Students of the 'River Brigade' Help Clean Up Naugatuck River - NBC Connecticut

Students of the 'River Brigade' Help Clean Up Naugatuck River

Fourteen college and high school students from Waterbury and Naugatuck are hired to spend eight weeks waist-deep in the river, making it better.

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    Students of the River Brigade Help Clean Up Naugatuck River

    Fourteen college and high school students from Waterbury and Naugatuck are hired to spend eight weeks waist-deep in the river, making it better.

    (Published Thursday, June 20, 2019)

    Name it and you can probably find it hidden underneath the rushing waters of the Naugatuck River.

    "I've spent a lot of time in the river cleaning it out, digging up shopping carts, gallon drums, car parts, thousands of tires, pay phones, ATM machines, safes," said Naugatuck River Revival Group President Kevin Zak. "Anything you have in your home, we pulled out of this river. It was a landfill."

    In the last few decades, the river has gotten better with fish and other wildlife thriving. But there is still a lot of work left to do which is where the River Brigade comes in.

    "They work in the river all summer cleaning the debris and trying to heal the scars from the past and keep the river clean," said Waterbury PAL Executive Director Mara Ford.

    Fourteen college and high school students from Waterbury and Naugatuck are hired to spend eight weeks waist-deep in the river, making it better. It's a program Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary came up with last year that the city's PAL program and Naugatuck embraced. O'Leary says it went so well, they decided to do it again this year.

    "I have a way to give back to the community by picking up trash along the river," said William Daly from Naugatuck.

    "I love coming down to the river every day. You never know what you’re going to find," said Dylan Stevens from Waterbury.

    Last year the students found a lot including massive steel beams covered in muck and several shopping carts. For the students, it's about a lot more than just digging up trash. They're learning how to navigate the river. They're building relationships and also learning about the wildlife around them.

    "This summer people and members of the River Brigade will work together to remove litter and debris from the river while also having the opportunity to learn more about the vital ecosystem that the river supports through field trips and education sessions," said Mayor O'Leary.

    "I have a team and brothers and sisters to rely on every day and look out for me like I'm going to look out for them," said Stevens.

    "You learn the ecosystem of the Naugatuck River and the fish that swim upstream and downstream of the river," said Daly.

    They're also continuing to transform the river into something everyone can enjoy for decades to come.

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