They hauled out old tires and auto parts, broken appliances and discarded construction debris. They picked up 5,630 plastic bottles, 1,542 plastic shopping bags, and countless odd items like a dog crate, kiddie pool, charcoal grill and artificial Christmas tree still decorated with ornaments.

You might be tempted to say Raritan Headwaters’ 27th annual Stream Cleanup included “everything but the kitchen sink” … but a sink was found, too!

Over 1,300 volunteers of all ages pitched in on Earth Day, April 22, to remove nearly 14 tons of litter and trash from river and stream banks in Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris and Middlesex counties during the 2017 Stream Cleanup.

The trash came from the banks of the Raritan River and its tributaries in Raritan Headwaters’ 470-square-mile region and beyond, as one team worked downstream along New Brunswick’s banks of the lower Raritan.

Despite occasional rain showers, volunteers worked steadily throughout the morning to fill hundreds of bags with trash to be disposed of properly … and plastics, glass and aluminum to be recycled.

Angela Gorczyca, Raritan Headwaters’ Water Quality Program Manager, said, “The skies may have been overcast, but the sun shined through everyone’s enthusiasm. We may not have broken participation records this year, but I am so proud of the families, community groups, municipal Environmental Commissions, scout troops, school and religious groups, businesses, and individuals who remained committed to improving the environment in the headwaters of the Raritan River’s North and South Branches.”

“Despite some morning drizzle, our volunteers showed up and worked incredibly hard to clean up more than 60 miles of streambank,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of the Bedminster-based Raritan Headwaters. “We’re very proud of what they accomplished in such a short time, and grateful for how much it improves the health of the Raritan River.”

According to Ehrenclou, the cleanup up in the headwaters region improves water quality downstream, all the way to where the Raritan flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

“Wind, rain and snowmelt wash litter into local streams, and it eventually finds its way into the main stem of the Raritan where it can be washed downstream all the way to the ocean,” said Ehrenclou. “Trash and litter in the river are not just a threat to drinking water quality but a hazard to wildlife that can ingest it or become entangled causing serious injuries.”

The Raritan River is a source of drinking water for 1.5 million New Jersey residents, and a beloved place where families go to fish, canoe, kayak, picnic, relax and enjoy nature.

In Hunterdon County, the cleanup included sites in Alexandria, Bethlehem, Califon, Clinton Township, the Town of Clinton, Delaware Township, Frenchtown, Glen Gardner, Flemington, High Bridge, Kingwood, Lebanon Township, Raritan Township, Readington, Tewksbury and Union Township.

In Somerset County, volunteers cleaned up sites in Bedminster, Bernardsville, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Far Hills, Franklin Township, Hillsborough and Peapack-Gladstone.

In Morris County, the cleanup effort included sites in Chester Borough, Chester Township, Mendham Borough, Mendham Township, Mine Hill, Mount Olive, Randolph, Roxbury and Washington Township.

For the first time, this year’s Stream Cleanup included about a mile of parkland along the Raritan River waterfront in New Brunswick.

Event Sponsors

In addition to Raritan Headwaters, 2017 event sponsors included the Royal Bank of Canada, A.M. Best, Alexandria Township, American Rivers, Beacon Trust, Bedminster Township, Bernardsville Borough, Bethlehem Township, Branchburg Township, Bridgewater Township, Califon Borough, Chester Township, Chubb, College Hunks Hauling Junk – Central NJ, Crown Trophy of Flemington, Delaware Township, Far Hills Borough, Flemington Borough, Glen Gardner Borough, High Bridge Borough, Hot Rods Hot Dogs, Hunterdon County Utilities Authority, Investors Bank, Lebanon Township, Mendham Borough, Mendham Township, Morris County Clean Communities, Mount Olive Township, Peapack-Gladstone Borough, PSEG, Ramsey Outdoor, Randolph Township, Raritan Township, Raritan Valley Disposal, Readington Township, Roxbury Township, ShopRites of Hunterdon County, Inc., Somerset County Solid Waste Management, Special T’s, Tewksbury Township, Town of Clinton, Union Township, and Wakefern Food Corporation.

About Raritan Headwaters

The largest watershed organization in New Jersey, Raritan Headwaters has been working since 1959 to protect, preserve and improve water quality and other natural resources of the Raritan River headwaters region through efforts in science, education, advocacy, land preservation and stewardship. RHA’s 470-square-mile region provides clean drinking water to 400,000 residents of 38 municipalities in Somerset, Hunterdon and Morris counties and beyond to some 1.5 million homes and businesses in New Jersey’s densely populated urban areas.

Raritan Headwaters won the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in 2015 and 2016 in the category of Water Resources.

To learn more about Raritan Headwaters and its programs, please visit or call 908-234-1852.