The installation of a Bandalong trash collection system in Neabsco Creek earned Prince William County a Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association Mid-Atlantic Chapter, in the “Environment Less than $5 Million” category. Tim Hughes, an environmental specialist with the Prince William County Public Works Department, accepted the award on behalf of the County.
“This was a team effort between [the County’s departments of] Parks and Public Works, and we got lucky and found a private partner in Micron Technology,” Hughes said. “Their corporate team in Manassas was looking for a watershed restoration project because Micron uses a lot of water in their microchip manufacturing process. They donated $300,000 that fully paid for the Bandalong, the installation and the first year of operations and maintenance.”
The Bandalong floats in the creek during storm events and catches floatable litter that would otherwise scatter into the 300-acre Neabsco estuary, which is part of the Prince William County Parks, Recreation and Tourism system.
In a little more than a year, the Bandalong collected 5,565 pieces of foam measuring less than 2.5 centimeters in diameter and 4,214 foam pieces greater than 2.5 centimeters. The Bandalong also captured 3,553 single-use plastic bottles, 647 cigarette butts and 37 cigarette lighters.
Some other trash that wound up in the Bandalong rather than the watershed included plastic bottle caps, glass beverage bottles, cardboard, plastic bags, plastic lids, plastic straws, construction materials, balloons, clothing, shoes, fishing gear and more.
In total, the Bandalong collected 16,476 pieces of litter otherwise destined for the estuary.
“All that litter would have polluted the estuary. With big storms, it gets out of the estuary into the Potomac River and beyond, from the river to the Chesapeake Bay and on to the ocean,” Hughes said. “It’s collecting the vast majority of trash.”
The Bandalong also helps with volunteer cleanups. Before the Bandalong, volunteers gathered twice a year in the Neabsco Creek estuary to collect trash, often at personal risk.
“Marine debris and trash in our waterways have been a growing environmental issue. People are looking for solutions other than volunteer cleanups,” Hughes said. “It’s much safer and easier. All the trash gets collected in the Bandalong.”
Volunteers who regularly attend cleanups have noticed. Lynda Silverstrand, a long-time volunteer with the Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition, said that fallen trees once trapped bottles and other trash that floated down the creek, and it looked as if someone had dumped the trash at the choke points.
“The trash used to go down into the wetlands,” Silverstrand said. “The Bandalong collects a lot of tennis balls, footballs and basketballs. We used to get so many bags of trash. In the last two cleanups, there just hasn’t been that much. It’s very little compared to the past.”
See a video about the Bandalong here.
The APWA Public Works Project of the Year Award was established to promote excellence in the management, administration and implementation of public works projects by recognizing the alliance between the managing agency, the consultant, architect, engineer and the contractor working together to complete public works projects.