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Nonprofit fights to clean up river after flood

A Columbia-based non-profit has added a new boat to its fight to clean up the Missouri River.

Missouri River Relief is focusing on keeping the river as clean as possible.

“Our mission is to connect people with the Missouri River through direct experience and action,” said Steve Schnarr, executive director. “We take people on the river to do river cleanups, pick up tons of trash off the river we also do a lot of education events with students and adults.”

The new boat was purchased using a grant from the Mid Missouri Solid Waste Management District, as well as contributions from the Boone County Community Trust, Missouri American Water and some local donors.

This will be the Missouri River Relief’s fifth boat.

Schnarr said the new boat will allow about 20 individuals to assist in the river cleanup, which is double the number of people who can go out on the river using the organization’s other boats.

This comes after the recent flooding of the Missouri River has created growing issues.

Chris Wieberg, director of the Water Protection Program through the Department of Natural Resources, said the effects from flooding this year on the Missouri are not much different than other flooding events in the state’s history.

Flooding leads to water quality issues because of trash and other substances it sweeps downstream, he said.

Wieberg said the Water Protection Program is focused on “point sources” of pollution, which include regulated activities. Trash and other debris falls into the “non-point source” pollution.

Weiberg said DNR relies on non-profits such as Missouri River Relief to get trash and debris out of waterways.

He said DNR employees also go out and clean up debris while they aren’t on the clock. “We volunteer just like everybody else” Weiberg said. “We don’t directly regulate non-point sources so cleaning up these areas falls on all the citizens wheter you are working for DNR or not.”

Schnarr said Missouri River Relief has events planned in some of the locations that were heavily affected. “It just kind of lucks out that some of those are in perfect locations to pick up debris that have washed in from these flood events,” Schnarr said.

On May 18, the Missouri River Relief team will clean up Fort Osage Park in Sibley, near Kansas City. “They were hit really hard by the flooding,” Schnarr said. “That’s gone down, so if the river stays down there is a lot of debris up in there that we will be able to get.”

They have never cleaned Fort Osage Park, but Schnarr said it sits on a bend on the river which collects a lot of trash.

Schnarr said volunteers see a variety of debris in the river during their clean-ups.

“Anything that floats from our lives, and thats everything from plastic bottles, to styrofoam, to tires, refrigerators, and surprising things, anything thats floats,” Schnarr said.

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