JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. —
According the Chesapeake Bay Program, the bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. with a watershed that spans more than 64,000 square miles. The watershed is home to an estimated 18 million people, and more than 3,600 species of plants and animals, including over 2,700 plant species, and 500 finfish and shellfish species.
To help preserve parts of the Chesapeake Bay, the 733rd Civil Engineer Division Environmental Element hosted a Clean the Bay event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, June 2, 2018.
The 733rd CED scheduled the event in support of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s 30th Annual Clean the Bay Day. According to the CBF, the large-scale event consisted of approximately 6,000 volunteers who covered more than 300 miles of shoreline and collected more than 128,000 pounds of trash and debris.
Litter and debris are some of the largest threats to the marine environment, yielding an extensive impact on species that depend on healthy water to thrive, said Donna Haynes, 733rd CED environmental protection specialist.
“Trash and debris build up over time and feed into the bay through storm drains, polluting our waterways, which inevitably kills the animal and plant life,” said Haynes. “When you throw trash out of your car window, this is where it’s ending up and it’s damaging our environment.”
Boy Scouts from Fort Eustis’ Troop 45 and other JBLE volunteers geared up to help clean Eustis Lake and the James River shoreline along Harrison Road. The volunteers climbed the rocks lining the shore to clear out debris, while the scouts paddled canoes on the lake and collected trash from the water.
“The boys said they didn’t realize how much (trash) was in the water so it really opened their eyes to how easily everything goes into the water,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Nicholas Burney, Alpha Company, 222nd Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Battalion, 128th Aviation Brigade company first sergeant and Fort Eustis Troop 45 scout master. “Now they’re talking about recycling at home, and how we can do an ‘adopt-a-highway’ kind of thing here on post where they can maintain a stretch of road.”
After participating in the annual conservation event for the past 20 years, Haynes said although it may not feel like one person can make an impact, she has seen the accumulated effect. She said the number of trash bags filled during Clean the Bay Day on Fort Eustis are dwindling each year.
“As we raise awareness, we start to see beyond a local impact on base because now it’s (spreading) to our surrounding communities,” said Haynes. “It’s one day, but it definitely leaves a lasting impact.”