Cleaning Up – Or Not Cleaning Up – Polluted Rivers | StateImpact Pennsylvania

Cleaning Up – Or Not Cleaning Up – Polluted Rivers

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A tugboat on the Ohio River, near Pittsburgh

The New York Times takes a look at how difficult it is to clean up toxic environmental waste, when its buried beneath river water:

Even the most notorious hazardous-waste dumps on land pale beside the prospect of cleaning up miles of riverbed — in which the slightest movement can stir up long-buried wastes that tides, floods, even motorboat traffic can spread upstream and down. Trying to predict how everything will work is so complicated that preliminary planning alone can cost more than an entire land-based cleanup.
But after years of study and some smaller pilot projects that met with varying degrees of success — and failure — the E.P.A. is finally tackling some of the most heavily polluted waterways. Many are in the New York-New Jersey area, which, since the beginning of Superfund, has had the greatest number of polluted sites.

Meantime, the Post-Gazette details the vast array of junk that has collected at the bottom of the city’s rivers:

The only person with an available map of the wreckage is Bob Shema, a retired diver who has led the search since 1995 for a B-25 bomber that sank in the Monongahela in 1956. Side-scan sonar images he produced show dozens of cars — represented as small, bright rectangles — lined along the banks of the Monongahela.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Atkinson brought to the surface a wooden wagon wheel he estimated to be from the late 1800s. Once he recovered a group of “three- or four-foot long ninja swords” and another time a “cowboy type gun belt” at the bottom of the river. More commonly, he comes across cars, boats, refrigerators, steel beams, bicycles and fishing rods. But the wreckage Mr. Atkinson finds most frequently is shopping carts. The river is the ideal dumpster for putting an awkward item out of sight, he said.
“You’re not supposed to be caught with them.”
The same wisdom guides the disposal of the trash that Mr. Atkinson’s partner, Eric Cabets, frequently finds: motorcycles, guts of ATM machines, stolen computers, Pirates giveaways near PNC Park, dozens of cars piled under boat launches and carpets.


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