Get wet…Get dirty…Get involved

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships

We all want clean and healthy rivers. How about helping to keep them that way? Join in the Clean Sweep of the Great Miami River!

You never know what you’ll find. 

The oldest “piece of trash” was not trash at all. Volunteers discovered a skull cap of an adolescent boy from the Adena Period. The bone fragment is estimated to be 2,500 to 3,000 years old!  It is now safely housed in the collection at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

Other unusual items collected over the years are a balled up wad of approximately 1,500 coat hangers, a 30-foot section of guardrail, a 42″ riding lawn mower, steel forklift wheels, four 50-gallon bags of dead fighting roosters, a fish swimming round and round inside a tire and wheel, a safe (empty), and a full unopened jar of olives.

Volunteer effort
The Clean Sweep of the Great Miami River is an annual volunteer event focused on removing trash and restoring the health of the Great Miami River. But the river cleanup is about much more than picking up trash. It’s a day for people to actively care for their waterways with family, neighbors, and community.

Trash makes its way to the river from a variety of paths including through storm drains after rain picks it up from parking lots and roadways. (Another good reason not to litter.) Trash can also get in the rivers from illegal dumping.

How much trash has been collected?
Based on MCD’s historical records, from 1987 to 2005—combined with current data collected by sectional leaders from 2005 to present—the Clean Sweep has has been powered by more than 13,000 volunteers that have picked up, dragged out, and lugged over 850 tons of trash and tires. That is just shy of the weight of three fully loaded Boeing 777 aircraft.

MCD has been involved from the beginning
The first cleanup of the Great Miami River started back in 1986. That’s when two Tri-Cities Wastewater Plant lab workers were collecting water samples and noticed how much trash they found in and along the river. They organized trash collection events, and MCD began tracking how much trash was collected.
In 2005, local cleanup advocates began coordinating the trash collection effort along the entire length of the river from Indian Lake at the headwaters to Shawnee Lookout Park in Hamilton County. They began calling the effort the “Clean Sweep of the Great Miami River.” The annual event is organized by a committee of local river advocates and supporters.
You can help!
The river is divided into sections and each one is managed by a coordinator who recruits volunteers, coordinates trash pickup and more. This year’s Clean Sweep has dates in July and September. To find a location where you, your office staff, or friends and family can volunteer, visit

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