Fort Worth

A Closer Look at How Fort Worth's Waterwheel Will Clean the Trinity River

The waterwheel, aka Mr. Trash Wheel, has been in use in Baltimore since 2014

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Fort Worth wants to bring a green, trash-collecting waterwheel to the Trinity River.

The city announced earlier this week their plan to use two of the innovative vessels to remove floating trash from the river.

The waterwheel is powered primarily by the river's currents. If the hydropower is not sufficient, the craft can work off of solar power. The waterwheel picks up floating trash putting it on a conveyor belt that deposits it into a trash bin.

"Instead of picking up water and dumping it, it has a screen that lets the water fall out, but the litter stays in the bucket,” Fort Worth Public Health and Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett described. “Then as it gets to the top of the wheel it will drop off into a chute that goes into a dumpster. We think that we could remove, each water wheel, remove up to 400 tons out of the river each year."

Baltimore Maryland already has four similar trash-collecting waterwheels installed.

"You install a trash wheel because you want to get the trash out of your water and they do that phenomenally well," Baltimore Healthy Harbor Initiative Director Andy Lindquist said.

Lindquist told NBC 5 since 2014 they've collected 1,700 tons of trash. 

"It's like over 12 million cigarette butts we've pulled out of Baltimore waterways,” Lindquist said. “Over a million foam containers. I think close to a million plastic bottles we've pulled up out of our waterways. So, they've had a huge impact."

Fort Worth also wants to build a litter awareness campaign around the waterwheels.

"We hope that will raise a much better community awareness and get people to actually put litter in a proper receptacle or when they see litter and keep it from going to the river in the first place," Bennett said.

The estimated cost is $600,000 per waterwheel with annual maintenance of another $50,000. The city wants to cover the first 10 years with donations and corporate sponsors.

They want people to just enjoy it as a part of Fort Worth culture.

"We envision that this will look like a covered wagon,” Bennett said. “So not only will it be effective in removing trash from the river, but it will become a tourist attraction to people."

For more information about the Trinity Rivers Waterwheel Initiative here.

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