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Trash trap cleanout yields unusual finds

Environmental, Litter-Free Rivers, Sound Rivers, Stormwater Runoff, Tar-Pamlico Watershed, Volunteer, Volunteers, Water Quality

Posted on July 3rd, 2024

Shark teeth found in Greens Mill Run, a Tar River tributary with a Sound Rivers trash trap.

Basketballs, shoes, tires, a coconut — those are just a few of the unusual things that volunteers have found in Sound Rivers’ trash traps on the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico’s tributaries.

On Tuesday, Volunteer Coordinator Emily Fritz and interns Katrina Borgen and Tierney Reardon pulled kids’ toys, pickleballs and a plastic doll from the Greens Mill Run trash trap in Greenville, but this week’s most unusual finds didn’t float into the trap. They’ve likely been there for millions of years: shark teeth.

After cleaning out the trap, the trio found more than 20 shark teeth in the Tar River tributary.

Interns Tierney Reardon (left) and Katrina Borgen, and a pickleball pulled from the trash trap.

“A lot of times during our cleanups, you will see people wading into the creek and sifting through the rocks to find them,” Emily said. “Today, there was a family there and the kids were so excited to hunt for some shark teeth.” 

According to Water Quality Specialist Taylor Register, Greens Mill Run, as it is now, cuts through sediment layers, exposing fossils buried millions of years ago when sea levels were much higher and the Atlantic Ocean covered the area.

“Greens Mill Run is actually a super-popular spot for local fossil hunters, and I spend some of my free time out there looking for stuff,” Taylor said. “I’m currently hoping to find a fully intact megalodon tooth out there, but I haven’t been that lucky yet!”

In addition to visitors from the creek’s past, Emily, Kat and Tierney had plenty of visitors from the present.

“We had lots of bug friends join us at the cleanout,” Emily laughed.

Intern Kat Borgen with two of her buggy friends.

The trash collected from the Greens Mill Run trash trap was handed off to East Carolina University PhD student Rebecca Reibel to analyze — the data will contribute to her dissertation on urban litter.

The Greens Mill Run trash trap is the fifth passive litter-collection device installed on small waterways in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds — part of Sound Rivers’ Litter-Free Rivers program. Other trash traps are located on Jack’s Creek in Washington, Duffyfield Canal in New Bern, Little Rock Creek in Raleigh and Adkin Branch in Kinston. The City of Raleigh is partnering with Sound Rivers and The Great Raleigh Cleanup for another two traps in the Raleigh area, and a potential third new trap will be located in Tarboro.

Like how Sound Rivers’ trash traps are removing litter from your waterways? Donate today to support our Litter-Free Rivers program!

Intern Tierney Reardon looks into a children’s toy mirror found in the trash trap.
What might be a red-headed beetle OR an adult lightning bug. (Anyone know? We’re more familiar with aquatic insects.)

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