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'Quite a bit of work' expected in some areas during cleanup of Connecticut River, tributaries

The Connecticut River Conservancy is getting ready for its 27th annual multi-state cleanup of the river and its watershed. And heavy rains this summer could mean there's more to be hauled away, along with some bigger items.

Last year, about 1,300 volunteers hauled away 37 tons, including more than 200 tires and about 12,000 beverage containers.

Diana Chaplin, director of communications for the conservancy, said volunteers did an early cleanup on the Black River, a tributary in Vermont, where there had been a lot of flooding — and pulled out big items.

"Things like boats. Things like furniture," she said. "We're expecting that there might be either larger trash where there was more heavy flooding or there might be trash where it normally wouldn't wash into."

Chaplin said volunteers keep a tally of what they collect. The conservancy uses that information to advocate for laws that target specific litter, such as tires and nip bottles. For example, last year volunteers collected 204 tires.

In Greenfield, Massachusetts, resident David Boles has run the cleanup on the Green River for two decades. Typically, he said, 200 to 300 volunteers — including children and workers from local businesses — collect 20 to 25 tons of garbage.

This year, floods hit some people without homes who were living along the Green River. Boles said some left behind their camps and things like tents, clothes — even couches and tables.

"An extreme amount of stuff got abandoned there. And as a result of the heavy rains and the mud, I think it's going to be a job that's going to take quite a bit of work," he said.

The Connecticut River Conservancy's policy is not to disturb places where people are actively living.

Boles said about five large businesses participate and bring pickup trucks and dump trucks to assist with the cleanup.

"We're really looking to put the river back into a better condition before the winter hits," Boles said.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.

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