Chinese students learn truth about waterway pollution

Originally Posted Online: July 22, 2013, 10:50 pm
Last Updated: July 22, 2013, 11:18 pm
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By Seth Schroeder,

MOLINE -- Chad Pregracke, of Living Lands & Waters, shared images of a garbage-choked Mississippi River with 55 visiting Chinese high school students, their chaperons and officials at Black Hawk College on Monday night.

Mr Pregracke told the students such sites led the East Moline man to launch his river cleanup organization when he was 23. Speaking in BHC's Sustainable Technology building, he asked the students if they faced similar pollution in China.

Many nodded yes.

Ma Tian Xing, one of the students, said environmental issues led him to participate in the Rivers as Bridges program that brought him to America.He wants to learn more about rivers and how to deal with their pollution.

"I hope to learn more knowledge about the environment for future use," he said. "Scientists pay attention to the problems hoping to solve them."

Xiaodong Kuang, the president of Rivers as Bridges, said the program's goal is for American and Chinese students to share cultural experiences dealing with rivers. Participating students usually are from areas surrounding the Mississippi and Yangtze rivers, he said.

"We work as a platform to connect young people from different countries," he said.

The two countries have similar economic development and environmental issues, Mr. Kuang said. He wants today's students to be prepared to deal with tomorrow's environmental issues.

"These are the future leaders of the world," Mr. Kuang said. "No matter what they go on to do, they can always come back to this environmental experience."

Through translator Yanchan Xu, student Zhengxin Guo said he thought the program would provide him with useful skills for the real world and the future.

The students also surveyed a stream on the BHC campus and identified organisms -- such as mayflies and caterpillars -- they found in it. They also observed the humidity of the air, the type of surrounding canopy and the water's temperature, appearance and odor.

From a distance, the stream appeared pristine, calm and clean. Upon closer inspection, students found shards of glass, plastic, abandoned water bottles and rusted metal bars.

Photos shared by Mr. Pregracke were similar. While aerial shots offered a beautiful and majestic view of the Mississippi, sailing its coasts uncovers hordes of tires, pop cans, rusted metal drums and more unusual trash, he said.

"I feel like I've been doing this 15 years, and I'm just getting started," he said. "Change is slow. It's like a barge or a train; once it gets moving, it builds momentum, and it's tough to stop."


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1939 -- 75 years ago: Work is being rushed on the new high school building in Orion to replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. Classes are being held in churches.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Rehearsals for the 84th season of the Handel Oratorio Society chorus will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the stage of Centennial Hall, Augustana College.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Rock Island City Council's plan announced this week to have the federal government vacate Valley Homes public housing and move residents to Arsenal Courts to reduce density may not be feasible.

(More History)