Starting from an underground spring in Potter County, Pennsylvania, the Genesee River
flows northward across New York state and up to Rochester before emptying into Lake
Ontario. Various town, city, county and state agencies take up the responsibility of
keeping the 158 mile river rolling. This benefits recreational fishers and boaters but
it's also done as preventative maintenance. In Rochester, at least twice a year the
city's Department of Environmental Services do their part. It's director is Rich
SALTRELLI: We generally clean at every bridge within the central business district. The
reason we clean it primarily is once these huge 60-foot logs get bound up against a bridge
base.. it catches other logs and material and eventually it'll do damage to the bridge
The lighter stuff floating along- like bushes and smaller tree branches- end up
connecting and merging together, serving as a kind of net catching just about everything
travelling by. The city then, puts its 60-ton crane to good use pulling branches, brush
and the massive logs up and out for cutting and transporting. Besides the wildlife
inhabitants- the fish and the fowl- there's plenty of other items natural and man-made
found in the river.
SALTRELLI: Casualties that we see down there are street signs.. we've pulled out pay
telephone stations, realtor signs, for sale signs, sandwich boards... flashing barricades
seem to be a real hot item. Occasionally we'll get a cow, a dead cow or deer floating.
For the Rochester Gas and Electric Company, who use the Genesee as a source of power,
keeping the river rolling is critical. If the stations aren't operating at full speed, they're
not getting the most out of this low-cost power opportunity. The flow into area hydro
stations have to be kept clear. RG&E spokesperson, Mike Power.
POWER: Car parts.. car batteries.. basketballs.. grocery carts, you name it, we've
probably found it down there.
Maybe a couple of times a month RG&E- either mechanically, triggered by sensors or the
old-fashioned way: with an employee and a 20-foot rake- need to clear away debris blocking
the screening gates heading into a plant.
POWER: It's not the most pleasant thing in the world but occasionally we do find a body of
an individual who may have jumped off a bridge. And that usually turns out to be a suicide
victim in which case we call the police.
The Rochester Police Scuba Squad will search the river for evidence and vehicle
recovery and drowning victims. Commander Frank Churnetsky-
CHURNETSKY: What's not in the river- I guess might be a good question, too. We've found
vehicles, we've found old bridges, anchors from old ships that used to some into the river
for trade. We've found rocks, bolders, fish. There's a whole lot of unusual things in
Police scuba divers conduct river site searches as well because the visibility is as
little as six inches up to only a couple of feet. Who knows what's down there?
CHURNETSKY: We've been bumped by salmon. During the salmon runs we were doing a search
and the fish were banging into us and its unnerving when you can't see it. Especially
when you're swimming along and you run into a tree branch or a 50-gallon drum of who knows
what.. it's startling.
In the 19th century before health and safety regulations went into effect, Rochester
routinely dumped its outhouse contents into the Genesee. Throughout history water bodies
have served as a convenient catch-all do dispose of all kinds of waste.
CHURNETSKY: They've long been used as septic systems or a trash depository because people
can take their garbage to the river bed and toss it and it'll be gone. They don't have to
worry about it. It just sinks to the bottom or it's washed away and it's somebody else's
problem at a later time.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has the power to fine industrial polluters
$10 thousand dollars a day for violations. And people who litter the public waterways can
face fines up to $250 dollars. Bill Flynn, WHAM News.