Cummins staff take to the Tar for clean-up

Environmental, Sound Rivers, Tar-Pamlico Watershed, Water Quality

Posted on October 5th, 2023

Sound Rivers staff and Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant employees celebrate a successful Tar River cleanup.

Sound Rivers Program Director Clay Barber, Volunteer Coordinator Emily Fritz and Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman teamed up with Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant employees for their first Tar River clean-up.

The partnership between Sound Rivers and Cummins involves finding ways employees can participate in both caring for and enjoying their environment. On Saturday, both were apparent as eight Cummins employees joined the Sound Rivers team in kayaks, cleaning up the Tar River from Historic Tree Park to Sunset Park in Rocky Mount.

“We removed a total of 403.14 pounds of trash from the river,” Emily said. “There were these sandbars that had collected a ton of trash, so we dubbed them ‘trash island.’”

According to Clay, there was plenty of trash to retrieve from the river, especially in areas where big stormwater pipes dump runoff from the urban landscape.

“Those pipes drain a really large, downhill section of G.R. Edwards Middle School and the surrounding area; others carry runoff, which is carrying trash, from streets and neighborhoods and parking lots. There are a lot of developed shopping centers along that stretch,” Clay said.

A few interesting finds include a shopping cart, a Santa hat and a basketball hoop; less interesting, were the many tires dumped in the river, Emily said.

Clay said it was a great opportunity, not only for new Sound Rivers’ Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper, Katey, to get out on the Tar River for her first clean-up, but for Cummins employees to bond outside of the workplace.

“It was our Riverkeeper’s maiden cleanup with Sound Rivers, so that was fun, but it was also really cool to see that these people who might not really know each other, or work in the same departments, at Cummins become part of the same team in cleaning up the river,” Clay said. “It was clear they all really love the river.”

Cummins Environmental Compliance Manager and Sound Rivers Board Member Miriam Espinosa wrangles some trash out of the Tar River.
Program Director Clay Barber and Volunteer Coordinator Emily Fritz enjoying the paddle (and Clay, a seat on his paddleboard).
Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman pulls a rusting hubcap from the water.
More than 400 pounds of garbage was removed from a short stretch of the Tar River.

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