Many of us are bothered by the unsightly areas where people dump their garbage. Out here in the boondocks, tires and old stoves collect by creeks and in gorges, hidden by foliage as they pollute the countryside. While we have community days where volunteers forage for trash and try to beautify our neighborhoods, few people devote their lives to it.
Bring on Chad Pregracke. He was raised along the Mississippi River and found his first jobs working in it, as a shell diver, commercial fisherman and on a barge. Chad also spent many nights camped alongside the river and couldn't escape the mass of trash gathered on the banks and in the water. He contacted the government and waited for them to come pick up some of the appliances, tires and oil drums polluting the area. When no one did he took efforts into his own hands.
That was in 1997.
Chad started his crusade as a one-man crew in a flat-bottom boat, creating Living Lands and Waters in 1998. Rooted in East Moline, Ill., Living Lands and Waters
now has corporate sponsorship from several states, ten full-time employees and thousands of volunteers who help clean the rivers in the nine different states Chad and his team take their barges. The main rivers Chad concentrates on are the Mississippi, Illinois, Potomac, Ohio and Missouri.
Chad and his team pick the garbage out of the rivers, load it onto one of their four barges, then sort it to ensure what is recyclable does not hit the landfill. They have phenomenal statistics. In addition to many other items, they have removed 12,322 balls, two football fields worth of Styrofoam, three sunken barges, 55,752 bags of trash, 55,301 tires and 775 refrigerators.
And they don't stop there.
Living Lands and Waters offers educational workshops, has an Adopt-A-Mile program to set others in motion on keeping the river clean, Riverbottom Restoration and the Million Trees Project. In Riverbottom Restoration, Chad works to rebuild the ecosystem of the rivers by planting trees, removing invasive species and even working on wetland restoration.
To volunteer, check out the Get Involved
section of their website.