ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — One of Minnesota’s most treasured natural resources often becomes a dumping ground.

The banks of the Mississippi River are littered with household garbage and other debris.

The DNR’s Adopt-A-River coordinator, Paul Nordell, estimated that volunteers picked up as much as 10,000 pounds of garbage Wednesday along a one-mile stretch of the river.

“Quite a haul, yes,” he said, “like double what we were thinking.”

One dumpster wasn’t enough to hold all the tires, mattresses and bags of trash that volunteers collected in about 2 and-a-half hours.

Shelby Kilibarda of Woodbury even came across discarded medical supplies.

“Some needles, which is scary,” she said, “and just a lot of styrofoam which sucks to pick up.”

Paula Connolly of Anoka said she volunteered this year because she cares about the environment.

“It kind of ruins the day when I’m on a walk in a state park or in any kind of natural space and I see a piece of garbage,” she said.

The larger than usual haul this year is partly because the water level is lower, and it’s uncovering what last year’s floodwaters left behind.

“When you have a record flood around here, the big news item is, it took out the dock,” said Nordell. “Well, there it is.”

A lot of the smaller garbage comes from parts of the city that aren’t even near the river. But anytime it rains, it gets swept into the storm sewers and heads that way.

Mathias Epps, a teenager with the Urban Boatbuilders program, filled a few trash bags.

“Just finding like all this trash, like Hardee’s cups,” he said.

“It takes years to accumulate and it takes years to remove it,” said Nordell, “and then we get a little bit of accumulation every time it rains.”

The Jonathan Padelford riverboat, which took volunteers to and from the cleanup area, offered prizes to those who retrieved the most unusual pieces of trash. It gave out awards to volunteers who picked up a can of WD40, an old duck decoy and an old fishing pole.

Wednesday’s cleanup took care of one mile of riverbank. Madison Sigarsky, another teen with Urban Boatbuilders, said there is plenty more out there.

“I wish that we could do it longer,” she said, “because we couldn’t go past a certain point and I just wanted to keep going and picking up the trash.”

If you’d like to adopt a section of any river to clean up – or even the shoreline of a lake – the DNR is signing up volunteers online.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)