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Inner Harbor Getting Cleaner With Water Wheel Trash Interceptor

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Most have us have seen it or smelled it. Trash in the Inner Harbor is a major problem and waterfront activists now have a new tool in fighting.

Monique Griego has more on the world's first permanent water wheel trash interceptor.

The water wheel is officially up and running. Waterfront supporters say it's expected to play a key role in reaching the goal of making the Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020.

Last week's storms brought to the surface a dirty and stinky reminder of exactly where Baltimore's neighborhood trash eventually ends up.

"When tourists see trash, when our residents see trash, they're put off. We want to make the harbor as attractive as we can," said Laurie Schwartz, Waterfront Partnership.

This week the Waterfront Partnership unveiled a big part of how they plan to do that. The world's first permanent water wheel is a 14 foot high, trash interceptor capable of collecting a million pounds of garbage a year.

"We're expecting somewhere 600,000-800,000 pounds a year. But it all depends on how much rain we have," said Daniel Chase, Clearwater Mills.

Chase is one of its operators.

"Watch the radar, see a storm coming, then go ahead and click it on," Chase explained.

Chase broke down how the wheel works. Once the Jones Falls funnels it, it's trapped, collected, sent up a conveyer, and then dropped in a dumpster before ever reaching the harbor.

"The wheel is just the engine, and the fuel is the river current or solar power charging batteries and pumping water," Chase said.

That's right, no fuel and no electricity are needed. And once full, the dumpster will be floated away and replaced.

"I was told the entire time I've been here that it just can't be handled. We've found out it can be. Just takes a little devotion and hard work," Chase said.

The water wheel will serve as a critical part of the harbor's long term goal to be swimmable and fishable by 2020--a massive undertaking supporters say is tough but not impossible.

"We still have a long ways to go. We're not pretending we don't. But this is one big step," Schwartz said.

The water wheel was built to last 20 years, but the Waterfront Partnership hopes it's not needed that long.

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