When Patricia Russo saw a photograph on social media depicting a family of ducks swimming near a pile of garbage at the Arthur J. Hendrickson Lake on June 22, she knew she needed to help.
“I tend to lead with my heart, and not my brain sometimes,” she said, adding that she knew the village Parks Department only cleaned the lake every Friday, and as a result, the water bottles and other trash in the photo would be floating in the water for almost a week.
So, she asked others whether they would be interested in helping her clean it, and by 3:30 p.m. that day, Patricia, her husband, Mike, and resident Marcelo Barrera met at Hendrickson Park with rakes and garbage bags. Together, they managed to remove all the garbage that amassed at the catch basin near the bridge within an hour.
“Hopefully, we made it better,” Patricia said, although she added, “If people would simply take their trash and throw it in one of the many receptacles in the park, we wouldn’t have to clean this up.”
Much of the garbage, however, comes from storm drains, according to Valley Stream Deputy Clerk James Hunter. “During heavy rain storms, when you have people that don’t take care of their bottles, it goes through the pipes” which lead to the lake, he explained. “There’s nothing stopping them until it gets down to the bridge.”
To help resolve the problem, he said, the Parks Department will start to perform daily inspections of the lake, and if they find an accumulation of garbage, department employees would be pulled “off of whatever they’re doing” to help clean it up.
“What we’re really doing is we’re combating pollution,” Hunter said.
Additionally, he said, village officials would like to further educate residents about the effects dumping garbage into storm drains, which people may confuse for sewers.
“Storm drains are not garbage receptacles,” Mayor Ed Fare said. “Everyone can do their part to keep Valley Stream clean and our lake and streams pristine, by refraining from putting cans, bottles or any other materials into the drains, and by checking the storm drains near homes to make sure they are clear.”
And to further ensure that the lake remains clean, Hunter said, the village is considering forming a beautification committee, based on the Russo’s volunteerism, which was recognized on June 30, when they received citations from the village.
“While I’d prefer that conscious residents call the village with any and all issues,” Fare said, “it’s always nice to find active volunteers who truly love their village.”