Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ February 2022


Our Own Lockridge Drive Tributary to the Northwest Branch Hosts a County Environmental Pilot Project

By Robin Loube

If you walk along Lockridge Drive, surely you have noticed something new near the end where Lockridge meets Northwest Branch Park:  a V-shaped contraption in the stream, constructed of two long black pipes anchored in cement up on the hill, converging on a light green metal trap.  This is a “bandalong” litter trap, the first such trap in Montgomery County.  It has been installed as a pilot project of the county Department of Environmental Protection through a $250,000 grant to Anacostia Riverkeeper, a nonprofit group dedicated to cleaning and protecting the Anacostia River.

Mark Kirves, co-owner of the company that fabricates the traps, stands along the Lockridge Drive creek installation.

A few weeks ago, I observed a team of men installing the contraption and went over to ask one of them about it.  He turned out to be Mark Kirves, co-owner of Stormwater Systems, an Atlanta-based company that fabricates and installs the traps all over the United States.  They have installed 26 such traps in 10 states from Florida to Texas to California, including three in streams in Prince George’s County and four in the District of Columbia.

Kirves told me that the bandalong trap was invented in Australia over 25 years ago.  The word “bandalong” is an aboriginal term meaning “the place where two rivers meet.”  He said the Australian engineer who created the trap said he went to fish one Saturday at such an area near Melbourne.  He came upon a lot of litter and spent time cleaning it up.  The next Saturday, the same thing happened.  On one Saturday, he told Kirves, he picked up litter all day instead of fishing.

Frustrated, he went home and began designing the bandalong trap.  It is constructed of aluminum, stainless steel, and polyethelene, with two long beams the guide the litter into the trap, which has no bottom.  The beams and the trap are designed to float upward as the water rises to avoid inadvertently capturing wildlife, Kirves said, adding that “the traps are 85 to 90 percent effective at capturing litter.”

The trap — which is securely anchored in concrete on either side of the creek — has a unique design that requires no mechanical assistance.  Instead, it relies only on the water’s natural current, staying above the water to catch buoyant debris.  The Bandalong is an economical way to capture floating litter before it reaches the Northwest Branch, the Anacostia River, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean, where it becomes marine debris.  Still needs to be emptied by someone, though!

The purpose of the bandalong is to keep trash out of Northwest Branch, the Anacostia River, and the Chesapeake Bay, where, in addition to the obvious eyesore it creates, it can entangle, choke, and poison wildlife.

For answers to my questions about how Lockridge was chosen for this project and how and when the accumulating trash will be removed, Kirves referred me to Trey Sherard with Anacostia Riverkeeper.  Sherard supervises the maintenance of the bandalong traps in D.C. and Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, as well as serving as the primary public face for the group, meeting with media and local jurisdictions and giving boat tours of the Anacostia.  “I speak on behalf of the river,” he told me.

Sherard said the Lockridge tributary location was chosen based on county litter surveys in which objects in streams like glass bottles, plastic bottles, Styrofoam, aluminum cans, food and drink wrappers, caps and labels, and toys, including balls, are counted and weighed.  He noted that the Lockridge Tributary collects stormwater and trash that washes down streets and sidewalks and into storm drains in a substantial oval-shaped portion of our neighborhood, bordered approximately by just beyond University Boulevard to the northwest, Belton Road to the northeast, Glenwild and Margate Roads to the south, and Northwood Avenue and North Four Corners Local Park to the southwest (see the map at right).

This partial map of our neighborhood shows the area that funnels stormwater to Lockridge Drive creek and the river.

The county’s $250,000 grant to Anacostia Riverkeeper purchased the bandalong and paid for its installation and maintenance.  Sherard pointed out that the grant money came from the stormwater management fee that appears as the line item “water quality protection charge” on county property tax bills.

Sherard said normal maintenance of our bandalong will be conducted by members of the Montgomery County Conservation Corps, which hires local youths for a green jobs training program.  The team is scheduled to come weekly to take a photo, clean the trap, and sort the trash to provide data for the evaluation of the pilot project.

Sherard is scheduled to speak at the NFCCA neighborhood meeting on Zoom at 7:30 p.m. on 9 February.   ■

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