Adopt a River Safety and FAQ


In light of the pandemic we will not be hosting larger events. We still encourage you to register to participate in the program and to report the results of your cleanups online. If you have questions, please contact our Program Coordinator, Alex Van Loh.

Always make safety your priority with the tips below.

Safety Tips

Tips for a safe and successful cleanup:

Your safety is your responsibility and should be your first concern. The most important thing to remember is to KNOW YOUR LIMITS, both mentally and physically. If you come across something that exceeds your physical abilities or seems strange to you, leave it alone and seek assistance from someone more familiar with it.

1. It is preferable to conduct your cleanups in a group, not alone. If one person is hurt, others can get help. Also, always maintain voice and eye contact with a member of your group.

2. Watch your footing on steep river banks, they may be soft or unstable. Avoid stepping on loose stones and rocks when possible.

3. If planning a cleanup where the threat of drowning exists (steep banks, waterways, etc.), wear a life jacket and follow all safety regulations of the Minnesota Boater’s Guide.

4. Children under age 16 should work with an adult. Parents should instruct their children and guests under age 16. Each child must be under supervision of a specific adult.

5. Never pick up needles or hypodermic syringes! Wear gloves when handling all other sharp objects. If you encounter needles or syringes, mark the area in some way and notify your group leader so they can be properly picked up and placed in a labeled container. Do not reach into places that are blocked from your view.

6. Handle aerosol cans only while wearing safety goggles or glasses. Never puncture them. Pick them up with the top facing downward. Always keep such containers at arm’s length. They could burst.

7. Lift with your legs, not your back.

8. Do not overfill or compact trash bags. Broken or jagged objects can pierce the bags and cause injury.

9. Clean only rubbish above ground. You may not only strain your back, but digging may create a bank erosion problem or a hazardous hole.

10. Do not irritate or disturb other creatures living in the area, human or otherwise. Carefully leave the area if you are concerned, and report the location to your group leader or necessary authorities.

11. Be conscious of the weather. This includes working only during daylight hours, being aware of potentially slippery areas, and being aware of possible storms. If you are caught in a lightning storm, it is important to find shelter in low-lying areas away from natural lightning rods such as trees and other tall objects.

12. Do not move sealed drums. Mark and report their location to your cleanup leader or local authority.

13. Please take these safety tips with you on the day of your cleanup and make sure everyone has read and is following them.

Other important concerns:

• Dress appropriately: sturdy shoes (no sandals), long pants, hat, gloves, sun screen, and insect repellent (if needed).

• Bring a first aid kit (more than one may be necessary depending on the size of the group) to treat minor injuries immediately.

• Avoid overexertion and drink plenty of water, especially on hot, humid days.

• Know and avoid poison ivy and stinging nettles.

• Avoid dead animals.

• Maintain good communication with the other people cleaning up. If an emergency develops, make sure someone is available to call for additional help (a cellular phone is usually a good option).

• Following the cleanup, make sure to conduct a thorough tick search (if appropriate) and wash as appropriate.


Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do with the trash?

Here are some examples of what other adopters have done:

  • Contacted city or county parks and recreation departments, public works departments or city, county or state highway departments. The community is often more than willing to assist a motivated volunteer!
  • Partnered with community trash haulers (some of whom will donate part or all of the hauling charges).
  • Divided the trash among volunteers to be taken home and disposed of in their homes' trash bins.
  • Raised money for a dumpster, or asked for the donation of a dumpster within their community. This is a great opportunity for area businesses to get involved with your cleanup, and it's great advertising for the business as well.

Check your county office for disposal locations for items such as electronics, appliances, etc. They typically waive fees for public service projects like yours.

How do I calculate the total pounds removed?

Reporting accurate weights of collected trash is a foundation of the Adopt-a-River program. To estimate the weight of trash removed, follow these guidelines:

  • On average, a bag of trash weighs about 10 pounds.
  • A standard pickup truck load weighs about 480 pounds.
  • When filled, a small commercial dumpster weighs about 2,880 pounds.
  • A normal tire weighs about 20 pounds (40 pounds if still has its rim). A semi-truck tire weighs about 90 pounds (180 pounds with its rim).

How do I dispose of tires?

You cannot legally place tires in landfills in Minnesota. Tire piles must be disposed of properly because as they collect water, they pose a threat to public health and safety as mosquito breeding habitat. Businesses that may agree to take tires for recycling include tire retailers, automotive dealerships, junkyards, and mechanics. Some may charge a small fee for each tire delivered.

How do I dispose of batteries?

Batteries can leak lead-laced acid into our landfills and waterways, so it's critical to dispose of them properly! Please contact your local household hazardous waste disposal service to learn where to properly dispose of batteries in your area.

What do I do with any hazardous materials I've found?

If anyone comes across any of the following items, leave them where they are and contact local authorities.

  • Propane cylinders: Most propane cylinders have brass fittings, which will turn blue or bluish-green in the presence of ammonia, which is a common ingredient in a methamphetamine drug lab. This indicates a weak fitting, increasing the likelihood of it blowing apart. Some cylinders have been modified with different fittings so they don't turn blue, but they can be just as hazardous.
  • Bulging metal containers: When a sealed metal container like a 55-gallon steel drum bulges outward, it indicates a large amount of pressure has built up inside. This pressure could cause it to explode if handled improperly, depending on the contents. Report such items, but don't move them.
  • Containers with hazardous material labels: These labels tell about the specific type of threat posed by the items inside. Report such items, but don't move them.