The organizer of a Thames River cleanup in St. Marys, Ont. has seen positive change over the past two decades.

“We know we’re putting out less dumpsters and we’re getting less stuff, so we’re winning,” says Todd Sleeper, who started the Adopt-A-River cleanup program in his hometown.

Dozens of volunteers were each assigned to a different area of ​​St. Marys and the surrounding area Saturday. The Spicer family were along the river across from the Quarry.

“We’ve found stashes of old cans, old boxes, and I pulled a giant 100 pound steel cable out of the river,” says Bill Spicer, a St. Marys resident.Bill Spicer and his children help clean up along the Thames River in St. Marys Ont. on Saturday April 23, 2022. (Brent Lale / CTV London)

“Getting all the garbage off the sides of the river banks is an important effort to do and you can’t do it with one person. It takes a team of people.”

Among the teams were the 1st St. Marys Cub Scouts, who were working toward a badge.

“We’re supposed to do a good turn for everyone every day and this is a good turn for today,” says Michelle Mckean, who was helping lead the children on the hunt for garbage.

“It’s important for people to see us out in the community and teaching the kids to give back.”

We asked a few of the cub scout children how their day was going:

“It’s helping the earth to clean, and if we don’t clean the earth we won’t have an earth, and if you don’t have an earth, you won’t have anywhere to live.” says eight-year-old Rose Clarke.

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“I think cleaning up the Earth is good for saving animals, and I found a whole bunch of insulation over there by the river,” says Claire Jacobs, 10.

“I’ve been going in the forests and there’s like ponds and I go near them, where I found coffee cubs, plastic and candy wrappers,” says nine-year-old Ciara McCauley, who wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty to find trash.

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the cleanup was back on this year.

“We saw the river was getting neglected and abused,” says Sleeper.

“We cleared up most of the old stuff, and now we are seeing a lot of new stuff. There is a lot of plastic which we find wrapped around the trees and plants. It can break down and get into the water, which can affect the water quality as well as the fish. Now we’re worried about the food chain as well because the fish are ingesting plastic”.

Sleeper adds it’s important to clean up St. Marys because the trash from the river will flow downstream and impact other communities.

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