Category Archives: StreamSweepers News

StreamSweepers Will Be Hiring in 2019 for Staff in the Shenandoah and Clinch River Valleys

2018 Rappahannock StreamSweepers Cutting Up on the River

StreamSweepers will be hiring Program Managers, On-water Managers, and Sweeping Staff next year. Our new Shenandoah Valley Satellite Office will need a Middle River Comprehensive Cleanup Program Manager, On-water Manager, and Sweeping Staff. The Clinch River Satellite Office will need an On-water Manager and Sweepers. The Middle River crew will be working in the vicinity of Verona and the Clinch River crew will be working in the vicinity of St. Paul. We will post more information about these positions in early 2019.

StreamSweepers Receives Endorsement of Organizations and Agencies to Proceed with Comprehensive Cleanup of the Clinch and Middle Rivers in 2019

After 2 years of assessment of the Clinch River (St. Paul, VA) and nearly a year of river cleanup concept discussions with the Friends of the Middle River (Staunton, VA), StreamSweepers has the green light to proceed with comprehensive cleanup in Partnership with a host of area conservation and social organizations and agencies. Fundraising and short range planning for our Clinch and Shenandoah Rivers Cleanup Campaigns is now underway. The Clinch River program will take several years and will be the largest industrial river cleanup in our history and comes on the heels of completion of our Rappahannock Rivers Cleanup Campaign (2012-2018) this year. If you would like to help, please contact the Center at 540-7672-2542. And, if you would like to donate to these efforts, please find our 2019 Campaign button on our website.

Brian Watson (VDGIF), Braven Beaty (TNC), and Maddie Gordon (StreamSweepers) looking at impact of tire removal in Clinch River on river bed substrate

Clinch River Update

As we near completion of the assessment and trash inventory phase of the project we are astonished at the amount of trash in the Clinch River near the Swords Creek area.  According to Project Manager, Maddie Gordon, “there are thousands of tires and other trash in less than a 6 mile stretch.”

The Clinch River cleanup will be much different than any previous clean up effort StreamSweepers has completed.  We will need additional partners and new protocols to move this project into an industrial scale cleanup.  While we know this will require a tremendous amount of effort and we believe it is both possible and necessary!  The photos speak for themselves.

Success! – Tire Recycling Amnesty Event

It was a resounding success, and over the course of the four-hour event, 135 vehicles visited and dropped off more than 1330 tires.  These tires will be disposed of responsibly, with as many being recycled as possible.  Potential future uses include road surface material, arena footing material, and tire derived fuel for industrial boilers, among other possibilities.

The backing of the local community made the event a success, and we especially appreciate the partners and sponsors whose financial support made the event possible.  These include partners: Orange/Gordonsville Pharmacy, University Tire & Auto, EZ Performance Center, as well as sponsors: American Woodmark, MPS, Virginia Tractor, Clore’s Automotive, Edward Jones-Jeff Earnhardt, Grelen Nursery, Inn at Westwood Farm, Inn at Willow Grove, Jack Samuels Realty, Mason Insurance Agency, Orange Madison COOP, Orange Tire Inc., Pro Collision Center, Purcell Custom Firearms Shop, and The Lightwell/Willow Spring Brewery/Beggars Banquet.  The event was also supported by a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality grant.

We would also like to thank the Landfill staff for their gracious logistical support and for hosting the event and the Orange County Litter Control Committee for logistical and financial support.

We appreciate those that volunteered, supported, and attended this event and hope that the collection of these tires will help create a cleaner Orange County.  While we hope to hold the event again, the ability to host it is based on sponsorship and grant support, so we advise that residents do not collect tires on their property in anticipation of another amnesty day.  The disposal fee at the landfill is just $2.50 per tire (for the first ten), and prompt disposal helps prevent the negative effects of tire collection, such as mosquito breeding.

Mattaponi River Clean-Up Project

Mattaponi River

The Mattaponi River Clean-up Youth Job Training and Employment Program will offer many benefits to Caroline County including stewardship, job training and environmental awareness for the young adults employed.  Removal of trash and an inventory report will enhance the Mattaponi as resource for the community and offer additional opportunities to leverage this resource.  StreamSweepers will train 5 local age young adults (18 and over) to clean and inventory 13 miles of the Mattaponi River in Caroline County, VA. The stretch to be cleaned begins at the Rt. 607 crossing at Paige and extends to the Rt. 301 crossing.  The proposed project is partially funded by Caroline County, and from a grant from the Luck Foundation.  For the project to be completed, we will need to raise an additional $15,000.  This figure includes the cost of all supervisory personnel, equipment, and liability insurances and Workers Compensation insurance for all employees.  Outreach to landowners may begin as early as January 2018 as access from landowners will need to be secured about every mile or two along the river.   For more information please contact us by email or by calling our office at (540)-672-2542.

Donate Now

We hope that residents and business owners as well as other foundations will support this project.

The Mattaponi River is a 103-mile-long tributary of the York River estuary and rises as four streams in Spotsylvania County, each of which is given a shorter piece of the Mattaponi’s name.  They are the Mat River and the Ta River which join in Spotsylvania County to form the Matta River; the Po River and the Ni River which join in Caroline County to form the Poni River; and the Matta and Poni Rivers which join in Caroline County to form the Mattaponi River.

From the confluence of its tributaries, the Mattaponi flows generally southeast through Caroline County, where it collects the South River at the southern edge of the Mattaponi Wildlife Management Area.  In its lower reaches, it defines the boundary between King William and King and Queen counties. At West Point, it meets the Pamunkey River to form the York River.

With little development or industry on the river, the Mattaponi provides a diverse array of scenery and angling opportunity. Beginning as a small, scenic, non-tidal stream draining much of Caroline County and serving as the border between King and Queen and King William counties, the upper Mattaponi has limited public access. Moving downstream from Zoar State Forest towards West Point the river changes character drastically from a small non-tidal stream to a large tidal river lined by vast expanses of marsh. (courtesy VDGIF)

THANKFUL – Adopt A Pile Progress Update

Adopt A Pile Trash Removed From Robinson River
Dominion Energy Volunteers Remove Adopt A Pile Trash

During the summer of 2016 we uncovered more than 25 sites with trash too large to be floated out in our canoes in the three rivers we cleaned; the Hughes, Rapidan and Robinson Rivers.  Thanks to the generous support we received many of these items – culverts, extra heavy tires,  storage tanks, dangerous metal objects and more have been removed from the river.  We are continuing to make contacts with landowners to gain access to the remaining items to be removed with heavy equipment.  We appreciate the many landowners who have cooperated with us so far.  We couldn’t do this without you!

Some of this stuff has been in our rivers for decades, rusting, and leaking oil and other substances.  Thanks to the many wonderful people who have helped make our rivers cleaner and safer to enjoy, especially the Dominion Energy Volunteers from the Orange service office (pictured above) for bringing in the heavy equipment.  It sure does make a difference!

large trash sites

Large Trash Sites 2016 – Hughes, Robinson and Rapidan Rivers

Culpeper Star Exponent Article


Restoration on the Rappahannock – Culpeper Star Exponent Feature Article Sunday August 27, 2017

Culpeper Star Exponent File 1

Culpeper Star Exponent File 2

Jeanine Meerscheidt lifts trash out of the Rappahannock River in Richardsville, VA. Photo by Allison Brophy-Champion
Dimeair Johnson heads back to the banks of the Rappahannock River with a canoe full of trash. Photo by Allison Brophy-Champion


Dominion Energy Community Story

StreamSweepers Healing Rivers, People Across Virginia

StreamSweepers on the Rappahannock River

When Jeanine Meerscheidt lost her son Brandon in a tragic climbing accident in Grayson Highlands State Park earlier this year, she also lost a part of herself.  She has now found her healing path along the banks of the Rappahannock River. “This is filling the hole that is left behind when you lose a loved one,” explained Jeanine Meerscheidt, still wet from wading through waist-high water and pulling out the trash others so carelessly left behind.In the wake of her son’s death, Meerscheidt came across a booth in Fredericksburg for the StreamSweepers and was immediately drawn in. Hearing about how they hire workers to spend the summer cleaning Virginia’s waterways, she felt she had found a way to pay tribute to her son.

By the end of summer, StreamSweepers will have pulled out 10 to 15 tons of trash, including a few hundred tires, along the Upper Rappahannock.

“I was like, ‘Wow! Okay, this is something I absolutely have to do,’” says Meerscheidt, who was hired to be the On-Water Manager for the organization. Since then she’s spent two months with a handful of other paid employees of StreamSweepers floating downriver in a canoe trying to spot cast-off tires, cans, and golf balls. She and the others don’t hesitate to get their hands dirty pulling or prying them StreamSweepers clean trash out of the Rappahannock River

out of the river bottom for hours on end each day. By the end of summer they will have pulled out 10 to 15 tons of trash, including a few hundred tires, along 20 to 40 miles of the Upper Rappahannock.

By summer’s end, the river will be healthier and Meerscheidt says she too will be better off. The symbiotic improvement is no coincidence. Rather, it is the goal for which the program was designed.

“The overriding mission is healing: healing people and healing nature, one river at a time,” said Michael Collins, executive director of the Center for Natural Capital which runs the program. “Everybody that comes in touch with this seems to connect with it and it sort of creates their own passion within them.”

While most river cleanups are done on a volunteer basis, StreamSweepers is somewhat unique in having paid, trained workers dedicated to the task five days a week throughout the summer. The program is run entirely through private funding from grants and donations, including a $50,000 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation.

The program is run entirely through private funding from grants and donations, including a $50,000 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation.

“The Dominion Energy grant has been very important in our being able to continue this work year after year,” said Project Manager Deb Manzari. “I think it’s been four years now we’ve had support from Dominion and it’s a large part of our budget. It allows us to keep this program going and we are grateful for it.”

StreamSweepers clean trash out of the Rappahannock River

Manzari sees the transformation taking place as soon as the initial one-week training is complete and the StreamSweepers find themselves out on the water, connecting with nature and looking out for each other’s safety.

“All of a sudden you get a really great group going and it’s really fun for me to see everybody work together and friendships form and it really feels like a wonderful environment to work in every day,” Manzari said.

For Meerschiedt, it is a literal labor of love. She is achieving her goal of getting comfortable in a canoe and getting in shape through the daily effort on the waterways. Most important, however, is the rehabilitation of both the river and her soul. “I’m in a lot better shape than I was two months ago, emotionally,” she said. “One tire at a time.”

Amazing Tenacity

The following series of photos gives you an idea of the effort that it takes to remove some of the trash from our rivers.  At the heads of islands in these rivers you will often find a bulwark of downed trees that look alot like a large pile of “pixie sticks”.  They catch all kinds of things!  Our crew was DETERMINED not to leave this very large piece of trash that was entrenched in one such pile of trees.  There are some videos too…showing the sheer joy of our group once the item has been removed…enough said.

StreamSweepers Investigating Porta Potty Removal Options
Sizing up removal options
StreamSweepers determination
Let me see what’s going on here
StreamSweepers teamwork
Somebody else wants a turn down there?
StreamSweepers digging for trash
We’re going to have to dig
StreamSweepers removing trash piece by piece
and dig some more
StreamSweepers don't give up
and maybe cut it up and pull too
StreamSweepers seeing the light at the end of the tunnel
I think I can get it free
StreamSweepers teamwork lifting it out
Let’s lift it outta here!
StreamSweepers joy at trash removal
StreamSweepers taking trash where it belongs
Getting a ride out
SteamSweepers canoe trash barge
Bigger than the canoe!
StreamSweepers at the landfill
At the dump – HOORAY


Continue reading Amazing Tenacity

Our Season Has Begun!

Rappahannock River Crew

Rappahannock Crew 2017  (left to right front Will Sowards, Caitlyn Fincham, Lisa Dornon, Dimeair Johnson, Katie Keator, Jeanine Meerscheidt (On Water Manager), Kiera Meerscheidt, Debbie Manzari, Eric Himelfarb (Center Natural Capital Staff), Tyler Perkins and Austin Harkness)

Our season has begun!  We are going to take some time over the next few weeks to thank the MANY good folks who have helped get this project rolling and to introduce you to the wonderful staff and the work they are doing.  Stay tuned!

Canoe Training at Virginia Outdoor Center with Friends of the Rappahannock