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Photo: Charlie Youngmann

Anacostia River to Get New “Trash Trap”

This fall, Montgomery County, Maryland will get its first waterway “trash trap,” a surprisingly low-tech pollution fighter that’s already in use along the Anacostia River.

In February, the Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant Program approved funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust for the first Bandalong Litter Trap to be constructed, targeting the Anacostia’s Northwest Branch. The traps consist of two large floating booms that branch inward from either side of the riverbank and connect downstream at a metal grate. 

“So any trash that’s coming downstream hits those booms which guides them into the trap,” Trey Sherard, Anacostia Riverkeeper said. “The water goes through and the trash stays there.”

Sherard explained that the lack of moving parts and simple design make these traps very easy to maintain. Aside from a couple rusted cables that have since been replaced with stainless steel, Sherard said the Anacostia’s Bandalong Traps have been operating without much issue.

Licensed from an Australian patent, these traps were originally implemented in the District of Columbia, Sherard said. The first of four in the District was installed at Kenilworth Park in 2009.

“And that was the first one of its kind in the northern hemisphere or the western hemisphere of the Earth, which is pretty fun to say,” he added.

In the years that followed, two trash traps were installed in Prince George’s County. One was placed in Mount Rainier in 2018 and the other in College Park in 2019, Sherard said.

“Part of this grant is not only the permitting, design and installation, but also maintenance of the trap for one year afterwards,” Sherard said.

The Riverkeeper organization subcontracts different nonprofits to check the traps every week and after heavy rain, Sherard said. Trash is removed from the traps, weighed, sorted and recorded to paint a better picture of what has been washing downstream.

While Bandalong Litter Traps are primarily used to catch the floating trash, Sherard explained that during heavy rains when streams fill rapidly, the traps can catch heavier objects like glass and metal cans that cling to the piles of debris on the water’s surface.

This will be the first trap to be installed in Montgomery County and could be modeled after Maryland’s other bandalong traps, Sherard said. While the details are still being negotiated, the trap will be located somewhere along a tributary of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia in Silver Spring and construction will likely begin in the fall.

-Charlie Youngmann