Stand Up For Your Water With National River Cleanup


Robyn Janssen, Rogue River Cleanup, OR

Show your support for clean water by volunteering at a National River Cleanup event | © Robyn Janssen, Rogue River Cleanup, OR

I went to college in Western Pennsylvania within view of the stacks of one of the east coast’s most polluting coal-fired power plants. On your way in and out of town you would pass Haliburton trucks and billboards advocating for fracking. I cut my teeth organizing around environmental issues in the coal and gas fields of Pennsylvania. One fight in particular hits home in light of current events. A drilling company was applying for exemption to local zoning ordinances so that it could drill and frack for natural gas within the conservation zone around Yellow Creek Lake a local source of public drinking water.

We took the fight from our local zoning board up to the county commissioners where we testified asking them to deny the drilling permits. Among the homeowners, anglers, parents, and paddlers who came out to support us was the manager of the area water authority who spoke passionately about the threat that drilling in such close proximity to Yellow Creek Lake posed to the safe drinking water source for thousands of residents.

When I first saw the stories about the water contamination crisis in West Virginia and the coal ash spill in North Carolina I thought back to the desperation in the voice of the water authority manager on that day. I thought about my friends in West Virginia. I thought about their families and what it would mean for their local economies with businesses having to close, and I thought about those most vulnerable in their towns; the sick, the elderly, and the young. I thought about the anxiety of not knowing if you had used poisoned water. I became scared and angry when I imagined my older sister, who is pregnant, in a similar situation unaware if she had been drinking water contaminated by toxic chemicals.

It’s hard to believe that having clean drinking water would be an issue you or I would have to worry about. The sad reality is that mismanagement causing our rivers to run dry or fill with sewage, the destructive practices of the fossil fuel industry, the impacts of climate change, massive agricultural runoff, and chemical spills all continue to threaten the safety of our rivers and streams and leave our communities, especially those of color and low economic standing, vulnerable. The forces driving these attacks on clean water are often large corporations with extreme wealth exacerbating the feeling that solutions or answers are out of reach.

When faced with what seems like overwhelming odds I like to think about National River Cleanup. I think about the countless organizers across the country that standup to these forces each and every day on their local rivers and streams. I think about the phone calls I get from folks who feel passionately about their river and want to know how they can help. And I think about the over 100,000 volunteers who came out last year to clean up rivers with us. We are an impressive network and our impact is forcefully good. With each cleanup and each new person we connect to the river we create a better world for clean water.

We set record numbers in 2013 in National River Cleanup, let’s make this year even better and connect more people in our communities to the river and take action on the issues that threaten them. Register your 2014 river cleanup with National River Cleanup today.

One Response to “Stand Up For Your Water With National River Cleanup”

Keepers of the Kern

We are a newly formed grass roots organization who have been cleaning the Wild and Scenic Kern River on the Sequoia Forest since Oct. We now have hundreds of volunteers helping to clean both the Upper and Lower Kern River and are proud and humbled by the participation of so many. We are sponsored by Kern River Valley Revitalization for our non profit status and in the middle of a couple of fund raisers to help us meet our goals. We are running out of trash bags for our clean up days and are wondering if you have a plan in place that would allow us to receive a few boxes. We have been using ones provided by Thomas Refuse Service and they are super bags. We will be registering for National River Cleanup this year and look forward to working with you.