Jenna Faulconer is an Orange County local, Grymes Memorial School graduate, and Junior at Orange County High School. She is part of the Blue Ridge Virtual Governor’s School program and is on the all A honor roll. She swims competitively year-round and coaches the local swim team and lifeguards during the summer. Jenna especially loves to travel. She has traversed Italy, snorkeled the Galápagos Islands and recently spent time doing community service work in the Dominican Republic. She plans to study marine biology and environmental sustainability. Jenna looks forward to making a difference locally by volunteering for StreamSweepers.
Cody is a Senior at the University of Mary Washington pursuing his BS in Earth and Environmental Science with a focus on freshwater ecology.
StreamSweepers – Day in the Life, by Jack Murray
The purpose of StreamSweepers is simple in concept, however it’s much more strenuous and tedious when undertaking the job of “cleaning and assessing the river”. StreamSweeper members first undergo a week of training which includes basic wilderness first aid training, invasive identification training, GPS instruction, as well as canoe instruction, tools which all StreamSweepers need to have in order to have a safe and successful summer. Once trained, teams of three to five sweepers would go out each week with a goal of cleaning a certain section of the river (generally between two to five miles of river daily).
Sweepers would convene at a predetermined location each morning, then figure out logistics: what cars were needed at the canoe take-out, how many people would be needed for unloading canoes from the trailer and into the river, who was responsible for taking the water sample at the put-in and marking it in the GPS etc. Each day would bring with it a new complication logistically, such as someone calling in sick, or a car breaking down, either way the process of just getting set-up for the day and making sure all bases were covered to ensure safety of the sweepers was never an easy process. A water sample was taken at the canoe put-in each day, and marked with a Garmin GPS unit, these samples were then given to the National Cancer Institute who is performing tests on these water samples for presence of endocrine-mimicking compounds. Once the logistics of the day were handled cleaning of the river could commence.
Generally, each Sweeper would handle their own 16 to 17 foot canoe down the river, with each Sweeper covering a certain section of the river (river right, river middle, river left etc.) scanning for trash and tires on the bottom of the river or riverbanks. When an item of trash was located, depending on the size, either a few crew members would assist, or the whole team, for instance a large tractor tire would generally require all hands on deck (one person holding canoes, a couple people digging sediment out of the tire, and a couple lifting the tire with 4 foot long steel “digging” bars).
Occasionally items are found on the river that are either too big to lift and float downriver with a canoe, or are too hazardous or risky to attempt to remove from the river. Items such as these, such as a washing machine, must be marked with a GPS unit and with the help of Dominion Power will be removed later on when the proper machinery is available. The most commonly found item on the rivers were tires, ranging from small all-terrain vehicle tires up to tractor tires (some of which weigh upwards of 800 lbs.), and each team of Sweepers would find anywhere between 5 to 50 tires daily. At the end of each day, once the take-out was reached, trash was then unloaded from the canoes and into the boat trailer and then to the dump. Again, this may sound like an easy task, however the take-outs used by the Sweepers aren’t public access points, and sometimes required canoes and trash to be shuttled hundreds of feet (at times uphill) to the nearest location that the truck and trailer could fit.