HAVERHILL — Members of the Merrimack River Coast Guard Station spend most of their time conducting search and rescue missions, enforcing boating laws and protecting the environment.
But yesterday, their mission was to remove trash from a section of the river in Haverhill dubbed “tire cove.”
When they were done, they left with muddy boots, sneakers and pants, but said it was worth it. In about five hours, they managed to pull an estimated 3,000 pounds of trash from the river and load it onto two pontoon boats operated by volunteers with the Clean River Project.
Thomas Alford of Haverhill, a Coast Guard petty officer 3rd class, said he was looking for a way to give back to the community when his commanding officer suggested he contact Rocky Morrison, president of the nonprofit and all-volunteer Clean River Project based in Methuen.
“I contacted Rocky. We set up a date to help him and I pulled together a crew of four guys plus myself,” Alford said.
Alford said he knew there was work to be done, but had no idea how much junk was in the river.
About 8 a.m. yesterday, Alford’s group met Morrison at Kazmiera Marina. They hopped onto Clean River’s 30-foot pontoon boat, named the River Monster, and headed down river to an area along the riverbank targeted for cleaning. Trailing behind was the smaller SS Jenny Jones, a 20-foot-long pontoon boat piloted by Clean River board member Dennis Houlihan of Methuen. It didn’t take long for Alford’s group to pick up debris along the Haverhill riverbank that included traffic cones, a section of chain link fence, pieces of barbed wire, tennis shoes, motor oil cans and other junk.
“We had a contest to see who could find the most unique piece of trash,” said Blaze Swigart-Johnson of Newburyport, a member of Alford’s team. “We pulled out a big box spring.