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Cleanup crew aims to pick up pounds of refuse from Superior beaches

Joe Ripley pulls a sports drink bottle from the rocks along the shoreline on Barker’s Island in Superior earlier this week. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Volunteers from the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and Wisconsin Sea Grant collected 8 pounds of garbage Tuesday from the tip of Barker’s Island and a stretch of the Osaugie Trail in Superior.

“Much of it was very small pieces of foam and plastic,” said Andrea Crouse, water resources specialist for Superior Environmental Services Division.

The haul included 362 pieces of foam, 138 small pieces of plastic, 131 food wrappers and 60 cigarette butts. Ice cream wrappers were a common find near the pavilion. More unusual items included a surgical mask and a used container of body spray.

Additional pounds of garbage will be shaved from local beaches today as part of Superior’s Coastal Cleanup event. Volunteers can show up anytime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. today at Wisconsin Point to help pick up trash along the Lake Superior shoreline. Garbage bags, gloves and other materials will be provided.

One thing that sets this event apart is the recordkeeping. As part of the International Coastal Cleanup effort, every piece of garbage will be tallied.

“Plastic cap,” called Gene Clark with Wisconsin Sea Grant on Tuesday. His co-worker Marie Zhuikov made a pencil mark.

“Plastic bag,” Clark called out. “Doggie doo-doo bag.”

Despite the brisk wind, volunteers enjoyed their time outdoors.

“It really goes along with our mission, and we work right here, so it’s nice to keep our island clean,” said Kelly Pugh, who works for both organizations.

Each team kept plastic debris in a separate bag, and all the garbage was weighed at the end of the day.

“I think it’s really important because it not only makes the beaches and the shoreline look better, it helps us figure out what kind of trash is a problem,” Zhuikov said. “And if you know what kind of trash is a problem, you can figure out the source, sometimes. And so you can work to counteract that.”

She remembers finding a large number of cigarette butts during a sweep of the Duluth Lakewalk one year. Tuesday along the rocky island shoreline, they found a lot of foam.

“It might be from bait buckets or something like that,” Zhuikov said. If that’s the case, maybe a campaign targeting fishermen would help reduce garbage in the area.

Although annual cleanups have been taking place in the Twin Ports for years, it’s been a while since the city of Superior coordinated one.

“It’s exciting to be back in it again,” Crouse said.

Businesses and organizations have responded well to the call for help. In addition to the Reserve and Sea Grant effort, teams from the Superior Boys and Girls Club, Superior Sunrise Rotary, St. Luke’s Mariner Clinic, AAR Aircraft Services, Douglas County Humane Society and Superior YMCA volunteered to clean various areas this week.

Lorena Rios Mendoza, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, will be tackling a section of Wisconsin Point today with her students. Rios Mendoza’s research on microbeads in the Great Lakes helped lead to state and federal bans on the plastic beads, which are used in personal care products like facial scrubs and toothpaste.

Although efforts will be focused on Wisconsin Point beaches today, residents don’t have to go any farther than their block to make a difference.

“Cleaning up sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and streets in the city keeps pollutants and litter out of Lake Superior,” Crouse said. “Your curb and ditch are really shoreline property.”

Storm water pollution — litter and debris that is carried into storm drains from streets, lawns, ditches and sidewalks — is the biggest source of local water pollution, she said. Those storm drains empty directly into Lake Superior or the St. Louis River Estuary.

A blue City of Superior registration table will be set up from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at one of the first parking lots on Wisconsin Point for volunteers to sign in and receive cleaning supplies. For information, contact Crouse at (715) 394-0392 or crousea@ci.superior.wi.us.

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