BRAWLEY — Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps and River Partners joined forces last week for four days to clean up trash and debris along the 1,500-acre Alamo River.
The Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps (CCEC) Program, led by the Farmworkers Institute of Education & Leadership Development (FIELD), conducted a critical clean-up effort along the Alamo River from Rutherford Road to Ruegger Road. According to their press release, accumulated trash in the area has contributed to poor water quality, degraded habitat, and polluted recreational areas.
FIELD is a nonprofit organization founded by Ceaser Chavez in 1978 and is committed to uplifting the economic prospects of underserved populations in poor, minority communities. CCEC is FIELD's state-certified, local conservation corps with certification from the California Conservation Corps that allows FIELD to operate throughout the state of California. CCEC is also a program open to those in need of a high school diploma as well as high school graduates up to the age of 26.
“We were contacted by the River Partners to see if we could help out and we actually get some funding from CalRecycling on a yearly basis and we leveraged that funding with CalRecycling’s approval to divert some of the waste tires and commingle material that was surrounding the Alamo River area,” said Recycling Manager for the local CCEC, Andres Lopez.
Lopez said River Partners was founded in 1998 and is a nonprofit that brings life back to California’s rivers and that they were asked to help with the Alamo River.
“They told us of the need out there, there was a lot of debris around that because of the campers or people illegally dumping and we took a trip down there and we’ve definitely seen the need, so then we contacted CalRecycling to get approval to use some of our funds to help out over there,” said Lopez.
Lopez said the team diverted a little over 14,000 pounds of illegally-dumped material in the Alamo River throughout the cleanup process.
“There was over 1,400 pounds of tires that were illegally dumped, we picked up around 100 pounds of commingle material from that facility,” said Lopez. “There was a lot of debris metal and obviously we tried to recycle everything, some stuff did have to go to the landfill but the majority of it we wanted to make sure it got to the recycling more than anything.”
Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps Program Coordinator, Briana Flores, has been with CCEC for three years.
Flores said the cleanup effort began Nov. 8 and lasted a total of four days, where a crew of six people were working from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“We would’ve been lost if it wasn’t for the guys out there at River Partners helping us. They would send us GPS coordinates of where to go because that lake right now is currently dried up and so we would have to drive into the lake, or what used to be a lake, and we would have to pick up the debris from there,” said Flores.
Flores said the cleanup overall went very well and that her team was very happy to clean up the habitat for the animals that surround the area.
“There were a lot of bees, I think that was the most annoying part of it but other than that, it was pretty good,” said Flores. “We just worked through it and got it done.”
Flores confirmed that her team was actually camped out in the area and only had the opportunity to shower once in the entirety of the four-day cleanup. She also said she’s been grateful to be a part of the CCEC program.
“It’s been a pretty good journey for me so far, it helped me a lot. I was able to get my high school diploma through their high schools and it just gave me a lot of hands-on training,” said Flores.
Lopez said he’s been involved professionally with recycling for over 15 years and feels recycling is something that is definitely needed in this community, as well as around the world.
“It all starts in your community, right? If you don’t do it here, how do you expect the rest of the world to do it,” said Lopez.
Lopez said for many people, the real damage they inflict on the environment is not something they realize they are doing because they don’t see the impact.
“I was amazed as far as how many tires are dumped illegally every year, how much waste is just thrown on the side of the roads, and where it ends up,” said Lopez.
Lopez said it was very fulfilling to participate in a project like this and to see young individuals being enthusiastic and excited about engaging with rehabilitating the environment.
He said they would like to engage in similar cleanup efforts like they did at Alamo in other riverways in the area but have not confirmed anything yet.
“Sometimes with government agencies, unfortunately, they have to ask somebody to ask somebody to ask somebody,” said Lopez.