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Posts Tagged ‘waterway’

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Photo: The Waterfront Partnership
Known as “Mr. Trash Wheel,” this floating device sucks up plastic from polluted harbors.

There’s an ongoing controversy about whether the energy spent on cleaning up trash in the ocean and other waterways should be devoted to eliminating trash at its source. I’m inclined to think we need to try everything.

Baltimore’s Mr. Trash Wheel is an example of dealing with the litter that got away.

Jackie Snow wrote about it at National Geographic. “Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel, the latter of which was installed in December, are solar- and hydro-powered trash interceptors based in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, clearing debris before it enters the Chesapeake Bay. Over a million pounds of trash has been pulled out of the water by Mr. Trash Wheel since it was installed in May 2014.

“The trash wheel’s creator, John Kellett, worked on the harbor for years and saw garbage floating on the water every day. A sailor and engineer, he approached the city and offered to take a stab at cleaning up the harbor. He built a pilot trash wheel and installed it in 2008. …

“The Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, a local nonprofit organization that works on the harbor, noticed a significant reduction of the amount of trash during the pilot program. The organization approached Kellett and offered to get the funds for a bigger trash wheel. The result was installed at the end of the Jones Falls River, which empties into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Besides the pilot, no other like it had existed.

“ ‘No one knew what they were getting themselves into,” said Adam Lindquist, the director of Healthy Harbor Initiative at the ‎Waterfront Partnership.

“The contraption works by drawing power from solar panels and the current of Jones Falls River to turn a waterwheel, which in turn powers a conveyer belt. Containment booms direct the trash towards the conveyer belt, which then drops the debris into a waiting Dumpster. That bin sits on its own platform and can be floated out when it’s time to change it.

“Kellett keeps track of the garbage pulled out of the water. The haul includes almost nine million cigarette butts and over 300,000 plastic bags. The data is used to support environmental legislation. For example, the Waterfront Partnership recently supported a bill that would ban Styrofoam containers. Mr. Trash Wheel picks up an average of 14,000 Styrofoam containers a month, second only to cigarettes. …

“The waste is most often common consumer products, but some unusual things turn up occasionally, like a live ball python—which the National Aquarium in Baltimore helped rescue — and a keg, which was returned for a deposit. Once, an acoustic guitar in pretty good shape turned up. Lindquist asked to keep that one.”

More here and here, where you can see a diagram explaining how it works.

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Some Massachusetts river enthusiasts were concerned about the amount of rainwater runoff that goes into the big sewage-treatment plant on Boston’s Deer Island and then out to sea. So they came up with a different concept.

Jon Chesto reports at the Boston Globe, “The massive Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant was once hailed as an environmental victory, one that would revive a then-defiled Boston Harbor while processing sewage for more than 40 cities and towns. But roughly 15 years after the plant’s completion, one local group still isn’t ready to celebrate.

“The Charles River Watershed Association has instead proposed an unusual alternative to the hulking plant: smaller, neighborhood treatment centers that would convert waste water and discarded food into energy. That energy would then be sold to help defray the cost of the projects.

“The nonprofit group’s primary aim in developing the concept was to limit the vast amounts of rainwater and ground water that get sucked into sewer pipes to be washed out to sea via Deer Island, a phenomenon that is harming the Charles River by decreasing its water volume. …

“These plants would first need to attract customers. Some of their business would come from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, which would redirect some of its waste water to the facilities to be processed. More income would come from a food processing business that would rely on large customers such as colleges, hospitals, and big restaurants to ship discarded food to the facilities.

“Like the waste-water residue, the food trash can be placed in an anaerobic digester system that breaks down the organic material and converts it to methane gas to generate electricity. That power could reduce a facility’s operating costs and be sold into the region’s grid. The remnants could be converted into fertilizers.

“ ‘We’re throwing away a lot of potential revenue as if it were waste, as if it were a bad thing,’ [Charles River Watershed executive director Bob] Zimmerman said. ‘It’s only waste water if you waste it.’ ”

More here.

Infographic: David Butler/Globe Staff
Source: Charles River Watershed Association

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