Many Missoulians probably remember hearing about a rescue attempt in the spring when County officials attempted to remove folks from an encampment along the Clark Fork River Southwest of the Reserve street Bridge as flood waters were rising. That encampment has led to an enormous pile of trash which about 35 volunteers attempted to clean up this past week. Travis Ross with the Health Department's Missoula Valley Water Quality District was there to help and says they removed tons of refuse.

“We don’t have a weight yet on the amount of garbage, but my guesstimate is one to two tons,” Ross said. “We average four to five tons per year and some of them have been as high as 16. Last year was 25 tons. Quite a bit of garbage is collected. There are other efforts that take place throughout the year that are smaller.”

Ross says there is still a lot of debris down there and that the amount removed this year is less than normal because of a lack of access.

“We had some access limitations this year,” Ross said. “We were pulling a lot of it out by hand. We didn’t have much equipment to help move it out. It was a lot of human power to get the garbage up the hill and along the road ready for the Department of Transportation to pick up.”

Human power comes with its own risks as well. On top of the discarded tents, sleeping bags and garbage are used drug needles and other hazards.

“One of the partner agencies in this clean up is Open Aid Alliance,” Ross said. “They are coming on the clean ups with us to collect needles and dispose of those properly. We really stress safe handling of all the trash, using thick gloves, not bear hugging big bags of trash and to be conscientious of what may be in that trash.”

According to Ross, around 20 people were still camping in the area during the clean-up.