On September 9, 2017, Beth Rogers and Kevin Kearney, private citizens and residents of Bethesda and Cabin John, MD, respectively, are organizing a volunteer effort to remove tires and other embedded trash from a roughly one-mile stretch of the Potomac River from Plummers Island to Sycamore Island.
Every year about 300 million tires are scrapped in America -- about one tire for every person. Until the passage of national scrap tire recycling laws in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of those tires were disposed of improperly in the nation’s waterways.
The Potomac River is one such waterway that is riddled with tires. Tires never biodegrade. They wash to shore after floods, are visible in the river when the water is low, and are eyesores for canoeist, kayakers, fishermen, and other recreationalists who enjoy the river. In the summer of 2016, Kearney and Rogers, distressed about the visual blight of tires in their area, excavated and removed about 120 tires from approximately a four-acre area in the Potomac close to mile 8 of the C&O towpath which led them to extrapolate that there could be 1,000 tires per linear mile in the Potomac – if not more.
Kearney and Rogers believe that many of the tires in the Potomac came from the Rhinehart Farm outside Winchester, VA. Forty years ago the farm, located on a tributary of the Potomac, was the site of a tire-recycling operation that processed more than 25 million tires during its lifespan and later became a Superfund site. They feel certain that some of those tires migrated to the Potomac and the age of the tires they have removed (roughly 40 years old) supports that assumption.
While many other parts of the Potomac River upstream are also littered with tires, Kearney and Rogers have identified the C&O Canal Lock 10 to Lock 8 section as being particularly conducive to a cleanup. This part of the river has more than 50 islands and back channels where tires tend to collect. The water here is relatively calm and low (smooth to class 2 rapids), and abuts a heavily-trafficked section of canal towpath, making this both an easy and safe place to extract tires and one that has high public impact.
Partnering with CCA
Kearney and Rogers made a presentation at the CCA board meeting at Susan Sherrod’s house on January 8th and secured the consensus and support of board members present. The duo targeted CCA as a partner due to its long history of working in river cleanup efforts and its membership who are well trained in river safety.
Working with members of the CCA and other river-savvy individuals, and limited to no more than 50 volunteers, Rogers and Kearney have scheduled the tire rodeo for late summer when, barring tropical rain events, the Potomac River tends to be low, sediment free, and exceptionally clear, making conditions favorable for spotting and retrieving tires.
Time and Details
On September 9, 2017, Kearney and Rogers are asking that all volunteers meet at 9:30 a.m. at Lock 10 on the C&O towpath to be checked in, and to review safety instructions and directions. Kearney, who has retrieved tires from the Potomac River for several years, will instruct volunteers on proper tire handling techniques and transport.
Volunteers will start cleanup efforts by 10 a.m. and systematically work downstream in a line, from the Virginia to the Maryland shoreline.
All tires will be brought to the C&O Canal towpath on the Maryland side using canoes or inner tubes. Tires and debris will be transported to the parking lot at Lock 10. There will be a dumpster at lock ten and tires will be removed and disposed of thanks to an anonymous corporate sponsor.
Lunch will be provided.
At 12:00 the group will break for a lunch held at Lock 8.
At 3 p.m. the group will finish its work.
Rogers and Kearney are expecting to retrieve at least 200 tires during this event. They hope that this cleanup effort can be used as a model that can be applied to other tire-dense sections of the river, such as around the Brunswick boat ramp.
For more information, please contact Kevin Kearney at firstname.lastname@example.org or Beth Rogers at email@example.com. To sign up for the event, please register on this site.
All participants must fill out the ACA Waiver and Insurance form.
Signed ACA waivers will be collected at the beginning of the event.
ACA Minor Waiver and Insurance
To save time, please bring the completed ACA form with you.
PFD's (life jackets) and sturdy river shoes are required.
Bring a shovel if you have one.