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500 River Sweep volunteers clean up region's waterways

boots, found at the South Side Riverfront Park on Saturday June 15, 2013 as part of the 23rd Annual River Sweep conducted in the Ohio River watershed.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013, 1:42 p.m.
 

Hundreds of volunteers scoured the banks of the Ohio River and its tributaries on Saturday and pulled more than 40 tons of trash as part of the annual River Sweep event.

“It was amazing the stuff we found,” said Ed Kramer, 55, of Cecil, who volunteered to pick up trash along the shore line in Sewickley. His crew of eight volunteers, affiliated with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, collected 700 pounds of trash in about three hours. “We found tires, PennDOT construction barrels, coolers, balls, even fire extinguishers.”

The event, in its 23rd year, took place in seven counties in Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland. Nearly 600 volunteers participated at 24 sites, said Betsy Mallison, Pennsylvania River Sweep Coordinator.

“We had a lot of fathers who came out with their kids on Father's Day weekend,” she said. “It was a very family friendly event.” Mallison said the strangest item found by volunteers was a pair of cement-filled boots. They found a rusty toolchest, a mattress, a sled and an X-box game console.

The event was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission and several corporate sponsors.

The River Sweep is the largest organized volunteer river cleanup effort in the country, Mallison said. The event takes place in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Illinois, covering more than 2,400 miles of shoreline.

“It's a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun,” Kramer said.

Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or lfabregas@triweb.com.

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