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Eew! Photos Document a Growing River of Trash

July 24th, 2013

Local photographer Clarke Conde has been snapping photos of the Genesee River all year. This patch of trash has been growing slowly like a giant, smelly tumor. [PHOTO: Clarke Conde]
The City of Rochester recently put the finishing touches on some beautiful hardscaping and pathways connecting Mount Hope Avenue to the Genesee River Trail. Doesn’t a stroll along the river on a warm summer evening sound divine?

Umm, nah… I’ll take a rain check maybe. Have you seen our river lately?! LOOK at this…

This was the same pile of debris back in February. [PHOTO: Clarke Conde]
Local photographer Clarke Conde external link has been snapping photos of the Genesee River all year. His photos external link show this patch of trash growing steadily (like a big ’ole smelly tumor) for at least the past 12 MONTHS!

One of Clarke’s trashy photos was even printed in The Wedge last summer (here external link on page 2). So why is nothing being done to clean it up?

For one thing, no one seems to know who’s responsibility it is. After seeing this mess for myself, my first reaction was to contact the City. No answers there. After several emails and phone calls I learned this section of river is actually maintained by the New York State Canal Corporation external link (a subsidiary of the New York State Thruway Authority) in Albany! So I called one of the numbers on their web site. After bouncing around inside the automated phone system, and filling out the online form, a few days later Bill Sweitzer (from the Albany press office) gave me a call back.

There's a steady stream of dead trees, algae, and garbage float down river. It all collects downtown. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]
Bill was very nice and he explained that the Canal Corporation is responsible for 524-mile inland waterways across the state. After many budget cuts, layoffs, and some problematic flooding external link across central New York, his organization is simply spread too thin. In addition, this section of the Genesee River is not considered a “navigation channel.” So as priorities go, the Genesee doesn’t rank highly.

After a lengthy phone conversation and a review of the photos, Bill said he would check in with his people “on the ground” here in Rochester. But so far, no promises.

As always, I’ll keep you updated on any progress. But in the meantime, if you’re hosting out-of-town guests DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT take them here to show off the Rochester skyline.

How You Can Help

The simplest thing you can do is to dispose of your trash properly. When you toss trash on the ground, it inevitably winds up in our waterways.

Call or write…

Brian U. Stratton
Director
NYS Canal Corporation
518-436-3055
Brian.Stratton@thruway.ny.gov external link

or…

Governor Cuomo or
Leuitenant Governor Duffy
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
518-474-8390
Email Form external link

And ask these guys to please send a giant pool skimmer or something to clean up Rochester’s river.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 at 7:52 am and is filed under Opinion, Rochester Images, Rochester News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Eew! Photos Document a Growing River of Trash”

  1. Pete Tonery says:

    I think writing to Duffy has the best chance to succeed. He has some authority and if he gets enough complaints he might be able to force an effort.

    What is very wrong here, and it’s unsaid, is that CLEARLY, the City of Rochester should act to fix this. Passing it off is nonsense. If someone throws trash on your lawn do you just leave it?

    The ugliness of the area effects the perceptions of the City. That should be motive enough.

    BTW, didn’t the City just shut down the Main St. bridge for two Sundays to clean the river?

    “Hey, while you’re there…”

  2. @Pete, you are 100% right. And I have also been talking with some at City Hall who tell me they are now making phone calls to try and get some action taken. But I don’t think they can just go in with equipment and start clearing. From what I understand, the Dept. of Environmental Conservation requires a permit for any “clearing and snagging” from the river. They don’t want the bed or bank disturbed. Ironic, eh?

  3. Sarah says:

    is there something we could physically do to help this issue ourselves?

  4. @Sarah, I don’t know… it’s way too much junk to haul away in garbage bags. Plus, it’s fairly dangerous for anyone to be hanging over the side of the river wall or a boat. I wouldn’t attempt it myself. The best thing we can all do is to pick up after ourselves on dry land and prevent this junk from ever making it into our waters in the first place. If it were only logs and algae I *might* be less disgusted.

  5. Steve White says:

    Great reporting. This needs a larger audience. Have you reached out to anyone at the D&C? If we get enough people on board, maybe we can embarass someone into doing something about this.

  6. I haven’t yet. I was going to give Bill Sweitzer a few more days to make good on his word to look further into the situation.

  7. I’ve continued behind Mike on the path for answers and will publish the info in the Wedge Newspaper’s August/September issue. In the meantime, concerned riverlovers can call the Buffalo office of the Canal Corporation. I don’t have the number Bill Schweitzer gave me, but I’ll post it when I get to the Wedge office.
    I also talked to the Dept. of Environmental Conservation in Avon. Lots of info about if the water is part of a flood plan program garbage gets picked up soon. Any pick up requires a permit. Oy vey. Except if the “bed or bank” of the river is not impacted. That means a big truck with a winch or net or something parked next to the river could conceivably pick the garbage up w/o a permit. But, the DEC ? staffer said that costs a lot. The water is deep and swift, so it has to be a professional.
    However, Bill S at the Canal Corp said that Mike G’s call put it on their radar in Albany. So people keep squeaking, and the river will be cleaned.

  8. Axl McConnor says:

    Please, if you see something, take action. Now this mess here is too far blown for any small scale clean up effort, but next time you see a piece of plastic, a can, or some old fishing line, just pick it up. Use caution with syringes, of course :)

  9. I couldn’t agree more with this statement: “The simplest thing you can do is to dispose of your trash properly. When you toss trash on the ground, it inevitably winds up in our waterways.”

    So many people think the pollution in our waterways is primarily due to industry or from people tossing trash directly into the water – when in fact, most of the pollution comes from all the nasty junk that gets washed down our streets and into our storm drains…and then goes directly into our natural waterways. Ever wonder why the Lake is usually closed for swimming after a heavy rainfall? That’s why!

    Be an H2O Hero and spread the word, and remember – “only rain down the drain!”

  10. Mittens says:

    You’re not going to like me for this, and you can call me crazy, but I don’t mind the Genesee. The trash? Yes, that’s disgusting. I do like the tire and the sticks however. It gives the river character :)

  11. Mike says:

    Great post! I walk my dogs here every day and watch the trash grow out of control. It really wouldn’t be hard for a couple people on kayaks towing an inflatable raft to gather the mess. Also, why not change the responsibility for cleaning that portion of the river from the NYS Canal Corporation to Erie Harbor? Take the burden off of the tax payers. Too bad someone didn’t think of that one when the city gave millions to help with the Harbor redevelopment. Lets go even further, redevelop the river corridor between Ford Street and the Susan/Freddy bridge to create a loop of enhanced river walk with better landscaping, art, and maybe more urban smart development that would draw more walkers, bikers, and possibly tourists drawn by the city skyline. More people who care = increased appreciation and less trash.

  12. This is the number I got from Bill Schweitzer for the Canal Corp, Buffalo office 716-635-6250.

  13. Urban Explorer says:

    If the Canal Corp. and DEC do not respond satisfactorily, then pressure on State elected officials is required. Duffy, yes, although I’m skeptical as to the amount of power he actually has. I’m thinking more of the local Assembly and Senate delegations.

  14. irene says:

    Most of the problem is actually not trash that anybody dumped in the river or nearby, but trees and branches that fell in upstream of the city and floated down (I live on the river, and row on it, and I see how many of these float by every day). When the trees and branches get stuck and form tangled snags, they collect stinky algae and actual trash. In addition to getting the responsible authorities to clean up the current mess, maybe there needs to be some dredging to prevent snags from forming in these locations in future. That way debris would go over the dam and land in a part of the river that the City cleans.


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