnie Burgess, Environmental Science instructor, and Kim McLeod ’13, a Multidisciplinary Studies major, brave rough terrain to collect trash and recyclables.