Googly-eyed trash wheel could clean up Milwaukee waterways

The wheels are already in use in Baltimore
Posted at 10:17 PM, Apr 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-25 23:17:42-04

A creature of sorts might be the answer to cleaning up some of Milwaukee's waterways and it's an idea already taking off in Baltimore and moving a lot of trash back where it belongs, in a landfill.

Mr. Trash Wheel, a solar and water powered wheel, is doing big things out East. The wheel with googley eyes is in Baltimore has pulled more than a million pounds of garbage out of the Baltimore River in three years.

A Milwaukee nonprofit, the Harbor District, Inc., hopes another one like him can come to the Brew City.

"It's not clean. This water is bad," said Ismail Mohammad Ali who was fishing along the Kinnickinnic River.

The Harbor District says trash in the water is a constant battle. Not only does it accumulate through the years but new stuff is tossed in every day, a lot of it blowing in and settling on the river.

The fishermen out on Tuesday afternoon said they can remember when it used to be nice.

"There isn't a lot of wildlife like there used to be," said Mark Znidorka who has lived by the river for two decades.

The Harbor District said there is a boat in Milwaukee that skims the river to get trash, plus there are yearly river clean ups. But it is still not enough.

However, getting a trash wheel is not cheap. The total cost is expected to be around $500,000. Paying that bill would require both fundraising and federal help.

"We are hopeful that Congress decides not to zero out the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Funding that President Trump proposed eliminating entirely," said Lilith Fowler, executive director of the Harbor District.

But as they work to build the wheel, trash keeps heading down river into Lake Michigan.

"It doesn't break down right. A lot of these things will persist for thousands of thousands of year and we keep adding more and more," Fowler said.

The trash wheel is still a two to three years out from being built. Besides the wheel, the Harbor District also wants to add canoe and kayak launches to the Kinnickinnic as it is cleaned up.

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