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Dirty work done

Volunteers clean up Whetstone Brook

From left, Kendra D., Kathy Bioniemi and Jacklyn Lenten, volunteers at the Whetstone Brook clean-up event held by the Northern Michigan University Conservation Crew Sunday, smile with some of the items collected from the brook and its banks during the event. (Photo courtesy of NMU Conservation Crew)

MARQUETTE — For many Upper Peninsula residents, Lake Superior and its tributaries are major sources of drinking water, recreation and natural beauty.

In an effort to help protect Lake Superior and Whetstone Brook — a direct tributary of Lake Superior which flows through urbanized areas in Marquette and Marquette Township before reaching its outlet at Founders Landing — the Northern Michigan University Conservation Crew and volunteers gathered together on Sunday to remove litter from Whetstone Brook and its banks.

It was critical to conduct this work prior to the winter months, NMU Conservation Crew Founder and Co-Leader Lynnae Branham said previously, as when the brook freezes over, remaining litter would have been trapped beneath the ice, which could cause it to embed into stream banks and potentially harm aquatic organisms. And when the spring thaw eventually arrives, the increased water flow in the brook could deliver the litter and contaminants directly into Lake Superior.

An official weigh-in at Waste Management found that the group collected close to 400 pounds from the brook and its banks, Branham said.

While participants of the first Whetstone Brook cleanup event in May collected about 1,000 pounds of garbage — including old tires, metal poles and fencing, pieces of insulation, car parts, as well as more typical forms of litter — there was still much to be picked up this time, she said.

Cups, wrappers and other debris collected during Sunday’s Whetstone Brook clean-up event are pictured. Volunteers collected around 400 pounds of litter from the brook and its banks on Sunday. It was important to clean up the brook, organizers said, as the brook flows through urban areas in Marquette and Marquette Township before its outlet to Lake Superior at Founders Landing, meaning that any litter and contaminants in and around the brook can be carried all the way to the lake. (Photo courtesy of NMU Conservation Crew)

“We had fewer obscure objects this time around; most things were plastic bags, snack bags, cigarette butts, microplastics from broken objects and Styrofoam,” Branham said. “However, we did collect a tire, a few metal poles and lots of random car metal/parts.”

The cleanup drew over a dozen volunteers, which allowed them to split up into four groups: one to cover a portion of the brook near the 900 block of West Baraga Avenue, two groups heading up- and downstream near the 800 block of West Baraga Avenue and a group that cleaned up by the bridge near Altamont Street, she said.

Participants were even able to get into the stream itself to pick up litter, as waders were provided by the Marquette County Conservation District.

“Most all of the trash came from within the stream, with a large portion coming from the surrounding banks” of the brook near the 900 block of West Baraga Avenue, Branham said, noting she hopes to begin a dialogue with surrounding business and property owners about keeping the area free of litter.

The event also inspired several area residents who volunteered for the first cleanup to return, Branham said, noting these returning volunteers were “very pleased with the warm weather and high turnout.”

The returning volunteers were also surprised by the brook’s lower water levels compared to water levels during the spring cleanup event, which enabled them to see into the stream better and observe “how much trash was actually in the stream,” she said.

Overall, Branham — who is also conducting a water quality assessment on the brook with a fellow student, Jacklyn Lenten — was glad to see so many volunteers gather hundreds of pounds of trash from the stream, as this can help protect the waters and inhabitants of both Whetstone Brook and Lake Superior.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.