They found a wheelchair, three bikes, a baby stroller, a bag of laundry, a mop, tires, a garden cart, a sledge hammer, city of Norfolk banners, chairs, tables, a Ford hubcap, a ladder covered with oysters, hoses, cables, chains and a traffic cone – all covered with black mud and years of foul rot.
Commercial divers hauled up all this junk Saturday and loads more from the bottom of the Elizabeth River, in a small cove near Town Point Park and Waterside in downtown Norfolk, in just two hours.
The cleanup, called the Town Point Trash Dive, was the first of its kind in Virginia and only one of a handful in the United States, done to commemorate Earth Day, which officially arrives Thursday.
“We wanted to do something different for Earth Day, and this definitely was it,” said Karen Scherberger, executive director of Norfolk Festevents, the outdoor-party group that sponsored the daylong effort.
Dozens of curious people strolled by the piles of junk on display along the city docks, and marveled.
“Is this from a shipwreck ?” asked Charlene Goggins, visiting from Oklahoma.
“My God, this is unbelievable,” said her husband, David . “It makes you wonder how much else is dumped in our rivers. It’s disgusting.”
The running joke of the day among the divers and crews was who would find the first dead body.
Then, about mid-morning, a team from Precon Marine Inc. discovered what appeared to be a shoulder or hip bone. Police soon arrived and took the bone away in an evidence bag. They gave it to a member of the medical examiner’s office. The joke was definitely over.
The idea for the cleanup stemmed from a Festevents volunteer and photographer, Rosemarie O’Grady, who participated in a similar underwater cleanup last fall in a small town in Sweden.