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Red Cedar trash displayed to help change messy habits

October 26, 2000
English sophomore Katie Speir, left and advertising sophomore Ryan Beimel sign petitions to save the Red Cedar River while biology junior Rebecca Kolar and human biology junior Alison Kulas explain about the high levels of pollution in the river. The Rive

Sludge-caked bikes, browned but previously white plastic lawn chairs, a soggy mattress and a rusted bed frame were just a few of the pollutants pulled from the Red Cedar River muck earlier this month by environmentally-conscious MSU students.

And Wednesday afternoon, the items were showcased. The Friends of the Red Cedar and the River Action Team, two eco-friendly student groups, held a rally at the rock on Farm Lane to call on MSU students to respect the river.

“Most people think it’s a ‘Red Sewer,’” animal science senior Jesse Gabbard said of the campus landmark that runs through the heart of campus. “Actually, if the river got more respect, it could be a really good resource.”

Students passing by the rock Wednesday had the opportunity to sign a petition, which will be submitted to Michigan legislators in January. The petition will request that Congress looks at potential sewage problems, which may have led to recent high E. coli bacteria levels in the river.

“So far, we have 400 to 500 signatures,” said Josh Picotte, environmental botany senior and River Action Team representative.

Repeated problems with sewage overflows have warranted concern and closed beaches all over Michigan. In East Lansing, E. coli levels in the Red Cedar remain a concern. University officials have begun thoroughly examining the water quality.

Amy Wren, event coordinator and environmental biology junior, said she realizes not all students are willing to pull rusty shopping carts from the Red Cedar River or petition Congress for sewage reform funding. So the campus groups Wednesday offered an opportunity to sign up for an East Lansing recycle bin as well.

“I want to get students recycling bins,” Wren said. “It’s what the average student can do.”

Gabbard said students don’t realize the river contains more than “trash” fish - it actually hosts a variety of turtles, snakes, frogs, ducks and other water birds, such as the blue heron.

“If you go somewhere off campus that’s a natural area, you wouldn’t pollute like this,” he said. “People don’t realize that trash you throw in the streets could end up in the river.”

“If it rains, and you throw a cigarette butt on the sidewalk, the rain will wash it into the sewers and eventually to the river.”

For most students, Wren said, East Lansing isn’t a permanent residence. That might lead to the disrespectful mentality some students have toward the Red Cedar.

“Some of the things we found, like the mattress, would have to be dragged and thrown into the river,” Wren said.

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