Brett Blume

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) –  It was probably more than even Chad Pregracke was expecting.

Pregracke, founder and president of Living Lands & Waters, has seen a lot of trash and plenty of unusual items pulled from the river since he launched the inaugural event in 1999.

But as this weekend’s cleanup was getting underway he got a call from the captain of one of the towboats that regularly ply the river.

“And he said ‘Hey there’s this camper and it bothers me every time I go by this thing. Would you guys be willing to get rid of it?’,” Pregracke told KMOX News.

Pregracke said “Yes”, unaware at the time that it would take seven hours to pry the 35-foot-long 5th wheel camper out of the mud exposed by this summer’s drought.

He thinks the camper was dumped unceremoniously in its final resting place by the Flood of 2011.

Pregracke believes this year’s drought was both a blessing and a curse for his volunteers.

“It works to our benefit and it doesn’t,” he explained. “It makes some places inaccessible because you can’t get to them anymore…the garbage is up in the trees and the drought makes the shoreline like three hundred feet from where the garbage is.”

A lot of what they ended up pulling from the river was more common; things like tires, cans, bottles, plastic bags and styrofoam.

And the odd car or two.

Alvin Harper was with the group of volunteers working on Maple Island near Alton.

“It’s amazing at how much trash can be collected when just a few volunteers step forward and really put an effort out,” Harper said. “Many hands make easy work.”

That said, he wouldn’t mind having even more people turn out for the next cleanup.

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It’s estimated that volunteer crews pulled some 20 tons worth of garbage from the Mississippi River in the St. Louis area this weekend.


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