WASHINGTON – Clean-up crews pulled a ’57 Chevy, 36 refrigerators and 2.5 million pounds of trash from the Potomac River over the past 18 years, an ugly toll that prompted Maryland officials to join environmentalists at the World Bank Thursday in the fight for a trash-free watershed.
Three Maryland congressmen and numerous other government officials signed the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative 2006 Action Agreement at the first annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit. The pledge will force Maryland, Virginia and District officials to locate problem areas and develop clean-up strategies, said Wende Pearson, program manager of Potomac Cleanup for the Alice Ferguson Foundation.
The foundation, which organized the summit, hopes research and coordinated programs from the agreement will make the Potomac River Watershed trash free by 2013.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, and a representative for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich signed the agreement.
“You see the tires, you see the plastic bags, you see the trash,” Van Hollen told the summit, noting that familiarity breeds unconcern. “What we’re getting used to is neglecting the community.”
Federal, state and local strategies will aim to reduce trash, increase recycling and educate the public on trash issues in the Potomac Watershed. Partners will reconvene annually to discuss and evaluate trash reduction measures.
The agreement adds “more juice” to the Potomac River Watershed Trash Treaty of March 2005 that many of the officials signed in the past year, said Tracy Bowen, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation.
A stable restoration system, they hope, will handle any trash problems after 2013, Pearson said. The target year was established by the foundation in 2003.
“We said, ‘Ten years from now, we want to be out of the clean-up business,'” she said.
Representatives for Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan and Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson signed the agreement. Mayors or representatives from Rockville, Takoma Park, Greenbelt, Gaithersburg, College Park and Hyattsvile also signed the document.
Charles County sent several representatives, including Commissioner Wayne Cooper, 59, who recalled when he was 13 he saw his first environmental message. The black-and-white-television spot featured an American Indian with a tear rolling down his face as he looked at trash in a stream.
“That touched my heart,” Cooper said. “That was more than 40 years ago, and we still have the same pollution and it’s many times worse than it was then.”