Tuesday, September 20, 2016

OARS Annual River Cleanup 2016

OARS: Poster listing sponsors.
Click on photos to enlarge.
The OARS 30th Annual River Cleanup took place on September 17, 2016. Teams of an estimated 200+ volunteers were assigned locations along the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord rivers. In Maynard, nearly 30 high school students were part of the effort, their presence organized by Maynard High School science teacher Rochelle Lerner.

At the post-event pizza celebration, dirtied and tired workers were joined by U.S. Congressional Representative Niki Tsongas and State Representative Kate Hogan, who had both been making a morning's effort to visit several of the day's river events. Tsongas and Hogan spoke to how efforts of organizations such as OARS (Organization for the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord Rivers) have made such a difference to our state's waterways. They also thanked the students for this year's service and charged them with the need to give something back to their community and country wherever their lives take them.

This appeared to be a watershed year (pun intended), as Maynard had more volunteers than trash to be removed from the river. Past years had yielded as many as 100 car and truck tires, plus bicycles, shopping carts, and tons of iron pipe, scrap metal, broken pottery, old carpets and miscellaneous junk. This year, only two tires, one bicycle, and an estimated total of less than one ton of glass, metal, plastic, broken furniture, etc. Not much in the way of newer stuff such as aluminum cans or plastic bottles. Clearly, less and less is being thrown into the river each year. Hurrah!   

Elmo (from Sesame Street), here posed kicking a soccer ball, was
salvaged from the river, as was hundreds of pounds of miscellaneous trash.
Each year the finds from the river include intact glass bottles with a bit of history. A Coca-Cola bottle, volume 6.5 ounces, with "LOWELL" inscribed on the bottom, was dated to the mid-1950s. In 2013 the find was an amber glass pint bottle embossed with the words CALDWELL'S RUM and the image of a three-masted sailing ship alongside a dock. The company had been started by Alexander Caldwell in 1790. Markings on the bottom signified that the bottle had been made for Caldwell's Rum in 1953 by the Anchor Hocking Glass Company. The oldest find to date is a one cup size bottle embossed with TURNER CENTRE SYSTEM, representing a dairy bottling and home delivery company active 100 years ago. 

Trash collected by the students.
 This year's find was a plain glass bottle with NEW ENGLAND VINEGAR WORKS embossed on the bottom, no other markings. Turns out NEVW began its life in 1865 in Somerville as the Standard Vinegar Company. Arthur Rowse bought the company in 1900, changed the name to New England Vinegar Works in 1907, then moved it to Littleton in 1930 to be closer to Massachusetts' apple orchards. Some time around then or a bit before, he created the name Veryfine, after bringing in pasteurization equipment and going into the apple juice business.

Veryfine and its popular bottled water brand Fruit2O remained a family owned business until 2004, when it was sold to Kraft. As part of the deal, the Rowse family insisted that Kraft keep any of the 400 employees who wanted to stay. Approximately fifteen million dollar from the sale was used to pay bonuses to employees; those who had been there more than 20 years got a bonus equal to a full year's pay. Kraft sold Veryfine to Sunny Delight in 2007. Sunny Delight closed the Littleton facility at the end of 2015 while continuing to make the Veryfine and Fruit2O brands at other sites. The Veryfine label has a banner that reads "Since 1865." Let's just call that a stretch.

As to the means by which thousands upon thousands of glass bottles ended up in the stretch of the Assabet as it wended it way through Maynard, think bridges and backyards, and the opinion that anything disposed into the river went "away." This is not a new problem. From the 1913 Annual Report of the State Board of Health "The Assabet River has at various times been seriously polluted in different parts of its course, the most serious condition in recent years below Maynard where the river receives sewage and manufacturing waste from a very large woolen mill and a considerable quantity of sewage also from the town... the river continues to be objectionable in appearance and odor, especially below Maynard."

To learn more about our rivers, go to: www.oars3rivers.org

U.S. Congress Representative Niki Tsongas (right) and State Representative Kate Hogan (dark suit, 
left of center) pose with Maynard High School students. Kneeling is Alison Field-Juma, Executive Director 
of OARS (left) and Lisa Vernegaard, Executive Director of Sudbury Valley Trustees (right). Science teacher 
Rochelle Lerner is in green shirt, to left.

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