AEP River Operations sponsors visit by CNN’s Hero of the Year
|Pregracke and Travis working to clean rivers and riverbanks of debris. Living Lands & Waters photo.|
(Story by Rachel Hammer)
AEP’s daily activities rely on water – for cooling and processes and for transportation. Because the company relies so heavily on the water’s availability, the company makes a point of being a good steward of this essential resource.
AEP River Operations recently sponsored a presentation and discussion by Chad Pregracke, president and founder of Living Lands & Waters, for The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Professionals Network. Approximately 250 students, faculty and other interested people attended the event. His presentation was both informative and entertaining.
“Chad is a dynamic and extraordinary individual. The values and objectives of his organization in aiding, protecting, preserving and restoring the natural environment and the nation’s major rivers aligns nicely with the environmental philosophy and mission of AEP River Operations,” said Andy Koch, director of Boat Operations Support.
Pregracke said that his mission is simple: to clean up the nation’s rivers one river and one piece of garbage at a time. Pregracke notes that when he says garbage, he doesn’t mean just pop cans, but items like tires, barrels and appliances, including televisions and vehicles.
Pregracke became involved in river cleanup as a teenager. He earned money for college by diving for mussels in the Mississippi River and was frustrated by the amount of trash he encountered. A 10-minute conversation with a local industry executive led to a small sponsorship. A local newspaper, and eventually other media, picked up his story leading to additional sponsorships.
|Pregracke with Mike Rowe of CNN. Living Lands & Waters photo.|
Pregracke also told his audience about feeling frustrated and defeated in his efforts. Managing fundraising, logistics and trash disposal was not easy. But he thought about the people who had thanked him and about making a difference. “It might be small in the grand scheme of things, but it’s tangible and you can see it,” he said.
He has big plans for Ohioans: he plans to remove 1 million pounds of garbage from the Ohio River by the end of next year.
Living Lands & Waters focuses on removing unsightly and toxic trash that has accumulated in rivers and along riverbanks. Since its founding in 1998, Living Lands & Waters has involved more than 80,000 volunteers in collecting 8.5 million pounds of debris from along the nation’s greatest rivers. Pregracke was CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year.
The Environmental Professionals Network (EPN) brings together a broad range of professionals engaged in managing, protecting and using the environment and natural resources professionals to learn, share and collaborate on making the world a better place.
AEP previously has provided speakers to the EPN and has sponsored other events, such as a visit by Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of the television show Wild Countdown.