Arnold is the first city in Missouri to install a device that gobbles up trash in a waterway so the garbage doesn’t make its way to a major river.
The device, which includes a large net and is called the Watergoat, was installed Nov. 9 across a section of Pomme Creek that runs through Pomme Creek Park, formerly the site of the Arnold Golf Club. The device is designed to collect trash that flows through the creek before it reaches the Meramec River.
The Watergoat is produced by a nonprofit company of the same name founded by Mark Maksimowicz of Citrus County, Fla. The Arnold Stream Team 211 arranged for the company to donate and install the device at no charge.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Brian Waldrop, who co-chairs the Arnold Stream Team 211 with Bernie Arnold. “I’m excited and looking forward to seeing how it works.”
The Watergoat has an 8-foot net connected to floatation devices at the top and a marine-grade chain at the bottom. It stretches 60 feet across the Pomme Creek and is connected to the creek’s north and south shore and is anchored by thick cable to heavy metal bars driven 2 feet into the ground.
The Watergoat is just east of a bridge in Pomme Creek Park. Waldrop said about 30 miles of waterway travels into the Watergoat, which is set up more than 3 miles from where the creek empties into the Meramec River.
“I think any time you can help to clean up the trash that comes into your city is a wonderful benefit,” said Arnold Mayor Ron Counts, one of about a dozen people who was at the park to watch the device being installed. “The Stream Team has been working with the city for years, and they are the main force behind cleaning up the riverways and waterways.
“We have a wonderful park here now. We have so many people using it. It is another avenue of keeping everything clean and looking good.”
Maksimowicz, who started Watergoat in 2006, said more than 160 of the devices have been installed in five states, including Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Illinois and now Missouri.
“This is a labor of love,” he said. “We give them away or give them away at cost. We never make a dime on the Watergoat.”
Maksimowicz is familiar with the St. Louis area because his daughter, Mia Maksimowicz, who was born with some physical challenges, has had surgeries at St. Louis area hospitals. He also said he has family in the St. Louis area.
“I came up here one year and saw the trash from the spring floods,” Maksimowicz said. “I said one day I’m going to get in touch with somebody and try and help. Finally, I got in touch with Brian (Waldrop), and one thing led to another.”
Waldrop said the two started discussing installing a Watergoat in Arnold about two years ago.
“(Stream Team 211) has been working for 29 years in Arnold, and we kind of hit a plateau. This is the next wave of trash cleaning.”
Stream Team 211 holds two large annual cleanups in Arnold most years – one in March and another on the fourth Saturday in August, which is part of a statewide Stream Team cleanup.
Those events were not held this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but small groups of volunteers still cleaned up the Meramec River watershed in March.
Waldrop said while those annual cleaning events remove a lot of trash, the Watergoat will allow the cleanup effort to continue throughout the year.
“This is 24/7, 365 days a year,” he said. “This is a non-stop trash collector.”
According to the Watergoat website, the device collects an average of 111 pounds of trash per month. The device’s net has holes large enough for fish and other animals to swim through, so it is designed to only collect trash and foliage, Maksimowicz said.
When it is time to collect the trash trapped by the net, a few members of Stream Team 211 unhook the cables that hold the net to the southern bank and then re-hook the cables to another post a few feet away. This allows the garbage to flow onto the southern creek bank and be removed from the creek.
Waldrop said the net will be cleaned out after a major rainfall, and if there is not a major rain event, Stream Team 211 members will clean it out at least once a month.
Arnold city employees also can unhook the net from one bank during a flooding event so the Watergoat does not get washed away.
“It will be an improvement,” Arnold said of the Watergoat. “I think a lot of people are looking forward to see what it does.”
Bonnie Harper, executive director of the Open Space Council for the St. Louis region, said she, too, is looking forward to seeing what effect the Watergoat has on the Meramec River watershed.
The Open Space Council organizes the yearly August cleanup around the Meramec River, and Harper was at Pomme Creek Park when the Watergoat was installed.
“It is great to see something that works year-round,” she said. “It will be interesting to see if this has an impact on the trash numbers in this area when we do our cleanup in August.”