Water Bottles Pollute River Clean-up


Last Friday, I had the opportunity to join our National River Clean-up Coordinator Ginny Crake on a clean-up event with Catholic University’s incoming first year law students at Rock Creek Park. This was a special occasion for me for a number of reasons; first because I live in the backyard of Rock Creek, second, because I lived IN Rock Creek when I volunteered with the National Park Service years ago as an Student Conservation Association intern, and third, because spending a beautiful Friday morning in a National Park is always a good thing. 

We were joined by our Marketing and Online Communications Associate, Devin Dotson, whose wonderful photographs of the cleanup can be found on our Flickr and Facebook pages.

The students were great and conversations ranged from life in Alaska, to environmental law, to obscure movies. At the end of the cleanup, Ginny gave a trash talk; litter, preventing garbage from entering our waterways, and minimizing single-use items and excess packaging. She specifically mentioned the sheer number of Styrofoam and plastic water bottles we pulled from the river that day. The students estimated that 70% of the trash they removed was made up of  things that could have been recycled, rather than ending up in Rock Creek.

I remembered these messages on Monday, when AR staff, including Devin, Ginny and myself, started watching the documentary Tapped, in segments during our lunch breaks. Tapped exposes the unregulated billion dollar industry of bottled water.  The film posits that the bottle water industry attempts to make us afraid of drinking the water from our kitchen sink by convincing us that bottled water is a pure alternative and that tap water is polluted.   However, tests of bottled water left in the back of a car for week showed trace chemical of styrene, benzene-like chemicals, and other carcinogenetic agents.  These are chemicals that are simply not found in our highly tested and government-regulated tap water.  And since most bottled water is, in fact, only locally-sourced tap water in a fancy bottle, the chemicals leeched from the plastic bottle the water was contained in.

Not very convenient, healthy, or pure. 

I kept thinking about those floating plastic bottles in Rock Creek, lodged in branches, cluttering the banks of the river, clogging storm drains. I kept thinking about the great Catholic University students, giving up a half a day to get sweaty and dirty when they’d most likely rather be exploring DC. And I thought about the trash that no doubt began to accumulate even as we were packing it in for the day, trash that contained a factory’s worth of water bottles.

  1. Here are some tips for keeping our drinking water clean:
  2. Carry water with you in a refillable bottle or drink from water fountains.
  3. Avoid single-use items.
  4. Don’t be afraid of your tap water. If you feel more comfortable drinking filtered, look into getting a pitcher at home or in the office. Be sure to recycle your filter when it’s done. http://www.takebackthefilter.org/
  5. Don’t litter. Ever! Even a piece of gum or a cigarette butt, the small things end up in our waterways and can be mistaken for food by fish and wildlife. Keep trash out of the water stream.
  6. Pick up one piece of litter a day. Every day.
  7. Participate in a clean-up. Help keep our waterways clean by removing what’s there.