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Volunteers clean ton of debris from Baldwin Bay

Sixty people turned out to remove garbage and raise awareness about Long Island waterways.

Volunteers on Sunday, July 8, cleaned trash and debris, including a lot of plastic, from Baldwin Harbor. (Credit: Newsday / Kadia Goba) (Credit: Newsday / Kadia Goba)

A tire, a vintage Pepsi bottle and a 12-by-20 inflatable pool are just some of the treasures found floating in the murky algae-filled waters of Baldwin Bay on Sunday during a volunteer canal cleanup.

The collaboration by Stop Polluting Littering and Save Harbors (SPLASH), Sonny's Canal House and Island Racing brought out dozens of volunteers — some with boats — to haul garbage. The event was part of an initiative to bring awareness and help clean out the garbage that plagues some Long Island waterways.

Larry Lentini, 41, donated his services and his boat to the marine scavenger hunt. The Baldwin resident said he’s invested because he has fished in the creek for nearly three decades.

“The clams are like filters, so any kind of pollution in the water affects us, too,” he said.

Lentini and his crew of six hauled a 12-by-20 deflated pool out of the water, only a short while after spotting and bringing aboard a hypodermic needle, a pregnancy-test plastic bag and about 40 plastic straws.

Shellfish are not the only ones to feel the impact of polluted waters. Rob Weltmer, president of SPLASH, said many fish often mistake plastic bags for squid and bunker because they hunt for food using sonar rather than sight.

“Once they ingest this [plastic bags] into their stomach, game over,” he said. “They pretty much seal their fate.”

Last July, SPLASH and other organizers coordinated a similar cleanup event, where 25 volunteers pulled 1,500 pounds of debris out of Baldwin Bay. This year, the 60 volunteers, including some from as far away as Jamaica, Queens, almost doubled last year’s garbage collection by hauling in a ton of debris.

"It was a much bigger turnout, more people, more boats, more garbage," Weltmer said.

The Molloy College rugby team played a big part in the day's rubbish roundup. The team heaved at least 500 pounds of waterway waste into a large 27-foot Carolina Skiff. The crew of 14 scooped Styrofoam out of the bay but found most of their six-bag load on Bay Colony, where their find included a Pokemon Sun video game cartridge, the vintage Pepsi bottle and an oar.

“As someone who lives on the bay, it was really eye-opening to see the amount of debris that’s in the water, said Greg Lawrence, 21, of Rockaway. “I’m proud of me and my team members for bringing in as much as we did,” said Lawrence, who vowed to hang the oar in the Molloy Rugby House in East Rockaway.

Longtime Baldwin resident Ralph Reinhardt, 62, brought his own 19-foot Sea Hunt and 40 years of boating experience to help with the canal cleanup. From Parsonage Creek to Middle Bay, Reinhardt said he and his crew of five picked up plastic bags, toys and wood.

Protecting the shoreline is not exclusive to cleaning the bay. Some volunteers went to Milburn Creek Boat Launch and Silver Lake and Baldwin parks to collect garbage. Storm drains at these parks, along with those at Garden City and all the towns in between, run directly into Baldwin Bay.

The prized find during the park cleanup? An Apple iPad.

Some of the debris removed

  • Apple iPad
  • vintage Pepsi bottle
  • Pokemon Sun video game cartridge
  • deflated pool
  • hypodermic needle
  • an oar

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