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50-foot-long Debris Collection Vessel
Plastic trash and debris as large as boards, barrels and trees — all washed into local waterways during early April rainstorms — were waiting for Lynyrd Skymmr on Wednesday.

On Earth Day, the 50-foot-long river skimmer and its crew were pulling garbage and navigation hazards out of the Menomonee and Milwaukee rivers near downtown.

The skimmer has removed more than 40 cubic yards of debris from the water in its first few days of operation in the 2015 cleaning season. The mix has included tires, plastic 55-gallon drums and plastic bags.

As trees and long branches get hung up at bridge supports and other structures, trash and garbage accumulate behind the barriers and form large mats.

The boat operates an average of 110 days during a river cleaning season, which extends from April to late October. Its mission is twofold: remove unsightly trash and keep the channels safe for small boats. The skimmer has set debris removal records in each of the past two years: 1,225 cubic yards in 2013, followed by 1,445 cubic yards of urban flotsam in 2014. Last year's haul included orange construction safety barrels, a full wooden cupboard and sports balls.



 
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Toxic Blue-Green Algae Plague Freshwater - Algal blooms have closed lake beaches or led to swimming advisories from Vermont's Lake Champlain to Dorena Reservoir in Oregon and from Florida’s Caloosahatchee River to Wisconsin's Lake Menomin. In addition to the health risks, the blooms take an economic toll. An estimate by Walter Dodds of Kansas State University conservatively puts the annual cost of freshwater algal blooms at more than $1 billion from lost recreation and depressed property values.


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