Environment

A ton of garbage – almost literally – pulled from Sacramento River

Hundreds of volunteers pitched in Saturday for Coastal Cleanup Day to clean riverbanks, waterways and coasts of California. Along the Sacramento River in West Sacramento, Dave Vanrijn, 46, foreground, of West Sacramento bags up a pile of trash as, from left, Dylan Otarrow; Russ Liebig; Erik Vink, executive director of Delta Protection Commission; and West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon lift a shopping cart of waste into a garbage truck Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016.
Hundreds of volunteers pitched in Saturday for Coastal Cleanup Day to clean riverbanks, waterways and coasts of California. Along the Sacramento River in West Sacramento, Dave Vanrijn, 46, foreground, of West Sacramento bags up a pile of trash as, from left, Dylan Otarrow; Russ Liebig; Erik Vink, executive director of Delta Protection Commission; and West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon lift a shopping cart of waste into a garbage truck Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. ehiller@sacbee.com

A heap of soiled clothes. Several bike wheels. A shopping cart. A refrigerator door. A torn, faded purple suitcase. Syringes.

“A lot of human feces,” offered 16-year-old Delaney Roybal as her fellow YMCA Youth in Government members murmured in agreement.

Those were among the items collected by about 75 volunteers who descended on a stretch of the Sacramento River in West Sacramento on Saturday, joining a California Coastal Cleanup Day effort that included five Delta counties.

The turnout marked a significant improvement over last year, when only a few people showed up. Cub Scouts, teenagers, senior citizens and at least one father with a baby strapped to his back joined the effort.

They hauled some 1,800 pounds out of the stretch of river flowing between the Tower Bridge and the Pioneer Bridge, one piece of a statewide effort encompassing hundreds of sites that yielded at least 278 tons of waste.

“Most people don’t realize how much pollution is in the water,” said Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas, who joined the effort.

In the weeks leading up to the cleanup, Villegas said, officials reached out to three homeless people living in two encampments along the slice of river where the cleanup was to take place. Two ended up taking advantage of county services, he said.

Workers toiled in an area increasingly targeted for revitalization. At the Barn, an undulating wooden event space that opened this summer, workers prepared for a TedX event. Nearby condos advertised living in an area developers have dubbed “The Bridge District.”

“We’re trying to activate this part of the waterfront,” said West Sacramento City Councilman Chris Ledesma, who also helped pick up garbage. “Keeping this area clean, trying to keep it safe for people is really important.”

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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