STREAM TEAM: Group Cleans Waterways

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A new project aims to encourage Iowans to take care of Iowa waterways.

You never know what you'll find when you dig underwater. Grant Palmer asks his colleagues, "You got a shovel?" It's almost like a treasure hunt for four college students. Palmer says, "We're going through the stream cleaning it up."

You could call them the Stream Team. They’re spending the summer working for a new program through Metro Waste Authority. Tom Hadden with MWA says, "You've heard of the Adopt-A-Highway. Well, we're thinking let's do it with the streams. It's a little more complicated because you have to get permission to get on people's property."

Metro Waste Authority hired these four to get the ball rolling. Hadden says, "It's an experiment. I don't know if we'll do this every summer. But, we wanted to get it started so we can get the community interested in adopting their own streams and groups."

So far, the team has pulled out 20,000 pounds of trash ranging from rims, to a futon and lots of tires. Palmer says, "Some days we find 5 or 6 tires. And, then on Monday we found 35 tires."  He goes on to say, "We found a John Deere Gator abandoned in the crick. We found a used holding tank full of oil, 130 gallons worth of oil in it."

Gerry Schnepf with Keep Iowa Beautiful says all the trash in the stream can affect water quality. He says, "It's really surprising, a small item like a cigarette butt, if you concentrate enough cigarette butts, the chemicals from cigarette butts themselves affect water quality."

Imagine what refrigerator parts, a lawnmower and oil could do. Palmer says, "It does concern me because a lot of people enjoy the crick, so it being in there is a constant battle because oil doesn't necessarily disappear."

The Stream Team members are removing what they find, recycling what they can and properly disposing of the rest. They hope their work inspires others to do the same.

You can get a group together to clean up a waterway. Visit The site has all the resources you need to find a stream and prepare to clean it up safely.