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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

All hands on shore

“There will be no empty hands throughout this event,” one of the cleanup organizers said. “There is plenty of work to be done here, and any help we can get counts.” (Photos courtesy of Gurabo Fishing Club)

Gurabo Fishing Club invites volunteers to help clean up Carraízo reservoir this Saturday

By Richard Gutiérrez

Efforts to preserve the natural environment have been highly prevalent in Puerto Rico in 2023. For example, the STAR recently reported on an organization protesting against the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources for not intervening in the construction of a house in a natural reserve.

However, keeping the environment clean is one of the keys to overall health in rural and urban settings, and when it comes to water, this is exceptionally important. A nonprofit organization known as the Gurabo Fishing Club announced at a press conference on Wednesday their 15th annual cleanup campaign for the Carraízo reservoir.

“Every year we dedicate ourselves to the annual volunteer cleanup of the Carraízo reservoir,” said Ismael Vélez, president of the Gurabo Fishing Club. “If the reservoir has too much rubbish in it, it can become quite difficult for the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority to process the water and deliver it to residents, so when we take part in this cleanup, it greatly reduces the labor cost for the sewer authority because the water becomes easier to process. We invite everyone to join us for this very important event taking place Saturday, July 15, 2023 at 7 a.m. on highway 941, kilometer 10.3, in the Jaguas sector of Gurabo.”

The main purpose of the event is to remove as much floating and submerged rubbish as possible, as well as any rubbish on the shore of the reservoir, which straddles parts of Gurabo, Caguas and Trujillo Alto.

Besides cleaning the reservoir, the organization wants to spread the message islandwide about the preservation and care for different bodies of water and their importance to human society. Its members also want to promote teamwork among private companies, nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies. In this regard, the Fishing Club is working closely with the Gurabo municipality and Guracoop Bank.

“The Gurabo municipality will assist the organization as much as possible by providing municipal personnel to help in the cleanup, municipal police for protection and all the equipment necessary to get the job done. The Gurabo municipality is 100% on board with this event, because the Carraízo reservoir is extremely important for the residents of our town and many other municipalities,” said Veronica B. Calderón, special assistant of the mayor of Gurabo. “As a municipality we must work really hard to create awareness in people that we cannot throw trash in our bodies of water, especially considering hurricane season is upon us, so it is very important that bodies of water are clean to prevent disasters from happening.”

“We call on every resident of Gurabo to separate the date and help with the event,” she added. “There will be no empty hands throughout this event; there is plenty of work to be done here, and any help we can get counts,” she added.

Gisela Toro, president of Guracoop, noted that the cooperative “has been supporting this event every year.”

“The reason why … is because this is an event that creates awareness and motivates our youth to have a better understanding of the natural environment and the consequences of environmental contamination, especially in relation to our water reserves, which are very important to our daily lives.”

The Carraízo reservoir, sometimes called Lake Carraízo, provides potable water to several municipalities: San Juan, Trujillo Alto, Canóvanas, Carolina and Gurabo. Thus, thousands of people receive their water from the reservoir.

The event’s itinerary, Vélez said, begins at 7 a.m. when everyone will meet at the Gurabo Fishing Club. Anyone who is not affiliated with an agency will have to register. Breakfast will be provided around this time as well. At 8 a.m., instructions for the cleanup will be provided to all participants, and shortly after that, the cleanup will start and continue until 11 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., lunch will be served to cap off the event.

Cleanups have been organized at the reservoir since 2007. If all trash accumulated from the previous events was put on a scale, it would equal around 300 tons of rubbish. The materials that volunteers remove from the water are sometimes quite shocking, and can include entire refrigerators, trashcans, car parts, televisions, children’s toys, washing machines, stoves and much more.

“I sometimes can’t even understand the number of things we have removed from this body of water, so many pieces of material,” Vélez told the STAR. “The worst part is that a lot of these materials contain paint and chemicals that are toxic for the water. It never ceases to surprise me; we have even removed entire cars from the water.”

When asked what the biggest challenge has been in putting on the event every year, Vélez said lining up sponsors has been the greatest challenge, because even though the club does take the initiative and it is a voluntary effort, they always provide food for all participants in the cleanup. That’s where sponsors come into play -- they cover the cost of all the food that is being prepared for the participants.

“As a nonprofit organization, it can be quite difficult to cover the costs of an expensive event such as this one,” Vélez said. “We are very thankful to all of our sponsors for helping us bring this event to fruition. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Currently the event has more than a dozen sponsors, such as Guracoop, Seguros Múltiples, Doctor Mecánico, ConsPro, ConWaste and Hill Brothers, among many others.

Vélez added that anyone who wants to support the Carraízo cleanup financially can do so through ATH Móvil, via the phone number 787-466-7205.

He also noted that anyone who comes to the event, should come in comfortable clothes and be ready to get dirty. The fishing club will provide gloves and plastic bags for cleaning up the shoreline, and will also provide the boats that are needed to reach the rubbish that is floating, or partially or fully submerged in the water.

“We are very excited about this event, and all residents of the island should be as well,” Vélez said. “We look forward to seeing many people come and help us keep our reservoir clean!”

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