Muddy Water Initiative Hopes to Deploy Water Goat

The Muddy Water Initiative’s hope to bring a trash collecting net, better known as the WaterGoat, to the Muddy River this summer is still on track.

Caroline Reeves of the Muddy Water Initiative said that the organization is waiting for its last permit before deploying the device in mid-July or August.

“Even though things have been pretty crazy, we are hoping we can make that happen,” she said.

The Muddy River is notoriously laden with trash and tennis balls, golf balls, shoes, and even strollers. Reeves said that they have been told that the Muddy River is “too dirty to clean,” and that volunteers should not enter the water. Last year, the Muddy Water Initiative received $12,000 from the state budget to purchase the net, which will enable volunteers to remove trash from the river without having to enter the water themselves.

“It’s a brilliantly simple device,” Reeves said of the WaterGoat. “It is a shallow net strung across  the Muddy River at Ipswich St.” The deployment of the WaterGoat in the Muddy River is a pilot, and a “demonstration for all different places that need trash cleanup across Boston,” Reeves said.

The WaterGoat has a rope that can be untied from one end and pulls the net across the width of the river, trapping the trash in the curve of the net, Reeves said. “The net acts like a scooper and takes the surface trash and brings it to the shore.”

Once the trash is pulled out of the water, “it becomes a regular park cleanup,” Reeves said. Volunteers don safety equipment like googles and gloves, and are given trash pickers so they can scoop the trash into heavy duty plastic bags.

Reeves said the location on Ipswich St. is “ideal,” because it is a less-traveled street and the trash pickup can happen right from the sidewalk. The Muddy Water Initiative does have funds for private trash hauling, but they are also applying for a Red Sox grant in hopes for more monies for private trash pickup, she said.

“Even though it’s the time of COVID, our waterways being free and clear of trash [is important] to reduce the stress we’re already feeling,” Reeves said. “We go outside to enjoy nature and to be released from this oppressive pandemic. We don’t want to see baby carriages and baseballs and boots and paper cups littering the surface of our beautiful Muddy.”

Aside from waiting for the last permit, another challenge of deploying the WaterGoat this summer is ensuring the safety of people flying up from Big Water Rescue in Florida to ensure that the device is installed properly. Reeves said that “that piece is still a little murky,” but “we’re hoping to get it in by August and have August and September.” 

The other issue is the safety of volunteers who would operate the WaterGoat, which would be left in the water until September, stored, and then re-installed next year when it gets warm again. 

“It’s meant to engage volunteers,” Reeves said. “It’s not about professional garbage cleaning,” but rather about “residents and local people making a visible difference in their urban waterway. If we can’t have our volunteers safely, we don’t want to deploy it.” She said that the teams of volunteers would be small enough that they could properly socially distance while operating the net, since it is so easy to use. Reeves said that the Muddy Water Initiative and its volunteers are a “can-do group,” and feel that they can get the WaterGoat deployed this summer, “even with all these curveballs. We’re still ready to get the WaterGoat gobbling up that trash.”

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