It was all hands on deck Saturday for the semi-annual Friends of the KAW clean up in the Manhattan-Saint George area. The weather was perfect for hard work on Saturday, and the Kansas River was the recipient of that from about sixty volunteers. More than five years ago, Friends of the KAW made a goal to clean up all the “really old dump sites.” Kansas River Keeper and Executive Director of Friends of the KAW Dawn Buehler from Eudora, Kansas traveled to Manhattan to help clean up sandbars between Manhattan and St. George. She explains what the volunteers are working on.
The Kansas River is used for agriculture; irrigation; and as an industrial and municipal water supply. In fact, the river is a source of drinking water for about 800,000 Kansans. Buehler says they’re unsure how the casings ended up in the river, but they suspect it was a business near the shoreline.
Buehler explained how the volunteers have repeatedly removed casings from the same sandbars. She said, as it rains and causes the water level to rise, it carries the casings. The battery cases and other debris then deposit onto the sandbars. The work is exhausting, as some casings become buried in the wet sand and need to be dug out. Other debris is heavy, such as industrial sized tires.
Friends of the KAW have been working to remove the foreign materials in the decades-old dump sites throughout the 173 miles of the river. Saturday marked the eleventh time they’ve worked in the Manhattan-Saint George area to remove battery casings from over sixty years ago. Friends of the KAW Board Member and Manhattan Resident Marcia Rozell says the volunteers have removed 2.5 to 3 tons of material each time they’ve met.
Rozell said they couldn’t remove that much debris without the help of Kansas Wildlife and Parks Lieutenant Game Warden Jesse Gehrt, who made it possible to remove tons of debris with their airboat. She says their goal is to have the debris completely removed by 2030 but they really aren’t sure how much remains. There are ways to help restore the health and beauty of the river more quickly.
Rozell said volunteers get themselves to the sandbars to help in the cleanup by using their own or borrowing a boat. She said someone with a Jon boat can volunteer by transporting other volunteers to the sandbars to increase the labor pool. One volunteer was Manhattan Rotary Club President Steven Graham He helped at the boat ramp on the Blue River near where Howie’s Trash and Recycling had a dumpster located.
Another volunteer, Manhattan resident Cody Munsch was helping offload the airboat at the ramp. He explained and talked about what the river and the work means to him.
Munsch helped transfer debris by hand from the airboat to a piece of equipment from BHS Construction, operated by one of their superintendents, Larry Storer. The work has a special meaning for him.
Some of the organizations who donated and participated in the clean up on Saturday include: Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks; Manhattan Rotary, Manhattan Konza Rotary, Rotaract, and Interact; BHS Construction; Howie’s Trash and Recycling; Manhattan Parks & Rec Department, and Manhattan Storm Water Department; K-State Environmental Club; Manhattan High School; Kansas Backcountry Hunters and Anglers; Future Farmers of America, and more.
There are many ways to help – providing physical labor on the sandbars or the boat ramp; donating the use of equipment such as kayaks, air boats, dumpsters, or construction equipment; or a monetary donation. The next clean up in the area is planned for April, 2023. For more information on how to help, go to: kansasriver.org