Every time it rains, a large amount of litter finds its way to Nine Mile Run via the storm and combined sewers. The floodplains and stream banks become filled with beer cans, baby wipes, plastic bags and straws and all sorts of other items.
Not only is litter an eyesore, it is a major ecological problem. Litter breaks down into microplastics, which then make their way into the tissues of fish and other aquatic organisms. Animals get stuck in bags, eat straws, and are poisoned by items such as cigarette butts. Also, cigarette butts leach nasty chemicals (think arsenic, nicotine, Formaldehyde, benzene, cyanide, etc.) into the waterways and soils where they are deposited by storm runoff.
UpstreamPgh hosts Stream Sweeps twice a year in spring and fall. Around 50 volunteers participate in each event, collecting more than 600 pounds of trash. Over the years, there have been some pretty interesting finds including driver’s licenses, CDs, a bicycle, and shopping cart, and even an ankle monitoring bracelet.