Missouri River Relief Works To Clean Up Pollutants

The calming sensation waves splashing up against the shore brings, the rippling streams winding through the woods, the sweet musical sound birds sing flowing through the air ... I love it all.

It’s no secret that I have a fondness for bodies of water and nature in general. I have found Missouri to be one of the most beautiful places to walk along rivers and trails next to streams (may I suggest the MKT trail near Rocheport or Grindstone Nature Trail in Columbia?). But a closer look at the river isn’t such a pretty picture. From 2001 to 2008 the Missouri River Relief organization removed almost 500 tons of trash from the Missouri River. Without a doubt the river has changed over the years. Looking back in time when the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled it, it was described as dangerous. Now it can be better noted as tires washed up along the shore, car bodies found at the bottom of the river, and a large variety of pollutants carried into the estuaries by runoffs.

For this story I spoke with the Lower Reach Manager and the Director of Missouri River Relief along with two volunteers at the cleanup. Apparently it was National Pirate Day because one interviewee decided to wear an eye patch and talk in a pirate voice the entire time, exclaiming they were going to find “booty” and “treasure” along the river. Of course I couldn’t use the interview, but nonetheless it was amusing.

This week, instead of a reader, I wrote a wrap which I found to be much more fun to write! Click here to hear the story or read the text below.


More than 200 people showed up in Jefferson City Saturday ready to get dirty and lend a helping hand in cleaning up the Missouri River. Since 2001, Missouri River Relief has organized clean ups all over the state. This is the second time it’s worked to clear out trash from Jefferson City’s part of the Missouri River. KBIA’s Tara Grimes reports.

Dressed in lifejackets, work boots, and work clothes, volunteers boarded boats and traveled to parts of the river that collects the most trash. Kids, adults and a variety of service groups from colleges and high schools showed up to take part in the action. River Relief volunteers find everything from tires to refrigerators, but most of the trash is plastic bottles. Manager Steve Schnarr says volunteers are out for two to three hours. Afterwards, trash is either recycled or taken to the landfill.

“People get to see in a way they never would be able to otherwise; the impact that all of these communities along the river have on the river,” Schnarr said. “The visual impact of the trash that ends up getting deposited here. That’s not to mention the invisible impacts that we can’t see.”

At big cleanups volunteers sometimes collect as much as ten tons of trash. Director Jeff Barrow says most volunteers go out on the river as strangers, but they come back as friends.

“The really remarkable thing is they’ll go out looking like they’re soldiers at D-Day. They’re scared, they’re nervous, they’re adrenalinized and when they come back they’re laughing, they’ve got little adventure stories, things that they’ve found, things that they’ve seen along the river and it’s just a really remarkable transition,” Barrow said.

He says most people forget their drinking water comes from the Missouri River.

“It’s just a really important part of our lives here and I think it’s forgotten or invisible thing to a lot of people,” Barrow said.

About 19 cleanups are done a year. The next cleanup is in Kansas City in October.


After this story, I have been inspired to partake in the next river cleanup (close to Columbia). I can always rely on journalism to introduce me to new experiences and find something new for me to do in the future.


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