Clean River Project Updates Haverhill Council; Syringes, Bullets Among Items Found in Merrimack

Rocky Morrison, Ava Valianti and City Councilor Colin F. LePage in 2019. (WHAV News file photograph.)

As the song goes, the City of Boston may love that dirty water, the Clean River Project does not and has been doing something about it.

On Tuesday, the Haverhill City Council heard from Rocky Morrison, who founded the organization in 2005 after seeing piles of trash along the banks of the Merrimack River. At the request of Council Vice President Colin F. LePage, Morrison provided an overview. He told councilors his team pulled more than 20 tons of debris out of the river in the past year alone. Kristen Bachman, office manager for the project, gave examples of what they found.

“1,796 plastic bottles, 185 hypodermic needles, seven masks, 28 fishing bobbers, 193 glasses, 148 bullets, 49 shoes, 91 balls and seven propane tanks,” she listed.

Additionally, the Clean River Project has been instrumental in cleaning 23 abandoned homeless camps along the river. Morrison explained that process.

“My team is very professional, going in and cleaning up, hauling everything away. It’s a hard job. Everything is either frozen or stuck to the ground or just a mess, a total mess, and you’ve got to be careful of the hypodermic needles and all that, in the tents and on the ground,” Morrison told councilors.

In addition to clearing homeless camps, Bachman said her organization has become involved with helping younger men and women break out of the homeless cycle.

“There is a nonprofit in North Chelmsford called Project Kompass and they reached out to us to see about collaborating with us.”

She said Project Kompass has helped provide temporary shelter for those people as well as helping them find jobs.

Morrison, who was paid $20,000 per year by the city for his work in 2019 and 2020, told the Council he would like his contract extended. There were no related motions by councilors, but the matter is expected to be discussed during upcoming city budget sessions.

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