“If its on the ground, its in the water.”

That is the message that the Mid-America Regional Council would like everyone to remember, especially if they live or work in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. They are referring to trash and other pollutants.

How many times have you driven by streams, rivers, or lakes in your neighborhood and seen soggy, dirty piles of cups, water bottles, and plastic bags lining the edges of the water? It happens every times it rains. And these are just the pollutants we can see. Rainwater picks up trash, fertilizer, oil and grease, detergents from washed cars, grass clippings blown into the street, and anything else that is on the ground. It then travels downhill to the nearest stormwater drain.

In most cases, stormwater, all of the pollutants in the water and all of the trash that it is carrying, travels directly to the nearest river. At this point, this contaminated water and litter dumps directly into the river. You may have seen a stencil on storm drains, “This leads directly to the river.” Now you know, it really means it.

Trash is not only unsightly, it negatively affects aquatic life and wildlife that depend on these water sources for life. We get our drinking water from rivers and lakes, as well.

One man got really tired of all of the trash in the water in his community. According to National Public Radio, John Kellett would look out at Baltimore's Inner Harbor; he saw not only the historic city landmark, but also a beautiful harbor choked with trash. Tourists would comment it was “disgusting.” Kellett decided he would do something about it.

He invented a trash waterwheel. It works like a waterwheel on an old water-driven mill and the Jones Falls River powers it. As the wheel turns it picks up trash. The motion of the wheel pulls the trash toward it. Since May, the wheel has picked up more than 50 tons of trash from the harbor and dumps it directly into a trash container.

Nearby business owners are very happy with the results. Bill Flohr, who runs Baltimore's East Marina said, “The waterwheel's been a timesaver for us. It seems to be collecting probably 95 percent of what we normally had to pick up by hand.” Previous to the waterwheel, the city had to pick up the trash with crab nets. No doubt, a tedious and time-consuming job.

It had been a rainy couple of days and the waterwheel had already picked up 11 tons of trash for the week. Baltimore wants to make the Inner Harbor clean enough for swimming by 2020. Kellett realizes his waterwheel will not be able to solve the entire harbor's trash problem, but he does hope that tourists realize that every piece of trash that ends up on the ground, will eventually end up in the water.

Just like here at home in the Midwest, “If its on the ground, its in the water.”

Reach Lynn Youngblood at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net