Protecting Ohio Waterways

All, Nature Academy
A family enjoys fishing from the riverbank at Fernbank Park.

At Great Parks, we strive to protect aquatic ecosystems and preserve the natural beauty of our waterways. An important part of this effort includes cleaning up litter from river and stream banks. Discarded trash is extremely damaging to waterways worldwide — it harms aquatic life, degrades physical habitat, transports concentrated chemical pollutants and can interfere with human use of aquatic resources like transportation and recreation.

According to American Rivers, some of the most common garbage found along rivers include cigarette butts, plastic bottles, food packaging, plastic bags and aluminum cans. In fact, in the U.S., more than 22 billion plastic bottles are discarded annually and 100 billion plastic bags are used each year.

These kinds of plastic debris are of particular environmental concern, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as plastic particles can be mistakenly eaten by fish and birds, concentrating toxic chemicals in their tissues. Contaminants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides accumulate in plastic aquatic trash and enter the food chain when animals ingest the plastic. When humans then eat the contaminated animals, they may also become sick. Furthermore, indigestible plastic can fill the stomachs and block the intestines of fish and birds, causing them to starve.

Plastic and other trash materials will accumulate at the bottom of rivers and lakes, altering habitat structures and modifying light levels. The resulting habitat degradation negatively impacts the aquatic ecosystem in these areas. Additionally, fish, birds and other aquatic organisms can become entangled in trash causing injury or death.

Volunteers cleaned debris both large and small in 2018.

Help Great Parks keep Ohio’s waterways clean, beautiful and enjoyable for all generations. Join us for the Ohio River Sweep on Saturday, June 15 to help clean up the river, enhance its natural beauty, and protect its aquatic ecosystem. The event, which began in 1989, is organized by ORSANCO (Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission) and partnering organizations from six states that border the Ohio River. For more information and to sign up, visit our Volunteer page.

For questions about Great Parks’ waterways, please contact Watershed Specialist Amanda Nurre at 513-728-3551, ext. 274.

Amanda Nurre
Watershed Specialist