HAVERHILL — Hot water tanks, tires, metal stairs, a piano frame, lots of bicycles and 64 hypodermic needles are among the 16 tons of debris that the Clean River Project’s Rocky Morrison has pulled from the Merrimack River since April, he told the City Council on Tuesday night.

And he’s not done.

Morrison wants to meet with Department of Public Works Director Michael Stankovich about performing an environmental impact study and what could be prevented from entering nine street drains, based on what he saw come out into the river. Some trees in the Buttonwoods area could also be removed, Morrison said.

“We’re going to stay (in the river)” Morrison said. “The Jaffarians wants to do a clean on the 20th with his employees and if we get the green light, we’d like to move a couple of trees in that area that are collecting stuff, too.”

In the spring, armed with a $20,000 grant from the city, Morrison installed two collection booms in a section across from Jaffarian’s Volvo Toyota to collect debris flowing from the Spicket and Shawsheen rivers into the Merrimack.

Morrison, and a few of his employees, will oversee the Jaffarian effort. Pickers are used to retrieve debris and ensure no one comes in contact with a hypodermic needle.

“We collected a lot of matter, operable stuff, microplastics and deplorables as I call it that we’ve posted on our Facebook page and received a lot of community support and feedback,” Morrison said. “We’ve also done a very deep cleaning besides the flowables you’ve seen tonight.”

The debris collected is taken to Covanta in Ward Hill for disposal.

Morrison opened the presentation on his first season in Haverhill with a short video that showed the many items his two booms stopped that drifted south from the general Lawrence area upstream.

“You’re on the forefront and it shows,” Morrison said. “It’s not ending on the shorelines. Newburyport and Salisbury aren’t doing anything at all. You’re on the forefront.”

Debris and matter from combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, upstream are also trapped and part of the problem.

Morrison’s work was lauded by Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua for its impact in improving recreational activities throughout the city.

“You’ve done so much to bring back attention to the river with the rail trail and the boardwalk,” Bevilacqua said. “I’m amazed that communities downriver have not joined in the effort. You’re providing a message for everyone in the future that you don’t dump stuff in the river.”

Council President John Michitson recognized the role that Mayor James Fiorentini played in Morrison spending his first season on the river. “The mayor came through with the funding ($20,000),” Michitson said. “What you do, Rocky, is essential.”


Councilor Michael McGonagle thanked Morrison for his efforts while he and the council supported House Bill H.3796: An Act promoting awareness of sewage pollution in public waters. McGonagle and others thanked regional leaders who apparently have quickly moved the bill along to require notification of a CSO to the respective towns.

“I think it’s important for us to add our support this bill in the House right now,” Councilor Colin LePage said.

“It’s appropriate,” McGonagle said. “I didn’t know how far along this is.

“I think it’s important that the city and the state is close to doing this on a state level — to have instant or rapid notification whenever there is an overflow into that river,” McGonagle said. “I remember a night there was a storm and there was overflow and boats in that area. There needs to be instant notification so people don’t swim in there if there’s a CSO.”

Councilor Melinda Barrett said she attended a meeting Sept. 30 that featured a scientist from the Charles River Watershed who indicated that with their forecasting for a CSO and warnings, all the technologies are already there. 

“It’s just a matter of implementing it and I hope it comes out of the House soon to get this going.”

A motion to send a letter of support to House Speaker Robert DeLeo was approved unanimously. 


Ava Valianti, who runs Domino of Good Deeds, was presented with a certificate of appreciation by the City Council as was Rocky Morrison for his environmental work.

Valianti, 10, takes photos that she sells and donates half of the proceeds to the Clean River Project to help keep the environment clean. The other half of the money, she told an enraptured council, is used to create and print more pictures for her nonprofit venture. 

The council all received free pictures with descriptions on the back as a gift from the well-spoken, excited youthful entrepreneur. Councilors insisted on paying Valianti for her handiwork, moving her closer toward her $1,000 Clean River Project goal. Valianti said she was $235 from her goal before the council willingly chipped in.

Valianti, who also received a proclamation from the mayor, handed out her business cards to all the councilors, in case they had any questions, before she left.

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