Bright orange trash boom aims to clean up Jordan River

Mar 26, 2018, 5:35 PM | Updated: 10:08 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY– The Nature Conservancy and Salt Lake County have teamed up to skim trash from the surface of the Jordan River to preserve water quality and protect wildlife in the Great Salt Lake. They showed off their new project Monday, and hope to improve the entire ecosystem.

A week ago, the Salt Lake County Public Works Department installed a long orange trash boom across the Jordan River north of Center Street in North Salt Lake.

“This will make a big difference for not only water quality, but the wildlife in the lake itself,” said Chris Brown, director of stewardship for The Nature Conservancy.

The idea is pretty simple: keep the floating garbage from making it all the way to the wetlands and the great Salt Lake which is only a few miles downstream.

“You’re going to see a cleaner riverbank,” said Ryan Shelton, spokesman for Salt Lake County Public Works. “You’re going to see less garbage and trash debris floating in the river.

The Nature Conservancy sees the river as a tremendous resource for our community, rather than a garbage flume. But, for an urban waterway, floating trash is a reality on the Jordan.

“Everything comes through this river at some point,” said Brown, citing the flow of water on the Wasatch Front.

The biggest pollution problem in the river is plastics, and more specifically, plastic bottles. There are dozens of them trapped in the trash boom.

“They don’t break down easily, and we use so many plastics,” said Brown. “It all piles up, and they all float and they all end up either in a river, an ocean, or a lake. There’s bottles everywhere. They end up everywhere. They can become hazards for wildlife.”

Right now, they don’t know how many pounds of garbage they expect to pull out of the river at the boom. After one week, it has collected several hundred pounds of floating trash including a couple of tires.

“It just depends on what ends up going down storm drains, or what people throw in the river,” Brown said. “I’ve seen all kinds of debris, including TVs,” said Brown. “You look over there right now, there’s bike tires, car tires, gas cans, just about anything that floats ends up down here.”

The project started with concerned citizens, members of duck clubs on the lake and environmental groups. They approached Salt Lake County, which put up $290,000 for the trash boom.

“So far, I’m impressed with what I’ve seen,” said Brown.

In the next month, Salt Lake County will install a webcam on on a nearby pole aimed at the trash boom. When the volume of garbage builds up, they will send a crew out to skim it off, and haul it away. If this boom proves effective in keeping a lot of trash out of the lake, Salt Lake County may install additional booms upstream.

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Bright orange trash boom aims to clean up Jordan River