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Group Begins Massive Ohio River Cleanup in Louisville This Week

barge

A barge that teaches students about river ecosystems is beginning its fall tour in Louisville this week.

Living Lands and Waters, a nonprofit that focuses on removing trash from the shorelines of U.S. waterways, has docked its barge at the downtown waterfront. It aims to pull a million pounds of trash out of the Ohio River.

“We also tie in the educational workshops to create awareness through the students,” said spokeswoman Kate Runge. “Obviously there’s a problem, and if no one’s aware of it, then it’s just going to keep getting worse. So we’re trying to get it from the beginning.”

Groups from area schools will visit the barge all week, participating in river cleanups and educational sessions.

This year, Living Lands and Waters has a new excavator, which will allow the group to remove exponentially more trash than in previous years. Usually, the group averages about 200,000 pounds of trash a year. With the excavator, the goal is a million pounds from the Ohio River alone over the next couple of weeks.

After Louisville, the barge will stop in Brandenburg, Ky.; Alton, Ind.; Stephenport, Ky.; Tell City, Ind.; Owensboro, Ky., and Evansville, Ind.

Runge said the algae bloom that has prompted regulators to issue a recreation advisory for a large portion of the river won’t affect workshop participants in Louisville. Most of the river cleanup is done along the riverbanks.

“The most they would ever come into contact with it would be if it misted them in the boat,” she said. “Because we go out in the boat, but then we’re walking along the shorelines.”

The algae bloom did cause the group to change its itinerary; it was scheduled to visit Cincinnati a few weeks ago, but that visit was pushed back.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.