The Jones Fall River drains an entire watershed’s streets and streams, transporting tons of debris to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor—where residents and visitors alike get to view the gag-worthy collection. “I was tired of always hearing tourists say ‘ugh, this harbor’s disgusting,’” says John Kellett, co-founder of Clearwater Mills LLC, a start-up with a mission.
“I thought, there’s got to be a better way than collecting trash on our front doorstep.”
Kellett and Daniel Chase developed a prototype of a Water Wheel Powered Trash Interceptor they claimed could prevent 50,000 pounds of trash a day from entering the harbor. The Watershed Partnership of Baltimore provided support for the plan and, in seven months with a crew of four, Clearwater Mills built the first Water Wheel at the Jones Fall River outlet, and began a clean-up that the Partnership hopes will make the harbor swimmable by 2020. The Water Wheel’s movement increases the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, improving life for fish and aquatic species.
An undercut water wheel powers a ladder-type conveyor belt that is submerged on the upstream end. Trash booms guide trash floating in the river current to the conveyor belt, which moves trash up to the top of the incline, where it falls into a dumpster. Both the Water Wheel/conveyor and the dumpster rest on floating platforms. A unique fabric cover, provided by W Marine Canvas of Annapolis, Md., consists of 30 panels with flexible solar collectors powering pumps that lift water onto the water wheel and move the conveyor belt. The curved tensioned fabric cover prevents trash from being blown by the wind, collects power in back-up cells and evokes a 19th century mill building and the Jones Fall River’s history. Since the Water Wheel Powered Trash Interceptor began operating in May 2014, it has removed 40 tons of trash from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.