By Mary Allessio Leck
Many came to help with the two Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh cleanups last month, some even by canoe or kayak. The March 11 cleanup was part of an AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador program, and the March 24 event was co-sponsored by the New Jersey Sierra Club-Central Jersey group and Friends for the Marsh.
We collected what seemed to be a mountain of trash — nearly 100 bags full, but also a large number of tires, six grocery carts, half of a canoe, etc.
Cleanup participants included young and old, church and school groups, Girl Scouts, as well as members of the Sierra Club, Friends for the Marsh, and the Washington Crossing Audubon Society. On April 22, for Earth Day, there will be a joint workday at Crosswicks Creek by the Sierra Club’s Water Sentinels Program and the Bordentown Yacht Club.
Trash collection at the marsh is ongoing, as litter from unthinking people continually flows into waterways via storm drains. Since September 2011, four volunteers have filled more than 200 trash bags from where the storm drain behind Lalor School enters the marsh. Other trash, found especially on Duck Island, is the result of deliberate dumping by contractors and others who don’t make the effort to dispose of waste or unwanted possessions responsibly.
Local governments and state agencies help throughout the year; staff are amiable and responsive. These include Bordentown City, Hamilton Township, Mercer County Park Commission, NJ DOT, NJ DEP and D&R Canal State Park. Storm drain catchers recently installed by Hamilton Township have reduced trash input to the marsh in some areas, but they should be installed on every storm drain.
Removing plastics from our waterways, such as the Delaware River, Crosswicks Creek and Watson’s Creek, is important. Most plastics are not biodegradable and can affect aquatic food chains and wildlife. Other materials, such as from corroded paint cans, can reduce water quality. Such negative impacts should concern us all.
What can you do if you can’t come out? Reduce your use of plastics by “refusing, reusing and recycling.” Make sure that recyclables aren’t blown about on windy days. Educate the children about the importance of waterways and wetlands. Contact your representatives and ask for regulations that require plastics and polystyrene to be biodegradable, and that construction permits require understanding lawful waste disposal.
Mary Allessio Leck is emeritus professor of biology at Rider University and program coordinator for Friends for the Marsh (abbottmarshlands.org).
Photos by Mary Iuvone for the Times of Trenton