Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has been an important part of the city ever since it was designated as an official port of entry for the Maryland tobacco trade way back in 1706. Economic redevelopment and renewal has been going on around the harbor since at least the 1950s, and today you’ll find bustling streets, shops, condos, and green open space surrounding the waters.

Baltimore was a little late to the game in developing its sewage infrastructure, and it wasn’t until 1915 that the city started operating its first waste treatment facility. Before that, human and industrial waste was either stored in small localized cesspools or dumped directly into the rivers and harbor. Today the city’s aging sewer treatment systems are more modern and robust, but they still operate as less than optimal levels.

Thankfully, an initiative to clean up Baltimore’s Inner Harbor called Healthy Harbor has been ongoing for years, focusing on eliminating untreated waste, managing stormwater better, and removing trash and litter from the water.

It’s this last focus — getting trash and litter from the water — that the video below highlights. A conveyor belt, powered by a waterwheel driven by the river itself, scoops up trash floating on the surface of the water and deposits it into a garbage bin. It’s a brilliant piece of engineering.

To learn more about the Healthy Harbor initiative, you can check out the website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Want to read more about cleaning up rivers? Check out these posts here on MNN:

Channel your love of nature through a river cleanup

Canoes for a Cause: A brewer inspires volunteers to help clean America’s waterways

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