While cleaning trash from the river can help the environment, Rourke said that isn’t the biggest benefit of the event.
“The major benefit I see is getting people down to the river,” Rourke said.
From then on, people who participated in the cleaning will be more aware of environmental issues, Rourke said, and might be more inclined to take action in the future.
Linda Raterman, the information and public relations specialist for the Miami Soil and Water Conservation District, said the event is a way the public can take ownership of the river.
“The river is something valuable and useful, and it’s theirs,” Raterman said.
While all kinds of things can be pulled from the river, Rourke said the most common thing he’s seen are tires.
“About a third to half of every river cleanup I’ve done has been tires,” Rourke said.
He attributes this to the cost to dispose of tires in Ohio. Montgomery County residents can dispose of 10 tires per year at no cost, but will be charged a disposal fee for additional tires.
Raterman said that tires and other refuse can lead to erosion, pollution and can also damage the aesthetic value of a river.
The event began more than 30 years ago in 1986 when two Tri-County Sanitation workers were taking samples from the river near Dayton and noticed how much trash was in the river. Since those two workers began the first sweep, it has expanded to encompass the entire length of the river.
Raterman said the event took its current organized form around 2004 and has been going strong ever since.
Those who want to participate in the event can sign up at www.cleansweepofthegreatmiamiriver.org/locations. Hopeful participants who can't make the Friday and Saturday dates can sign up for the southern portion of the cleanup, which will take place in October.