×

Volunteers answer Connecticut River clean-up call

  • Linda Donnelly of Shutesbury delivers a bucket of trash she collected along East Hadley Road to a collection site in Groff Park in Amherst during the Connecticut River Conservancy's "Source to Sea Cleanup" on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts junior Jihan Eljadidi, left, and her sister, Simmons College first-year Amani Eljadidi, took part in the Connecticut River Conservancy's "Source to Sea Cleanup" along the Fort River in Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Shalini Bahl-Milne, a councilor for Amherst District 5, picks up trash along East Hadley Road in Amherst during the Connecticut River Conservancy's "Source to Sea Cleanup" on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. The local cleanup in Amherst was organized by the Fort River Watershed Association. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Connecticut River Conservancy data ranger Sarah Rippere talks about the organization's 23rd annual "Source to Sea Cleanup" near a collection point organized by the Fort River Watershed Association at Groff Park in Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Nick Whitman of Shutesbury picks up trash along East Hadley Road in Amherst, near the north bank of the Fort River, during the Connecticut River Conservancy's "Source to Sea Cleanup" on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. The Amherst cleanup was organized by the Fort River Watershed Association. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Shalini Bahl-Milne, a councilor for Amherst District 5, talks about taking part in the Connecticut River Conservancy's "Source to Sea Cleanup" on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ember Donahoo-Lawall of Chicopee talks about taking part in a Connecticut River Conservancy "Source to Sea Cleanup" in Amherst organized by the Fort River Watershed Association on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ember Donahoo-Lawall of Chicopee carries her second bucket of trash back to a collection area in Groff Park in Amherst during a Connecticut River Conservancy "Source to Sea Cleanup" in Amherst organized by the Fort River Watershed Association on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Terre Vandale and Rowan Vandale, 4, of Amherst don the distinctive purple Connecticut River Conservancy "Source to Sea Cleanup" T-shirts before volunteering at Groff Park in Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ember Donahoo-Lawall of Chicopee carries her second bucket of trash back to a collection area in Groff Park in Amherst during a Connecticut River Conservancy "Source to Sea Cleanup" in Amherst organized by the Fort River Watershed Association on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • MacDuffie School students, from left, junior John Nguyen and seniors Valerie Le and Gust Punsaioi carry parts of a deteriorated tent they retrieved from the banks of the Fort River along East Hadley Road in Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. They were among the volunteers taking part in the Connecticut River Conservancy's "Source to Sea Cleanup", organized in the Amherst area by the Fort River Watershed Association. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • MacDuffie School students, from left, junior John Nguyen and seniors Valerie Le and Gust Punsaioi carry parts of a deteriorated tent they retrieved from the banks of the Fort River along East Hadley Road in Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. They were among the volunteers taking part in the Connecticut River Conservancy's "Source to Sea Cleanup", organized in the Amherst area by the Fort River Watershed Association. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING



Staff Writer
Saturday, September 28, 2019

AMHERST — At the recent University of Massachusetts climate strike, junior civil engineering major Jihan Eljadidi was inspired by a call to action from a speaker who invited everyone to a coming trash clean-up along the Connecticut River and its tributaries.

She knew her younger sister, Amani Eljadidi, would want to help out so she texted and asked her to visit — an offer Amani, a freshman at Simmons College, took up almost immediately. 

Eager to make a difference, Jihan said, “It’s hard to find things like this because they’re not advertised.”

Hauling clear plastic bags soon to be filled with trash from 13 sites along the Fort River, the two sisters were part of a sea of purple-shirted volunteers who came to Groff Park on Saturday morning to pick up trash for the second day of the Connecticut River Conservancy’s 23rd annual “Source to Sea Cleanup” event.

From Vermont to Connecticut, the two-day project spans the entire 410-mile length of the waterway, where volunteers dispose of litter from around the river, said Sarah Rippere, data ranger and membership coordinator for the Connecticut River Conservancy. In Amherst, the organization teamed up with the Fort River Watershed Association, she said. 

“Every year we have thousands of people coming out to clean up rivers, which is pretty neat. We have a lot of people who care about it,” Rippere said. 

The longest tributary of the Connecticut River without a dam, the Fort River is considered a medium-sized watershed. The Fort River’s source streams flow from both the Atkins Reservoir in Shutesbury and the Lawrence Swamp aquifer in South Amherst, which supply drinking water for the town and UMass.

Rippere called the Fort River a “precious ecosystem” for migratory fish since it was un-dammed. According to Rippere, it is also the home to species that are especially sensitive to water pollutants, including the dwarf wedgemussel, a federally listed endangered species.

“Any trash that’s there is going to displace things that are supposed to be there. So it gets in the way of animals and plants that are native and are keeping the river ecosystem healthy, and it also contributes contaminants which could really degrade the water quality,” she said.

Throughout the day, volunteers were dumping their recovered trash back on a large tarp at Groff Park, where it will eventually be weighed and separated. Rippere said the conservancy hopes to recycle 90 percent of all trash found during the events. According to the conservancy’s website, volunteers pulled more than 46 tons of trash last year from along the river and its tributaries.

Emerging out of the woods near a designated clean-up site on East Hadley Road were three MacDuffie School students, junior John Nguyen and seniors Valerie Le and Gust Punsaioi. In Punsaioi’s hand was a plastic bucket filled with dirty trash, including a tent they found on the ground near the water.

“We benefit a lot from the environment, so it’s a good way for us to give back to our Earth,” Nguyen said of volunteering. “If you go down there, you can see how dirty it is — there are a lot of bottles and trash.”

Linda Donnelly, a curriculum coordinator at the Common School in Amherst, said she was finding a lot of used diapers and empty alcohol bottles in the area she was cleaning.

“We’re trying to make a difference,” she said. “This is a small way to step out and make sure there’s less plastic in the Connecticut River and the ocean.”

Carrying her second bucket worth of trash as she walked back to Groff Park, Ember Donahoo-Lawall of Chicopee said she found abandoned car parts, diapers, glass bottles and plastic.  

“Especially when you consider climate change, this is a small step in a wider range of things that need to happen,” she said.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.