Prince William County recently held stream clean ups at Neabsco and Powell’s Creeks where a total of 52 volunteers collected 182 large garbage bags of mostly plastic and glass bottles and plastic shopping bags. The volunteers also pulled out dozens of car tires, bicycle wheels, five-gallon paint cans, assorted plastic toys, such as a hobby horse, and at least one tricycle.

Keeping the Prince William County streams clear of trash is a year-round job and the county couldn’t do it without the help of volunteers, said Clay Morris, the county’s natural resources section chief. “There’s always something that needs to be cleaned up. We have plenty of opportunities for them to help out.”

Prince William County is in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and is bound by law to keep sediment and nutrients out of its local creeks and streams that feed into the bay. The county holds a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, or MS4, permit that governs the pollution that hits county waterways. The permit allows municipalities to discharge storm water that eventually runs into waterways, provided the MS4 permit holder limits “pollutants from the given storm sewer system to the maximum extent practicable” to protect the water quality of nearby streams, rivers, wetlands and bays, ¬†according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s website.

Morris said the permit also governs the amount of trash or “floatables” that can wash into streams and creeks. “We also have a floatables monitoring program, which is also a reduction in mostly trash, that permit puts the responsibility on the county to find ways to reduce that. One of the ways we do it is volunteer cleanups.”

The volunteers at the Neabsco and Powell’s creeks cleanup included Boy Scouts from Troop 1363, as well as folks from Bethel United Methodist Church and the Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition.

Mark Clester said he came out to help just because it’s part of the Boy Scouts’ mission to do good work. “It’s part of our ethos to do a good turn daily. Part of that is conservation.”

Matthew Ackiss, 16, also said keeping the environment clean was of importance to the Scouts. “Clearly it’s important to clean up our areas like this because not only do we live here, but all of the animals live here, the habitat, the wildlife. We’ve got to take care of it. We were put on this earth, not only to live here, we’ve got to take care of all the trash that we put out. We’ve got to be better about it. The first thing you learn when you join the Boy Scouts is how to keep your area clean and how to leave it cleaner than you found it. It’s just something we’re always working toward. It’s definitely something we as a community need to work on, that’s why we’re out here, to work for the community and better where we live.”

The best way to keep trash out of the streams, Morris said, is to dispose of it in proper containers to keep it from getting on the ground where it will run into storm drains. “Anything that ends up in the road is going to end up in that storm inlet, and eventually, it’s going to end up in one of our streams.”

People interested in volunteering can visit the County’s Department of Public Works webpage to find out about a number of programs that help protect county waterways.

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