BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The feds are jumping into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor trash. Alex Demetrick reports the EPA is ordering the city and Baltimore County to get litter and garbage off the streets before it floats downstream.

It flows into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor with every rain. Tons of trash blown out of open garage bags or dropped as littler. Add water and off to the harbor it goes.

“We’re going to pass out the gloves,” a teacher said. “Everyone take a bag.”

In Baltimore City and County, efforts to remove it stretch from volunteers who pick it up by hand along streams.

“And we want to do something about it,” a student said.

To innovations like a lone of a kind water wheel, whose sole purpose is to scoop up trash where the Jones Falls enters the harbor.

“We’re up to 85 tons in slightly over two months,” wheel operator said.

And it all helps, but not enough for the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“We’ve all been talking about cleaning up trash, but this really takes it from a voluntary effort to a mandatory one,” Halle Van Der Gaag with Blue Water Baltimore said.

Blue Water Baltimore is among the environmental groups backing the EPA’s ordering a clean-up.

“Baltimore City and County really have to step up the game, so to speak and put in place other more effective ways of removing trash from our waterways,” Halle said.

That could mean beefing up traditional collection efforts to filtering storm drains before they empty into streams.

And then there is behavior ranging from careless to not caring at all.

“I think one of the biggest problems is people not cleaning up in the area,”a Baltimore resident said. “A lot of trash cans and all that stuff out there.”

And at the root, changing human behavior is the main challenge.

“I think citizens want to do the right thing so we found just letting folks know that if they don’t put their trash out the right way, it doesn’t get filtered out at the wast water treatment plant,” Halle said. “It goes right into the Inner Harbor.”

The EPA is giving Baltimore City and County five years to clean up its act. If not, monetary penalties could be imposed.

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Alex DeMetrick

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