Back to Black River!

We’re going back to the Black River for round TWO. Last time we took out the polystyrene mountain, this time… it’s personal! Help us “knock out” the trash and restore the shore of the beautiful Black River.

We will be working both Saturday and Sunday. Come for one day, or both.

Please sign up for this event at this link HERE so we know how many volunteers are helping:

Getting there: From Piedmont, MO, follow State Highway HH west for 5 miles – Main sign in area for Saturday and Sunday morning will be at the Corps Of Engineers’ Group Camping area on Highway HH just east of the Spring Valley Resort. (GPS: 37.130254, -90.751021).

Free camping is available for volunteers. Join us Friday, Saturday, and/ Sunday for camping.

Keep Your Hazardous Items Safe, & Your Volunteers Safer


Hazardous items can pop up at any cleanup. These items have the potential to be toxic, corrosive, flammable, or reactive. We know to leave these items alone and to report them to the MoDNR Environmental Emergency Response team (EER), but then we leave.
So, what happens if someone else comes along before EER arrives and doesn’t recognize the object as hazardous? They may move it. It may end up breaking apart, spilling, or worse.

This is a real scenario. After hearing about a found item going missing at a recent
cleanup, a new system emerged through collaboration with Stream Teams 168 and
211 and Skip Ricketts with EER to identify these hazardous items, and we hope this
method will spread and become widely adopted throughout the state.
We realized it is often hard to tell people not to move certain items because
not everyone knows what things like propane tanks or transformers look like.
A simple misunderstanding may be a big reason items may be accidentally moved,
even after they are deemed hazardous. So, on a recent scouting trip, we took a photo of each hazardous item we encountered, reported it to EER with GPS coordinates (in decimal degrees), marked the hazardous object with neon pink and yellow, and snapped another photo. We simply spray-painted a small mark of both pink and yellow on each item, making sure not to cover any existing labels on the container. We also tied flagging tape, in the same two colors, in trees and other structures around the found objects.

Once an object is marked, it is simpler for others to recognize it as something to leave alone. “Do not touch objects with pink and yellow markings.” This simple statement can be told to anyone before a cleanup during a safety briefing. The unique combination of pink and yellow will help distinguish the possibly hazardous item from other markings
or flags that may be in the area, and should be discernible by most or all spectrums of color-blindness. Then when the EER team is on site, this system will help them more easily find the item in the often remote areas we clean.

Hopefully this new method will help highlight potentially dangerous
objects, keeping all the volunteers safe, and helping the proper
authorities find and deal with the items.


-Brian Waldrop & Sarah Wright

A Black River Magic Cleanup

From a distance, it almost looked like snow.
Up close, it was an unimaginable amount of small Styrofoam pieces—or more accurately,
polystyrene. Early this spring, flood waters rushed through the emergency spillway of the Clearwater Lake Dam and carved a 50 to 70-foot deep path through a long forgotten, pre-regulation landfill.
Most of the trash was from what you would take for a camping trip: cans, wrappers, egg cartons, and other small items. An overwhelming amount of this trash was polystyrene packaging; it was mixed with organic matter and formed into a huge mound.

On the weekend of October 14th, over 30 Stream Teamers united as the League of Watershed Guardians (Team 5168) tackled the mound and the river. We had all been on big cleanups before; hauled the really heavy stuff like tractor tires, appliances, boats, and the occasional RV. This was different; it was tiny, light, and most of the pieces were about the size of a small tree leaf. However, polystyrene doesn’t compost and go away. We raked, sifted, and picked piece-by-piece to remove about 15 cubic yards of the stuff. We found dated egg cartons that were over 40 years old and still no real decay; it’s hard to know how long they would last if left alone.
Removing polystyrene wasn’t the only victory that weekend. We removed about 80 cubic yards of trash, several channel markers, a pedestrian bridge, several hundred pounds of scrap and yes, a few dozen tires. Fred Esser, acting operations manager of the Clearwater office of the US Corps of Engineers (USCOE), provided equipment, dumpsters, supplies,
and staff along with the Department of Conservation and the Department of Natural Resources. Most impressive was to see Fred lead the charge and jump in alongside the rest of us. His commitment is apparent— he is definitely one of us and truly cares about our waterways and the environment.
This was without doubt, a hard-working weekend and one of the most gratifying cleanups yet. We shared a pig roast and a bonfire; while celebrating our hard
work, we began planning our next cleanup of the Black River. I was happy to return home and have dinner out with my wife. When we finished, the waitress brought
us our leftovers in two white, polystyrene boxes.
We still have a long way to go.

Doug Geist, President League of Watershed Guardians

Big Bad Buder Bash

St. Louis County’s Buder Park Cleanup was scheduled after the winter 2016 floods
that affected the Meramec basin. So when the spring 2017 floods hit, The Great 168 knew
we would be busy. We prepared for a haul, but were quite surprised by the results.
Flood debris is always a mixed bag, because such a variety of things get washed
away. A cross-section of life flows in the water; homes, businesses, cars, and all the small pieces in between.

While the big objects draw the attention, it’s the small things that carry
weight. Think about the bottles, cups, and straws along streets or parking lots.
The rain flushes this litter down the storm sewer, into the creeks, then the river.
This trash rides along, until the water drops it in the watershed. Wildlife can
mistake the litter for food, or get entangled, injured, or worse. If the litter is
swept away again, it adds to islands of trash in the oceans, harming marine
wildlife. See, it’s not all about the tires. 

The cleanup on November 11th came with sunshine and an amazing crew of 81 hardworking volunteers. We had all ages and experience levels, with
everyone jumping in. Eureka High School students (Team 5064) hauled giant structures
out of the trees, while a group of smart fourth grade girls moved the biggest tire
of the day. It was a powerful, meticulous crowd.
Overall the count was an impressive 201 tires and 1,240 pounds of metal,
but the trash total was inspiring. The floatables and fluff filled bag after bag,
adding up to 55 cubic yards of litter. More than originally expected, more than
the dumpster would hold. Now that litter won’t flood away or harm the life in
the woods and water. That’s how 81 people made a huge impact on one sunny
November morning.

-Sarah Wright

Trash, illegal dumping, and crime are all intertwined in downgrading a community or an area. Since Hall Street is an open and airy area, the wind swept litter blows into the Mississippi River. We, as volunteers, will rid this area of the trash and illegal dumps while hopefully alleviating the crime in this region of St. Louis.

Many StL City Movers and Shakers are on board with this cleanup. We, as residents of the St. Louis Region, must come together to make a change to better all of our lives and futures.

The City of St. Louis will be providing truck and a front loader to aid in loading the trucks. Sections of Hall Street will be narrowed down to one lane to make our efforts doable. We will have a rolling cleanup caravan for our safety and we will be working between two trash trucks and an Arrow Directional Truck.

Shirts, gloves, and bags will be provided, and as more sponsors come on board, give-aways and attendance prizes too.

Food and Drinks will be provided after the cleanup in a Block Party fashion.

Start Time: 8:00am
Finish Time: 12:00pm

Sign in at the side parking lot at Pick-n-Pull – St. Louis (Self-Service Auto Parts Store) 7557 Hall Street, St. Louis, MO 63147.


The Benefits of Pre-Scouting

There are a lot of details to consider when holding a stream cleanup. Selecting a site,
contacting property owners for permission, ordering cleanup supplies, rounding up food
and snacks for volunteers, and contacting local media outlets are just a few tasks to accomplish.

Often overlooked is pre-scouting the cleanup area. This effort does take time, but there are many benefits to be had. Pre-scouting can answer several questions to help better prepare for the event, and is important regardless the event’s size. For example:
1) How many volunteers are needed where?
2) How many supplies need to be ordered
from the Stream Team Program?
3) What type of volunteers are needed?
Is it appropriate for school or Scout
groups? Or will it be more suited for
adults with more cleanup experience?
4) How many tires do you expect to collect?
5) How many dumpsters will need to be ordered and what size?

Having answers to these questions will help keep volunteers safe from the unknown. What kind of unknowns should you be aware? In addition to the amount and
types of trash, pre-scouting has allowed Teams to identify sharply cut embankments,
unwanted adult reading material, discarded needles, meth waste, abandoned tanks and
barrels, firearms, and much more.

These pre-scouting events help keep volunteers safe from sharp and volatile substances, secure vacated waste products, eliminate what could be perceived as a toy, and prevent parents from answering countless unwarranted questions. If you take the time to do a thorough pre-scout, you might discover it can be even more enjoyable than the day of the cleanup.


-Brian Waldrop

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