Unique boats patrol for trash

in Cleveland

Two specially designed boats remove tons of debris from Cleveland’s waterfront each year.

Description

Even as water quality improves and wildlife shows signs of returning to the Cleveland harbor, floating debris and trash had remained a problem with no quick fixes. When it rains, plastics, bottles, needles, condoms, and anything else tossed on the streets gets flushed into the storm drains. Some storm drains spill their contents directly into the city’s waterways. Once in the waterways, the material gets bound up in wooden debris — such as tree limbs and bark — that float downstream from the upper Cuyahoga River and its tributaries. Then, in the Cuyahoga River Ship Canal and the North Coast Harbor, currents and wind push the debris into large piles or mats that float against the bulkheads. Along with being unsightly, the debris entangles birds. At times, non-swimming birds will misjudge the stability of the debris piles, riding them until they slip into the waters and drown. In the fall of 2012, the Port of Cleveland launched two boats tasked with keeping the waterways free of debris. The boats, Flotsam and Jetsam, remove trash or large tree trunks and limbs from the water, making it safer for recreational and commercial boaters, while improving the aesthetics of the waterfront at the same time.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Plastic waste and garbage in water
  • Poor habitat for wildlife

URBAN DEBRIS REMOVAL IN CLEVELAND HARBOR

Trash floating on the top of water

Trash and waste can build up in the water, harming fish and wildlife. These boats patrol for and clean up debris like this in Cleveland Harbor. Credit: Eric Vance U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Results and Accomplishments

The two vessels remove 400 to 800 cubic yards of debris from Cleveland’s waterfront each year—that’s the equivalent of between 20 and 40 dump trucks worth of debris. It the first year of the program, over 240 tons of floating debris was removed.