Some of the trash collected in the Saco River during a recent volunteer clean-up.

Some of the trash collected in the Saco River during a recent volunteer clean-up.

SACO — Tires, a toilet seat, a BB gun, a wheelbarrow – these are just a sampling of the 1.5 tons of trash removed from the Saco River from Bar Mills to Camp Ellis last weekend by volunteers in an effort coordinated by the Saco Salmon Restoration Alliance.

Another volunteer effort earlier this year cleaned trash from other parts of the Saco River watershed area, and in total, about 2.5 tons of trash were removed from the river this year. A clean-up effort last year generated 3 tons of trash from the river.

“This is kind of heartening and disheartening at the same time,” said Rick LaRiviere, president of the Saco Salmon Restoration Alliance.

Volunteers traveled the Saco River last weekend to pick up trash.

Volunteers traveled the Saco River last weekend to pick up trash.

He said it’s great to see what the volunteers have accomplished, but dismaying to see the ongoing problem of trash in the river.

“We’re realizing the litter problem in this area is much more serious than we thought,” said LaRiviere.

The Saco River is the sole source of water for the Biddeford and Saco division of Maine Water Co., which serves Saco, Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach and part of Scarborough.

Despite all the trash, it is one of the cleanest major rivers in Maine and New England due to the lack of substantial industrial development along the shoreline, according to a 2013 water quality report from Maine Water Co.

“The river is in good condition – much better than other Maine rivers – but there is room for improvement,” said LaRiviere.

Many people may not realize the amount of garbage thrown in the Saco River, said LaRiviere, because they can’t see it by looking at the river. He said one local resident looked at a pile of trash volunteers had hauled up to the shore and said, “These are the ice cubes that are floating in my drinking water?”

LaRiviere said the recent two-day volunteer effort drew 28 volunteers each day. He is also grateful to the local businesses and organizations who helped with supplies and food and for the assistance received by city officials from Saco and Biddeford.

He wants to bring awareness to the issue of trash in the river, and hopes to get more volunteers and organizations involved in clean-up efforts in the future.

Those interested in learning more can contact LaRiviere by email at [email protected] or by phone or text at (603) 915-0651.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]


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