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Cummins, Sound Rivers partner for urban stream cleanup

Environmental, Events, Sound Rivers, Tar-Pamlico Watershed, Volunteer, Volunteers, Water Quality

Posted on March 28th, 2024

Cummins employees volunteered to clean up Cowlick Branch with Sound Rivers on Friday.

Cowlick Branch got a cleanup last Friday, thanks to employees of Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant.

Sound Rivers Program Director Clay Barber, Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman and Volunteer Coordinator Emily Fritz met up with 18 Cummins employees to pick up trash along the urban stream in Rocky Mount, netting a total of 480 pounds of trash.

Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant volunteers comb the banks of Cowlick Branch for trash.

“That works out to 26 pounds per person, which is a lot of trash,” Clay said. “They picked up everything from tires to plastic wrappers. There’s just an incredibly wide variety because of how long trash has been piling up there. I think the area we were in was messed up by Hurricane Floyd many years ago, and since then, there’s been trash flowing downhill into the creek, and there’s obviously been some dumping over the years.”

Clay referred to Cowlick Branch, a tributary of the Tar River, as a “classic, flashy urban stream” because of how quickly the water level rises and falls as stormwater runoff flows off of surrounding impervious surfaces.

“The banks are pretty steep because of the fast movement of that water when it rains,” he said.

This partnership between Sound Rivers and Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant provides opportunities for employees to participate in both caring for and enjoying their environment.

Friday’s cleanup also unexpectedly gave Clay, Katey and the Cummins volunteers another unique opportunity: to get to know the neighbors of Cowlick Branch.

“During our trips back and forth to the truck to drop off our trash, we had more than one neighbor inquire about what we were doing, and then were very happy about what we were doing when we told them,” Clay said. “One of the neighbors was so happy, she invited all of us out of the street where we were eating lunch, into their backyard.”

Program Director Clay Barber, Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman, Volunteer Coordinator Emily Fritz and Cummins volunteers take a break for lunch in a Joy and Juan’s (pictured, center) backyard.

Joy and Juan provided chairs for everyone and even gave them each handmade bangles (bracelets) as a thank you for their work.

“It was a nice spot to sit down and eat,” Clay said. “They were excited about what we were doing and said we’re welcome back anytime. That was a cleanup first for me.”

Keep America Beautiful of Edgecombe and Nash Counties Coordinator Stephanie Collins also pitched in to the cleanup effort by weighing the total trash collected at the city’s lift station.

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