A water wheel named "Mr. Trash Wheel" that pulls rubbish out of the Inner Harbor has become so widely popular — and so good at its job, to boot — that it now has a partner to help clean up Baltimore waters.
Environmentalists and city lawmakers unveiled a second water wheel, "Professor Trash Wheel," on Sunday at Harris Creek Park in Canton. The wheel has the same googly eyes as the first wheel at the mouth of the Jones Falls and had added eyelashes.
The new trash wheel is also smaller and operates more quickly because only small pieces of trash, such as plastic bottles and cigarette butts, flow into that part of the harbor. The tide also comes in very quickly, meaning the trash needs to be picked up at a brisk pace. Mr. Trash Wheel gets tree branches and other large debris.
The Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore's Healthy Harbor initiative raised $550,000 to build the second wheel after the first device successfully scooped out more than 1 million pounds of trash in 21/2 years. It has also gained a worldwide following on social media and YouTube.
But there is plenty more trash not getting captured, environmentalists said. They would like to see at least two more water wheels added. After the Jones Falls, Harris Creek is the second-largest source of trash in the harbor, emptying about 5,000 pounds of garbage into it every month.
"Mr. Trash Wheel needed reinforcement," said Laurie Schwartz, president of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore.
The trash devices work by using water currents to provide the power to turn the wheels, which lift trash and debris and places it into a barge. Solar energy helps move the wheels when there is not enough current from the water. When the barge is full, it's towed away by boat.
The water wheel's inventor, John Kellett of Clearwater Mills in pasadena, said he is working on making water wheels for other port cities looking for ways to clean up their waters.
Donations to build the new water wheel came from the Maryland Port Administration, National Aquarium, MOM's Organic Market and Canton Car Wash, among others. About 500 individuals also made smaller donations.
Chris Rivera, co-owner of Canton Car Wash, said the company donated $15,000 to the effort to support the neighborhood and because they believe in protecting the environment. Rivera also has a personal interest: He and his family members are avid boaters.
Shawn Kiernan, a strategic planner for the Maryland Port Administration, said the agency donated $200,000 to the new water wheel because it is good for business. The port donated $500,000 to construction of the first wheel.
"Trash in the harbor is one of the biggest challenges we have in Baltimore," he said.
Mayor-elect Catherine E. Pugh led the countdown to the unveiling of the new trash wheel. Dozens of people lined the dock and applauded as the wheel begin picking up the first pieces of debris.
Pugh said creating a cleaner city will be a key priority in her administration, and the water wheels fit right in. She said she wants to change the culture of the city so that people don't look at the streets as a dumping ground.
"There is no reason for all this trash to be flowing into our harbor," she said. "While it is cleaner, it is not as clean as it should be."