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Ellie, Captain D and Friends Clean Up a Shoreline Mess


Photo by Ellen Brockington Martin.
View more images on our Flickr site

Photo by Ellen Brockington Martin.

Photo by Ellen Brockington Martin.

Later it would become clear that someone had snatched bags of crushed plastic bottles from a local Hannaford, thinking they could cash them in for five cents apiece, but at the time, all Ellen Brockington Martin and her husband Paul only knew they were disgusted.

“When we saw that mountain of recyclables we couldn’t believe it. I wanted to go right home and grab my rake and trash bags, drive back and pick it right up right away before it all got washed away down the river,” said Martin. “I was so upset because I couldn’t understand why anyone could do this to our precious environment.”

Known as Ellie and Captain D among fellow ADK Pirate Paddlers, they know the Upper Hudson around Queensbury well, and they were were used to seeing litter around the Feeder Dam launch site – but this went beyond careless littering. With the light fading, they pushed the plastic back from the water’s edge, but didn’t have time to do more. So they did the next best thing – something we here at Riverkeeper have come to call “enforcement through notification.” She plastered the photos on Facebook, and shared them with the Hudson River Paddlers group.

Within hours on a weekend, the posting had been seen by Riverkeeper and a slew of concerned paddlers, who shared key information like how to make a report to Department of Environmental Conservation’s pollution hotline – by calling 1-800-TIPP-DEC (1-800-847-7332). “EVERYONE SHOULD PUT THAT NUMBER ON THEIR CELL PHONE,” Martin wrote, and we couldn’t agree more about her choice of words and emphasis.

It was important that this community didn’t let roadblocks stand in their way. Martin originally called the local police the same day she identified the dumping, a Saturday, and the dispatcher wasn’t well informed about handling a pollution complaint. While the paddlers saw the urgency in dealing with the plastic before it spilled into the water, and in investigating before any trails leading to the polluter went cold, the police offered only to send someone to investigate two days later, on Monday. We’d like to see local police educated about how to make reports to the DEC, too, especially if they won’t follow up themselves on pollution complaints.

Riverkeeper helped to ensure DEC responded, and notified both local elected officials and the media. John Strough, Queensbury Supervisor, joined paddlers and others who learned about the dumping and “just had to do something,” as Martin put it. The DEC removed the bags, opened an investigation, and talked to the local store about securing recyclables on its loading dock to avoid the same thing happening again. (Though subsequent observations showed there were still bags unsecured at the store.)

The Post-Star and WNYT 13 covered the story, and the Associated Press picked it up, leading to widespread coverage.

The benefit of removing plastic that would have polluted the river can’t be overstated, as our understanding of the far-reaching impacts of plastics pollution in water is growing. But the greater benefit may be in the attention by the press and on social media. It shows to all would-be polluters that there are people looking out for the Hudson, who will stand up to protect it.

“It was a great effort from everyone and I was really glad to see the interest and the way everyone spread the word across Facebook, the paper and the TV,” Martin said. “It’s awareness that makes the difference.”

Photos by Ellen Brockington Martin. Illustration by Riverkeeper.

Photos by Ellen Brockington Martin. Illustration by Riverkeeper.

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