‘Trash Boats’ Help Keep Waterways Clean

Posted by Eric Haun
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Photo: Elastec
Elastec, a U.S. based manufacturer of pollution control equipment, is producing trash and debris collection boats to assist local governments in meeting Clean Water Act standards, aid in the reduction of floating pollutants in waterways and help protect aquatic ecosystems.
 
The trash and debris collection vessel, designed to skim floating litter from harbors and waterways, can also be used for various marine maintenance duties from its 8- by 11-foot work platform. Designed to be maneuverable in hard to reach areas, the aluminum boat has an inverted bow to usher floating refuse into its 98 cubic feet trash basket.
 
Marine litter and debris control is an emerging environmental issue as a result of the regulation of water pollution under the Clean Water Act. Of primary concern are municipalities with Combined Sewer Systems (CSS).
 
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) recently purchased two ELASTEC Trash Boats to skim debris from the Chicago River. The MWRD is located primarily within the boundaries of Cook County, Illinois serving an 883 square mile area which includes the City of Chicago and 125 suburban communities. The MWRD owns and operates one of the world’s largest water reclamation plants and treats an average of 1.4 billion gallons of wastewater each day. The MWRD controls 76.1 miles of the Chicago Areas Waterways (CAWS), which are part of the inland waterway system connecting the Great Lakes with the Gulf of Mexico.
 
The MWRD receives flow from combined sewer collection systems, which means that wastewater and stormwater flow together in a single pipe. During heavy rain events, stormwater runoff can cause the sewer system to reach maximum capacity and overflow into the waterways. This is called a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). Some of the excess water is stored into the MWRD's Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) system, but too much runoff finds its way to the CAWS – and so does the trash. Floating debris such as Styrofoam, plastic bottles and cigarette butts create health risks, kill marine life and cause flooding.
 
To help keep the Chicago River clean, Elastec and MWRD worked together to develop two custom trash and debris collection boats. MWRD requested a simple design, with few moving parts, and easy to operate. The 23-foot MWRD boats, named Skimmy Dipper and Skim Pickens, are designed to perform daily trash skimming near Navy Pier and along seven miles of the river.
 
Elastec said similar vessels have been delivered to the cities of Waco and Austin, Texas’ Watershed Protection Departments.

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