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Local volunteers help to clean upWest Fork

by Danny Forinash

STAFF WRITER

Many volunteer organizations braved the hot weather, bugs and snakes Saturday to help with the nation's largest organized waterway cleanup, River Sweep. In its twelfth year, the event took place from morning until afternoon and volunteers collected about 250 yards of debris, more than 1,200 bags of trash and more than 300 tires from the waterways in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In Harrison County, 12 people gathered to help clean up the lower West Fork River near Shinnston. For the third year, employees from Allegheny Power joined with the West Fork Watershed associates to take part in the event.

Volunteers dragged garbage from the West Fork's banks and pulled trash from the river's bottom, placing it on a boat they tugged a half mile down the waterway.

"I'm very tired," said Brent Banks, Allegheny Power employee who coordinated the event in Harrison, after the cleanup. "It's tough work. I'm lucky if I don't get poison ivy."

Despite the humid weather and rough conditions, Banks said he was happy with the operation's success, estimating that the Harrison County team gathered about half a dump truck load of garbage. "Anytime you get anything out of the rivers it's a success," he said.

Overall, Allegheny Energy contributed more than 80 volunteers to team up with organizations such as Dupont, American Electric Power and the State of West Virginia and help with River Sweep 2000.

"It's a privilege to sponsor an event that helps to keep our waterways clean and heightens environmental awareness for the future," said Pamela M. Pershing, strategic environmental management advisor for Allegheny, which is in its fifth year of sponsoring the event.

According to Scott Shields, the project manager at Allegheny, River Sweep is a plan of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, an interstate water quality control organization. The event involves the Ohio River and its tributaries, including the West Fork, Cheat, Allegheny, Youghiogheny and Monongahela Rivers and the Buffalo, Brush, Jacobs, Loyalhanna and Sewickley Creeks.

River Sweep encompasses more than 3,000 miles of shoreline from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Cairo, Ill. During the cleanup, many unusual items can be found. At one location, according to Shields, a completed U.S. Census 2000 form was recovered. So, it seems as though at least one litterbug can be identified.

Staff writer Danny Forinash can be reached at 626-1446.

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