A famous television commercial from the early 1970s shows a Native American paddling to the bank of a river, surveying the pollution around him and shedding a tear after a passing motorist tosses trash at his feet.
Even without the voice-over, the message was clear--it’s unacceptable to litter our landscapes and waterways with trash.
Not everyone got the message.
“After all this time, it’s (the DuPage River) still used as a dump,” Susan George said Wednesday at DuPage County’s membership drive for its Adopt-a-Stream program.
The event took place at the County Auditorium in the DuPage County Administration Building, 421 N. County Farm Road.
George, watershed assistant with the Naperville-based Conservation Foundation, said all manner of refuse still find a resting place in area waterways, particularly the East and West branches of the DuPage River and Salt Creek.
Mattresses, computers, patio furniture, construction materials, and plastic bottles are just some of the trash removed in periodic sweeps, according to the foundation.
Used tires are a particular favorite of polluters and George recounted one volunteer who discovered a tire attached to an car axel--that was attached to a old Volkswagen Beetle.
George said that Conservation Foundation coordinated over 700 volunteers in its partnership with DuPage County to keep waterways clean.
The Adopt-a-Stream program primarily involves groups that commit to devoting a least two days per calendar year sweeping a specific area of refuse from an area of at least one-half mile of stream. Volunteers are free to do more.
The foundation also partners with the county to sponsor the DuPage River Sweep, an annual one-day event scheduled for May 17.
The idea behind both programs is the same--remove all man-made debris from area waterways.
Trash bags, trash pokers, gloves and trash removal is supplied by DuPage County at no cost to the volunteer. Any lawful organization is eligible to participate.
Volunteers are advised to wear hip-high work boots, a wide-brim hat, long pants, heavy-duty work gloves, insect repellent, sunscreen and a life jacket.
Waivers are required and George urged those interested in volunteering to carefully determine just who in their group are safe to wade into the water, noting that such activity might not be recommended for the elderly, disabled or young children.
Mary Lou Wehrli, DuPage County Forest Preserve District Commissioner, asked George if volunteers should remove trash that is part of the nature, such as a fallen tree that wound up in a waterway.
George said that the point behind the cleanup was to remove man-made objects.
“It’s encouraged to be left alone,” she said of natural debris.
Dave Gorman, assistant director of public works for Lombard, said that the ultimate goal of the county should be to make DuPage waterways habitat for various species of fish.
“Residents don’t really see the river as an asset,” he said.
But Gorman noted that the cleanup of DuPage waterways, while not complete, has progressed to the point where species such as large mouth bass and northern pike are a presence in some areas.
Gorman said the cleanup was a long-term process begun with the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972, and one that still has a ways to go.
Others interested can contact the DuPage County Storm Water Management Division 630-407-0440, or the Conservation Foundation 630-428-4500.